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Oct. 18, 2023

Security Challenges Facing the Dominican Republic and the Government Response

By R. Evan Ellis CEEP

R. Evan Ellis | 

From September 24-28, 2023, a trip was made to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to present a paper on crime and violence in the Caribbean at a forum organized by Funglode,[2] one of the country’s leading think tanks. As part of this visit, he held a dialogue with a wide range of former and current security personnel and other experts on the security challenges facing the nation.

The Dominican Republic’s economy, closely linked to that of the United States (U.S.) through geography, family ties and the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR),[3] is one of the fastest growing in the region.[4] Despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,[5] tourism has recovered remarkably. The country has a vibrant democratic political culture and, unlike many of its Caribbean and Central American neighbors with whom it shares close linguistic and cultural ties, has managed to maintain significantly lower levels of violence and gang activity.

However, these positive indicators are complemented by a set of significant and multidimensional challenges that are mutually reinforcing, threatening its security and political and economic viability. In the context of severe economic, fiscal and political distortions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,[6] these challenges include economic stresses stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine (reaching 8% in 2022, before falling to 4% this year),[7] climate change, among other factors, as well as a growing flow of illicit goods and funds fueling violence and criminality, primarily undermining the nation’s institutions. These challenges are compounded by the growing crisis of governance and violence in neighboring Haiti, with multiple spillover effects in the Dominican Republic.

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