|05SANTODOMINGO799||2005-02-16 18:15:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Santo Domingo|
1. (U) Following is the twelfth in our series on the first
year of the administration of Dominican President Leonel
Narcotics trafficker Paulino is likely to finger some senior
Dominican politicians and military officers for complicity,
for taking bribes or at least for deliberately turning a
blind eye as he made millions of dollars from drugs.
Quirino Paulino, the Cynosure of Dominican Justice
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(U) With his baby face and balding head, Quirino Paulino
Castillo does not at first glance look like the centering
point for the orientation of Dominican justice. A Supreme
Court verdict on Friday, February 18, will be decisive about
the meaning of Paulino,s narcotics trafficking case for the
viability of the Dominican justice system, with important
implications for Dominican politics and for Dominican society
as a whole.
(U) The Dominican National Directorate for Drug Control
(DNCD) with advice and guidance from its U.S. counterpart,
the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Paulino on
December 18, shortly after they had stopped a flatbed truck
on a main thoroughfare in downtown Santo Domingo. The truck
was loaded with 1387 kilos of neatly stacked bundles of
cocaine. Monitored telephone calls had given away the game,
providing evidence that Quirino, labeled "the Don" by his
confederates, had arranged the shipment.
(C)) This was the largest drug bust in Dominican history.
The success in bilateral enforcement cooperation led to a
rapid request from the Federal District Court for the
Southern District of New York for the extradition of Paulino,
processed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S.
Department of State and the U.S. Embassy and delivered to the
Dominican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs in two weeks, a
speed without precedent since extraditions were initiated
back in 1998. New York wants Paulino because New York City
was the intended destination of the cocaine; DEA and the rest
of the U.S. law enforcement community additionally want
Paulino out of the Dominican Republic to keep him from
bribing his way out of the charges, to get him to talk, and
to keep him alive.
The Shape of Future Extraditions
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(SBU) The Paulino case is a big one not only because of the
size of the haul but also because it is, by coincidence of
timing, a precedent-setting case for future extradition
cases. The 90 extraditions to the United States granted
since 1998 were recommended by Dominican attorneys general
and approved by Dominican presidents under Napoleonic penal
procedures dating from the early days of the Republic.
Dominican courts had almost nothing to do with the
extraditions. But with U.S. technical assistance and advice,
the Dominicans have in recent years begun an overhaul of
their justice system, with the Dominican Congress voting a
new criminal procedures code that since last September limits
the discretion of the executive and provides defendants with
more clearly defined procedural processes intended to
reinforce constitutional rights. One central change in the
new Code was to assign to the 5-judge Penal Chamber of the
Supreme Court the authority to review requests for
extradition and give it jurisdiction over oral hearings in
(C) Well aware of the enduring importance of this case,
Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito was
determined to make the best possible arguments. He sought
and obtained from U.S. authorities within days an additional
affidavit with more specific information concerning the U.S.
based charges. The USG furnished case law from other
jurisdictions in which extraditions had been granted,
including Colombia, to strengthen the presentation of the
case against Paulino. Paulino,s attorneys obtained a
continuance of several days in order to study the additional
information, but on February 4 the Penal Chamber heard the
final arguments. A Dominican government attorney represented
U.S. interests in reciprocity with U.S. procedures, an
arrangement challenged by the defense. The Chamber gave
itself two weeks, until February 18, to render its verdict on
the extradition and related issues.
(U) Paulino has been held almost continuously at the DNCD
rather than at the public jail of Najayo. He protested this
decision early in the process, telling the Chamber in an
outburst while leaving the court, " I am losing all my color
because I haven,t seen the sun since I was arrested." His
defense obtained an order from a lower court mandating his
transfer to Najayo, where he could meet his attorneys in
private. The executive branch complied, placing him in the
holding area for fugitives subject to extradition
proceedings. Within days, however, Attorney General
Dominguez Brito ordered Paulino returned to the DNCD and told
the press of "credible evidence of an international
conspiracy" against Paulino. An apparently shaken Paulino
told his lawyers not to contest the move.
(SBU) The Paulino extradition is a test for the ethics and
credibility of the Penal Chamber, the Supreme Court, and the
whole Dominican justice system. Paulino,s family and
supporters have used the card of "national sovereignty" and
maligned the intentions of the United States. A comment in
passing by a senior member of the Embassy team about "U.S.
concerns about Dominican justice" sparked diatribes in the
media and the press; the Ambassador used a press encounter at
the presidential palace to express confidence both in the
Dominican justice system and in the Embassy official. The
public relations office of the Supreme Court immediately
produced an eerie half-page newspaper ad reproducing in
shadow tones the newspaper accounts of the Ambassador,s
remarks and bold-faced reprints of editorial defenses of the
Supreme Court. Ever eager for a story, journalists twisted
comments by Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Subero Isa to
imply that the Penal Chamber,s decision could be appealed to
the 16-judge plenum of the Court. Both the Attorney General
and Subero Isa refuted this interpretation.
(SBU) President Fernandez supports the extradition request.
Cardinal Nicholas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez and papal nuncio
Timothy Broglio have publicly endorsed sending Paulino to the
United States for trial.
(C) Will the Penal Chamber approve the extradition?
Domnguez Brito (strictly protect) says that they will and
cites the reputation for integrity of two (" . . .no, three")
of the five members. Intelligence indicates that efforts may
be under way to sound out judges about possible payoffs;
amounts proffered could be substantial, considering other
rumors that the defense attorneys are receiving between US$ 3
million and US$ 5 million. Our impression is that there is a
better chance in the Penal Chamber than in the plenary, where
reputations are shakier and some politically involved
justices might tend to want to keep Paulino in the country,
so as to contain political fallout.
The Underside of the Rock
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(SBU) Political fallout is a very immediate consideration.
Paulino was based in the province of Elias Pia, on the
central border with Haiti. He comes from a poor family, but,
to hear his mother tell it, "He saved and invested everything
he made." As his fortune grew, Paulino was buying support
and becoming a benefactor to the province. Assets seized by
the Dominican authorities were estimated at a value of some 3
billon pesos (US$ 100 million). They included bank accounts,
cash, three gasoline stations, a dairy farm, a rice bill, an
oilseed farm, a ranch, a distributor of cooking gas, a motel,
a helicopter pad and two helicopters. He had purchased one
chopper from the notorious political fixer "Pepe" Goico,
bagman for the lavish payments made by Ramon Baez of the
now-failed Baninter to support the presidential travel of
President Hiplito Mejia. (Goico,s misuse of the Baninter
credit card was so flagrant that Baez sued him and got him
cashiered, although only briefly.)
(U) Given the scale of his operations, Paulino must have
been working with Colombian cocaine wholesalers and bringing
the drugs across the border from Haiti, probably by
helicopter. He had traveled at least three times to the
United States over the last year or so, by his own admission
to the Court. The sworn affidavit from the U.S. court
outlined one encounter arranged by phone, where surveillance
agents saw Paulino accept delivery in Santo Domingo of a
duffle bag said to hold $500,000 in cash.
(SBU) Paulino was driving a white Mercedes 500 sedan when he
was arrested. The car had been imported duty-free using an
authorization issued to Senate Vice-President Csar Matas of
Mejia,s Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Matas told
the press he knew nothing about it; he had transferred the
authorization to a dealer (a transaction that happens to be
against the law).
(C) Within days papers published photos of Mejia,s chief of
staff Sergio Grulln and his wife from a ceremony in Elias
Pia where Paulino had gotten recognition as an "outstanding
citizen." In recent weeks President Fernandez and
"reformista" presidential candidate Eduardo Estrella have
separately told us that advisors had urged them to meet
Paulino because of his standing in the province - - and each
was clearly relieved not to have done so. Unfriendly voices
in the Dominican press commented that former president
Hipolito Mejia,s trip via Miami to Mexico to attend the
Caribbean baseball series in early February had the
additional purpose of demonstrating that the USG had not
suspended his U.S. visa.
(C) And then there is the question of Paulino,s military
career. He was appointed a lieutenant in irregular fashion
in March 2002, almost probably in return for cash payments to
someone in the military hierarchy. In May 2003, President
Mejia signed a decree promoting him to the rank of captain.
Although the press has not dug up the fact, Paulino,s farms
in Elias Pia were providing military outposts there with
provisions, free of charge - - an arrangement that was
suspended by the new army leadership within weeks after the
inauguration of Leonel Fernandez. Paulino was "separated and
passed to the reserves" in October 2004, one of many
military officers dismissed after Leonel Fernandez took
(C) These are only the first of the connections available in
this case. Everyone expects more. Secretary of the Armed
Forces Sigfrido Pared Perez insists to all that he will not
hesitate to investigate any links to Paulino revealed in the
interrogations. He already has information about the ties
to Paulino of some active duty officers, and he is likely to
wait to take action until the traditional annual
announcements of military changes scheduled for February 28.
Cynics think that most politicians can probably bounce out of
this one, the way the Senate vice-president has done. But
since no one really believes that Paulino was smart enough to
have done this largely on his own, there are almost certainly
newly wealthy Dominicans - - several of them probably in the
military officer corps - - and some seriously violent
Colombians who would prefer that Paulino not talk.
Crime - - Orientation and Disorientation
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(SBU) In a larger sense, the Paulino case offers an
orientation to the issue of corruption and crime in Dominican
society as a whole. Newspapers and the Fernandez
administration have made much of "a crime wave afflicting
Dominican society" since mid-2004, even though statistics do
not bear this out. Commentators assert that narcotics
traffickers are to blame. "There are 200,000 dealers in the
country," commented new Police Chief Prez Snchez shortly
after assuming office. It is not clear to us whether drug
use has indeed grown as quickly as the administration is
implying, but the topic is now open for discussion.
(U) Distrust of the police and the authorities is widespread
in poor neighborhoods, with good reason (see our Human Rights
Report). In several recent developments some of those
communities have openly supported acknowledged criminals. A
small band from Elias Pia demonstrated outside the Supreme
Court, saluting Paulino as a philanthropist. One of the
protesters was the former governor of the province, who was
jailed briefly for her actions. Six weeks ago, after rivals
shot down a well-known drug dealer in a poor Santo Domingo
neighborhood, a large crowd scandalized the country by
carrying his flag-draped coffin through the public streets.
And in Azua, a gang leader accused of the assassination of a
local radio journalist eluded capture for months because the
populace collaborated to keep him out of sight.
(C) In private President Fernandez for a time pointed a
finger at Mejia,s PRD, which as a large populist party is
indeed strong in the poor neighborhoods. But we see no
credible evidence that the badly bruised and still
disorganized PRD is promoting thuggishness.
(SBU) The Quirino Paulino case offers the Fernandez
administration an opening to take concrete action against
narcotics trafficking and crime, as a step toward
establishing credibility for the administration as a whole
when the President talks about ending corruption. The
February 18 decision will provide the judicial reaction to
Paulino; if Paulino is then packed off expeditiously to safe
and unreachable interrogations in the United States, he may
be able to provide further information to orient the
Dominican executive, as well.
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(U) Cynosure. (Latin transcription of Greek for"Dog,s Tail"
- - the constellation of Ursa Minor, containing Polaris, the
North Star). . . 2. figurative. Something that serves for
guidance or direction; a guiding star., - - Oxford
2. (U) Drafted by Michael Meigs.
3. (U) This report and others in our series can be consulted
on our SIPRNET site
along with extensive other material.