CHEAP, SUNNY, WELL-GUARDED: Cita del Sol
until 2009, when an international posse of cops possibly slowed
down the Quebec Hells Angels’ various rackets as a result
of a multi-year investigation labelled Operation SharQc, anyone
obsessed with the biker gang’s various chapters need only
head to Cabarete, on the impossibly beautiful North Coast of
the Dominican Republic, to get up close and maybe even personal
with their outlaw heroes. For years, the bikers have been coming
to the D.R. to hide out and/or hang for a few weeks to chill
in the sun with their families on vacation. It’s been
a great country for them: the gang and their endless supply
of blood money have been welcomed with open arms. The local
authorities, mostly criminals in their own right, were so impressed
by our Angels, they even named the street where their new bunker
resides after them—Calle 81 (the ‘8’ standing
for the letter ‘H’ and the
‘1’ standing for ‘A’).
they could ever be rounded up and carted off to jail by their
Dominican benefactors just seemed too remote a possibility to
even consider, yet, on the morning of April 15, 2009, that’s
exactly what happened -- sort of.
SELLS, EVERYONE BUYS
to how it’s often portrayed in tourist guides, Cabarete
is hardly just the quaint little surfer/tourist town they love
to claim it is. Oh sure, compared to Sosua, some 20 minutes
or so west of here on the road to Puerto Plata, why, it’s
downright sleepy, but that’s not saying much.
with its endless array of sleazy watering holes, bargain prostitutes,
toothless Dominican pimps and the fat old German expats and
tourists who keep them all in business, has long been one of
the world’s foremost sex tourism destinations -- catering
to both men and, increasingly, women.
who’s spent any time here bats an eye upon coming across
some stinky white-haired Euro-stud mauling their latest 15-year-old
girlfriend. Nor does anyone give it a second thought when spotting
teenage ‘sanky pankies’ -- these ripped, criminally
good-looking ebony kite surfer dudes who generally work the
resort beat -- playing tonsil-hockey on the beach with somebody’s
saggy-titted, liver-spotted grandma. It’s just an accepted
part of the scenery, like palm trees and garbage-strewn streets.
with most, if not all, third world sex tourism hot spots, prostitution,
much like the drug biz, thrives here because, well, there’s
simply not a whole lot of career choices open to the largely
uneducated, dirt-poor masses who inhabit the Dominican countryside.
Outside of the major cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, the
poor rural people who make up the bulk of the population spend
their days lounging outside their one-room wood and tin shacks
getting pissed on cheap rum, watching chickens chase each other
around, shitting in their backyards, betting on birds at their
friendly neighbourhood cock-fighting ring and constantly enjoying
that most inexpensive of activities affordable to all with functioning,
disease-free genitals: fucking their brains out.
there’s anything absolutely indisputable about the D.R.,
it’s that they share one hell of a highly sexualized culture
in this most delightful part of the tropics. As the expat gringos
in these parts are fond of saying, welcome to paradise.
DEVIL FINDS WORK
as idyllic as the life of a Dominican campesino most certainly
sounds, there’s also no shortage of misery in this country.
Putting it bluntly, they have more than their fair share of
desperate people here, especially among the Haitian community,
the Dominican Republic sharing the island of Hispaniola with
Haiti, and Haiti being, of course, the grand old dame of fucked
up nations. The North Shore, where Cabarete is located, is chock
full of mostly illegal Haitian immigrants.
perhaps nobody should be all that surprised to learn there’s
also quite a bit of violent crime here, although, like everywhere
else in the world, most of the gun violence takes place among
the various criminal outfits who run the local drug and prostitution
rackets. While it does happen on occasion, your average sun-seeking
tourist isn’t all that likely to get killed, unless, of
course, he/she tries to fuck over the local underworld or foolishly
decides it’d be cool to get rip-roaring, pass-out drunk
and go down to the barrio at 4 a.m. with a wad full of money
taped to their foreheads looking to score blow or companionship.
Still, everyone who can afford them has guns here, and few think
twice about using them when the situation calls for it.
on that fateful morning of April 15, 2009, when I stepped out
the door of my rented condo unit at 5 a.m. to investigate what
all the commotion in the hallway below me was about, I wasn’t
as shocked as I might have been to discover a six-man posse
of masked machine-gun-toting maniacs readying to break down
the door of my downstairs neighbour, Steve ‘Tiny’
Rainville. After all, only a few days earlier, I’d witnessed
some poor Haitian dude getting blown to bits in broad daylight
while I sat on a lovely shaded terrasse enjoying a quiet steak
dinner with my wife, and, well, after enough exposure to this
sort of violence, you kind of get used to it. The real shocker
that morning was the fact that these guys were coming after
my man Tiny.
you see, must weigh about 350 pounds and possesses a demeanour
that cries I KILL PEOPLE! When he, I and the neighbourhood children
would all be frolicking at our complex’s swimming pool
together -- Tiny inevitably with some smokin’ hot new
Haitian chick at his side -- I couldn’t get over how much
the guy bore a resemblance to a giant, foul-mouthed manatee,
except not quite as cute as the ones you find in the ocean,
given that this manatee could easily, if provoked, kill me in
a heartbeat without giving it a second thought.
of being a looker, Tiny also happens to be a full-patch member
of the Hells Angels, fun-lovin’ Québécois
fellas who even the dimmest Dominican criminal knows not to
fuck with. For that matter, even the police, by far the biggest,
baddest criminals on the island, knew better than to fuck with
them. These guys had power, man.
MEN MAKE GOOD NEIGHBOURS
del Sol, the condo complex where I’ve been wintering these
past few years, used to be owned -- or at least, operated --
by the Quebec Hells Angels. And while the bikers and their families
still regularly stay here on vacation (You’ve got to wonder
sometimes just how much vacation time these guys get every year
anyway. Two weeks? Three? Do they get stress leave after killing
somebody?), your average Cita del Sol dweller ranges from wealthy
American windsurf-loving millionaires who’d rather hang
among regular people than their snooty uptight colleagues, to
bargain hunters like me, who are in Cabarete because it’s
as inexpensive a Caribbean winter destination as you’re
ever going to find.
del Sol is a pretty safe place to live by Dominican standards,
not only because of the shotgun-toting security guards stationed
outside in the parking lot 24/7, but because all the petty criminals
in the area are terrified of the complex’s rep as ‘the
Hells Angels house’ and don’t want to make the mistake
of possibly burgling a biker’s apartment to consequently
get hunted down and killed for their efforts.
most Cabarete gringos, in a land where the cops usually want
to know how much money you’re prepared to give them before
deciding whether to come to your aid or not, having influential
thugs like the Hells Angels in town hasn’t been much of
an inconvenience. They’ve never been known to beat on
anybody just for the sake of it and, for the most part, are
pretty respectful to their neighbours. Many a courteous Angel
has politely held the gates to Cita del Sol open for my wife
and me when we’ve passed by, not necessarily smiling at
us, but at least grunting our way in a friendly, non-threatening
manner. The whores in town, along with every bar/restaurant
staff along the North Coast, love them because they’re
always throwing their considerable loot around.
for those few who were down with them on a personal level --
the Angels generally stick to themselves -- a phone call to
their bunker could well save your ass should you find yourself
caught up in the Dominican justice system.
though the majority of the bikers hanging in Cabarete were/are
older, semi-retired crooks, the accepted wisdom is that they
initially set up shop in the D.R. to filter Colombian drugs
back to Canada. Whatever the case, they certainly had plenty
of influence with the local police. It wasn’t uncommon
to see Tiny, or fugitive Aurèle Brouillette, the influential
father of alleged Quebec Hells Angel head honcho Mario Brouillette,
or my very favourite Angel, the Tickler, a little guy with a
fierce reputation and a face that’s a dead ringer for
Leonard Cohen circa 1971, drinking champagne in Sosua with the
local chief of police. The cops are so corrupt around here,
they’re not particularly concerned about being spotted
in public hanging out with the same fugitives they’re
theoretically supposed to be arresting and deporting back to
Canada. Like, what’s anybody going to do about it?
is what made seeing all those masked gunmen at Tiny’s
door that morning last April all the more bizarre. Could these
guys really be, like . . . cops? How could such a thing even
be possible? Yet before I ducked back into the relative safety
of my apartment, I could have sworn these guys were wearing
uniforms, and sure enough, I was to find out later, they were.
The guys coming to get Tiny were a Dominican SWAT team, masked
only to conceal their identities lest Tiny’s associates
figure out who they were someday and come back to take revenge
on them and their families.
word around town was that the bikers must have refused to pay
bribe money, or enough bribe money, to some government bigwig
in Santo Domingo in order to have finally been rounded up and
deported to Canada the way they were. Tiny’s bust was
just one part of Operation SharQc’s mass arrests in the
D.R., France and Quebec, which saw some 156 Quebec bikers rounded
up and carted off to jail to await their day in court. But the
feeling among Cabarete townspeople was one of absolute disbelief.
those familiar with Dominican justice, the idea of these rich,
powerful criminals being forcibly expelled from their bunker
on Calle 81, their zillion-dollar fleet of Harleys and Range
Rovers all seized, of Tiny and his heretofore omnipotent Aurèle
Brouillette pal actually getting carted off to prison, well,
it was nothing short of incredible. The end of an era. But of
course it wasn’t.
word on the street last spring was that the Dominican police/Armed
Forces had rounded up every last Canadian biker on the island,
were laying claim to all their considerable personal property
and shipping every last one of them back to Canada. Yet that’s
not quite how it’s played out.
the Cabarete police station on the day of the bust, you could
count dozens of recently seized Harleys all chained up in the
parking lot and you couldn’t even get close to their bunker
on Calle 81 for all the SWAT team action going down. Yet to
date, after all the activity that transpired that morning, only
three bikers were actually arrested and deported to Canada:
Tiny, Aurèle and Marc Readman, whom I’d never seen
before -- hardly the entire D.R. HA operation.
keeping a relatively low profile in town over the spring and
summer, the bikers have a presence in Cabarete again. There’s
new activity in their bunker (which, if it was ever properly
seized in the first place, has been returned to them), the local
prostitutes are suddenly flush and the bar they recently opened
behind the HA-affiliated ‘Bozo beverage house’ saw
some 200 bikers stopping by to initiate its grand opening a
couple weeks ago.
while Tiny and Aurèle sit in Canadian jails waiting to
face murder and various other charges stemming back to the biker
wars of the 1990s, it appears to be only a matter of time until
life returns to normal in Cabarete, with our very own Québécois
outlaws once again ruling the roost in their adopted homeland
of the sunny Dominican Republic. As they like to say around
here, welcome to paradise.
by Chris Barry: