Scandal nixes Dominican Republic military parade

SANTO DOMINGO, (Reuters) – The Dominican Republic  canceled an Independence Day military parade amid public outrage  over scandals linking soldiers and police to crime and drug  trafficking.

President Leonel Fernandez’s cancellation of the Friday  parade marking the Caribbean nation’s 165th independence  anniversary followed a succession of cases implicating military  and law enforcement officials with serious crime.

“The military march-past has been suspended by decision of  the president,” an armed forces spokesman said yesterday.

The crime involving soldiers and police has raised alarm among  local business and church leaders who fear it will damage the  Dominican Republic’s image as a major Caribbean tourist  destination for North American and European tourists.

Caribbean governments are already worried about a sharp  fall in tourist arrivals in the global recession.
Dominican Republic’s national police service said it had  arrested 22 of its own officers and three assistant prosecutors  in the northern city of Puerto Plata who were accused of links  with organized crime and drug trafficking.
In a case that made headlines last week, authorities  detained an air force major they suspect was the ringleader of an  assault by an armed gang that robbed $115,000 from the local  premises of the Italian dairy group Parmalat.
The bandits wore uniforms of the national anti-narcotics  squad in their raid on the Parmalat facility, police said. Two  lower-ranking officers, one from the air force and another from  the police, were also detained.

In May, several navy officers were accused of involvement  in the kidnapping and killing of seven Colombians in the  southern coastal city of Bani, in what authorities described as  an apparent settling of scores among drug-smuggling gangs.

Dominican Republic’s police chief, Major-General Rafael  Guillermo Guzman, said he had received instructions from the  president to clean up the national police force. “There will be  zero tolerance,” Guzman said.

The country’s influential Catholic Church appealed to the  authorities to purge the military and law enforcement agencies  of corrupt officers and criminals.

“It’s really worrying to see how the armed forces have been  infiltrated by delinquents,” said leading church official  Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado.

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