Area: 48,442 sq. km. (18,704 sq. mi.), about
the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
Cities: Capital--Santo Domingo (pop. 2.7
million). Other city--Santiago de los
Climate: Maritime tropical.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Dominican(s).
Population (2001): 9.2 million.
Annual growth rate (2005): 7.5%.
Ethnic groups: European 16%, African origin 11%,
Religion: Roman Catholic 95%.
Education: Years compulsory--6
Health: Infant mortality rate:
28.3/1,000. Life expectancy--70.2 years
for men, 73.3 years for women.
Work force: 60.2% services (tourism,
transportation, communications, finances,
others), 15.5% industry (manufacturing), 11.5%
construction, 11.3% agriculture, 1.5% mining.
Type: Representative democracy.
Independence: February 27, 1844. Restoration of
independence, August 16, 1863.
Constitution: November 28, 1966; amended July
Branches: Executive--president (chief of
state and head of government), vice president,
cabinet. Legislative--bicameral Congress
(Senate and House of Representatives).
Judicial--Supreme Court of Justice.
Subdivisions: 31 provinces and the National
District of Santo Domingo.
Political parties: Social Christian Reformist
Party (PRSC), Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD),
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), and several
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory, over 18 or
GDP: $17.63 billion.
Growth rate: 7.5%.
Per capita GDP: $6,600.
Non-fuel minerals (1% of GDP): Nickel, gold,
Agriculture (12% of GDP): Products--sugarcane,
coffee, cocoa, bananas, tobacco, rice,
Industry (24% of GDP): Types--sugar
refining, pharmaceuticals, cement, light
Services, including tourism and transportation:
61% of GDP.
Trade: Exports ($5.8 billion (FOB),
including processing zones: textiles, sugar,
coffee, ferronickel, cacao, tobacco, meats and
medical supplies. Markets--U.S. (80%),
Canada, western Europe, South Korea. Imports--$8.9
billion: food stuffs, petroleum, industrial raw
materials, capital goods. Suppliers--U.S.
(48%), Japan, Germany, Venezuela, Mexico,
About half of Dominicans live in rural areas;
many are small landholders. Haitians form the
largest foreign minority group. All religions
are tolerated; the state religion is Roman
The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican
Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti
the remainder, was originally occupied by Tainos,
an Arawak-speaking people. The Tainos welcomed
Columbus in his first voyage in 1492, but
subsequent colonizers were brutal, reducing the
Taino population from about 1 million to about
500 in 50 years. To ensure adequate labor for
plantations, the Spanish brought African slaves
to the island beginning 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 a U.S. occupation in 1916 and the
establishment of a military government in the
Dominican Republic. The occupation ended in
1924, with a democratically elected Dominican
In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, a prominent army
commander, established absolute political
control. Trujillo promoted economic
development--from which he and his supporters
benefited--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 headed the Dominican government.
In 1963, Juan Bosch was inaugurated
President. Bosch was overthrown in a military
coup in September 1963. Another military coup,
on April 24, 1965, led to violence between
military elements favoring the return to
government by Bosch and those who proposed a
military junta committed to early general
elections. On April 28, U.S. military forces
landed to protect U.S. citizens and to evacuate
U.S. and other foreign nationals.
Additional U.S. forces subsequently
established order. In June 1966, President
Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now
called the Social Christian Reformist Party--PRSC),
was elected and then re-elected to office in May
1970 and May 1974, both times after the 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 Dominican Revolutionary
Party (PRD). Guzman's inauguration on August 16
marked the country's first peaceful transfer of
power from one freely elected president to
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). In April 1984, rising prices of basic
foodstuffs and uncertainty about austerity
measures led to riots.
Balaguer was 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. Nonetheless, by 1988 the
country had slid into a 2-year economic
depression, characterized by high inflation and
currency devaluation. Economic difficulties,
coupled with 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 concluding an IMF
agreement, balancing the budget, and curtailing
inflation, the Dominican Republic experienced a
period of economic growth marked by moderate
inflation, a balance in external accounts, and a
steadily increasing GDP that lasted through
The voting process in 1986 and 1990 was
generally seen as fair, but allegations of
electoral board fraud tainted both victories.
The elections of 1994 were again marred by
charges of fraud. Following a compromise calling
for constitutional and electoral reform,
President Balaguer assumed office for an
abbreviated term and Congress amended the
Constitution to bar presidential succession.
In June 1996, Leonel Fernández Reyna of the
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was elected to
a 4-year term as president. Fernández's
political agenda was one of economic and
judicial reform. He helped enhance Dominican
participation in hemispheric affairs, such as
the OAS and the follow up to the Miami Summit.
On May 16, 2000, Hipólito Mejía, the PRD
candidate, was elected president in another free
and fair election, soundly defeating PLD
candidate Danilo Medina and Former President
Balaguer. Mejía championed the cause of free
trade and Central American and Caribbean
economic integration. The Dominican Republic
signed a free trade agreement with the United
States and five Central American countries (DR-CAFTA)
in August 2004, in the last weeks of the Mejía
administration. During the Mejía administration,
the government sponsored and obtained
anti-trafficking and anti-money-laundering
legislation, sent troops to Iraq in support of
the fight against terrorism, and ratified the
Article 98 agreement it had signed in 2002.
Mejía faced mounting domestic problems as a
deteriorating economy--caused in large part by
the government’s measures to deal with massive
bank fraud--and constant power shortages plagued
the latter part of his administration.
During the Mejía administration, the
Constitution was amended to permit an incumbent
president to seek a second successive term, and
Mejía ran for re-election. On May 16, 2004,
Leonel Fernández was elected president in a free
and fair election, defeating Mejía 57.11% to
33.65%. Eduardo Estrella of the PRSC received
8.65% of the vote. Fernández took office on
August 16, 2004, promising in his inaugural
speech to promote fiscal austerity, to fight
corruption and to support social concerns.
Fernández said the Dominican Republic would
support policies favoring international peace
and security through multilateral mechanisms in
conformity with the United Nations and the OAS.
The Fernández administration has worked closely
with the United States on law enforcement and
immigration and counter-terrorism matters. On
May 16, 2006, President Fernández’s PLD won a
majority of seats in the upper and lower houses
of Congress as well as a plurality of mayoral
seats, marking a major shift in power among the
main political parties.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Dominican Republic is a representative
democracy with national powers 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 4-year terms. Legislative power is
exercised by a bicameral congress--the Senate
(32 members), and the House of Representatives
The Dominican Republic has a multi-party
political system with national elections every 2
years (alternating between presidential
elections and congressional/municipal
elections). Presidential elections are held in
years evenly divisible by four. Congressional
and municipal elections are held in even
numbered years not divisible by four.
International observers have generally agreed
that presidential and congressional elections
since 1996 have been free and fair. Elections
are supervised by a Central Elections Board of 9
members chosen for a four-year term by the newly
elected Senate. Its decisions on electoral
matters are final.
Under the constitutional reforms negotiated
after the 1994 elections, the 16-member Supreme
Court of Justice is appointed by a National
Judicial Council, which is comprised of the
President, the leaders of both houses of
Congress, the President of the Supreme Court,
and an opposition or non-governing-party member
(one other Supreme Court Justice acts as
secretary of the Council, a non-voting
position.) The Supreme Court has sole
jurisdiction over managing the court system and
over actions against the president, designated
members of his cabinet, and members of Congress.
The Supreme Court hears appeals from lower
courts and chooses members of lower courts. Each
of the 31 provinces is headed by a
presidentially appointed governor. Mayors and
municipal councils to administer the National
District (Santo Domingo) and the 124 municipal
districts are elected at the same time as
Principal Government Officials
President--Leonel Fernández Reyna
Foreign Minister--Carlos Morales Troncoso
Ambassador to the United States--Flavio Dario
United Nations--Erasmo Lara Peña
Ambassador to the Organization of American
The Dominican Republic maintains an
the United States at 1715 22d Street NW,
Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-6280).
Congress authorizes a combined military force of
44,000 active duty personnel. Actual active duty
strength is approximately 32,000. However,
approximately 50% of those are used for
non-military activities such as security
providers for government-owned non-military
facilities, highway toll stations, prisons,
forestry work, state enterprises, and private
businesses. The Commander in Chief of the
military is the President. The principal
missions are to defend the nation and protect
the territorial integrity of the country. The
army, larger than the other services combined
with approximately 20,000 active duty personnel,
consists of six infantry brigades, a combat
support brigade, and a combat service support
brigade. The air force operates two main bases,
one in the southern region near Santo Domingo
and one in the northern region near Puerto
Plata. The navy operates two major naval bases,
one in Santo Domingo and one in Las Calderas on
the southwestern coast, and maintains 12
operational vessels. In the Caribbean, only Cuba
has a larger military force.
The armed forces have organized a Specialized
Airport Security Corps (CESA) and a Specialized
Port Security Corps (CESEP) to meet
international security needs in these areas. The
Secretary of the Armed Forces has also announced
plans to form a specialized border corps (CESEF).
Additionally, the armed forces provide 75% of
personnel to the National Investigations
Directorate (DNI) and the Counter-Drug
The Dominican National Police force contains
32,000 agents. The police are not part of the
Dominican armed forces, but share some
overlapping security functions. Sixty-three
percent of the force serve in areas outside
traditional police functions, similar to their
The Dominican Republic had one of the fast
growing economies in the world in the 1990s.
After a decade of little to no growth in the
1980s, the Dominican Republic’s economy boomed,
expanding at an average rate of 7.7% per year
from 1996 to 2000. Tourism (the leading foreign
exchange earner), telecommunications, and
free-trade-zone manufacturing are increasingly
important industries, although agriculture is
still a major part of the economy. The Dominican
Republic owed much of its success to the
adoption of sound macroeconomic policies in the
early 1990s and greater opening to foreign
investment. Growth turned negative in 2003
(-0.4%) due to the effects of government
handling of major bank frauds and to lower U.S.
demand for Dominican manufacturers. The Mejía
administration negotiated an IMF standby
agreement in August 2003 but was unable to
comply with fiscal targets. The Fernández
administration obtained required tax legislation
and IMF board approval for the standby in
January 2005. The Dominican peso fell to an
unprecedented low in exchange markets in
2003-2004 but strengthened dramatically
following the election and inauguration of
Leonel Fernández. Since late 2004 it has traded
at a rate considered to be overvalued on a
purchasing power parity basis. Inflation was cut
sharply in late 2004 and was estimated at 9% for
that calendar year. The new administration
successfully renegotiated official bilateral
debt with Paris Club member governments,
commercial bank debt with London Club members,
and sovereign debt with a consortium of lenders.
It met fiscal and financial targets of the
standby agreement but fell short of goals for
reforms in the electricity sector and financial
markets. Central Bank statistics indicate 7.5%
estimated growth for 2005 with 9% inflation.
The Dominican Republic’s most important
trading partner is the United States (87% of
export revenues); other markets include Canada,
Western Europe, and Japan. The country exports
free-trade-zone manufactured products (garments,
footwear, etc.), nickel, sugar, coffee, cacao,
and tobacco, and it imports foodstuffs,
petroleum, industrial raw materials, and capital
goods. On September 5, 2005, the Dominican
Congress ratified a Free Trade Agreement with
the U.S. and five Central American countries,
known as CAFTA-DR. The stock of U.S. foreign
direct investment (FDI) in the country in 2004
was $1.0 billion, up from $816 million in 2003,
much of it directed to the tourism sector, to
free trade zones, and to the telecommunications
sector. Remittances were close to $3 billion in
An ongoing concern is the inability of
participants in the electricity sector to
establish financial viability for the system.
Three national electricity distribution systems
were privatized in 1998 via sale of 50% of
shares to foreign operators; the Mejía
administration repurchased all foreign-owned
shares in two of these systems in late 2003. The
third, serving the eastern provinces, is owned
and operated by U.S. concerns. About half of
electricity billed goes unpaid, and distributors
have made very slow progress in improving
collections. Debts in the sector, including
government debt, amount to more than U.S. $500
million, and generating companies are
undercapitalized and at times unable to purchase
adequate fuel supplies.
The Dominican Republic has a close relationship
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.
Newly elected president of Haiti René Préval
made a working visit to Santo Domingo in March
2006, reciprocating Leonel Fernández’s call on
the Interim Government of Haiti in December
2005. The Dominican government has regularly
appealed for international support for its
There is a sizeable Haitian migrant community
in the Dominican Republic, many of whom lack
residence permits and citizenship documentation.
The Dominican Republic belongs to the UN and
many of its specialized and related agencies,
including the World Bank, International Labor
Organization, International Atomic Energy
Agency, and International Civil Aviation
Organization. It is a member of the OAS and the
Inter-American Development Bank.
U.S.-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RELATIONS
The U.S. has a strong interest in a democratic,
stable, and economically healthy Dominican
Republic. The country’s standing as the largest
Caribbean economy, second-largest country in
terms of population and land mass, with large
bilateral trade with the United States, and its
proximity to the United States and other smaller
Caribbean nations make the Dominican Republic an
important partner in hemispheric affairs. The
Embassy estimates that 60,000 U.S. citizens live
in the Dominican Republic; many are dual
nationals. An important element of the
relationship between the two countries is the
fact that more than 1 million individuals of
Dominican origin reside in the United States,
most of them in the metropolitan Northeast and
some in Florida.
U.S. relations with the Dominican Republic
are excellent, and the U.S. has been an
outspoken supporter of that country's democratic
and economic development. The Dominican
government has been supportive of many U.S.
initiatives in the United Nations and related
agencies. The two governments cooperate in the
fight against the traffic in illegal substances.
The Dominican Republic has worked closely with
U.S. law enforcement officials on issues such as
the extradition of fugitives and measures to
hinder illegal migration.
The United States supports the Fernández
administration's efforts to improve Dominican
competitiveness, increase foreign private
investment, fight corruption, and modernize the
tax system. Bilateral trade is important to both
countries, and U.S. firms, mostly manufacturers
of apparel, footwear, and light electronics,
account for much of the foreign private
investment in the Dominican Republic.
Exports from the United States, including
those from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands, to the Dominican Republic in 2005
totaled $9.6 billion. The Dominican Republic
exported $6.1 million to the United States in
2005, equaling some 77% of its export revenues.
The U.S. Embassy works closely with U.S.
business firms and Dominican trade groups, both
of which can take advantage of the new
opportunities in this growing market. At the
same time the Embassy is working with the
Dominican government to resolve business
disputes from previous administrations.
The Embassy counsels U.S. firms through its
written Country Commercial Guide and informally
via meetings with business persons planning to
invest or already investing in the Dominican
Republic. It is a challenging business
environment for U.S. firms, although agile
exporters and investors can profit doing
business in the Dominican Republic.
The U.S. Agency for International Development
mission is focused on four areas: availability
of health care, increasing economic opportunity,
improving participation in democratic processes,
and environmentally sound energy production.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Lisa Kubiske
USAID Mission Director--Elena Brineman
Consul General--Clyde Bishop
Economic and Political Counselor--Michael Meigs
Public Affairs Adviser--William Millman
Commercial Counselor (DOC/FCS)--Michael McGee
Defense Attaché--Lt. Col. William Tucker (U.S.
Embassy is located at Calle César Nicolas
Penson and Calle Leopoldo Navarro, Santo Domingo