The just-released 2023 Investment Climate Statement on the Dominican Republic is the latest example of how the U.S. State Department can’t decide whether to tell the truth or gloss over the dangerous state of the Dominican legal and justice system.
It should be no surprise. Political appointees like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United States Administration for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power have gone out of their way to toast the government of President Luis Abinader despite the State Department’s own Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor issuing a harsh 2022 Report on Human Rights.
Blinken and Power call the DR a “democratic bright spot” while other officials in their agencies document “unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security forces; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police and other government agents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; arbitrary interference with privacy” and “serious government corruption.”
This week’s Investment Climate report zig-zags between warning of the “abhorrent” labor conditions, police intimidation, unreliable judicial procedures, and outright falsehoods that heap praise on Abinader.
The report lauds Abinader for appointing criminal prosecutors that are not focusing on political opponents, when a recent investigation by the Daily Caller found that Abinader’s government “has jailed a number of its political opponents in a country where 70% of all prisoners are in ‘preventive detention’ — a system that requires no charges or evidence of crime for imprisonment.”
The Investment Climate report also claims, without attribution, that Abinader “has made a concerted effort to respect the autonomy of the Attorney General’s Office and the public prosecutor in general.” In contrast, the 2023 annual Capacity to Combat Corruption Index from the Council of the Americas affirms that Abinader’s prosecutions “have primarily focused on” the opposition, and rated the Dominican Republic among the lowest in the region for prosecutorial independence.
Why are political appointees in the Biden Administration working so hard to gloss over the outrageous human rights violations on the ground in the Dominican Republic that their own departments have uncovered?
The Abinader government wasted no time in calling the 2023 Investment Climate Report a total win for themselves. “The United States positively valued the efforts of the current administration of the Government of the Dominican Republic under the leadership of President Luis Abinader,” trumpeted a press release from the DR Embassy in Washington.
Because of the misleading political statements crowbarred into the report, the Biden Administration threw away any leverage to defend the interests of American investors who will face extreme hardships at the hands of Abinader’s lackeys. The report states that investors in the DR have warned the U.S. government that “improper influence on judicial decisions was widespread” and “the local court system is unreliable or biased against them, and that special interests and powerful individuals are able to use the legal system in their favor.”
Furthermore, the report gives cover to Abinader while the wider justice system spirals into a humanitarian disaster. This year, the Dominican National Office of Public Defense (ONDP) reported that 70 percent of those behind bars are under an order of preventive detention in violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. This penchant for preventive detention has led to overcrowding in the DR’s prisons, which are 164 percent over capacity and detainees face “cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and lack of access to medical care,” according to the ONDP.
For reasons that remain unclear, the Biden Administration is letting Abinader get away with atrocious human rights violations, systemic injustice and targeting critics and political opponents. This can only leave American investors worried about whether their own government will stand up for them if Abinader comes for them next.