Cablegate: Dominican Supreme Court President Subero Isa Confirms Corruption, Complements Cooperation
DE RUEHDG #2941/01 2561645
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131645Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6096
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SANTO DOMINGO 002941
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CAR SEARBY
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/13/2016
TAGS: CVIS KJUS KCOR DR
SUBJECT: DOMINICAN SUPREME COURT PRESIDENT SUBERO ISA CONFIRMS CORRUPTION, COMPLEMENTS COOPERATION
Classified By: Classified by Political-Economic Counselor Michael Meigs for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 1. (U) Summary. In a wide-ranging recent call by Ambassadors Hertell and Bullen (DCM) on Jorge Subero Isa, President of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), the latter confidently delineated plans for a further strengthening of the judicial sector, detailed the fight against judicial corruption, and expounded on some of the most pressing reform issues currently facing the Dominican Republic. 2. (C) After the departure of State and USAID personnel that had accompanied the ambassadors, Subero revealed to Hertell and Bullen that SCJ Vice-President Rafael Luciano Pichardo appears to be deeply involved in official corruption and is possibly attempting to subvert the ongoing trial of individuals implicated in the 2003 fraudulent collapse of Banco Intercontinental (Baninter). Nevertheless, Subero suggested that no action would be taken against Pichardo by the Dominican government. The Embassy is investigating whether revocation of Pichardo's non-official visa would be appropriate. End Summary.
------------------- I've Got Good News... ---------------------
3. (U) Subero began the meeting in a clearly expansive mood, directly attributing the rebounding Dominican economy (GDP growth rate of 9%) to judicial sector improvements brought about by USAID programming. He went on to suggest that, but for the support of the U.S. Government, there would have been little measurable progress in the fight against judicial corruption during the last nine years. His ultimate conclusion was that "moral assistance" provided by the United States is, in fact, more valuable than monetary assistance, finding it to be of "incalculable worth."
The Future of Dominican Justice -------------------------------
4. (U) Counting on continued, extensive support from USAID, Subero Isa laid out his plans for the future of the Dominican justice sector. A hoped-for "second wave" of projects and programming would include:
-- The establishment of a mediation center, building on what he termed as the great "success" of a USAID-sponsored family mediation center in Santo Domingo.
According to Subero, the Dominican commitment to mediation is evidenced by the recent certification of an additional 69 family mediators and is justified by a 90% success rate for all cases currently brought to family mediation.
-- The creation of a "judicial observatory." As previously established in other Latin American countries, this would provide a forum for debate by political decision-makers, members of the judiciary, civil society, and members of the international community regarding both public policy options and judicial reform.
-- Reorganization of the judiciary's administrative functions to promote transparency and efficiency. This would include significant decentralization of the multiple powers currently held by the SCJ President.
-- The strengthening and increased utilization of the Dominican Freedom of Information Act (Libre Acceso al Publico) as a measure to promote transparency and counter corruption; and
-- The spread of judicial management and tracking programs throughout the Republic (replicating a current USAID-model program in the province of La Vega.)
5. (U) Subero also foresaw preservation of the 2004 revisions to the Criminal Procedures Code. Subero suggested that, despite the recent press linkage of rights guarantees for criminal defendants and a rise in the overall crime rate, the country's transition to the revised Code was far less traumatic than that experienced by other countries.
He dismissed assertions by some of a link between rights for criminal defendants and crime, noting that pushback against the Code is based on confusion between the concepts of "individual security" and "individual rights." Initial hesitancy from members of the Dominican bar is now resolved, according to Subero, as older attorneys, initially fearful of competition from their younger, more nimble colleagues, have grown more comfortable in the Code's application.
6. (U) There was also a prediction for increased confidence in the judiciary following the retirement of five Supreme Court Justices in the coming four months. Subero described this as placing the Court in a "stage of re-legitimization," noting that while some Justices are clearly "resisting retirement," it is necessary to open spaces for younger justices. "It is healthy to have changes."
7. (U) CAFTA-DR, too, will figure prominently in the life of the judiciary. Accordingly, general classwork on economic crimes/issues and specific classwork on CAFTA-DR is featured in judicial training for all entry-level judges.
8. (U) In terms of the current debate regarding constitutional reform, Subero was confident that reform will ultimately occur, but was less confident that this will be a good thing. "The problem is not the Constitution," he bluntly declared, suggesting that the problem instead is with the application of existing law.
9. (U) Overall, the picture painted during this initial meeting was of Subero as a proactive leader with a great affinity for due process, public debate, and use of technology in the judicial sector.
--------------- And Bad News... ---------------
10. (C) While the rump meeting to follow did little to take away from this perception, it did reveal Subero's Achilles heel -- an unwillingness to directly challenge corruption in the highest reaches of government.
11. (C) Embassy had received, unrequested, illegal wiretaps that appeared to be part of a smear campaign against Pichardo, with the suggestion that others were attempting to influence his votes at the Court.
A partial transcript was also apparently delivered to the Internet investigative journal Clave Digital. While Pichardo's own comments as recorded contain nothing signaling either illegal or judicially unethical activity, the subsequent Clave Digital article was sufficiently damaging that Embassy thought it prudent to ask Subero's opinion of the affair.
12. (C) In response, Subero indicated that Pichardo had acknowledged to him, as well as other SCJ Justices, that he had accepted $40,000 USD from an unnamed party, but that there was no quid pro quo, explicit or implicit.
Subero further related that two of Pichardo's sons were also involved in accepting large sums of money and that Pichardo is known to have asked the judge in the Baninter criminal trial to "have some flexibility" in regard to defense motions.
13. (C) Subero further believes, but cannot prove, that Baninter defense attorney and presidential advisor Vinicio "Vincho" Castillo is attempting to orchestrate the substitution of Pichardo for Subero at the helm of the SCJ, in an attempt to improve the Court's disposition toward Baninter defendants on appeal.
14. (C) Despite Pichardo's acknowledgment and the existence of other indications, Subero insisted to Hertell and Bullen that nothing could be done.
His explanation: a lack of concrete evidence of wrongdoing.
15. (C) Given what Subero has told the Embassy, embassy officials are currently investigating whether a visa revocation for Pichardo would be appropriate.
16. (U) Similar reporting and extensive other material can be consulted on our SIPRNET site, http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/santodomingo/ . HERTELL