U.S. Gives Boats to Fight Cocaine Smuggling
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Attorney General Edwin Meese III handed over to this island’s military authorities two speed boats to be used to fight drug trafficking.
The long, sleek boats were confiscated from traffickers trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States, U.S. officials said. They can reach speeds of 65 mph.
Smugglers use this Caribbean island nation as a transit point for cocaine from South America bound for the United States.
″The Dominican Republic seems to be determined ... that narcotics trafficking should be totally eliminated,″ Meese told Gen. Antonio Imbert Barrera, the armed forces minister, on Wednesday.
Meese spoke on the first day of a five-nation Latin American tour. He arrived by Air Force jet and was due to leave Santo Domingo today for Bogota, Colombia. Meese also will visit Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Drug runners have turned to the island as governments on the neighboring islands of Jamaica and Puerto Rico tightened surveillance of boats and planes.
President Joaquin Balaguer, elected to a fifth term in May 1986, has made the war on drugs a top priority. In December 1986, the Dominican air force shot down a small plane that did not identify itself upon demand. Officials later said it was carrying hundreds of pounds of cocaine.
In recent months, police and soldiers have seized cocaine shipments weighing hundreds of pounds and valued at millions of dollars. But suspected smugglers in high-powered boats often outran the patrol boats of the Dominican coast guard.
″These (confiscated boats) are going to put the Dominican Republic one step ahead of the smugglers,″ said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The boats were confiscated from traffickers apprehended while trying to smuggle drugs into the United States, he said.
One is a 31-foot Chris Craft Scorpion with twin 235 horsepower Mercury engines and the other a 33-foot Sonic Carrera 33RX, he said. The value of the boats, delivered from Florida by U.S. Coast Guard C-130s, was not disclosed.
The United States also plans to supply five small, twin-engined Cessnas to the Dominican air force under the Military Assistance Program.
Accompanying Meese were his wife, Ursula; the chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, John Lawn; Frank Keating, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for enforcement; Mark Dion, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary; and Mike Skol, director of State’s Office of Andean Affairs.
On Wednesday, Meese met with Balaguer at the National Palace, then with Foreign Affairs Minister Donald Reid Cabral.