Local September 8, 2014 | 1:00 pm

Cockfights shelter Dominican Republic’s bloodiest drug traffickers

Santo Domingo.- Drug trafficking requires the ‘Word of the Cocker,’ because there’s no court to settle differences in the illicit business. Agreements are forged on the Word, so reneging inevitably leads to bloodshed.

A report by Eldia.com.do publish Monday details the underworld of cockfighting, where bets are made on the Word, without papers, an unwritten code respected by all, and lamentation for those who choose to ignore it.

Just like in the world of drug trafficking, in which multi-million dollar deals are forged, the capos barely jot some details in a notebook.

The many similarities might explain why accused drug barons are increasingly men who frequent Dominican Republic’s cockfighting arenas, and routinely boast titles such as "Cocker of the year" or "Breeder of the month."

The arenas are also often the meeting place for strange bedfellows, mixing the super-wealthy with suspected drug lords.

Some of the best-known cock-fighters also figure among the Justice Ministry’s "most-wanted drug traffickers," or “bloodiest felons" are regulars at arenas in major cities.

The head of the Justice Ministry and of the National Drugs Control Agency held an unusual press conference last week to announce a warrant for the arrest of Winston Rizik Rodríguez "El Gallero," the country’s “most wanted" drug trafficker, despite recent news reports showing him taking part in cockfights at the country’s best-known arena, ‘Alberto Bonetti Burgos’ in the capital.

Many of his escapades were in public view such as proudly receiving the awards "Cocker of the month" in November and "Cocker of the year" in December.

Rizik’s dispute with another cockfighter, also charged with drug trafficking, has allegedly led to several gruesome murders in the country’s eastern region.

After his arrest, Rizik accuses Pascual Cabrera Ruiz of stalking him and of trying to assassinate five times, after disputes originating from violations of their code of territory. He says he and Cabrera had agreed to divvy up their territory between Monte Plata and Santo Domingo for him, while Santiago and the eastern region belongs to Cabrera.

Broken word

The authorities however see a turf war for the drug empire left by Ramon Antonio de el Rosario Puente (Toño Leña), who, from his jail cell in Puerto Rico, seems to lean toward Cabrera Ruiz.

Quoting intelligence sources, El Dia reports Rizik was the victim of a 500 kilos of cocaine shakedown, in which he accused Cabrera Ruiz and his associate Alfredo Rodríguez (known as Nino Pata Corta, who was executed. "The loss of this drug triggered a sequence of executions and contract murders in various regions of the country."

Many of the attacks were in discotheques and car washes in La Romana, but Rizik was nearly killed in an arena at Villa Altagracia, wher his vehicle was shot 13 times.

Another assassination took place in February 2010, when gunmen mistook the engineer Wilson Alejandro Luna for Rizik, also attacked two days after at Lincoln Av., in plain downtown Santo Domingo, but escaped miraculously.

Hired killers also gunned down Mario Cabrera, one of Cabrera Ruiz’s nephews, in Puerto Rico in November that same year.

Higuey’s arena

Several of Pascual Cabrera’s men were attacked at the arena in Benerito, Higuey, killing his nephew Sandy Cabrera and Carlos Manuel Jiménez Silvestre (Papi Chivas) and injuring Julian Rijo in June 2011.

For those deaths the authorities accused hit man Juan Cordero Felix (Copelin), also executed and accused Rizik of being the mastermind, but couldn’t indict him.

The arenas continue to be linked to bloodshed: Former Police secret service chief Ramón Henríquez Figueroa (Moncho Henríquez), said to have been head of Rizik’s bodyguards, was assassinated in August, 2012, when several gunmen intercepted him on Núñez de Cáceres and 27 de Febrero avenues in the capital, after leaving the arena in Santo Domingo.

The authorities link the alleged Rizik-Cabrera turf war with more than 30 murders, including heads of drug trafficking gangs who operate mostly in La Romana and Higuey.

Breeders 24/7 and "Spider"

Other drug traffickers have also surged from the arenas. Calderón José Rijo ‘Araña’ (Spider) was arrested at the beginning of last year and charged with heading a drug-trafficking network. More than one million dollars and many assets seized at the time of his arrest.

But Rijo wasn’t a man of low profile either. He openly took part in electoral campaigs, and owned the rooster breeder "24-7" among the most active at the Bonetti Arena.

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