The top Democrat in the Senate called on the U.S. government to step up its efforts to investigate the deaths of Americans who have traveled to the Dominican Republic and are calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to get involved.
Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), said the agency should step in and provide the FBI and local law enforcement officials assistance after this year’s death of at least eight Americans in the Dominican Republic. Tourist family members have called on officials to explore whether there is any link between the fatalities and adulterated alcohol or misused pesticides.
The ATF—the agency that primarily investigates firearms-related crimes, but is also charged with regulating alcohol and tobacco—is uniquely positioned to provide the investigation with technical and forensic expertise, Schumer said. The agency also has offices in the Caribbean.
“Given that we still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers into just what, if anything, is cause for the recent spate of sicknesses and several deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic, the feds should double their efforts on helping get to the bottom of things,” Schumer said in a statement.
Francisco Javier García, the Dominican Republic’s tourism minister, said earlier this month that the deaths are not part of any mysterious wave of deaths, but rather are a statistically normal phenomenon lumped together by the U.S. media. He said autopsies show that tourists died as a result of natural causes.
Five of the autopsies had been completed as of last week, while three had to undergo further toxicological analysis with the help of the FBI due to circumstances surrounding the deaths.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press