New agreement is conspicuously silent on illegal detention crisis documented by State Department

Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo announced a “cooperative agreement” with the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic and the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES) to boost tourism to the Caribbean nation with a pledge to “guarantee the safety of the almost 4 million American citizens” who visit the DR as tourists each year.

Today, on behalf of the Dominican Justice Initiative, Hispanic Leadership Fund President Mario H. Lopez sent a letter to U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Patricia Aguilera in Santo Domingo raising concern that the agreement “failed to address the danger faced from the widespread use of arbitrary arrest and prolonged unlawful detention by authorities of the Dominican Republic.”

Lopez noted that according to “the Embassy’s own public statements, American citizens and legal permanent residents have also faced arbitrary detention, including African Americans who have been racially profiled by Dominican authorities.” Lopez reminded Aguilera that in November 2022, the U.S. Embassy issued an alertafter U.S. citizens, especially “darker skinned U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens of African descent” were reported to have been arbitrarily detained by Dominican authorities.”

Lopez quoted the Embassy’s own 2022 travel alert that stated: “There are reports that detainees are kept in overcrowded detention centers, without the ability to challenge their detention, and without access to food or restroom facilities, sometimes for days at a time.”

It is “alarming”, Lopez wrote, that the U.S. is “taking steps to increase the number of Americans traveling to the DR but not taking the utmost care to publicly make sure Dominican authorities will not illegally arrest them and deny them basic due process rights once they are there.”

The full text of the HLF letter to Chargé d’Affaires Patricia Aguilera can be seen here.