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Dominican Republic - GOVERNMENT

Dominican Republic - Government and Politics

THE ROOTS OF DEMOCRACY were not deep in the Dominican Republic. The country traditionally had been mostly poor, rural, and underdeveloped. It had a weak economy, largely based on sugar exports, and it lacked the social and the political infrastructures--political parties, interest groups, and effective government institutions--necessary for democratic rule. Thus, for most of their history the people of the Dominican Republic had lived under authoritarian governments.

In addition, the international climate had not favored democracy and development. The Dominican Republic, a small, dependent nation, poor in resources, shared the island of Hispaniola (La Isla Española) with more populous but even poorer Haiti. Tensions between the two nations could be traced back to the nineteenth century, when Haiti controlled the entire island (1822-44), or farther back, to the era of colonial rule by the Spaniards. The Dominican Republic's economy, historically oriented toward the export of primary products for the world market, was dependent on fluctuating world market prices for those products, or on the quotas set by major importers--factors beyond the Dominican Republic's control. Moreover, the country's strategic location in the Caribbean, astride all the major sea lanes linking North America and South America and leading into the Panama Canal, exposed the country to the buffeting winds of international politics, or led to its occupation by major powers such as Spain, Britain, France, The Netherlands, and, most recently, the United States. The nation's almost inevitable entanglement in international conflicts afforded it little opportunity to develop autonomously.

Beginning in the early 1960s, however, many things began to change in the Dominican Republic. Per capita income in the late 1980s was four times what it had been in 1960. The country's population was approximately 70 percent urban (the corresponding figure in 1960 was 30 percent), more literate (in about the same proportion), and more middle class. Political institutions had developed and had become more consolidated. The country's international debt continued to be a major problem and a severe drain on the economy, but in general the Dominican Republic's economic position within the international community was more stable than it had been in past decades. These changed conditions made the climate more conducive to democracy than it had been at any previous time.

In 1961 assassins ended the thirty-one-year dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina. There followed five years of instability that witnessed a short-lived democratic regime under Juan Bosch Gaviño, the military overthrow of Bosch, a Bosch-led revolution in 1965, civil war, United States intervention, and the restoration of stability in 1966 under a former Trujillo puppet, Joaquín Balaguer Ricardo. Balaguer governed for the next twelve years, until forced to bow to the electorate's desire for change in 1978. That year Silvestre Antonio Guzmán Fernández, of Bosch's party, the Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano--PRD), won the presidency. Guzmán was succeeded by another PRD leader, Salvador Jorge Blanco (1982-86). In 1986 the shrewd, but aging, Balaguer won four more years as president in another fair and free election.

There was, therefore, a democratic breakthrough in the Dominican Republic in the early 1960s that led to instability, conflict, intervention, and eventually an authoritarian restoration. In 1978, however, a new democratic opening occurred. Whether this new democracy would be more permanent than other frustrated efforts in the past, or the Dominican Republic would again revert to instability and authoritarianism, remained to be seen.

Constitutional Development

<>The Executive
<>The Legislature
<>The Judiciary
<>Public Administration
<>Local Government
<>The Electoral System
The System of Dominican Politics
<>Political Developments since 1978
<>Interest Groups
<>The Armed Forces
<>The Roman Catholic Church
<>Economic Elites
<>Trade Unions
<>Student Politics
<>Middle Class
<>The Bureaucracy
<>Outside Actors
<>Political Parties
<>The Mass Media


Constitutional Development

By 1989 the Dominican Republic had gone through 29 constitutions in less than 150 years of independence. This statistic is a somewhat deceiving indicator of political stability, however, because of the Dominican practice of promulgating a new constitution whenever an amendment was ratified. Although technically different from each other in some particular provisions, most new constitutions contained in reality only minor modifications of those previously in effect. Sweeping constitutional innovations were actually relatively rare.

The large number of constitutions does, however, reflect a basic lack of consensus on the rules that should govern the national political life. Most Dominican governments felt compelled upon taking office to write new constitutions that changed the rules to fit their own wishes. Not only did successive governments often strenuously disagree with the policies and the programs of their predecessors, but they often rejected completely the institutional framework within which their predecessors had operated. Constitutionalism--loyalty to a stable set of governing principles and laws rather than to the person who promulgates them--became a matter of overriding importance in the Dominican Republic only after the death of Trujillo.

Dominicans historically had agreed that government should be representative and vaguely democratic, that there should be civil and political rights, separation of powers, and checks and balances. Beyond that, however, consensus broke down. The country actually had been alternately dominated throughout its history by two constitutional traditions, one relatively democratic and the other authoritarian. Rarely were there attempts to bridge the gap between these diametric opposites.

The first Dominican constitution was promulgated in 1844, immediately after the nation achieved independence from Haiti. It was a liberal document with many familiar elements--separation of powers, checks and balances, and a long list of basic rights. However, an authoritarian government replaced the country's liberal, democratic government during its first year. The new regime proceeded to write its own constitution. This second constitution considerably strengthened the executive, weakened the legislative and the judicial branches, and gave the president widespread emergency powers, including the power to suspend basic rights and to rule by decree. Thereafter, governance of the country often alternated between liberal and authoritarian constitutional systems.

Even the dictator Rafael Trujillo always took care to operate under the banner of constitutionalism. Under Trujillo, however, the legislature was simply a rubber stamp; the courts were not independent; and basic rights all but ceased to exist. He governed as a tyrant, unfettered by constitutional restrictions.

After Trujillo's death in 1961, the constitution was amended to provide for new elections and to allow the transfer of power to an interim Council of State. Although promulgated as a new document, the 1962 constitution was actually a continuation of the Trujillo constitution, and it was thus unpopular.

In 1963, Bosch's freely elected, social-democratic government drafted a new and far more liberal constitution. It separated church and state, put severe limits on the political activities of the armed forces, established a wide range of civil liberties, and restricted the rights of property relative to individual rights. These provisions frightened the more conservative elements in Dominican society, which banded together to oust Bosch and his constitution in September 1963. Subsequently, the more conservative 1962 constitution was restored. In the name of constitutionalism, Bosch and his followers launched a revolution in 1965, the objective of which was restoration of the liberal 1963 constitution.

Largely as a result of the United States military intervention of April 1965, the civil war had died down by 1966. With Balaguer and his party in control, the Dominicans wrote still another constitution. This one was intended to avert the conflicts and polarization of the past by combining features from both the liberal and the conservative traditions. The 1966 Constitution incorporated a long list of basic rights, and it provided for a strengthened legislature; however, it also gave extensive powers to the executive, including emergency powers. In this way, the country sought to bridge the gap between its democratic and its authoritarian constitutions, by compromising their differences. Although the 1966 Constitution had been amended several times afterwards, it was this document under which the Dominican Republic continued to operate in 1989.

Dominican Republic - The Executive

The executive had long been the dominant branch in the Dominican governmental system. The president's powers derived from his supreme authority over national administration, the armed forces, and all public affairs. In addition, the president was the beneficiary of the worldwide trends toward centralized decision making and increased executive dominance. Television and other forms of modern mass communications also focused greater attention on the president. The political culture of the Dominican Republic, with its emphasis on machismo and strong leadership, reinforced this tendency to make the president the focal point of the political system. Not surprisingly, Dominican presidents traditionally had been dominant, charismatic, forceful personalities.

The Constitution vests executive power in a president who is elected by direct popular vote and whose term of office is four years. There is no prohibition against a president's seeking reelection, but since the electoral defeat of Balaguer in 1978, presidents had limited themselves to one term. The Constitution requires that presidential candidates be Dominican citizens by birth or origin, at least thirty years old, and in possession of all political and civil rights. A candidate cannot have been a member of the military, or the police, for at least one year prior to his election. Vice presidential candidates must meet the same qualifications.

The vice president may assume the office of president when the chief executive is ill, outside the country, or otherwise unable to perform his duties. If the president dies, or becomes permanently unable to carry out the functions of his office, the vice president serves until the next scheduled election. If the vice president is also unable to fill the office, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (who is chosen by the Senate) serves temporarily. Within fifteen days, he must convene the National Assembly (which consists of both houses of the Congress of the Republic), which must then select a substitute to fill out the term.

The Dominican Constitution takes twenty-seven paragraphs to spell out the president's extensive powers. Among the most important are those that grant him authority over virtually all appointments and removals of public officials; empower him to promulgate the laws passed by Congress; direct him to engage in diplomatic relations; and empower him to command, to deploy, and to make appointments in, the armed forces. The president also has vast emergency powers to suspend basic rights in times of emergency, to prorogue the Congress, to declare a state of siege, and to rule by decree. Historically, the exercise of these emergency powers usually had been the prelude to dictatorship.

The few limitations the Constitution places on presidential authority focus primarily on the requirement to secure congressional consent to certain appointments, treaty negotiations, entry into certain contracts, and the exercise of emergency powers. These provisions put no more thana limited check on presidential authority, however, because the Dominican voting system almost automatically guarantees the president a majority of his followers in Congress. The Dominican courts also offer little impediment to the exercise of executive power, mainly because they lack the power of judicial review.

The 1966 Constitution provides for ministers and subcabinet ministers to assist in public administration. These officials must be Dominican citizens, at least twenty-five years of age, with full civil and political rights. The powers of the ministers are determined by law; they are not set forth in the Constitution. However, the president is constitutionally responsible for the actions of his ministers. Ministers serve at the president's discretion, can be removed by him, and function both as administrators of their ministries and as agents of presidential authority.

In a system as heavily weighted toward the executive as the Dominican one, the force of a president's personality can do much to determine his relative success or failure in office. Trujillo, the dictator, was tough and forceful; Bosch, the democrat, was weak and ineffectual. Balaguer, although he appeared meek in public, proved to be a very shrewd politician.

Dominican Republic - The Legislature

The 1966 Constitution confers all legislative powers on the Congress of the Republic, which consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The election of senators and deputies is by direct vote every four years. Congressional terms, therefore, are coterminous with presidential terms, which greatly increases the possibility that the president's party will enjoy a majority in the legislature.

One senator is elected from each of the country's provinces and from the National District (Santo Domingo). In 1989 the Dominican Senate had thirty members. Deputies also represent provinces, but their seats are apportioned on the basis of population; thus, the more populous provinces and the National District have larger delegations. In 1989 there were 120 representatives in the Chamber of Deputies.

Deputies and senators must be Dominican citizens, at least twenty-five years old, with full civil and political rights. They must have been natives, or residents for at least five years, of the province they wish to represent. Naturalized citizens are eligible to run for Congress if they have been Dominican citizens for ten years. Congressmen are not allowed to hold another public office concurrently.

The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies may meet together as the National Assembly on certain specific occasions cited by the Constitution--for example, when both the president and the vice president are unable to complete their terms of office and a successor must be designated. By a three-fourths vote, the Chamber of Deputies may bring accusations--against public officials--before the Senate, but it has no other exclusive powers. In contrast, the Senate has several exclusive powers: selecting members of the Supreme Court and other lower courts, choosing the president and the members of the Central Electoral Board, approving diplomatic appointments made by the president, and hearing cases of public misconduct brought before it by the Chamber of Deputies.

The Congress has broad powers to levy taxes, to change the country's political subdivisions, to declare a state of emergency, to regulate immigration, to approve or to reject extraordinary expenditures requested by the executive, to legislate on all matters concerning the public debt, to examine annually all the acts of the executive, to interrogate cabinet ministers (a bow to parliamentary government), and to legislate on all matters not within the constitutional mandate of other branches of government or contrary to the Constitution.

For more than a century, the Congress remained a submissive, even somnolent, branch. For many years, under one or another of the country's many dictators, it did not meet at all. Beginning in the 1960s, however, the Congress began to assert itself. President Bosch sometimes had trouble with members of his own party in the Congress; and, although Balaguer ruled as a strong leader from 1966 to 1978, his Congress did not always function as a rubber stamp either.

The real breakthrough came with the restoration of full democracy in 1978. Even though, under presidents Guzmán and Jorge, the majority in Congress belonged to the president's party, that did not stop the Congress from dissenting on various bills, frustrating presidential initiatives in certain particulars, and serving as an increasingly important check on the executive. Although not yet coequal with the executive as a branch of government, the Congress had grown as an independent body, and its ability to check presidential power could no longer be easily dismissed.

Dominican Republic - The Judiciary

Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice and by other courts created by the Constitution and by law. The Constitution establishes courts of first instance in each province as well as a land tribunal and courts of appeal. Justices of the peace exist in each municipality and in the National District. The Constitution also mandates a court of accounts, which examines the country's finances and reports to the Congress.

Centralized and hierarchical, the Dominican legal system was patterned after the French system. It employed a code-law legal system rather than a common law system, such as the one used in the United States. Detailed and comprehensive, the codes left little room for United States-style judicial activism or citation of precedent. Legal reasoning was deductive (from the codes), rather than inductive, or based on past cases.

The Constitution calls for a Supreme Court consisting of nine judges. Judges are chosen by the Senate, not by the president, ostensibly to limit executive power. The Senate also selects the judges for the lower courts. Supreme Court justices must be Dominican citizens by birth or parentage, at least thirty-five years old, with full political and civil rights. They are required to have law degrees and to have practiced law, or held judicial office, for at least twelve years. These requirements become progressively less strict for lower-court justices.

The Supreme Court has the exclusive power to assume jurisdiction in matters affecting the president and other high officials, to act as a court of cassation, to serve as a court of last instance in matters forwarded from appellate courts, to exercise final disciplinary action over other members of the judiciary, and to transfer justices from one jurisdiction to another. The Supreme Court does not have the formal power to review the constitutionality of laws, decrees, or resolutions put into effect by the president or the Congress, although a movement began in the late 1970stoward limited judicial oversight of government acts.

The courts in the Dominican Republic historically have been subservient to the government in power. Moreover, politics have frequently dominated court proceedings, and the entire judicial system may be subject to outside pressures and, at times, even intimidation. Nevertheless, since the early 1960s the court system has become stronger, and the judiciary has become a more independent, if not a coequal, branch of government.

Dominican Republic - Public Administration

The fall of the Trujillo dictatorship in 1961 did not produce a corresponding disruption of the traditions and practices characteristic of the government service. Corruption, nepotism, wholesale dismissals for purely political reasons, loyalty checks, patronage, and the sowing of distrust and suspicion had become ingrained habits which, unlike Trujillo, did not disappear overnight. However, the old habits were challenged by new pressures: demands that the bureaucracy provide real goods and services, that public functions be carried out honestly and efficiently, and that the government respond to the pent-up needs and demands of the population. The clash between the traditional patterns of bureaucratic behavior and new demands for public services, such as health care, education, water supplies, and electricity, contributed significantly to the political instability of the post-Trujillo period.

No effective law existed to protect Dominican public officials in their jobs. From the cabinet level to the lowest ranks, virtually all civil servants were appointed, served, and could be removed largely at the will of the president. The result was a patronage-dominated system in which public sector jobs were given out in return for loyalty and service.

Merit, achievement, and competence, therefore, were not always the main criteria guiding government appointments. The public bureaucracy was often characterized by genuine incompetence, even at the highest levels. Nepotism and corruption--defined as a favor in return for a favor, the granting of special governmental privileges to favored persons, private enrichment stemming from public service, or outright bribery--were also widespread. Those who tried to be honest were scorned; they were considered foolish by their colleagues. Indeed, government service was thought of, not so much as an honored career, as a brief opportunity to indulge oneself at the public trough. The frequent failure of government programs could often be attributed directly to the corruption and incompetence of the bureaucracy. Patronage and related activities were often tolerated at lower levels, so long as they were kept within reasonable bounds; however, when the corruption became blatant, as it did under President Jorge, the government was likely to suffer at the polls.

Under the president, were a number of technical offices-- administration, planning, budget, personnel--designed to help him perform his job more effectively. These offices generally did not function well, however, and most Dominican presidents continued to operate as personalistic and patronage leaders.

The size of the cabinet could vary; in 1989 it consisted of sixteen secretaries of state, three without ministerial portfolio. There were also an administrative secretary of state for the presidency, a technical secretary of state for the presidency, and twelve additional secretaries of state administering various ministries. The cabinet did not function as an independent arm of, nor very often as an advisory body for, the presidency (although some of its individual members might); rather, it was a loose collection of administrators, operating almost entirely according to the wishes of the president.

In addition to the cabinet ministries, there were in 1989 fourteen autonomous agencies and eleven semiautonomous agencies. The autonomous and semiautonomous agencies were established in the early 1960s to administer new public programs as well as the vast properties and enterprises inherited by the state after the death of Trujillo, who in addition to his political power had vast economic holdings. These agencies administered an array of programs and enterprises, ranging from farm loans to cooperatives and vast sugar lands. The largest of these were the State Sugar Council (Consejo Estatal de Azúcar--CEA), the 85,000 employees of which made it the largest employer in the country, and the State Enterprises Corporation (Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Estatales--Corde), into which a number of smaller state-owned enterprises had been consolidated.

Dominated by patronage considerations and plagued by corruption, the autonomous and semiautonomous agencies were frequently mismanaged. Some officials, believing that these agencies could be run more efficiently by the private sector, periodically proposed putting them up for sale. The usual reactions to such efforts included objections from nationalists about selling out the national patrimony; from politicians, seeking to preserve patronage opportunities; and from the employees of the state-run agencies, who feared layoffs under private sector management.

Dominican Republic - Local Government

The Dominican system of local government, like the Dominican legal system, was based on the French system of top-down rule and strong central authority. The country was divided into twentynine provinces, plus the National District (Santo Domingo). The provinces, in turn, were subdivided into a total of seventy-seven municipalities (or counties). Each province was administered by a civil governor appointed by the president. A governor had to be a Dominican citizen, at least twenty-five years old, and in full possession of his civil and political rights. The powers and duties of governors are set by law. The Constitution establishes the structure of local government; its specific functions are enumerated in the municipal code.

The municipalities and the National District were governed by mayors and municipal councils, both popularly elected to fouryear terms. The size of the councils depended on the size of the municipality, but each was required to have at least five members. The qualifications of local officials as well as the powers and duties of mayors and councils were set by law. Naturalized citizens could hold municipal office, provided they had lived in the community at least ten years.

Neither provinces nor municipalities had any independent power to levy taxes, so few services could be initiated at the local level. There were no local police departments, only a single national force. Policy and programs with regard to education, social services, roads, electricity, and public works were similarly administered at the national level, rather than at the provincial or the municipal level. Local government was therefore weak and ineffective, not only because it lacked taxing authority, but also because, in the Dominican system, the central government set virtually all policy.

Starting in the early 1960s, various efforts were made to strengthen Dominican local government. A new municipal league came into existence in 1962, and efforts were made to develop community spirit, local initiative, and self-help projects. These projects were not wholly successful, in large part because of the traditional arrangement under which virtually all power flowed downward from the central government. In the late 1980s, Santo Domingo remained the focus of the country's affairs, the source of power and largesse.

Dominican Republic - The Electoral System

The electoral system in place as of 1989 could trace its roots to the death of Trujillo. Following the dictator's assassination in 1961, the Dominican government asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a technical advisory mission to the country to help set up a system of free elections. Upon the mission's recommendation, the country established a hierarchy of electoral boards. The Central Electoral Board, consisting of three members appointed by the Senate, was the highest of these bodies.

Members of the Central Electoral Board were appointed to serve twelve-year terms. The Board chose the members of the provincial and municipal boards, who served at its pleasure. The Board issued regulations to ensure free and honest elections; directed the distribution of ballots, equipment, and voting materials; and supervised the functioning of the lower-level electoral boards.

The Central Electoral Board was given responsibility for printing ballots for each Dominican political party. To facilitate voting by those unable to read, each party's ballot was printed a different color. The ballots also bore the emblems of the parties participating, as an additional aid to nonreaders. Election day was a national holiday; alcoholic beverages could not be sold that day, and the polls were open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Voting was free, secret, and obligatory for both men and women. Suffrage was granted to everyone eighteen years old or older, and to every married person regardless of age. Members of the police or the armed forces were ineligible to vote, as were those who had lost their political and civil rights, such as incarcerated criminals. Elections were regulated by law, and they were administered by the Central Electoral Board.

Dominican elections could be breathtaking affairs. In 1978 losing candidate Balaguer impounded the ballot boxes and seemed about to steal the election; pressure from the United States forced a resumption of the vote count, which led to Guzmán's victory. The 1986 presidential election also produced controversy. This time Balaguer won, but the losing candidate of the PRD Jacobo Majluta Azar, claimed fraud and refused to concede. Majluta demanded a recount and threatened that violence might result otherwise. In this case, an independent electoral commission headed by the archbishop of Santo Domingo intervened in the dispute, verified the Balaguer victory, and persuaded Majluta to accept its independent vote tally.

Since 1978, elections had gained legitimacy as a means of choosing the president and other leaders. The elections of 1982 and 1986 had generally been fair, honest, competitive, and free, but elections still represented only one of several possible means to power in the Dominican Republic, the others being a skillfully executed coup d'état or a heroic revolution. Moreover, Dominican elections did not necessarily bestow the definitive legitimacy usually accorded an elected government in more developed democratic nations.

Dominican Republic - POLITICAL DYNAMICS

The System of Dominican Politics

The Dominican Republic's long history of political instability had included many revolutions, coups d'état, barracks revolts, and pronunciamientos (insurrections accompanied by declarations of disagreement with the existing government), as well as social and political breakdowns. Coups and revolutions are among the easiest political phenomena to measure systematically. When a country has had so many, one must conclude that they are a regular, normal part of the political process. Therefore, it is not the case that Dominican politics are unsystematic.

Politics in the Dominican Republic functions on a smaller and less formal scale than politics in the United States. Sometimes it seems that everyone in the Dominican Republic who counts politically knows everyone else who counts; many in this group are also interrelated by blood or marriage. It is a small country, with only one main city. Politics is therefore more like old-fashioned United States county politics. In this context, family and clan networks, patronage systems, close friendships, the bonds of kinship, personal ties, and extended family, ethnic, or other personal connections are as important as the more formal and impersonal institutions of a larger political system. The Dominican Republic has large-scale organizations, such as political parties, interest groups, professional associations, and bureacratic organizations, but often the informal networks are at least as important. They are, in addition, the features that are the most difficult for outsiders to penetrate and to understand.

To comprehend Dominican politics, therefore, one must understand first of all the family networks: who is related to whom, and how and what (if anything) these family ties mean. One must also understand the social and the racial hierarchies, who speaks to whom and in what tone of voice, who sees whom socially, and what these social ties imply politically. One must know about past business deals and associations, whether they were clean or "dirty," and what each family or individual knows or thinks about associates. One must understand where the different families "fit" in the Dominican system, whether they are old rich or new rich, their bloodlines, what they share politically, and what pulls them apart. Many of these family and clan associations and rivalries go back for generations.

Family and personalistic associations overlap and interact with the institutions of a more modern political system in all sorts of complex ways. For example, what goes by the name of a political party actually may turn out to be the personalistic apparatus of a single politician or family; or a certain office within the government bureaucracy may turn out to be the private preserve of a single family or clan. In order to understand Dominican politics, one must comprehend these complex overlaps of traditional and modern institutions and practices, of family and clan-based politics, and of modern political organizations.

Dominican Republic - Political Developments since 1978

The contemporary political system of the Dominican Republic dates from 1978. That year Balaguer, who had governed the country in an authoritarian, but paternalistic, manner for the preceding twelve years, was forced, because of domestic and international pressures, to yield the presidency to Guzmán, a wealthy rancher and candidate of the PRD, who had clearly won the election. Guzmán governed democratically and with full respect for human rights, but he committed suicide in 1982, apparently because of evidence of corruption reaching into his own family. The vice president, Majluta, took over temporarily until a new government, which actually had been elected before Guzmán's suicide, could be inaugurated.

The 1982 election was fair, honest, and competitive. It was won by Jorge, a lawyer who, like Guzmán, was a member of the PRD. But whereas Guzmán had represented the conservative wing of the party, Jorge represented its centrist, or social-democratic, wing.

President Jorge continued, like Guzmán, to govern in a democratic matter. His government respected civil liberties and honored human rights. Jorge had promised to expand the democratic reforms begun by his predecessor in the areas of agrarian reform, social justice, and modernization. He campaigned on the slogan, and entered office with the intention of bringing, "economic democracy" to the country to go with its now flourishing political democracy.

But 1982, the year of Jorge's inauguration, was the year the bottom dropped out of the Dominican economy. The country began to feel the full impact of the second oil price rise, induced by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); recession in the United States and Western Europe dried up the market for Dominican exports; and the international debt crisis also hit home strongly. These conditions forced Jorge to abandon his ambitious reform agenda in favor of severe austerity, belttightening , and a cutback in services. The nation witnessed the wrenching dilemma of a reform democrat, a socialist, who had to give up his entire social-democratic program in order to impose severely restrictive economic policies, the burden of which, as usual, fell most heavily on the shoulders of the poor--precisely those people who had been Jorge's main constituency. Jorge's popularity plummeted, and in 1985 riots broke out in response to his austerity measures, riots that the police put down with considerable loss of civilian life.

To his credit, Jorge succeeded in putting in place a sorely needed budget-balancing program that offered hope of getting the country out of its severe economic troubles. The steep decline in the president's popularity, however, prompted even members of his own party in the Congress and elsewhere to turn against him. In addition, increasing evidence of corruption in the public bureaucracy began to surface; as the austerity measures pinched, there was little extra money in the system, and the low-level patronage that had always existed began to be perceived as blatant, high-level graft. As Jorge's popularity declined, so did that of his entire government and his party.

New elections were held in 1986. President Jorge's deeply divided PRD eventually nominated Majluta, Guzmán's vice president, who four years earlier had served a short stint as interim president. Majluta was of Lebanese background, a longtime PRD stalwart, and a businessman who was tainted with the corruption of the previous administrations. He was opposed by Balaguer, who, though old and legally blind, still enjoyed widespread popularity. Many associated Balaguer with the economic boom of the 1970s; in addition, he was widely admired as a shrewd, resourceful, and skilled politician. In a very closely contested election, Balaguer won with 41 percent of the vote to Majluta's 39 percent. Another former president, Bosch, candidate of the leftist Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana--PLD), garnered 18 percent.

In office, Balaguer proved as adept as before, although now slowed by age and infirmity. He juggled assignments within the armed forces to assure its loyalty and support; followed policies that pleased the economic elites, while at the same time doling out land and patronage to the peasants; and fostered greater contact with Cuba, while simultaneously keeping United States support. He listened to advice from all quarters, but kept his own counsel, kept his subordinates off guard and insecure so they could not develop a base from which to challenge the president himself, and refused to designate a successor while keeping all his own options open. Balaguer delegated some limited power and patronage to subordinates, but he kept most of the reins of power in his own hands; he let cabinet and autonomous agency heads have a bit of responsibility, while he maintained control of the allimportant jobs--patronage, money, and military matters. Whatever one thinks of his policies, Balaguer must be considered one of the cleverest presidents in Dominican history.

Dominican Republic - Interest Groups

The Dominican Republic did not have the large number of interest groups and the intensely competitive pluralism found in larger, more advanced nations. In the 1970s and the 1980s, a growing number of private associations started to fill the organizational vacuum that many Dominicans held primarily responsible for their nation's history of instability. That process remained incomplete, however, and the falta de organización (lack of organization) was still the bane of national life.

Dominican Republic - The Armed Forces

The armed forces (army, navy, air force, and National Police) were among the best organized and the most powerful groups in Dominican national life. The military was more than a simple interest group, however. Stemming historically from the medieval Spanish system, the military constituted an integral part of the political regime, but one only nominally subordinate to civilian authority.

The modern Dominican armed forces were a product of the Trujillo era and of the often corrupt and brutal practices of that regime. Trujillo built up the armed forces enormously and gave them modern equipment, but he also encouraged graft, rakeoffs , and political interference.

Since Trujillo, various efforts had been made to reform, to modernize, and to professionalize the armed forces. These efforts had been only partially successful. In the late 1980s, the armed forces undoubtedly were better trained, better educated, and better equipped than before, but military personnel also tended to use their positions to augment their salaries, to acquire wealth and land, and to exercise political as well as military power, sometimes on a grand scale. At the same time, civilian political interference in the military (promotions, commands, favoritism, etc.) occurred at least as often as military interference in political affairs.

Since the mid-1970s, the pressures to reform the armed forces and to make them definitively apolitical and subordinate to civilian authority had intensified. Evidence of the success of this subordination is that, in various crises (for example, the electoral crises of 1978 and 1986 and the riots of 1985), the military behaved quite professionally and made no effort to seize the government. Nevertheless, no one is really certain how the armed forces would react in the face of endemic unrest, a popular guerrilla movement, economic collapse, or the possibility of a leftist electoral victory.

Dominican Republic - The Roman Catholic Church

The Dominican Republic remained over 90 percent Roman Catholic in the late 1980s, despite major gains by Protestant groups, especially evangelical, charismatic, and spiritualist sects. The Dominican Roman Catholic Church was historically conservative and traditionalist; in general it supported the status quo and the existing power structure. The Roman Catholic Church was weak institutionally, however, with few priests (fewer than 200 in the entire country), little land, few educational or social institutions, and little influence over the daily lives of most Dominicans.

Since the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church had ceased to identify wholly with the status quo. Rather, it tended to stand for moderate change. It organized mainstream Catholic political parties, trade unions, student groups, peasant leagues, and businessmen's associations.

Liberation theology had made few inroads in the Dominican Republic. A few priests espoused liberationist ideas, but they were not considered to be in the mainstream of the clergy. Nor had there been calls by church officials for an alliance with Marxist groups, let alone calls for guerrilla struggles or other militant action against the system.

As the Dominican Republic modernized and secularized, the church lost some of its influence. The country had legalized divorce in 1963 and had instituted government-sponsored family planning in 1967, two measures the church had opposed. The church seldom succeeded in mobilizing voters in support of its favored programs. With only about 10 percent of the population engaged as active, practicing Catholics, and with Protestant groups continuing to grow rapidly, political scientists estimated that the church had gone from being one of the top three most influential interest groups, in past decades, to about the sixth or the seventh by the late 1980s.

Dominican Republic - Economic Elites

If the Roman Catholic Church had been gradually losing political strength, the power of the economic elites had been steadily growing. Most Dominicans considered a strong economy essential to the successful development efforts of any government in power; only the country's economic entrepreneurs had the wherewithal and the expertise to promote economic growth. Therefore, economic importance also implied political importance.

By the 1980s, the Dominican Republic's economy was no longer almost exclusively agrarian. Trade, tourism, commerce, industry, banking, real estate, and services had also become important sectors of the economy. These economic changes also meant that the Association of Landowners and Agriculturists (Asociación de Hacendados y Agricultores), once the preeminent political interest group, had relinquished some of its influence to the Chamber of Commerce, the associations of industry and of exporters, various professional associations, and other economic groups. The enormous economic power of these groups allowed them to wield political power as well.

Although many observers considered the armed forces to be the ultimate arbiter of Dominican national affairs, on an everyday basis the economic elites wielded far more power. They constituted the primary source of cabinet and other high-level government appointees--regardless of which government was in power. They often enjoyed direct access to government decision making and decision makers. They were the people who knew how to get things done at home and abroad for the country, and the government depended on them for advice and often for financing. Under these circumstances, the economic elites were indispensable to the effective functioning, not just of the economy, but of the country.

Dominican Republic - Trade Unions

As of 1989, trade unions had not played the consistently strong role in the political system that the economic elites had. Only a small percentage (5 to 7 percent) of the population (12 to 15 percent of the labor force) belonged to labor unions in the late 1980s, and the unions themselves tended to be internally fragmented and weak.

The trade unions were also inclined to be highly political; most were associated with the major political parties. There were a Christian Democratic trade union group, a communist labor organization, a group of unions associated with the PRD, an organization for government workers, a teachers' union, and one relatively nonpartisan group. The several union groups conflicted as often with each other as with management.

Since most Dominicans earned very low salaries, the unions could not support themselves, or very many of their activities, on the basis of union dues. Several of the major groups received funding from outside the country. In addition, because the country typically had high rates of unemployment and underemployment and a surplus of unskilled labor, employers often replaced workers who tried to organize. Sometimes employers engaged in what could be described as union-breaking activities, including the summoning of the police to put down union activities. These and other conditions both weakened and politicized the labor movement. Although collective bargaining had gained popularity and legitimacy, political action was still more widely used by the unions to satisfy their demands. Political action might take the form of street demonstrations, violence, marches to the National Palace, and general strikes-- all meant to put pressure on the government to side with the workers in labor disputes. In extreme cases, a general strike might be called in an effort to topple a government or a labor minister deemed insufficiently receptive to labor's demands.

Dominican Republic - Student Politics

The Dominican Republic had some 80,000 students enrolled in institutions of post-secondary education in the late 1980s. The largest institution, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo--UASD), had its main campus in the capital city and several branches in different areas of the country. The Catholic University (Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra--UCMM)--literally mother and teacher, with religious connotations not apparent in English--was located in the second largest city, Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago); another private university, the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University (Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña-- UNPHU), competed with the public university in the capital, as did a branch of the Catholic University. Several private research centers and technical institutes provided specialized postsecondary education.

The Autonomous University was highly politicized. The student body sometimes devoted whole weeks, or even semesters, to political activities. Most of the activist groups were composed op people who espoused leftist ideologies: communists, Trotskyites, independent revolutionaries, Marxists, sympathizers of Juan Bosch and his PLD, sympathizers of the PRD, and radical Christian organizations accounted for most of the membership of student political groups. The private universities were less politicized. Even in the public universities, however, the level of politicization varied according to the faculty: arts and letters as well as law tended to be more political; medicine and the sciences tended to be less so.

University students were important political actors, although as a group they did not appear to have the ability to topple a government by themselves. However, because education (especially higher education) was so rare in the Dominican Republic, the students formed an intellectual elite in the eyes of those less educated than they. Hence, in alliance with the trade unions and the urban unemployed, the students had the potential to provide a moral leadership that would expand their political reach and power.

Dominican Republic - Peasants

Traditionally the forgotten sector of Dominican society, the peasants were largely illiterate, unorganized, and politically inarticulate. Although numerically the largest group in Dominican society, politically they were the weakest.

By the late 1980s, however, vast changes had begun to occur, even in the Dominican countryside. For example, in 1960 the country was 70 percent rural and 30 percent urban, but as 1990 approached those percentages had been reversed. In the intervening decades, millions of peasants had left the harsh life of the countryside behind for the somewhat more promising life of the cities; many others had emigrated, mainly to Puerto Rico and the United States.

In addition, mobilization and organization had begun in the countryside. The requirement that voters be literate had been struck down in 1962. Peasants voted regularly and in high numbers, usually splitting their votes between liberal and conservative candidates. Beginning in the early 1960s, Peace Corps volunteers, political party officials, community organizers, students, missionaries, and government officials had been fanning out into the countryside organizing the peasants, soliciting their votes, and generally mobilizing them. Modern communications--radio, even television--also reached the countryside, and, along with numerous farm-to-market roads, they had helped ease the isolation of rural life.

Numerous peasant cooperatives and associations had also sprung up. Like the unions and the student groups, most of these were associated with the main political parties: Bosch's PLD, the PRD, and the Social Christian Reformist Party, (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano--PRSC; also referred to as the Christian Democrats). Balaguer also attracted widespread support among the peasants because they associated his rule with peace, stability, and prosperity. In highly paternalistic fashion, and with great publicity, Balaguer also made a point of handing out land titles to peasants for lands formerly belonging to Trujillo. Despite the upswing in their political activities, however, the peasants were still not effectively organized, and they seldom managed to influence national policy making.

Dominican Republic - Middle Class

By the 1980s, Dominican society no longer consisted of a small landed elite at the top and a huge mass of peasants at the bottom, with almost no one in between. In large part, as a result of the economic development and modernization that had occurred since the end of the Great Depression, a sizable middle class, constituting 30 to 35 percent of the population, had emerged.

The middle class consisted of shopkeepers, government officials, clerks, military personnel, white-collar workers of all kinds, teachers, professionals, and the better paid members of the working class. Most of the middle class resided in Santo Domingo, but secondary cities like Santiago, Barahona, Monte Cristi, La Romana, San Francisco de Macorís, and San Pedro de Macorís had also developed sizable middle-class populations.

The middle class, not the oligarchy, had come to predominate within the country's major political institutions: the Roman Catholic Church, the military officer corps, the government service, the political parties, interest groups, and even the trade union leadership. However, the middle class was often divided on social and political issues. Generally, its members advocated peace, order, stability, and economic progress. It backed Balaguer in the late 1960s and the early 1970s because he was thought to stand for those things that the middle class wanted; later it supported the PRD governments of Guzmán and Jorge for the same reason. The middle class used to support authoritarian governments because it thought they would best protect its interests; in the 1980s, however, the middle-class consensus generally supported democracy as the best way to preserve stability and to sustain development.

Dominican Republic - The Bureaucracy

Its large ministries, autonomous agencies, and public corporations made the Dominican government by far the largest employer in the country. By dint of numbers and its location in the capital city, the bureaucracy constituted a major interest group in its own right.

The Dominican Republic's ineffectual civil service laws left government employees subject to wholesale turnovers with virtually every change of government. The system worked more on the basis of patronage--with government positions given out in return for personal and political loyalty and service--than on the basis of merit.

In an effort to protect themselves, government workers had formed unions. However, their activities and effectiveness were generally severely circumscribed by the country's antiquated civil service laws. Some unions, such as those for teachers and employees of the state-run sugar industry, had themselves become highly politicized, usually in a leftist direction. Frequent clashes occurred between these unions and the police.

Dominated by patronage and rife with corruption, the public service was neither efficient nor responsive. Various efforts had been made over the years to reform this vast, cumbersome bureaucracy. Yet politicians often hesitated to tamper with it because the patronage positions provided by the bureaucracy constituted one of the main sources of their power. For the same reason, they resisted the privatization of the many inefficient and cumbersome state-owned enterprises. Political leaders recognized the inefficiencies of these bloated enterprises, but they also appreciated the effectiveness of buying the loyalty of friends, allies, and even political foes, by putting them on the public payroll.

Dominican Republic - Outside Actors

The Dominican Republic is a relatively small and weak country, heavily dependent on the outside world economically and strategically, and located in the center of one of the world's most important areas of East-West and North-South conflict--the volatile Caribbean. For these reasons, various outside actors have long exercised a significant degree of influence in the island nation's internal politics.

In the early nineteenth century, the principal outside actors were Spain, France, and Britain; toward the end of the century, Germany and the United States had also become involved in Dominican affairs. Because the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and because Haiti represented a constant threat to the Dominican Republic, both before and after the Haitian occupation of 1822-44, Haiti also exerted significant influence.

A variety of transnational actors have played a significant role in Dominican politics. Transnational actors had no single national identity; they transcended national boundaries, but had local influence nonetheless. They included multinational corporations, the Socialist International (the international grouping of social democratic parties highly involved in Dominican affairs during the 1970s and the 1980s), the Vatican, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Christian Democratic International, among others.

Many of these agencies, or the embassies of such countries as the United States or Haiti, played a role not only in Dominican international affairs, but in the country's internal affairs as well. Some of them tried to influence national politics; they maintained programs (scholarships, travel awards, etc.) to attract and to influence young people, labor leaders, and government officials. In many ways, they functioned almost like domestic interest groups. In a small, weak, and dependent country like the Dominican Republic, the influence of outside actors was often considerable.

Dominican Republic - Political Parties

Political parties and a political party system in the modern sense had a very short history in the Dominican Republic, dating back only to the early 1960s. Most parties were weakly organized, had weak and inexperienced political leadership, were neither very ideological nor programmatic, and were generally based on personalistic followings rather than on concrete programs.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, two main parties, or movements, had dominated Dominican politics. These were the PRD and the Reformist Party (Partido Reformista--PR). Both these parties had gone through several reorganizations.

The PRD had been founded in 1939 by exiles from the Trujillo dictatorship. It functioned as an exiled organization for twentytwo years, before returning to the Dominican Republic in 1961 after Trujillo's assassination.

In the late 1980s, the PRD was a left-of-center, democratic political party. Strongly oriented toward social justice, it sought to assist peasants and workers. Although nationalistic, the PRD belonged to the Socialist International. Its platform supported both political and economic democracy. A strongly reformist party, the PRD nonetheless was committed to implementing change through democratic means.

On the strength of this program, the PRD, led by the charismatic Juan Bosch, had won the 1962 election, the freest in the country's history, by a two-to-one margin. Bosch was overthrown, however, after only seven months in office. The PRD organized a constitutionalist revolt, in 1965, aimed at restoring democratic government, but the revolution was put down militarily by the United States, an action that made Bosch and many PRD leaders bitterly resentful of the United States. Perceived as a symbol of instability and revolution, Bosch lost the 1966 election to Balaguer. For the next twelve years, the PRD went into eclipse; it functioned primarily as the Dominican Republic's largest opposition party. After a major split, Bosch left to form his own, more radical, PLD.

In 1978, under Guzmán, and again in 1982 under Jorge, the PRD won the national elections. It governed moderately and without the rancor of the past, but as it tried to put its social program into effect, it ran up against the constraints of austerity.

The PRD had a clear ideological program and was the best organized political party in the country; however, it was torn by personal and ideological differences. Pitted against each other were its right wing, led by Majluta; its center, led by Jorge; and its left wing, led by José Francisco Peña Gómez. These differences became even more pronounced in 1989. Former president Jorge was indicted for corruption, and hence his popularity plummeted; Majluta was neither trusted nor respected by many in the party and the nation; and Peña Gómez was reportedly contemplating the launching of his own independent movement, which would further split the PRD. A number of younger leaders, such as Jorge protegé Hatuey de Camps Jiménez, also rose to prominence within the party in the 1980s. When unified, the PRD was usually strong enough to win elections, but when divided it usually lost. After the death of Trujillo, the PRD was divided more often than it was unified.

The other major party was the PR, the personal machine of President Balaguer. More conservative than the PRD, the PR lacked a clear-cut program. It consisted of officeholders, job seekers, and persons loyal to Balaguer. The PR functioned more as a patronage mechanism than as a party with an identifiable ideology. Balaguer used this political machine to win elections in 1966, 1970, and 1974. The PR dispensed jobs and favors and, in general, helped him to govern.

In 1985 Balaguer promoted a union between the PR and the Revolutionary Social Christian Party (Partido Revolucionario Social Cristiano--PRSC). The PRSC was the established Christian Democratic party in the country; it was widely respected, but it had little electoral strength. Balaguer gave the PRSC the leadership and the electoral support that it had lacked. The PRSC, in turn, gave Balaguer the support of its trade union, student, and peasant organizations; its legitimacy as a serious Christian Democratic party; and its connections with the Christian Democratic International. The new party designated itself the Social Christian Reformist Party (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano--PRSC), changing its name slightly, but retaining the old initials. The PRSC won the 1986 election by a slim margin over the PRD.

The third major party, Bosch's PLD, won 18 percent of the vote in 1986. It was more radical than the PRD and more antiUnited States. Its program called for the establishment of a "revolutionary dictatorship" and for close relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union. The PLD appealed to young people and to those whose disaffection with the prevailing social, political, and economic system in the Dominican Republic had reached an extreme degree; it gained popular support during the 1980s as a result of the country's manifold economic and political problems.

Balaguer and Bosch had long been personal, as well as political and ideological, rivals. Indeed, by 1989 these two men had been jousting with each other politically for some fifty years. In 1989 both were in their eighties. They were the two main protagonists, the two rival caudillos, of modern Dominican politics. Their rivalry delineated the overlap between traditional personalism and modern party politics.

The Dominican Republic's several minor parties were weakly organized, and they usually represented the personal followings of individual caudillos. In the 1986 election, none of these parties received as much as 1 percent of the vote, which made their eligibility to compete in future elections questionable. Several of these personal machines were simply testing the political waters in 1986, and they might come back in reorganized form in future elections. Another possibility was that their leaders might try to merge their organizations with the larger parties, or perhaps themselves become the candidates of the larger parties. These relations illustrated the fluidity and the lack of institutionalization of the Dominican party system.

The extreme-left and communist parties never had much of a popular following. Bosch's formation of the PLD further undermined the potential support of the extreme left. Many Dominican peasants were conservative rather than radical, and the weak unions were increasingly oriented toward "bread-and-butter" issues rather than revolutionary action. In addition, the close ties of the Dominican Republic to the United States and the absence of widespread class conflict among Dominicans--Haitians formed the cane-cutting "proletariat" in the countryside, and, therefore, the potential for class conflict was sapped by racial, cultural, and nationalistic considerations--further diminished the possibility of a strong communist movement.

The two main far-left parties were the Communist Party of the Dominican Republic (Partido Comunista de la República Dominicana- -Pacoredo)--a splinter group of the Dominican Communist Party (Partido Comunista Dominicano--PCD)--and the Socialist Bloc (Bloque Socialista--BS). These two parties chose not to field candidates in the 1986 election, in part because doing so would have revealed their weak electoral appeal. The Moscow-line PCD did enter the 1986 election, and it received only 4,756 votes-- considerably less than 1 percent of the total. Nevertheless, all the far-left parties actively criticized the PRD and the PRSC and publicly presented their own points of view. The communist parties had little popular following in their own right, but by attaching themselves to the nationalistic Bosch and the PLD they could conceivably wield influence out of proportion to their numbers.

Some signs indicated that a basic and more stable two-party system, consisting of the left-of-center PRD and the right-of- center PRSC, might be evolving in the Dominican Republic in the late 1980s. A two-and-a-half party system, with the PLD joining these other two, represented another possibility. Nevertheless, the political system continued to be quite fluid; personalities still counted at least as much as parties. Other routes to power existed besides party activism and elections; therefore, the consolidation of a stable, functioning party system could not yet be taken for granted.

Dominican Republic - The Mass Media

Beginning in the early 1960s, the Dominican Republic experienced a communications revolution. The spread of radio, television, and newspapers awakened the previously isolated countryside, stimulated rapid urbanization, and led to the political mobilization of millions of people who had never participated in politics before. In addition, since Trujillo's death in 1961, the Dominican media had been among the freest of all those in Latin America.

There were 123 radio stations--115 commercial and 8 government-sponsored--operating in the country in 1989. Of these, thirty-four stations operated in the capital city alone, and half that number broadcasted from the second city, Santiago. Most other secondary cities had several radio stations. All stations were government-licensed. The Dominican Republic's large number of stations ensured that every part of the island was accessible to radio broadcasting.

The advent of cheap transistor radios in the early 1960s ushered in the communications revolution. Even poor peasants, eking out a subsistence living, could afford such a radio. Transistor radios brought in the political news from the capital city and thus helped to integrate rural elements into the national political life for the first time. Just as important, they also exposed Dominicans to the culture, the behavior, and the music of the outside world.

There were eighteen television channels, operated by six companies in 1989; two channels were government-owned, and sixteen were private. All were government-licensed. Although most Dominicans could not afford a set of their own, those who did not own one often watched at neighbors' houses or in public places, such as bars or shops. Thanks to relay stations, television broadcasts originating in Santo Domingo could be transmitted to the interior.

The main newspapers were El Caribe and Listín Diario. Both were dailies, published in the capital city, and both had circulations over 30,000. El Caribe was moderate and nationalistic; it was, for a long time, the main newspaper in the country. Listín Diario, founded in 1889 and published intermittently thereafter, was most recently revived in 1964. It was more reformist and more critical of the government. It established a reputation as a crusading paper and soon matched El Caribe in circulation.

Other major Santo Domingo newspapers were El Tiempo, El Nacional, and Última Hora. El Tiempo was conservative, El Nacional was more crusading and nationalistic, and Última Hora had been launched by Listín Diario as an afternoon newspaper to challenge El Nacional. In Santiago there were two main newspapers: La Información, a conservative afternoon paper, and El Sol, a moderate morning paper. Other cities had smaller papers, focused mainly on local news. The big circulation dailies all received the major wire services--Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Reuters, and others. As a result, their international coverage was often quite extensive. The largest weekly newsmagazine in the country was Ahora, which was owned by El Nacional.

Each main political party published its own small newspaper and aired its own radio program. The major trade unions, professional associations, and interest groups also produced their own newspapers, although they often published sporadically, and some maintained public relations offices. The armed forces operated its own radio station, and the Roman Catholic Church owned and operated several radio stations and small newspapers. The Voice of America was widely listened to; Radio Havana and Radio Moscow also beamed broadcasts that could be heard throughout the country.

Although the coverage of news stories was not always entirely professional, and although there had been attempts by government and the military over the years to intimidate, or even to close down, some papers and stations, by and large the Dominican media had been remarkably free, independent, and diverse since 1961. They performed an important educational function in the country, and they exerted an important influence in mobilizing the country politically. In fact, the mass media had become one of the most important bulwarks of Dominican democracy.

Dominican Republic - FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Dominican Republic maintained very limited relations with most of the countries of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It had little commerce, tourist trade, or diplomatic contact with most of these nations, and hence little reason for an embassy or mission. The Dominican Republic was not a global power with global responsibilities; nor, as a poor country, could it afford to maintain widespread diplomatic representation.

The Dominican Republic concentrated its diplomatic activities in four critical arenas: the circum-Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, and Western Europe. It belonged to the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations (UN), and other international bodies.

Although the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, traditionally relations between the two countries have seldom been good. In the nineteenth century, Haiti repeatedly invaded, plundered, and occupied the Dominican Republic. In addition, Dominicans tended to see Haiti as black, African, and uncivilized, in contrast to their own country, which they considered Hispanic and European.

When political troubles flared up in Haiti, Dominican governments usually mobilized the armed forces and put them on alert. Haitian political exiles often settled in Santo Domingo, which they used as a springboard for their partisan activities. Numerous Dominican governments had also tried to influence political events in Haiti. The border between the two countries had been closed on a number of occasions.

Over the years, higher salaries and better living conditions had induced many Haitians to settle in the Dominican Republic. Dominicans would express resentment of this Haitianization, but at the same time they depended on Haitian labor. This was particularly true during the cane-cutting season, when thousands of Haitians were trucked in, kept in miserable labor camps, and then trucked back (although some remained behind, melding into the local population). The practice commonly gave rise to human rights abuses, and the term "slavery" was sometimes used when changes were raised in some international bodies.

Little trade or commerce existed between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Each eyed the other's politics warily and often tried to influence the outcome. Because of the complex racial, cultural, and social disparities between the two nations, it seemed doubtful that relations between the two countries would ever be friendly.

Dominican relations with the nearby island of Puerto Rico were quite good. A considerable amount of commercial trade, tourism, and investment activity took place between the two islands. Many Dominicans emigrated to Puerto Rico, where they generally enjoyed better jobs, salaries, and benefits. A lively-- and dangerous--traffic existed in small boats that traversed the Mona Passage, by night, carrying illegal Dominican emigrés to Puerto Rican shores. Puerto Rico's links to the United States through its commonwealth status also facilitated the migration of Dominicans to the United States mainland.

Many Puerto Ricans had invested in the Dominican Republic or owned weekend cottages there. At the same time, the large Dominican population in Puerto Rico was used by some as evidence to support the charge that Dominicans were taking jobs away from Puerto Ricans.

Despite a few minor points of contention, relations between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico were generally stable and amiable. In contrast, the Dominicans had an uneasy, and still largely informal, relationship with Cuba. The Dominican Republic had broken diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1962; on several subsequent occasions, Cuba sought to promote revolution in the Dominican Republic. With the growth of the Dominican economy in the 1970s, however, the Dominican Republic surpassed Cuba in per capita gross domestic product (GDP), reversing the two nations' traditional relative positions. By the late 1980s, the Dominicans dealt with Cuba from a position of strength rather than weakness, but they remained wary of Cuban military strength and the possibilities of Cuban subversion.

During the 1980s, the contacts between Cuba and the Dominican Republic increased: there were both sports and cultural exchanges. Most of these contacts were informal, but some official contacts between government representatives of the two countries also took place. For Cuba these exchanges formed part of its hemispheric-wide efforts to break out of the relative diplomatic and commercial isolation in which it existed after 1962 and to overcome the United States economic blockade. For the Dominican Republic, a flirtation with Cuba served to keep the domestic left from criticizing the government; it also put pressure on the United States, which in the 1980s did not favor normalization of relations with Cuba. One major impediment to closer ties was the competition of the two island nations in world sugar markets, a situation hardly calculated to encourage cooperation.

By 1989 the Dominican Republic had become more closely involved in the larger political and economic developments of the circum-Caribbean. It maintained close relations with Venezuela, with which it had important trade links. Its relations with the smaller, formerly British, Caribbean islands (including Jamaica) were also closer than they had been previously, and they included observer status in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom).

The Dominican Republic avoided too deep an involvement in the Central American imbroglios. It had offered its good offices and had served as an intermediary and peacemaker in some facets of the conflict. Not wanting to jeopardize its relations with Mexico, the Central American nations, or the United States, however, it had stayed aloof from the more controversial aspects of the various Central American conflicts. Dominicans were resentful when Nicaragua used its Soviet, East European, and "non-aligned" connections to beat out the Dominican Republic for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The Dominican Republic's most important relations were with the United States. Politically, economically, and strategically, the Dominican Republic was more dependent on the United States than it was on any other nation. The United States maintained the largest embassy, by far, in Santo Domingo, and the Dominican embassy in Washington was the country's most important.

Dominicans sometimes resented the large United States presence in their country and the condescending and patronizing attitudes of some Americans. They also resented United States intervention in their internal affairs, particularly the military intervention of 1965. But most Dominicans strongly liked and admired the United States, wanted to travel or emigrate there, and had gotten used to the influence of the United States embassy in their country. Although Dominicans did not appreciate United States interference, they also feared United States inaction in regional affairs. Over the years, most Dominican politicians had determined that the prudent course was to make accommodations with the United States. In recent years, however, this relationship of dependence had become more one of bilateral interdependence.

The Dominican Republic maintained good relations with the nations of Western Europe and tried to increase trade with that region as a way of diversifying its economic relations. Cultural and political links were also important. The leading West European nations with interests in the Dominican Republic were the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), which significantly increased its exchange programs during the 1980s; Spain, for reasons of culture and language, as well as the Spaniards' generally more visible and active foreign policy in Latin America; and France, because of cultural and economic relations.

Among Asian nations, Japan had become a significant commercial presence in the 1980s, but it had little interest in political or strategic matters. The Republic of China (Taiwan) had extensive commercial and diplomatic relations. Similarly, Israel had provided aid and technical assistance and maintained some commercial, cultural, and diplomatic ties. In return, the Israelis often counted on the Dominican Republic to support their positions in international fora.

The Dominican Republic was a signatory to the Charter of the OAS, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (the Rio Treaty), the Pact of Bogotá, and all major inter-American conventions. Historically, its ties to, and involvement in, the OAS had been stronger than its relations with the UN.

The Dominican Republic was a member of the UN, its Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), and its Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Court of Justice. It subscribed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the International Development Association (IDA). It was a participant in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Universal Postal Union (UPU), and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). It was also a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Postal Union of the Americas and Spain, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the 1980s, the Dominicans have actively sought leadership roles in international organizations. This trend, along with the establishment of new diplomatic and economic ties, prompted debate throughout the country on issues of foreign policy and strategic relations. Such an awareness of world affairs was understandable in a country the identity, development, and direction of which were, in considerable measure, the result of external influences.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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