Dominican President Leonel Fernandez Fires 700 Corrupt Police Officers

Two short days after promising to purge the government of corruption, the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, fired 700 police officers and forced the resignation of 31 more military and police generals.

Fernandez refused to confirm a specific reason for the mass retirements, and was out of the country on a visit to Cuba on Monday. But the dismissals came as the government announced that more than 535 members of the nation's military had been forced out because of their suspected involvement in the drug trade, including the General who used to head the nation's top anti-drug agency, the Dominican National Drug Control, known as the DNCD.

In his state-of-the-nation speech, President Fernandez said, "In the Dominican Republic—listen well—narcotrafficking will not pass." Fernandez's pledge did not fall on deaf ears, but many citizens and analysts say it may be too late.

"The situation in the Dominican Republic is that organizations that are supposedly involved in fighting corruption and narcotrafficking are
involved in it," Tomas Castro Monegro, an attorney for 25 years in
Santo Domingo, told CNN.

"The security forces, the army and the police, have been corrupted," added Tobias Friedl, from Washington-based iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, which helps companies assess and deal with dangers abroad.

The National police chief of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Guzman, followed up the president's address with a message for his force on Monday, "Today, more than ever, harassed by increasingly demanding challenges that jump out from all sides, just when drug trafficking persists in crippling society, it's time for all police agents and officers, the men and women of our dear institution, to raise our chest, since this is the moment to define ourselves. We're with the nation or we're
against it."