Local February 11, 2013 | 7:25 am

Dominican Republic turns the tables on drug traffickers

Santo Doming.- Dominican Republic will buy maritime radar and a twin-turbine helicopter with funds seized from drug traffickers to attack them at sea, the route which the cartels most use after flights from South America were virtually shut out of the country’s airspace.

The head of the National Drugs Control Agency (DNCD) said after advances in the control of illegal flights the focus now is drug trafficking’s sea routes into Hispaniola.

Rolando Rosado said South American drug cartels have the capacity to mutate, for which the authorities will implement controls with maritime equipment bought by the Dominican government with funds from the sale of confiscated property.

He revealed that in the next two months a marine radar will be installed in an aircraft, also seized from drug traffickers, to comb the coasts and the high seas, and alert Dominican Navy and Air Force units and carry out joint interdictions, a task currently performed using U.S. (Puerto Rico) or Colombia equipment, according to those nations’ ability to cooperate with the Caribbean.

Quoted by eldia.com.do, Rosado said the radar will be installed in a Beechcraft 55 Baron aircraft, seized at Las Americas Airport in December 2010 with cocaine hidden in the fuselage and owned by Puerto Rican pilot Santos Ceda Rodriguez, who was found dead two days later in Higuey (east). That aircraft’s engines had barely 40 hours of flight time.

Twin turbine helicopter

The official said the twin turbine helicopter would be equipped with night operations equipment, to patrol and pursue suspects at sea without endangering its occupants. The radar and helicopter will cost US$2.9 million.

Airspace control

In a surprising statement voiced last week U.S. Embassy chief of staff Daniel Foote said that "Dominican Republic has essentially eliminated drug trafficking by air,” which Rosado confirmed by noting that radar blips of illegal flights have been virtually halted, as evidenced by U.S. air surveillance systems.

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