U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES:  DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
NOVEMBER 1994

Official Name:  Dominican Republic

PROFILE

Geography
Area:  48,442 sq. km. (18,704 sq. mi.), about the size of Vermont and 
New Hampshire combined.  
Cities:  Capital--Santo Domingo (pop. 2.4 million).  Other city--
Santiago de los Caballeros (500,000).  Terrain:  Mountainous.  
Climate:  Maritime tropical.

People
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Dominican(s).  
Population (1993):  7.6 million.  
Annual growth rate:  2.1%.  
Ethnic groups:  European 16%, African origin 11%, mixed 73%.  
Religion:  Roman Catholic 95%.  
Language:  Spanish.  
Education:  Years compulsory--6.  Attendance--70%.  Literacy--83%.  
Health:  Infant mortality rate--54/1,000.  Life expectancy--65 yrs. for 
men, 70 yrs. for women.  
Workforce:  Services and government--31% (includes parastatal 
corporations).  Agriculture--28%.  Industry--12%.  Unemployment--29%.

Government
Type:  Representative democracy.  Independence:  February 27, 1844.
Constitution:  November 28, 1966.
Branches:  Executive--president (chief of state and head of government), 
vice president, cabinet.  Legislative--bicameral Congress (Senate and 
Chamber of Deputies).  Judicial--Supreme Court of Justice.
Subdivisions:  29 provinces and the National District of Santo Domingo.
Political parties:  Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), Dominican 
Revolutionary Party (PRD), Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Independent 
Revolutionary Party (PRI), others.
Suffrage:  Universal and compulsory, over 18 or married; military and 
police may not vote.

Economy (1993)
GDP:  $8.7 billion. 
Growth rate (1993):  3% . 
Per capita GDP:  $1,065. 
Natural resources (3% of GDP):  Nickel, gold, silver.
Agriculture (13% of GDP):  Products--sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, 
rice, plantains, beef, flowers.
Industry (24% of GDP):  Types--sugar refining, pharmaceuticals, cement, 
light manufacturing, off-shore assembly operations (esp. textiles), 
construction. Services, transportation:  60% of GDP.
Trade:  Exports (excluding processing zones)--$561 million:  sugar, 
coffee, gold, silver, ferronickel, cacao, tobacco, meats. Partners--
U.S., Netherlands.  Imports--2.2 billion:  foodstuffs, petroleum, 
industrial raw materials, capital goods.  Partners--U.S., Japan, 
Germany, Venezuela, Mexico.
Exchange rate:  U.S.$1=RD$14.  


PEOPLE

About 50% of the people live in rural and agricultural areas; many are 
small landholders. Haitians form the largest foreign minority group, 
with Spanish and West Indians the other important ethnic groups. About 
60,000 U.S. citizens reside in the Dominican Republic, mostly around the 
capital.

All religions are tolerated; the state religion is Roman Catholicism, 
recognized formally in 1954, when a concordat with the Vatican was 
signed.


HISTORY

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the 
eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by 
members of the Taino tribe, a branch of Arawak-speaking people who may 
have originated in South America.  The people welcomed Columbus at the 
end of his first voyage in 1492, but subsequent colonizers were brutal. 
Colonial conditions reduced the Taino population from an estimated 1 
million to about 500 in only 50 years.  To ensure adequate labor for 
plantations, the Spanish began bringing African slaves to the island in 
1503.

In the next century, French settlers occupied the western end of the 
island, which Spain ceded to France in 1697, and which in 1804 became 
the Republic of Haiti.  The Haitians conquered the whole island in 1822 
and held it until 1844, when forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero 
of Dominican independence, drove them out and established the Dominican 
Republic as an independent state.  In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily 
returned to the Spanish Empire; in 1865, independence was restored.

Economic difficulties, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing 
internal disorders led to U.S. occupation in 1916 and the establishment 
of a military government in the Dominican Republic.  Occupation ended in 
1924, with a democratically elected Dominican government.

In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, who had come to prominence as commander of 
the army, took power and maintained absolute political control.  
Trujillo promoted economic development from which he and his supporters 
largely benefited as well as intervention in the affairs of neighboring 
states and severe repression of domestic human rights.  Mismanagement 
and corruption resulted in major economic problems.  In August 1960, the 
Organization of American States (OAS) imposed diplomatic sanctions 
against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo's complicity in 
an attempt to assassinate President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela.  
These sanctions remained in force after Trujillo's death by 
assassination in May 1961.  In November 1961, the Trujillo family was 
forced into exile.

In January 1962, a council of state that included moderate opposition 
elements with legislative and executive powers was formed.  OAS 
sanctions were lifted January 4, and, after the resignation of President 
Joaquin Balaguer on January 16, the council, under President Rafael E. 
Bonnelly, became the effective Dominican Government.

Following free elections in December 1962, Juan Bosch, of the Dominican 
Revolutionary Party (PRD), was inaugurated President.  Despite his 
reform program and respect for human rights, conflicts arose between him 
and various opposition groups, and bitter political controversy spread 
nationwide.  In September 1963, President Bosch was overthrown in a 
military coup.

Another military coup, on April 24, 1965, led to violence between 
military elements favoring the return to government by Bosch--the 
"constitutionalists"--and those who proposed a military junta committed 
to early general elections--the "loyalists."  On April 28, U.S. military 
forces landed to protect U.S. citizens and to evacuate U.S. and other 
foreign nationals.  The situation in Santo Domingo deteriorated into 
near anarchy.  Communist leaders, many of whom were trained in Cuba, 
threatened to take control of the revolutionary movement.  More U.S. 
forces landed on April 30 to prevent a complete communist takeover.

In June 1966, the government held elections witnessed by OAS observers.   
Balaguer defeated Bosch for the presidency, receiving 57% of the vote.  
President Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now called the Social 
Christian Reformist Party--PRSC), was then re-elected to office in May 
1970 and May 1974, both times after major opposition parties withdrew 
late in the campaign.

In the May 1978 election, Balaguer was defeated in his bid for a fourth 
successive term by Antonio Guzman of the PRD.  Guzman's inauguration on 
August 16 marked the country's first peaceful transfer of power from one 
freely elected president to another.

The PRD's presidential candidate, Salvador Jorge Blanco, won the 1982 
elections, and the PRD gained a majority in both houses of Congress.  In 
an attempt to cure the ailing economy, the Jorge administration began to 
implement economic adjustment and recovery policies, including an 
austerity program in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund 
(IMF).  The rising costs of basic foodstuffs and public uncertainty 
about austerity measures led, in April 1984, to several days of the 
worst riots since the 1960s.

Balaguer returned to the presidency with electoral victories in 1986 and 
1990. Upon taking office in 1986, Balaguer tried to reactivate the 
economy through a public works construction program.  It rallied 
initially, but by 1988, slid into two of the worst economic years in 
recent Dominican history, characterized by slow growth, inflation, and 
currency devaluation. Economic difficulties, coupled with serious 
problems in the delivery of basic services (e.g. electricity, water, 
transportation), generated popular discontent that resulted in frequent 
protests--occasionally violent--including a paralyzing nationwide strike 
in June 1989.

In 1990, Balaguer instituted a second set of economic reforms.  After 
negotiating an agreement with the IMF, balancing the budget, and 
curtailing inflation, the Dominican Republic is experiencing a period of 
economic stability.  It has been marked by low inflation, a balance-of-
payments surplus, and a leap in GDP.

Although the voting process itself in 1986 and 1990 was generally seen 
as fair, allegations of election board fraud tainted both victories. A 
commission of electoral advisers, designated by President Jorge and led 
by the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, played an important role in keeping 
the electoral process on track.  The elections of 1994 were again marred 
by charges of fraud.  Following a compromise agreement calling for 
constitutional and electoral reform, President Balaguer assumed office 
for an abbreviated term.


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Dominican Republic has a stable, multiparty, political system with 
national elections every four years.  On May 16, 1994, nearly 90% of the 
Dominican people went to the polls in the eighth national election since 
the democratic process began in 1966.  At stake were the presidency, 
vice presidency, congressional seats, and the municipal positions--
mayors and council members.  During the two years preceding the 
election, a new voter registration system was implemented by the Central 
Electoral Board (JCE), the independent body charged with administering 
the elections. 

The four leading parties in 1994 were:  the  PRSC, tied to the 
International Christian Democratic political movement, whose candidate 
was President Joaquin Balaguer; PRD, affiliated with the Socialist 
International, whose candidate was Jose Francisco Pena Gomez; the 
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), whose candidate was former President 
Juan Bosch;  and the Independent Revolutionary Party (PRI), whose 
candidate was former President Jacobo Majluta.  Many smaller groups 
formed alliances with these parties.

On election day, international observers noted that many voters with 
valid voter registration cards were prevented from voting because their 
names did not appear on the voter lists used at the polls. The 
opposition PRD immediately charged the Central Electoral Board and the 
PRSC with fraudulently denying the vote to PRD supporters.  A 
Verification Commission appointed by the Central Electoral Board 
confirmed that the names of voters which appeared on a registration list 
two weeks before the election were missing from the lists used on 
election day.  By all estimates, the number of disenfranchised voters 
far exceeded the 22,281-vote margin of victory announced in favor of 
President Balaguer on August 2, 1994.  

Following an intense period of protest and negotiation, the competing 
political parties signed a "Pact for Democracy" on August 10, providing 
for the inauguration of President Balaguer to an abbreviated term of 
office, early elections, and constitutional reform.  A new Central 
Electoral Board was named  at the end of October to begin work on 
electoral reform.  


GOVERNMENT

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose national 
powers are divided among independent executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches.

The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the 
legislative branch, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.  The 
president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are 
elected by direct vote for four-year terms.  President Balaguer's 
current term is limited to two years.

Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral Congress.  The Senate is 
composed of 30 members--one for each province and the National District 
of Santo Domingo.  The Chamber of Deputies has 120 members--a minimum of 
two from each province and/or one for each 50,000 inhabitants or 
fraction above 25,000. Congressional, municipal, and presidential 
elections are held simultaneously.

The nine-member Supreme Court of Justice is appointed by the Senate.  
The Court has sole jurisdiction over actions against the president and 
members of Congress and hears appeals from lower courts.  The "Pact for 
Democracy" calls for a constitutional amendment to provide the judicial 
branch more independence from the Senate.

Each of the 29 provinces is headed by  a presidentially appointed 
governor.  Elected mayors and municipal councils administer the National 
District (Santo Domingo) and the 103 municipal districts.

National Security

The military consists of about 24,000 active-duty personnel, commanded 
by the president.  Its principal mission is to defend the nation, but it 
serves more as an internal security force.  The army, twice as large as 
the other services combined, consists of four infantry brigades and a 
combat support brigade; the air force operates three flying squadrons; 
and the navy maintains 30 aging vessels. The Dominican Republic's 
military is second in size to Cuba's in the Caribbean.

The armed forces participate fully in counternarcotics efforts.  They 
are also active in efforts to control contraband and illegal immigration 
from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and from the Dominican Republic to 
the United States.

Principal Government Officials
President--Joaquin BALAGUER Ricardo
Foreign Minister--Carlos MORALES Troncoso
Ambassador to the United States--Jose del Carmen ARIZA Gomez
Ambassador to the United Nations--Pedro BLANDINO Espaillat
Ambassador to the OAS--Eladio KNIPPING Victoria

The Dominican Republic maintains an embassy in the United States at 1715 
22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
(tel. 202-332-6280).


ECONOMY

The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country primarily 
dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism.  
Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the 
leading employer of Dominicans, agriculture remains the most important 
sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place (behind 
mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for almost $1 
billion in annual earnings and, along with exports from the export-
processing zones, represents the main growth area.  Remittances from 
Dominicans living in the United States are estimated to be about $1 
million per year.

Following economic turmoil in the late 1980s and early 1990, during 
which the GDP fell by up to 5% and consumer price inflation reached an 
unprecedented 100%, a series of governmental reforms have stabilized the 
economy.  This stabilization was marked by a 3% increase in GDP and an 
inflation rate of 5% in 1993.  Increased government spending in 1994 led 
to increased inflationary and currency pressures, but the economy 
appears to be under control.  End-of-year inflation is estimated at 10%-
15%, and the unofficial value of the peso may drop as much as 15% for 
the year.  Stabilization is accredited primarily to the elimination of 
budget deficits that had been fueling inflation.  However, the money 
supply grew at a rate of 16.6% in 1993, and there is potential for 
higher growth and inflationary pressure if it is not centrally guided.  
Large trade deficits in 1992 and 1993 also are cause for concern.  In 
addition, economic observers do not believe that the trend of region-
wide capital inflow (stimulated by low interest rates in the United 
States) can be maintained in the long term.  Foreign reserves dropped 
sharply in the first six months of 1994.

The Dominican Republic has made slow progress in resolving its foreign 
debt problems.  The government has about $4.6 billion in foreign debt; 
about 75% of this is owed to foreign governments or international 
financial institutions.  In November 1991, the government concluded 
Paris Club debt rescheduling negotiations with its foreign government 
creditors, but the Dominican Government did not put these agreements 
into effect until November 1993.  Negotiations for a commercial bank 
debt settlement experienced similar delays in 1993 and 1994.

The outlook for the Dominican economy depends largely on two factors:  
the government's ability to maintain policies conducive to continued 
macroeconomic stability and society's ability to adapt to the 
requirements of an increasingly competitive global marketplace.  Issues 
facing decision-makers include proposals for investment climate reform 
and, in general, reduction of the government's dependence on taxes on 
international trade to generate revenue.  Draft legislation for a 
financial monetary code, foreign investment law, and export promotion 
law all rest with the Congress.  If passed, each of these laws would 
rationalize the investment climate for foreign investors and lay the 
groundwork for NAFTA accession.  The free trade zones, where most U.S. 
investment is located, are still characterized by preferential business 
conditions.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Dominican Republic associates closely with the United States and 
with the other states of the inter-American system.  It has accredited 
diplomatic missions in most Western Hemisphere countries and in 
principal European capitals.  It does not maintain diplomatic relations 
with Cuba, although there is contact in fields such as commerce, 
culture, and sports.  Dominican relations with its closest neighbor, the 
Republic of Haiti, have never been extensive.  The Haitian community 
resident in the Dominican Republic, made up mostly of illegal immigrants 
seeking greater economic opportunities, is estimated to include several 
hundred thousand people.

The Dominican Republic belongs to the UN and some of its specialized and 
related agencies, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund 
(IMF), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Atomic 
Energy Agency (IAEA), and International Civil Aviation Organization 
(ICAO); the Organization of American States (OAS); and the Inter-
American Development Bank; and INTELSAT.


U.S.-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RELATIONS

The United States has excellent relations with the Dominican Republic.  
U.S. policy is based on the principle of cooperation in international 
affairs, including appropriate support for the Dominican Republic's 
economic development program.  In recent years, USAID has funded 
projects on electrical energy restructuring and the development of 
microenterprises.  In addition, bilateral trade is important to both 
countries, and U.S. firms, mostly apparel, footwear, and light 
electronics manufacturers, account for nearly all foreign private 
investment in the Dominican Republic.  One important element of the 
bilateral relationship between the two countries is the Dominican 
community residing in the United States.  According to some estimates, 1 
million Dominicans live in the United States, the majority in New York 
City.  

The Dominican Republic supported efforts by the United States to 
implement UN Security Resolution 940, designed to facilitate the 
departure of Haiti's de facto authorities from power.  On August 1, 
1994, the Dominican Republic signed an memorandum of understanding for a 
Multinational Observer Group to monitor the enforcement of the embargo 
along the Dominican-Haitian border.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Donna J. Hrinak
Deputy Chief of Mission--Cristobal Orozco
USAID Mission Director--Marilyn Zak
Consul General--Brooke Holmes
Political Counselor--Dennis Linskey
Public Affairs Adviser (USIA)--Cesar Beltran
Commercial Counselor (DOC/FCS)--Robert Bucalo
Defense Attache--Lt. Col. Bruce Gridley

The U.S. embassy is located at Calle Cesar Nicolas Penson and Calle 
Leopoldo Navarro, Santo Domingo (tel. 809-221-2171).  

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