Sunday, March 21, 2004

DR: Was training for revolution part of IRI's democracy education?

The US embassy confirmed the existence of an agreement for the sale or donation of 20,000 semi-automatic M16 rifles to the Dominican Armed Forces, according to El Caribe newspaper. “The United States agreed to transfer 20,000 M-16 A1 rifles to the Dominican Armed Forces to assist in its campaign to modernize and professionalize the force.”

The US embassy also said that these arms have not yet been delivered, owing to US Senator Christopher Dodd’s suggestion to Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega during a recent hearing that the transfer of the 20,000 rifles to the DR would be used by the US as a platform to send arms to the Haitian rebels.

Armed Forces Minister Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez described Senator Dodd’s speculation as “surrealistic.”

While at the transaction level, the documentation is complete, the rifles have not left the United States,” the embassy told El Caribe, also saying that the shipment is part of the US government’s Foreign Military Financing Program (FMF). On a military website, the US administration justifies the program: “The principal means of ensuring America’s security is through the deterrence of potential aggressors who would threaten the US or its allies. Foreign Military Financing, the US government program for financing through grants or loans the acquisition of US military articles, services, and training, supports US regional stability goals and enables friends and allies to improve their defense capabilities. Because FMF monies are used to purchase US military equipment and training, FMF contributes to a strong US defense industrial base, which benefits both America’s armed forces and American workers.”

Regarding the senator’s statement that the US assisted in training 600 Haitians in the Dominican Republic, the US embassy said that the training did not take place in the DR. “From December 2002 to January 2004, an estimated 600 persons (Haitians) participated in training programs of the International Republican Institute in the United States.”

El Caribe said that the United States Agency for International Development has a donation program for US$2.4 million to promote democracy in Haiti. Of this money, US$1.2 million was allotted to the IRI and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) to fund programs for education on democracy in Haiti.

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