Local January 27, 2014 | 8:42 am

Drug lord’s release tests U.S.-Dominican Republic relations

Santo Domingo.- The announced release of drug trafficking convict Quirino Paulino in New York has stoked heated reactions in Dominican Republic, prompting a senior official to state “to hell with the United States” regarding the extraditions to that nation.

Paulino was the typical drug trafficker who sustained their empire low key, and sought to meld his figure and his fortune with those already assimilated into society, while his illicit business flourished.

He was a second-rated figure in the Dominican drug trafficking world for many years, until two situations converged in 1996 to springboard him to the top on Hispaniola Island and became a major figure in the so-called the Caribbean drug trafficking route.

The notorious drug trafficker Felix Florian was arrested almost accidentally that year, while the Norte del Valle cartel consolidated its power in Colombia, after the capture of the Cali Cartel’s leaders the previous year.

Paulino’s business then began to grow along with those of the kingpins of the Norte del Valle Cartel, to become a leading figure in the organized crime structure.

After Felix’s arrest and decline, the Elías Piña (west) native went from a low-level leader, using even ambulances, to the top Dominican trafficker, a title which lasted until his arrest on December 8, 2004.

U.S. authorities say he smuggled more than 30,000 kilos of cocaine (30 tons) to their territory during those eight years, together with the Norte del Valle cartel.

When he was arrested however Paulino’s value was the information he had on drug trafficking routes of the cartel, which in 2004 was the world’s most powerful and violent.

At first Paulino was reluctant to cooperate with information on the Colombian cartel’s leaders but once behind bars, started to cooperate when his immediate family became the target of prosecutors, with his wife, mother and brothers being accused of money laundering.

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