Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic
a republic in the West Indies, occupying the E part of the island of Hispaniola. 8,228,151; 19,129 sq. mi. (49,545 sq. km). Cap.: Santo Domingo. Formerly, Santo Domingo, San Domingo.

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Dominican Republic

Introduction Dominican Republic -
Background: A legacy of unsettled, mostly nonrepresentative, rule for much of the 20th century was brought to an end in 1996 when free and open elections ushered in a new government. Geography Dominican Republic
Location: Caribbean, eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Haiti
Geographic coordinates: 19 00 N, 70 40 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 48,730 sq km land: 48,380 sq km water: 350 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly more than twice the size of New Hampshire
Land boundaries: total: 360 km border countries: Haiti 360 km
Coastline: 1,288 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM territorial sea: 6 NM continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate: tropical maritime; little seasonal temperature variation; seasonal variation in rainfall
Terrain: rugged highlands and mountains with fertile valleys interspersed
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Lago Enriquillo -46 m highest point: Pico Duarte 3,175 m
Natural resources: nickel, bauxite, gold, silver
Land use: arable land: 21.08% permanent crops: 9.92% other: 69% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 2,590 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October; occasional flooding; periodic droughts Environment - current issues: water shortages; soil eroding into the sea damages coral reefs; deforestation; Hurricane Georges damage Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti (eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic, western one- third is Haiti) People Dominican Republic -
Population: 8,721,594 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33.7% (male 1,503,344; female 1,439,157) 15-64 years: 61.3% (male 2,720,308; female 2,621,539) 65 years and over: 5% (male 206,556; female 230,690) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.61% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 24.4 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.68 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.59 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/ female total population: 1.03 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 33.41 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.68 years female: 75.91 years (2002 est.) male: 71.57 years
Total fertility rate: 2.94 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 2.8% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 130,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 4,900 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Dominican(s) adjective: Dominican
Ethnic groups: white 16%, black 11%, mixed 73%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%
Languages: Spanish
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 82.1% male: 82% female: 82.2% (1995 est.) Government Dominican Republic -
Country name: conventional long form: Dominican Republic conventional short form: none local long form: Republica Dominicana local short form: none
Government type: representative democracy
Capital: Santo Domingo Administrative divisions: 29 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 district* (distrito); Azua, Baoruco, Barahona, Dajabon, Distrito Nacional*, Duarte, Elias Pina, El Seibo, Espaillat, Hato Mayor, Independencia, La Altagracia, La Romana, La Vega, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Monsenor Nouel, Monte Cristi, Monte Plata, Pedernales, Peravia, Puerto Plata, Salcedo, Samana, Sanchez Ramirez, San Cristobal, San Juan, San Pedro de Macoris, Santiago, Santiago Rodriguez, Valverde
Independence: 27 February 1844 (from Haiti)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 February (1844)
Constitution: 28 November 1966
Legal system: based on French civil codes
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal and compulsory; married persons regardless of age note: members of the armed forces and police cannot vote
Executive branch: chief of state: President Rafael Hipolito MEJIA Dominguez (since 16 August 2000); Vice President Milagros ORTIZ-BOSCH (since 16 August 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Rafael Hipolito MEJIA Dominguez (since 16 August 2000); Vice President Milagros ORTIZ-BOSCH (since 16 August 2000); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the president elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 16 May 2000 (next to be held NA May 2004) election results: Raphael Hipolito MEJIA Dominguez elected president; percent of vote - Rafael Hipolito MEJIA Dominguez (PRD) 49.87%, Danilo MEDINA (PLD) 24.95%, Joaquin BALAGUER (PRSC) 24.6%
Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional consists of the Senate or Senado (30 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camara de Diputados (149 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 16 May 1998 (next to be held NA May 2002); Chamber of Deputies - last held 16 May 1998 (next to be held NA May 2002) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRD 24, PLD 3, PRSC 3; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRD 83, PLD 49, PRSC 17
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges are elected by a Council made up of members of the legislative and executive branches with the president presiding) Political parties and leaders: Dominican Liberation Party or PLD [Leonel FERNANDEZ Reyna]; Dominican Revolutionary Party or PRD [Hatuey DE CAMPS]; Social Christian Reformist Party or PRSC [Joaquin BALAGUER Ricardo] Political pressure groups and Collective of Popular Organizations
leaders: or COP International organization ACP, Caricom (observer), ECLAC, FAO,
participation: G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (subscriber), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIK, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Hugo GUILIANI Cury consulate(s): Houston, Jacksonville, Mobile, and Ponce (Puerto Rico) consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Mayaguez (Puerto Rico), Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and San Juan (Puerto Rico) FAX: [1] (202) 265-8057 telephone: [1] (202) 332-6280 chancery: 1715 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Hans H.
US: HERTELL embassy: corner of Calle Cesar Nicolas Penson and Calle Leopoldo Navarro, Santo Domingo mailing address: Unit 5500, APO AA 34041-5500 telephone: [1] (809) 221-7121 FAX: [1] (809) 686-7437
Flag description: a centered white cross that extends to the edges divides the flag into four rectangles - the top ones are blue (hoist side) and red, and the bottom ones are red (hoist side) and blue; a small coat of arms is at the center of the cross Economy Dominican Republic
Economy - overview: The Dominican economy experienced dramatic growth over the last decade, even though the economy was hit hard by Hurricane Georges in 1998. Although the country has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy's largest employer, due to growth in tourism and free trade zones. The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest 10% enjoy 40% of national income. A US $500 million foreign bond issue in September 2001 will contribute to increased public investment spending.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $50 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $5,800 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 11.1% industry: 34.1% services: 54.8% (2000) Population below poverty line: 25% (1999 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 1.6%
percentage share: highest 10%: 39.6% (1989) Distribution of family income - Gini 47.4 (1998)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 2.3 million - 2.6 million Labor force - by occupation: services and government 58.7%, industry 24.3%, agriculture 17% (1998 est.)
Unemployment rate: 15% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $2.9 billion expenditures: $3.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.1 billion (2001 est.)
Industries: tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel and gold mining, textiles, cement, tobacco Industrial production growth rate: 2% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 9.475 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 87.21% hydro: 12.53% other: 0.26% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 8,812.029 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: sugarcane, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, bananas; cattle, pigs, dairy products, beef, eggs
Exports: $5.5 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats, consumer goods
Exports - partners: US 87.3%, Netherlands 1.1%, Canada 0.7%, France 0.7% (2000 est.)
Imports: $8.7 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals
Imports - partners: US 60.5%, Japan 10.4%, Mexico 4.7%, Venezuela 3% (2000 est.)
Debt - external: $5.4 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $239.6 million (1995)
Currency: Dominican peso (DOP)
Currency code: DOP
Exchange rates: Dominican pesos per US dollar - 17.310 (January 2002), 16.952 (2001), 16.415 (2000), 16.033 (1999), 15.267 (1998), 14.265 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Dominican Republic - Telephones - main lines in use: 709,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 130,149 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA domestic: relatively efficient system based on islandwide microwave radio relay network international: 1 coaxial submarine cable; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 120, FM 56, shortwave 4 (1998)
Radios: 1.44 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 25 (1997)
Televisions: 770,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .do Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 24 (2000)
Internet users: 25,000 (1999) Transportation Dominican Republic -
Railways: total: 757 km standard gauge: 375 km 1.435-m gauge (Central Romana Railroad) miscellaneous gauge: 240 km operated by sugar companies in various gauges (0.558-m, 0.762-m, 1.067-m gauges) (2000 est.) narrow gauge: 142 km 0.762-m gauge (Dominican Republic Government Railway)
Highways: total: 12,600 km paved: 6,224 km unpaved: 6,376 km (1996)
Waterways: none
Pipelines: crude oil 96 km; petroleum products 8 km
Ports and harbors: Barahona, La Romana, Manzanillo, Puerto Plata, San Pedro de Macoris, Santo Domingo
Merchant marine: total: 1 ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,587 GRT/1,165 DWT ships by type: cargo 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 29 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 13 over 3,047 m: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 914 to 1,523 m: 3 under 914 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 16 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 914 to 1,523 m: 4 under 914 m: 10 (2001) Military Dominican Republic -
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Police Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 2,323,088 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 1,455,887 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 87,404 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $180 million (FY98)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.1% (FY98)
GDP: Transnational Issues Dominican Republic - Disputes - international: none
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for South American drugs destined for the US and Europe; has become a transshipment point for ecstasy from the Netherlands and Belgium destined for US and Canada

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Republic of the West Indies, occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti.

Area: 18,657 sq mi (48,322 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 8,733,000. Capital: Santo Domingo. The majority of the people are of mixed European and African ancestry. Language: Spanish (official). Religion: mainly Roman Catholicism. Currency: Dominican peso. The country is generally mountainous, with ranges and hills running from northwest to southeast. The Central Highlands reach a height of 10,417 ft (3,175 m) at Duarte Peak, the highest point in the West Indies. The Cibao Valley in the north is noted for its fertility; the western part of the country is generally dry with large stretches of desert. One of the poorest countries of the Caribbean, it has a mixed economy heavily dependent on the production and export of sugar. It is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. The Dominican Republic was originally part of the Spanish colony of Hispaniola. In 1697 the western third of the island, which later became Haiti, was ceded to France; the remainder of the island passed to France in 1795. The eastern two-thirds of the island were returned to Spain in 1809, and the colony declared its independence in 1821. Within a matter of weeks it was overrun by Haitian troops and occupied until 1844. Since then the country has been under the rule of a succession of dictators, except for short interludes of democratic government, and the U.S. has frequently been involved in its affairs. The termination of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in 1961 led to civil war in 1965 and U.S. military intervention. The country suffered from severe hurricanes in 1979 and 1998.

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▪ 2009

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 9,507,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Leonel Fernández

      Incumbent Pres. Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Liberation Party defeated his principal opposition opponent by a convincing margin in the May 16, 2008, presidential elections in the Dominican Republic. Fernández, a still relatively youthful 54-year-old, entered his third presidential term with one of the strongest records of economic growth in Latin America.

      The global economic downturn, however, had a serious impact on a country that was heavily dependent on tourism, free trade, industrial zones, remittances from the United States, and mining. GDP growth was more than 5%—still high by neighbouring standards—but faltering.

      Existing contradictions between fiscal performance and quality of life for a high percentage of Dominicans stood out in sharper contrast in 2008. The neglect of investment in human and physical infrastructure steadily eroded President Fernández's popularity. An international survey highlighting the decline of public education in Latin America placed the Dominican Republic in last place. Public outrage over endemic electrical outages resulted in widespread demonstrations and several deaths. The traditionally high resilience of Dominicans in the face of adversity was also stretched by Fernández's failure to comply with his campaign commitments to take action against the entrenched culture of corruption. Drug trafficking flourished in a climate of corrupt and weak institutions. Complaints about a profligate election system persisted. On a per capita basis, campaign costs were the highest in Latin America. Despite food and fuel subsidies, inflation was running at 13%.

      A skilled diplomat, Fernández continued to consolidate Dominican relations within the region and maintain close ties with Haiti, Venezuela, and the United States. A major international accomplishment was the successful mediation of a potentially incendiary crisis between Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia. As chair of the regional Rio Group, meeting in Santo Domingo, Fernández defused a dangerous situation precipitated by a Colombian attack in March on a Colombian guerrilla outpost inside the Ecuadoran frontier. In October the Dominican Republic, along with 13 Caribbean Community (Caricom) members, approved a cooperative trade and economic agreement with the European Union.

John W. Graham

▪ 2008

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 9,366,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Leonel Fernández

 In 2007 the Dominican Republic remained a country of economic and social contrasts. The burgeoning economy of the previous three years continued with an increase of 8.3% in GDP (one of the highest in Latin America), an improved fiscal regulatory system, better tax collection, and a manageable inflation rate of 6%. Business confidence was strengthened in March with the implementation of the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.

      The social indexes, however, showed that the news was not all good. The Dominican Republic ranked 79 out of 177 countries in the 2007–08 UN Human Development Report and 26 out of 108 less-developed countries on the UN Poverty Index. No progress was made on endemic electrical outages, and there was only little improvement in the severe water shortages in urban areas. The quality of public education and public health remained poor, and the government invested more in the capital's subway project than in both of those sectors combined. Little discernible headway was made against corruption, which reached from the issuing of driver's licenses to major contracts. Citizens went on strike in July and October to protest the lack of social reform, but the conflicts had only a marginal impact on Pres. Leonel Fernández's political standing. President Fernández defeated his opponent, Danilo Medina, by a wide margin as the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) candidate for the May 2008 presidential elections. Extravagant campaign spending was not curbed by the PLD. At the end of October, the country's southeast was battered by Tropical Storm Noel, which resulted in extensive damage and the loss of nearly 100 lives. A further blow was delivered in mid-December by Tropical Storm Olga.

      In attempts to control drug trafficking, the Dominican Republic created the Specialized Frontier Security Corp to patrol its border with Haiti. In its first days of operation, more than 3,000 undocumented Haitians trying to cross the border were returned to Haiti. During Haitian Pres. René Préval's visit to Santo Domingo in July, the two heads of state agreed to work together to better relations between their countries; however, there was no discussion about the treatment of the more than 500,000 illegal Haitian residents already in the Dominican Republic.

John W. Graham

▪ 2007

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 9,021,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Leonel Fernández

      The most invigorating event of 2006 for Pres. Leonel Fernández was the solid victory of his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) in the May congressional elections. The results vaulted the PLD from minority to significant majority positions in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate and reflected the president's strong image. President Fernández, who had been elected in 2004, complained that plans to modernize the country, combat corruption, and reform the constitution had been largely frustrated by congressional opposition.

      The president's popularity reflected his sound stewardship of the economy, which continued to rebound from the mismanagement of his predecessor, Hipólito Mejía. General compliance with International Monetary Fund strictures and a $648 million IMF standby agreement reinforced positive trends, including a reduction in interest rates, a lower unemployment rate, stabilization of the peso, decreased inflation, an increase in tax revenue, and the return of capital. Though GDP growth dipped slightly from the robust 9% of 2005, the economy remained strong.

      Historically strained relations with neighbouring Haiti were eased by the election in February of René Préval (Preval, Rene ) (see Biographies) as Haiti's president and by the rapport he established with President Fernández. Approximately 10% of the population of the Dominican Republic were Haitians—a mix of legal and illegal residents. Fernández maintained a challenging but successful equilibrium of good relations with U.S. Pres. George W. Bush and with Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez. In 2005 Bush had signed the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which was awaiting approval in the Dominican Republic, while Chávez provided low-cost petroleum.

      Shadows remained, however, in an otherwise bright landscape. A subway project in Santo Domingo consumed more than the combined budget for the underfunded health and education sectors. In addition, no coherent policies appeared to combat endemic corruption, a heavily politicized and inefficient public service, acute poverty in marginal areas, and the continuing blight of a flagrantly inadequate electricity system.

John W. Graham

▪ 2006

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 8,895,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Leonel Fernández

      Pres. Leonel Fernández restored sound fiscal management to the Dominican Republic in 2005 as the country continued to rebound from the profligacy and mismanagement of his predecessor, Hipólito Mejía. Despite the weight of public debt, which had doubled under Mejía's government, GDP growth exceeded 4% during the year, and positive results encompassed most sectors of the economy. In January the Dominican Republic signed a $665 million standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and the government's fiscal discipline under the terms of this agreement outperformed expectations. Inflation, which had been running at nearly 60% during the previous two years, fell to 8% in 2005.

      In July a closely divided U.S. Congress approved the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. With control of the Dominican legislature, the Dominican Revolutionary Party initially opposed ratification of the CAFTA-DR agreement, but negotiations—which focused on cushioning measures for local industry and tax and institutional reform—yielded congressional approval in September.

      Economic success on many fronts did not insulate President Fernández from rising public disapproval. Major planks of his 2004 campaign had been the revitalization of the chronically inadequate national electricity grid and robust action to combat equally chronic public and private corruption. Although a petroleum agreement with Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez (Chavez, Hugo ) (see Biographies) offered some solace, there was no viable energy plan in sight, and daily outages continued throughout the country. Despite his pledge, Fernández did not press for effective anticorruption measures, and hopes that significant steps would be taken to improve the quality of public governance were not realized.

John W. Graham

▪ 2005

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 8,834,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
Presidents Hipólito Mejía Domínguez and, from August 16, Leonel Fernández

      To the surprise of almost no one, Leonel Fernández, head of the Dominican Liberation Party, defeated incumbent Pres. Hipólito Mejía Domínguez of the Dominican Revolutionary Party in the May 16, 2004, elections in the Dominican Republic. Possibly the only surprise in this bitterly contested, mudslinging presidential election was Mejía's swift recognition of defeat.

      Mejía had presided over the largest contraction in the economy in more than a decade. Corruption was unchecked, and a massive banking scandal continued to damage the country's fiscal credibility. Inflation at the end of his term was running at an annualized rate of approximately 52%, and a deteriorating power infrastructure left many areas of the country without electricity for more than 12 hours a day. Without support from the IMF, the government had been unable to cover overdue payments to private energy suppliers. The poor and lower-middle class were hard hit; the percentage of citizens living below the poverty line rose above 50%. The external debt, which stood at $7 billion, had almost doubled over the four years of the Mejía administration.

      President Fernández had some advantages to help him lift his country out of the morass. His previous term as president (1996–2000) had coincided with the nation's strongest economic performance in 40 years. The three largest economic engines— tourism, remittances from Dominicans living abroad, and to a lesser extent the industrial free zones—survived the Mejía government intact and showed promise of powering the country back into modest growth. Tourism especially showed consistent growth. Though there was no sign of a determined campaign against government corruption, a policy to cut back government expenditures was launched with the announcement that 130 generals and admirals from the bloated armed forces were being forced into early retirement.

John W. Graham

▪ 2004

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 8,716,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Hipólito Mejía Domínguez

      The year 2003 was not a good one for the Dominican Republic. The long surge of growth, unparalleled in the Caribbean, reversed as the economy shrank by 2.8%. Investment confidence was badly shaken by the massive $2.2 billion scandal and collapse of Banco Intercontinental (Baninter), the country's second largest commercial bank. The resulting deficit and acceleration in inflation precipitated negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. A standby agreement of $618 million was reached in August but came with politically unwelcome conditions—fiscal reform and cutbacks in the public sector. The government was also criticized for its failure to address chronic deficiencies in the electricity grid and generating capacity.

      The economic downturn, including the sharp fall in the value of the peso, impacted the poor in particular and contributed to Pres. Hipólito Mejía's drop in popularity. Both Mejía and Leonel Fernández, a former president and the candidate of the principal opposition party, had been tarred by the Baninter scandal for accepting bank favours. Mejía's decision to break with party policy and run for reelection split his party as the country moved abrasively toward elections in 2004. Lightening this gloom was the tourist industry's continued success. The country's revenues had improved steadily following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

      Mejía continued to implement his policy of bettering relations with his impoverished neighbour by opening a free-trade zone on the Haitian side of the frontier. The initiative was also intended to slow the movement of illegal Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic by generating jobs and to reward Dominican investors with cheap labour. In other foreign-policy matters, Mejía endorsed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, a position contrary to that of the majority of his Latin American colleagues and one that led to the resignation of his foreign minister. Mejía also approved in principle a free-trade agreement with Canada.

John W. Graham

▪ 2003

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 8,833,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Hipólito Mejía Domínguez

      Competing as the two most important events in the Dominican Republic in 2002 were the country's legislative elections and the death of seven-time president Joaquín Balaguer. Balaguer, who had dominated political life in the Dominican Republic even when out of power, died on July 14. (See Obituaries (Balaguer Ricardo, Joaquin ).)

      Legislative elections were held on May 16. The overwhelming victory of Pres. Hipólito Mejía's Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) was as much a surprise to PRD members as to local pundits. The party secured a majority in both legislative chambers and won 104 of 125 municipalities. Exhilarated by its success, the PRD, with Mejía's acquiescence, pushed through a constitutional change permitting the reelection of a sitting president to a second term. The change provoked widespread unease, as it rolled back a key provision of the reforms enacted in the aftermath of the 1994 presidential contest, which had been marred by charges of electoral fraud. Mejía asserted that he would not stand for reelection.

      The PRD's victory was attributed to Mejía's skills in communicating at the popular level and to a partial rebound of the economy from the troubles of 2001. Gross domestic product growth rose by 1% to a projected 3.2% for the year, notwithstanding a decline in tourism revenue. Economists applauded the abolition of a government charge on gasoline but chided the government for failure to rein in spending and, despite repeated presidential commitments, to curb pervasive corruption and narrow the equity gap.

      Mejía received Haitian Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide in mid-January and continued to give priority to improving relations with his neighbour, recognizing that major environmental challenges could be addressed only through cross-border collaboration.

John W. Graham

▪ 2002

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 8,693,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Hipólito Mejía Dominguez

      Within a few months of the inauguration of Pres. Hipólito Mejía Dominguez in August 2000, the relatively smooth waters upon which the Dominican Republic had been sailing turned choppy. After the start of 2001, gross domestic product growth projections dropped close to zero, reflecting the downturn in the U.S. economy, the temporary shutdown of the Falconbridge nickel plant, and softening tourism figures. The September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. inflicted further damage on the tourism industry, a principal source of foreign exchange and employment growth in the Dominican Republic. Partial recovery from the impact of the attacks suffered a setback with the November 12 crash in New York City of a Santo Domingo-bound passenger aircraft (see Disasters ).

      Disillusionment with Mejía's administration set in. His extravagant campaign promises looked hollow. No structured program for poverty reduction appeared, nor for problems of infant mortality and low literacy. The misery quotient in the traditional sugar-producing areas and the regions bordering Haiti remained acutely high. Mejía promised transparency in public administration but was unable to reconcile his commitment with the pent-up appetite for patronage by his Dominican Revolutionary Party supporters after 16 years out of power. The leading opposition contender, the Dominican Liberation Party, defeated by Mejía in 2000, positioned itself strongly for municipal and congressional elections scheduled for May 2002. Although good news for the government was sparse, patchwork progress was made toward solving the country's chronic power outages, a few holes in the porous income tax regime were filled, and falling oil prices provided some solace.

      Recognizing that poverty and environmental degradation required Hispaniola-wide solutions, Mejía gave priority to improving relations with Haiti and asked international donors to examine the challenge through this lens. In November Juan Bosch died; he was the country's first democratically elected president. (See Obituaries (Bosch Gavino, Juan ).)

John W. Graham

▪ 2001

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 8,443,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
Presidents Leonel Fernández Reyna and, from August 16, Hipólito Mejía Dominguez

      The central event in the Dominican Republic was the election on May 16, 2000, of Hipólito Mejía Dominguez to the presidency. Apart from an unsuccessful attempt by computer hackers to manipulate the election commission's tabulations, the election was probably the cleanest in the country's history and brought to office the Dominican Revolutionary Party, which had last been in power in 1986 and was deprived of office in 1994 owing to election irregularities. Although Mejía roundly defeated his opponents—Danilo Medina of the incumbent Dominican Liberation Party and former president Joaquín Balaguer of the Social Christian Reformist Party—he narrowly missed achieving the 50% majority vote necessary to avoid a runoff. Predictions that Medina and Balaguer would form a coalition in a bid to defeat Mejía failed to materialize. Balaguer, the infirm nonagenarian and seven-time president, formally acknowledged Mejía's victory, which thus encouraged Medina to concede. At his inauguration in August Mejía promised that he would govern “from a glass house, with transparency.”

      Economic growth continued to exceed expectations. For the fourth consecutive year, the country enjoyed one of the most robust surges of growth in Latin America. Gross domestic product expanded by about 10% in the first six months, with strength particularly in construction, tourism, free-trade zones, nickel mining, and telecommunications. In addition, inflation was within targeted limits. Notwithstanding economic prosperity, Mejía was committed to bridging the gulf between the well-off and the estimated 44% of those at the poverty level. In his campaign he had included policies to revitalize the agricultural industry and rehabilitate ramshackle educational and health systems.

      Mejía also pressed international donors to develop a coordinated aid package to address the chronically difficult and unstable relationship with Haiti, the Dominican Republic's impoverished neighbour.

John W. Graham

▪ 2000

48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 8,130,000
Santo Domingo
Head of state and government:
President Leonel Fernández Reyna

      Most of the news from the Dominican Republic in 1999 was economic—and most of it was good. The country was singled out as the best performer economically in the Latin American region, having registered a growth rate of more than 6% for several consecutive years and promising to do so again in 1999. Moving beyond its traditional sources of income—tourism, remittances, and assembly plants—the government had developed 43 free-trade zones and embarked on a plan to develop a high-technology zone, called Cyberpark of Santo Domingo. During the year Pres. Leonel Fernández Reyna visited two high-tech hot spots, Taiwan and California's Silicon Valley, where he won promises of support for the Cyberpark project.

      Economic successes were not always shared by the populace, however. In addition to having to cope with a drought and damage from hurricanes in 1998, citizens faced rises of as much as 40% in the price of electric power after that industry was privatized in August and 16–34% hikes in the cost of fuel in October, which in turn caused public transportation fares to rise. The issue of Haitians living illegally in the Dominican Republic was a concern again. The government reportedly was expelling some 1,500 Haitians a month and came under fire from international organizations for its policy of considering Haitians born in the country as illegal aliens.

      Dominican politics focused on the presidential elections slated for May 2000. There were hints that former president Joaquín Balaguer, in his early 90s and physically feeble yet still the kingmaker in the country, might himself run one last time. Fernández was constitutionally prohibited from a second term, and his Dominican Liberation Party was running several percentage points behind the Dominican Revolutionary Party, led by Hipólito Mejía.


▪ 1999

      Area: 48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 7,883,000

      Capital: Santo Domingo

      Head of state and government: President Leonel Fernández Reyna

      Congressional and municipal elections took place on May 16, 1998, six days after the death of José Peña Gómez (see OBITUARIES (Pena Gomez, Jose Francisco )), the founder and leader of the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). The PRD won a landslide victory with 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (to 49 for the governing Dominican Liberation Party and an estimated 15 for the Social Christian Reformist Party) and 24 in the Senate (4 and 2, respectively).

      Pres. Leonel Fernández Reyna paid a historic three-day visit to Haiti in June, the first by a Dominican head of state since 1936. The two countries agreed to set up joint border patrols to limit the traffic of drugs, arms, stolen goods, and contraband and to start a direct postal service between the two countries, the first in 60 years. There was less progress in talks on migration and tourism.

      The president announced emergency measures on July 1 to control public spending, and the following day the peso was devalued by 8.5%. Government wages were frozen, and public works construction projects were to be prioritized, in contrast to the preelection rush to build that had resulted in inflationary pressures and unpaid bills to contractors. The economy was also struggling with exceptionally low nickel prices and the lowest sugar harvest ever as a result of Hurricane Georges, which struck the country hard in September. The U.S. Agency for International Development reported that the death toll from the storm was likely to exceed 500. More than 300,000 people were given emergency accommodations, and more than 500,000 homes were damaged. Roads and bridges collapsed under torrential rains and mud slides, and electricity and water supplies were wiped out.


▪ 1998

      Area: 48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 7,802,000

      Capital: Santo Domingo

      Head of state and government: President Leonel Fernández Reyna

      Pres. Leonel Fernández and the legislature began 1997 at loggerheads over the budget. The president introduced two measures that did not require legislative approval: unification of the exchange rate and an increase in fuel prices, both of which in the future would fluctuate in line with the world market. The controversial budget package included increases in indirect taxation, cuts in direct taxation, higher wages for government workers, and lower import duties. A modified version of his budget, approved by both houses, was vetoed by the president, who increased wages for government workers by decree. He submitted a revised budget at the end of April. Price increases, rising unemployment, and electricity shortages resulted in protest strikes and violent demonstrations. These took place despite growth of 6.9% in gross domestic product during the first half of the year, inflation of 4.4% in the same period, and substantial state spending on infrastructure and construction works. In June a law was passed allowing private capital to be invested in several state corporations, including sugar and electricity, to help reduce their deficits.

      At the beginning of the year, the state sugar company, Consejo Estatal de Azúcar, announced plans to employ 16,000 Haitian cane cutters for the 1997 harvest. The news led to a sharp increase in Haitian immigration, which coincided with a rising number of Haitian beggars in Santo Domingo. The result was a wave of anti-Haitian feeling, and more than 15,000 Haitians were deported. The presidents of the two countries reached an agreement in February to halt large-scale repatriations and respect human rights.

      The government began investigations into corruption in the previous administration. It was alleged that military officers and senior government officials had bought and sold government-protected land, some of which was later sold for tourist development. A senior member of the Social Christian Reformist Party was arrested, accused of selling public land in the area around Puerto Plata to other officials at low prices. In September, however, the president dismissed the Santo Domingo public prosecutor, Guillermo Moreno, who had become a symbol of the fight against human rights abuses and corruption.

      This article updates Dominican Republic.

▪ 1997

      The Dominican Republic covers the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Area: 48,671 sq km (18,792 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 7,502,000. Cap.: Santo Domingo. Monetary unit: Dominican peso, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of RD$13.78 to U.S. $1 (RD$21.71 = £ 1 sterling). Presidents in 1996, Joaquín Balaguer and, from August 16, Leonel Fernández Reyna.

      Elections for the president of the Dominican Republic were held in two rounds, on May 16 and June 30, 1996. After the first round José Francisco Peña Gómez of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) led with 48.75% of the vote. In the second round Leonel Fernández Reyna of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) formed an alliance with the governing Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC). This coalition, which was supported by smaller right-wing groups, enabled Fernández to gain 51.25% of the second vote, and he was sworn in as president on August 16.

      The elections were called early because of allegations of fraud at the 1994 elections. Pres. Joaquín Balaguer, who was 89 on Sept. 1, 1996, was barred from running again.

      Having achieved its aims in the elections, the PRSC changed allegiances again. On August 8 it signed an agreement with the PRD allowing the PRSC to have control over the Senate and the PRD the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies. The PLD was in a minority in both houses, which was expected to hinder President Fernández's plans to combat corruption and reform the inefficient state sector.


      This article updates Dominican Republic.

▪ 1996

      The Dominican Republic covers the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Area: 48,443 sq km (18,704 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 7,823,000. Cap.: Santo Domingo. Monetary unit: Dominican peso, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of RD$13.74 to U.S. $1 (RD$21.72 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Joaquín Balaguer.

      Campaigning for the May 1996 presidential elections dominated the activities of the political parties in 1995 as they prepared for the first real opportunity in decades to replace 88-year-old Pres. Joaquín Balaguer. At a Dominican Liberation Party conference, Leonel Fernández, a lawyer, won 93.2% of his party's vote for the candidacy. José Francisco Peña Gómez, recovered from cancer surgery, retained the candidacy for the Dominican Revolutionary Party. There were six contenders (later five) and much infighting for the nomination of the ruling Social Christian Reformist Party. Vice Pres. Jacinto Peynado won the primary election on October 1 with 57% of the vote. He announced his intention to unite the party and heal the rifts that had emerged during the campaign.

      The nation's economic performance was affected by ongoing electricity shortages as the two-year-old drought continued. The government-owned Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad was able to produce only about 700 MW, compared with a demand of 1,050 MW; about a quarter of the production was regularly lost through technical failures. A report stated that about 40% of the electricity used was not paid for.

      The country's growth and inflation targets were jeopardized by the power crisis. Public transport companies raised bus fares by 50% in March, which sparked demonstrations and violent riots. The increases were declared illegal by the government, but in June it allowed fares to rise again, which led to further clashes between demonstrators and police that resulted in several deaths. On May 9 there was a one-day general strike against higher food prices and the deteriorating electricity and transport services.


      This updates the article Dominican Republic.

▪ 1995

      The Dominican Republic covers the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Area: 48,443 sq km (18,704 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 7,803,000. Cap.: Santo Domingo. Monetary unit: Dominican peso, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 13.94 pesos to U.S. $1 (22.18 pesos = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Joaquín Balaguer.

      Presidential and legislative elections were held on May 16, 1994, but were marred by allegations of serious fraud. In the first count Pres. Joaquín Balaguer of the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) was narrowly elected to his seventh term of office by about 30,000 votes over José Francisco Peña Gómez of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). The campaign had been bitterly fought, with opponents of Peña Gómez insinuating that his Haitian origins would lead him to merge the country with Haiti. There was considerable delay in announcing official election results, during which time tension mounted. Demonstrations took place, and hundreds of PRD supporters were detained.

      The national electoral board, the Junta Central Electoral (JCE), appointed a revision committee composed of three JCE officials and two independent academic members. The committee reported that the JCE never knew the total number of registered voters and that voting lists sent to polling stations on the day of the election differed from those previously given to the political parties. The committee determined that about 200,000 citizens had been excluded.

      Nevertheless, despite calls for new elections, President Balaguer was sworn in on August 16. The official results gave him a margin of only 22,281 votes. In an attempt to end the political crisis, Balaguer and Peña Gómez signed an agreement on August 10 for the new presidential term to run for only 18 months, with new elections to be held on Nov. 16, 1995. A PRSC alliance with the Dominican Liberation Party, however, ensured that the constitutional amendment later passed by the legislature gave Balaguer a two-year term, with the next elections to be held on May 16, 1996. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Dominican Republic.

▪ 1994

      The Dominican Republic covers the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Area: 48,443 sq km (18,704 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 7,634,000. Cap.: Santo Domingo. Monetary unit: Dominican peso, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 12.91 pesos to U.S. $1 (19.55 pesos = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Joaquín Balaguer.

      Political campaigning intensified in 1993 in anticipation of the presidential elections in 1994. Although Pres. Joaquín Balaguer several times denied that he would be seeking reelection, rumours of his candidacy continued to spread despite his age, blindness, and failing health. During the year he spent two weeks in a hospital in Miami, Fla., recovering from an operation and then spent an additional period of convalescence in the Dominican Republic.

      The main opposition party, the left-wing Dominican Revolutionary Party, announced the candidacy of its leader, José Francisco Peña Gómez. Polls showed him to be the most likely to win. At a meeting in August, he said that he would share power and proposed electoral reform to prohibit repeated presidential terms. He accused the ruling Social Christian Reformist Party of mounting a racist campaign against him, calling him a Haitian, and also of raising fears of a French-sponsored campaign to unite the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

      In March the state-owned Rosario Dominicana temporarily closed down its gold-mining activities and suspended 70% of its employees. Costs of production had greatly exceeded sale prices; output was declining; and the company was carrying a high level of debt. The closing did not affect plans to open the Pueblo Viejo mine, where deposits were valued at more than $6 billion. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Dominican Republic.

* * *

Spanish  República Dominicana  
Dominican Republic, flag of the  country of the West Indies that occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the second largest island of the Greater Antilles chain in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti, also an independent republic, occupies the western third of the island. The Dominican Republic's shores are washed by the Caribbean to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Between the eastern tip of the island and Puerto Rico flows the Mona Passage, a channel about 80 miles (130 km) wide. The Turks and Caicos Islands are located some 90 miles (145 km) to the north, and Colombia lies about 300 miles (500 km) to the south. The republic's area, which includes such adjacent islands as Saona, Beata, and Catalina, is about half the size of Portugal. The national capital is Santo Domingo, on the southern coast.

      The Dominican Republic has much in common with the nations of Latin America (with which it is often grouped), and some writers have referred to the country as a microcosm of that region. Dominicans have experienced political and civil disorder, ethnic tensions, export-oriented booms and busts, and long periods of military rule, including a Haitian occupation (1822–44), the oppressive dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo (Trujillo, Rafael) (1930–61), and military interventions by the United States (1916–24 and 1965–66). However, the nation's troubles have paled in comparison with those of neighbouring Haiti. The two countries have long been strategic because of their proximity to the United States and their positions on major sea routes leading to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.

Relief, drainage, and soils
 The Dominican Republic includes the highest and lowest elevations in the West Indies. Its major mountain ranges and elongated, fertile valleys mainly extend from northwest to southeast.

      The Cordillera Septentrional, the northernmost range, looms above a narrow coastal plain drained by such short rivers as the Balabonico and the Yasica. The southern slopes of the mountains give way to the extensive Cibao Valley, which stretches from Manzanillo Bay in the northwest to the Samaná Peninsula and the Bay of Samaná (Samaná Bay) in the east. The valley's fertile soils are fed by two of the nation's main river systems: the Yaque del Norte (Yaque del Norte River), which flows generally northwestward, and the Camu-Yuna (Yuna River) system, which flows eastward.

      The Cordillera Central (Central, Cordillera), the island's most rugged and imposing feature, is known in Haiti as the Massif du Nord (“Northern Massif”). In Dominican territory its crest line averages some 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) in elevation and rises to 10,417 feet (3,175 metres) at Duarte Peak, the highest mountain in the Caribbean. Other prominent peaks are Yaque, La Rucilla, Bandera, and Mijo. Tributaries of the Yaque del Norte drain most of the range's northern flanks, whereas its southern flanks are drained by the Yaque del Sur (Yaque del Sur River) system and the Ocoa, Nizao, and other smaller rivers. The San Juan River, one of the Yaque del Sur's main tributaries, is the centrepiece of the fertile San Juan Valley, which connects with Haiti's Central Plateau via the upper Artibonite River valley.

      Bounding the Cibao Valley to the south is the Sierra de Neiba, which corresponds to the Matheux and Trou d'Eau mountains of Haiti; its high peaks reach approximately 7,200 feet (2,200 metres). Water flowing off the Neiba range drains partly to the Caribbean, via the Yaque del Sur system, and partly inland, to saline Lake Enriquillo. Enriquillo is the country's largest natural lake, about 23 miles (37 km) long and up to 11 miles (18 km) wide; the lake's surface is also the lowest point in the West Indies, at 144 feet (44 metres) below sea level. The Dominican Republic's southernmost range, the Sierra de Baoruco (Baoruco, Sierra de) (Bahoruco), is called the Massif de la Selle in Haiti; it overlooks Cape Beata and the arid southwestern plain, including the largely infertile Pedernales region.

      The Cordillera Oriental forms the country's less-rugged eastern spine, separating a narrow coastal plain to the north from a wider belt of rolling lowlands to the south, where most of the country's sugarcane is grown. The region's main rivers all flow to the Caribbean, including the Ozama, which reaches the coast at Santo Domingo, and the Macorís, Soco, Chavón, and Yuma.

      The country's most fertile alluvial soils are located in the valleys of the Yaque del Norte, Yuna, San Juan, and Yaque del Sur rivers, as well as the Ozama and various smaller rivers in the southeast. The mountain slopes have lower-quality soils and are generally covered in forests and grasslands. Salt deposited around Lake Enriquillo creates some of the nation's only unproductive soils.

      The Dominican Republic has a moderate, relatively mild tropical climate, although it lies well within the tropical zone. Conditions are ameliorated in many areas by elevation and by the northeast trade winds, which blow steadily from the Atlantic all year long. The annual mean temperature is 77 °F (25 °C); regional mean temperatures range from 69 °F (21 °C) in the heart of the Cordillera Central to as high as 82 °F (28 °C) on the coastal plains. Temperatures rarely rise above 90 °F (32 °C), and freezing temperatures are unknown.

      The heaviest precipitation is in the mountainous northeast (the windward side of the island), where the average annual rainfall is more than 100 inches (2,540 mm). As the trade winds pass over the country, they lose their moisture on various mountain slopes, so that the far western and southwestern valleys, along the Haitian border, remain relatively dry, with less than 30 inches (760 mm) of annual precipitation. The northwestern and southeastern extremes of the country are also arid. The Dominican Republic is occasionally damaged by tropical storms and hurricanes (hurricane), which originate in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern Caribbean from August until October each year; hurricanes in 1930, 1954, 1979, and 1998 were particularly devastating.

Plant and animal life
      Vegetation varies considerably, but there is generally more ground cover in the Dominican Republic than in neighbouring Haiti. The mountains are still largely forested with pines and tropical hardwoods, although the trees on the lower and more accessible slopes have been severely cut for use as charcoal and commercial lumber. In the drier regions low shrubs and scrub predominate, but grasslands and dense rainforests occur where there is heavier precipitation. Royal palms grow throughout much of the country. Cultivated crops have largely replaced the natural vegetation in many areas, particularly in the more fertile upland valleys and on the lower mountain slopes. Mangrove swamps line some coastal areas, whereas extensive sandy beaches are found elsewhere, notably along the northern shore.

      Wild animals are not abundant; for several centuries cattle and goats, introduced by the early Spanish colonists, ran wild on the grasslands and in the desert areas. Alligators are found near the mouths of the Yaque rivers and in the waters of Lake Enriquillo. A great variety of birds, including ducks, are hunted. Fish and shellfish inhabit the surrounding waters, particularly within the coral reefs.

Settlement patterns
      The nation's coasts and interior plains have been inhabited since Arawak Indians maintained villages there in pre-Columbian times. Settlement from the late 15th century was closely tied to sugarcane plantations and export-oriented commerce. Throughout the colonial period the population of European colonists and African slaves grew slowly, and their mulatto (mixed African and European) descendents now predominate in most regions of the country. People of mainly European descent inhabit the southeastern savannas, which include large sugar plantations, cattle ranches, and small and medium-size farms. However, the southeastern coastline itself is increasingly inhabited by blacks from Haiti and other West Indian nations who have gone there to work on the plantations, in the mills, or on the docks; most are temporary or seasonal workers. Many of the inhabitants of the town of Azua and its environs are the descendants of immigrants from the Canary Islands.

      Santo Domingo, the nation's largest city, is central to one of the nation's most densely populated regions; founded by the Spanish in 1496, it was the first permanent town established by Europeans in the Americas. The Cibao Valley is also densely settled, particularly in its central and eastern sections at Santiago (Santiago de los Caballeros), San Francisco de Macorís, and La Vega. Santiago, the nation's second largest city, vies with Santo Domingo in political, cultural, and economic matters. Secondary coastal centres include La Romana and San Pedro de Macorís in the southeast, Barahona in the southwest, and Puerto Plata in the north. South of the Cordillera Central lies an alluvial plain where rice is grown; its population is centred on San Juan de la Maguana (San Juan).

      The Dominican Republic still has a large rural population, accounting for nearly half of the total, but growing numbers have moved to cities and towns since the mid-20th century. In rural areas some settlements exist as well-defined villages, but most take the form of scattered neighbourhoods, typically clustered around a small store or church or stretched along a roadside, with cultivated patches behind the houses. In addition, there are still many households so isolated from roadways that they can be reached only on foot or horseback.

The people (Dominican Republic)

      The population of the Dominican Republic is predominantly mulatto, and there are small black and white minorities. Few people are descended, even indirectly, from the indigenous Taino peoples, who were largely decimated by disease, warfare, and the effects of forced labour shortly after their first contact with Europeans.

      The colonizing whites, mostly Spaniards, were joined in the 19th and 20th centuries by immigrants from East Asia and from such European countries as France, Italy, England, and Germany, as well as by small numbers of Sephardic Jews and Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East. This last group of immigrants at first competed with Chinese peddlers and shopkeepers in the rural areas, but most later moved to the cities, where they now occupy positions in commerce and industry. The Chinese particularly established themselves in the hotel and restaurant business. A small group of Japanese developed truck farming in the Constanza River valley before World War II, and their descendants are now found throughout the republic. Intermarriage among all these groups has blurred, but not erased, their ethnic origins.

      The exact African (Africa) heritage of the large black population is unknown, although many of their ancestors arrived as slaves from West Africa. Some were brought in within the first two decades of the Spanish conquest to work in mines and early sugar plantations. Others came indirectly, via the French colony of Saint-Domingue (later independent Haiti), particularly during the early 19th century when Haitian troops occupied the Dominican Republic. Haitian workers without immigration papers have long crossed over the mountainous frontier between the two countries; other Haitians have worked legally in the south as itinerant cane cutters, and some have found ways to remain after their contracts expired.

Language and religion
      The Spanish language has always been predominant, although English is becoming more common because of continued emigration to the United States—which has been accompanied by continual visiting back and forth—plus some repatriation. A French Creole is spoken among Haitian immigrants.

      More than four-fifths of the people are adherents to the Roman Catholic church (Roman Catholicism), which exerts a marked influence on all levels of cultural, political, and economic life. Many of the religious beliefs and practices of the rural populace are syncretic, rooted in the cultures of both the early Spanish and African communities. Evangelical groups account for a small but growing segment of the population. There are a few adherents of Judaism and other religions.

Demographic trends
      The rate of population increase in the Dominican Republic is greater than in most other West Indian nations, and more than one-third of the population is less than 15 years of age. Both birth and death rates in the republic have long been higher than the regional average, although they have been lower than in Haiti (see Health and welfare (Dominican Republic)).

      The country experienced one of the world's highest urbanization rates in the late 20th century: in 1950 roughly one-fourth of Dominicans lived in cities, but by the late 1990s nearly two-thirds of the population was urban. Santo Domingo expanded into formerly rural zones as it became more crowded, and its urban slums grew as well. Santiago, La Romana, and other cities also grew considerably.

      The Dominican Republic's high rate of emigration has been primarily directed to New York City and other cities in the United States. Since the mid-1960s more than one-tenth of the total population has emigrated, principally to improve their economic situation; many have been illegal immigrants. The outward flow of people alleviated the strain on local resources (notably housing, water supplies, and food production) while boosting many families' incomes with remittances of cash and consumer goods.

The economy
      The Dominican Republic has a mixed economy based largely on services (including tourism and finance), trade, manufacturing, telecommunications, and construction; agriculture and remittances from the many Dominicans living abroad are also important. Agricultural production (mainly sugarcane, with smaller amounts of coffee, cacao, and tobacco) was the economic mainstay until the late 20th century, when the economy became more diversified. The growing economy, in turn, helped to accelerate the rate of urbanization and increase the size of the middle class. The government has long played a major directing role in the economy, and in the 1990s controversy arose concerning its privatization of many formerly state-owned companies. The government also permitted numerous maquiladoras (maquiladora) (foreign-owned factories) to be established in tax-free port zones. At the close of the decade, the nation had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world; however, the government's privatization program remained contentious.

      About three-fifths of Dominicans remain below the poverty level, despite improvements in the national economy, and the vast majority of the population belongs to the lower-income segment, including most farmers, landless agricultural workers, itinerant merchants, and unskilled manual labourers. However, the middle class has grown markedly since the mid-20th century, and the nation's economic and social oligarchy has become somewhat fragmented as newly affluent families have joined its ranks.

      Agricultural land was long the nation's most important economic resource. About one-third of the land is under permanent cultivation. Pastures and meadows account for more than two-fifths of the total, whereas forests make up roughly one-eighth. Deposits of laterite nickel ore (nickel processing), bauxite (aluminum ore), gold, silver, gypsum, and iron ore have been developed commercially. Salt, largely from deposits near Lake Enriquillo, is also produced in commercial quantities. A smaller salt-producing enterprise, based on the evaporation of sea water, has also been of some importance at Monte Cristi. The Dominican Republic is one of the Western Hemisphere's relatively few sources of high-quality amber; local artisans produce distinctive amber jewelry, but the gem has not yet been extensively exploited there. Other minerals of potential importance include sulfur, titanium, molybdenum, cobalt, tin, and zinc. The country has some reserves of coal, but it has no coal-mining or petroleum-extraction industries. Imported petroleum is used to generate nearly three-fourths of the country's electric power; the remainder is produced by hydroelectric installations, particularly those near La Vega and Santo Domingo.

Agriculture, fisheries, and forestry
      The Dominican Republic produces much of its own basic food, as well as a considerable amount for export, which is unlike the case in most other Caribbean nations. Agriculture accounts for about one-eighth of both the gross domestic product (GDP) and the workforce. Sugarcane remains the main cash crop; however, sugar prices fell during the 20th century, and coffee, cacao, and other export-oriented crops have become more prominent. Rice, tomatoes, vegetables, animal hides, bananas, other tropical fruits, root crops, and sorghum are also important. The tourist trade in the country has increased local demand for chickens, eggs, pork, beef, and dairy products, which Dominican farmers have produced in greater amounts.

      Small, subsistence-level farmers barely eke out a living from the soil and often must supplement their incomes by selling handicrafts, including baskets, pottery, rocking chairs, and straw hats. These items either are sold to middlemen, who market them in towns, or are displayed and sold along the roads and highways.

      The fish supply has been sufficient for local needs, and sport fishing has been an additional tourist attraction; however, because of the relative scarcity of marketable fish in nearby waters, a large-scale fishing industry has not developed. Forestry is of little consequence, although some lumbering is carried out in the pine forests of the Cordillera Central and other highlands.

      Only a tiny proportion of the GDP and the labour force depend directly on the nation's mines, which produce mainly ferronickel (smelted ore that is nearly 40 percent nickel), gold, silver, and bauxite. Manufacturing accounts for roughly one-sixth of the GDP and an equal share of the workforce. Petroleum refining has grown in importance, and locally made textiles and finished clothing—particularly shoes, shirts, and hats—have replaced some imports. Wooden, metal, and plastic furniture has become important on both domestic and foreign markets. Maquiladoras and other factories assemble products for export, mainly in duty-free-port zones. The food-processing and beverage industries produce rum, beer, and numerous other items. Small factories turn out consumer goods such as soap, candles, rope, cigars, concrete blocks, cement, and tiles.

      Tourism, trade, finance, and government services account for half of the Dominican workforce and nearly half of the GDP. Service providers are among the nation's more dynamic and rapidly growing businesses; however, the government bureaucracy, which is the largest component of the service sector, has long been criticized for inefficiency and cronyism. It has been estimated that between one-fifth and half of the urban workforce contributes to the informal sector of the economy, which is largely service-oriented, including domestic servants (who are found even in middle-class households), gardeners, day labourers, and street vendors.

      Tourism has become one of the Dominican Republic's most important sources of foreign exchange, and since the mid-1980s the country has been one of the Caribbean's more popular tourist destinations. The favourable climate, beautiful beaches, restored Spanish colonial architecture, and relatively low prices have drawn an increasing number of foreign visitors and encouraged the building or expansion of resorts and airports on the northern, eastern, and southern coasts. In addition, a significant number of visitors have availed themselves of the country's liberal divorce code. The United States accounts for the majority of vacationers; smaller numbers come from Canada, Italy, and other European nations. The main tourist sites are La Romana, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, and the colonial centre of Santo Domingo, which was designated a World Heritage site in 1990. The drawbacks associated with tourism, as in other Caribbean nations, have included the need to import high-priced luxury items, which affects the country's balance of payments, and to produce large amounts of additional foodstuffs and potable water; in addition, greater quantities of trash and sewage have strained the country's limited resources.

Trade and finance
      The Dominican Republic's chief imports are petroleum and petroleum products, foodstuffs (notably cereals), and manufactured goods. The principal exports are ferronickel, raw sugar, coffee, cacao, and gold. The United States is the single largest trading partner. Venezuela, The Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and Canada are also important. Although the country historically refused to ally itself with other countries in the Caribbean basin, because of cultural differences as well as the great distances between nations in the region, it increasingly has supported regional trade organizations, beginning in the late 20th century. The country has a persistently negative balance of trade.

      The Santo Domingo Stock Market began operating in 1991. The national monetary system is managed by the Central Bank, which issues currency (the Dominican peso), maintains a gold and foreign currency reserve, and administers exchange rates. The private banking system is well developed, and several financial institutions, loan companies, and insurance agencies operate in the urban centres.

      Santo Domingo is the hub of a transport system that connects virtually all parts of the republic. The highway between the capital and the Cibao region is heavily traveled and in poor repair, but secondary roads are in adequate condition. Buses and a large fleet of private taxicabs provide transportation both within and between cities. Most goods are shipped by truck to the important market centres.

      A government-owned freight railroad runs through the eastern half of the Cibao Valley from La Vega to the port of Sánchez on the Bay of Samaná. Most of the country's other railway lines are privately owned and serve the sugar industry in the southeast. There is no passenger service.

      The principal international airports are located at Cape Caucedo, about 15 miles (24 km) east of Santo Domingo, and at Puerto Plata on the northern coast. In the late 20th century, new or expanded international airports were opened at the eastern tip of the island (near Cana Point), at La Romana in the southeast, and at Barahona in the southwest. A secondary airport in Santiago handles smaller commercial planes. Other airfields around the country are open to small private craft.

      Freight is exported and imported mainly by sea. Until the 20th century the primary commercial ports lay along the northern coast, such as at the Bay of Samaná (Samaná Bay), one of the finest and largest natural harbours in the entire Caribbean basin; however, with the rise of the sugar plantations in the south, the ports of Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macorís, and La Romana increased in importance. Most general goods pass through Santo Domingo, but sugar is exported largely through the ports of San Pedro de Macorís and La Romana. The historically important ports of Monte Cristi and Sánchez in the north are now almost defunct. Only Puerto Plata in the north retains its commercial importance, largely because of the tobacco, coffee, and cacao interests in the Cibao region. Barahona exports bauxite, gypsum, and salt but receives few imports.

Administration and social conditions

      The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy whose current constitution was promulgated in 1966. The constitution, like its numerous predecessors, provides for civil and economic rights and divides the branches of government. It also allows a president, who is head of state and government, to invoke emergency powers to supersede the legislative and judicial branches. Dominicans have had universal suffrage since 1942. Citizens aged 18 and older may vote in elections unless they are members of the armed forces or the police.

      The president is directly elected to a four-year term and may not seek immediate reelection. The bicameral legislature is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies; members of both houses are directly elected to four-year terms and may be reelected. The 30-member Senate is composed of one representative from each province and one from the National District. The size of the Chamber of Deputies is proportional to the population, but there are no fewer than two representatives from each province and two from the National District.

      Following Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship (1930–61), political life during the late 20th century largely revolved around two men: Joaquín Balaguer (Balaguer, Joaquín), a moderate who held presidential office for a total of three decades, and Juan Bosch Gavino (Bosch, Juan), who led the leftist Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano; PRD) until 1973, when he formed the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana; PLD). Balaguer's Social Christian Reformist Party (founded 1963) continues to vie with the PRD, the PLD, and several smaller parties.

      The nation is divided into 29 provinces (provincias) and one National District (Distrito Nacional), the site of Santo Domingo. The central government administers the provinces through governors appointed by the president. Each province is subdivided into municipalities (municipios) that elect their own councils and have some local autonomy.

      The legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code. A nine-member Supreme Court rules on constitutional matters and is the final court of appeal. The Senate appoints Supreme Court justices, who in turn appoint judges to lower courts, which include courts of appeal and provincial, municipal, commercial, and land courts. Separate military tribunals hear cases involving members of the armed forces. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the president and other members of the government have frequently influenced court decisions. Public confidence in the judicial system has long been undermined by corruption, the inadequate legal training of some judges, and the routine preemptive detention of suspected criminals. As is the case in some other Latin American nations, the vast majority of prisoners are held without a trial, sometimes for years.

Armed forces and police
      During the Trujillo regime the armed forces were used to preserve the dictatorship, and afterward the military continued to play a role in politics; however, in the 1990s the government placed the military under civilian control, reduced its size and budget, and attempted to make it more professional in character. As a result, the military's political influence diminished moderately, but its senior officers continued to guard its institutional privileges. The police force is organized on a national basis and is sometimes seen as a rival to the army. Detective work is carried on by the National Department of Investigations (Departamento Nacional de Investigaciones; DNI), whereas narcotics laws are the focus of the National Drug Control Directorate (Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas; DNCD). Both the DNI and the DNCD include members of the police and military. Corruption, extrajudicial killings, and participation in drug trafficking (drug abuse) are major concerns within the nation's security forces, although the nation has worked closely with the United States on drug interdiction.

      Primary education is officially free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 14, although those who live in isolated areas have limited access to schooling. Primary schooling is followed by a two-year intermediate school and a four-year secondary course, after which a diploma called the bachillerato is awarded. Relatively few lower-income students succeed in reaching this level, because the system is designed to encourage middle- and upper-income students to prepare for admittance to a university. Most wealthier students attend private schools, which are frequently sponsored by religious institutions. Some public and private vocational education is available, particularly in the field of agriculture, but this too reaches only a tiny percentage of the population.

      The Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, founded in 1538, is the oldest institution of higher education in the New World. It was originally affiliated with the Roman Catholic church, but in the early 19th century its religious ties were severed; the university was reorganized in 1914, and the national government now provides most of its funding. Costs are low, and even poor students may attend if they have been fortunate enough to have secured the requisite primary and secondary preparation. The government or police have occasionally interfered in the university's operations because it has long been a source of political activism.

      The private Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University, located in Santo Domingo, was founded (1966) in part to counter the politicizing of the public university. It received support from the Roman Catholic church, prominent business leaders, and the national and U.S. governments. Apec University (1965) is also located in Santo Domingo, whereas Central del Este University (1970) is in San Pedro de Macorís. The Madre e Maestra Pontifical Catholic University (1962) is based in Santiago but also has a campus in the capital.

Health and welfare
      The Dominican people are generally healthier than those of neighbouring Haiti. However, unsanitary water, inadequate housing and health services, and poor nutrition undermine health conditions among the poorer classes in both rural and urban zones. As a result, infectious and parasitic diseases are common, and the infant mortality rate is high. Hospitals and trained medical personnel are available only in the larger cities and towns. In the rural areas, home remedies and traditional healers are often the only means of preserving or restoring health. Severely ill patients may be transported to a nearby urban centre, where hospitalization is free; however, most families take that measure only in extreme cases, often when death is already imminent. Leading causes of death include diseases of the circulatory system, infectious and parasitic diseases, cancer, and respiratory illnesses.

      Social conditions in the Dominican Republic generally resemble those of other developing nations in the Americas. The national social security system helps support the elderly and disabled, and maternity and death benefits are also provided; however, public resources are limited, and few Dominicans have additional health insurance, so the elderly and infirm often must rely on family support.

Cultural life
      The Dominican Republic's society and culture largely reflect its Hispanic heritage; African traditions have also influenced the nation because of its slave heritage and its lengthy border with Haiti, which has a predominantly black population. The nation developed in colonial times as a slave-plantation society, creating a castelike system divided by skin colour. In addition, past generations of Dominicans attempted to define their culture in anti-Haitian terms that implied a racist ideology, although most Dominicans have since discouraged those views. However, it is difficult to identify traditions that are uniquely Dominican.

Daily life
      The Dominican people share religious, linguistic, and historical traditions, but their society remains largely fragmented and individualistic, and their day-to-day experiences are commensurate to differences between their socioeconomic classes, ethnic groupings, and physical settings, among other factors. Much of the population still lives in rural areas—many as impoverished peasants or migrant workers, others as independent small-scale landowners, and a small minority as elite landowners. Moreover, rural life in the Cibao Valley generally diverges from that of the southeastern sugar plantations and other areas, and city life varies from the frenetic pace of Santo Domingo to the more relaxed, traditional character of Santiago and smaller towns.

      Sugar plantations in the south provide barracklike housing units for their temporary workers, but more permanent employees frequently have their own small huts, or bohios, often on company-owned land. Some bohios have double-reed walls filled with rubble and plastered with mud, whereas others are little more than lean-tos of palm leaves and bamboo. In the relatively prosperous Cibao Valley, houses are built solidly of palm board or pine and are commonly painted and decorated, with shutters and lintels in contrasting colours. Roofs are most often covered with corrugated metal sheets, but those of poorer households may be thatched. The houses of prosperous families may have concrete floors, but most are of packed earth.

      Urban squatter settlements and inner-city ghettos include dwellings constructed of cardboard, discarded inner tubes, and other scavenged materials. Middle- and upper-class houses and apartments characterize many other urban districts. Government programs, often funded with international loans, have financed housing construction for lower- and middle-income families, especially in Santo Domingo, where large neighbourhoods have been built.

      Staple foods for poorer Dominicans include rice, beans, and vegetables. The cuisine of middle- and upper-class Dominicans often makes generous use of peppers, fresh seafood, and tropical fruits; meals might include queso fresco (white cheese), fried plantains, hearts-of-palm salad, shrimp pilaf with chiles and onions, or grilled sea bass. Locally produced rums from the Bermudez and Barcelo distilleries are also popular.

The arts
      Music, especially when accompanied by dancing, is important at all social levels and in all regions of the country. The most typical forms are those with clear African antecedents, especially in their rhythms. There are also folk songs and tunes deriving from Spain and the Middle East. Popular genres include the merengue, bolero, salsa, and folk songs associated with African heritage. The cities of Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata host merengue festivals at which dozens of groups compete. Radio stations also feature rock music, reggae, and other Afro-Caribbean musical styles, as well as the Mexican ranchera and Cuban danzón. The guitar is probably the most popular instrument, followed by drums, and in some rural areas flutes and homemade marimbas are also common. Juan Luís Guerra, Frank Ceara, and Fernando Villalona are among the many Dominican musicians who have become internationally renowned.

      Numerous Dominican painters, including Ramón Oviedo, José Rincón Mora, and Leopoldo Navarro, have produced canvases ranging from exuberant Haitian-style paintings to abstract and Impressionistic works. The tourist trade has sparked renewed interest in Dominican handicrafts, such as ceramics, textiles, wood carvings, jewelry, dolls, and baskets.

      The universities, as well as numerous private literary and cultural organizations, have long fostered an interest in the classical European arts of music, painting, drama, and literature. The country sponsors a symphony orchestra, theatres, and art museums.

      During the 19th-century Haitian occupation, a nationalist spirit began to develop in Dominican literature, notably in the poetry of Félix Maria del Monte. Manuel de Jesus Galván continued the trend with his fictional epic Enriquillo: leyenda histórica dominicana (1879–82; “Enriquillo: Dominican Historical Legend”; Eng. trans. The Cross and the Sword), which depicted Spanish settlers' brutality toward Taino Indians. In the early 20th century, writers such as Américo Lugo and Gastón Fernando Deligne were more influenced by modernism; however, some nationalist expressions arose again in 1916–24, during the U.S. occupation of the country. In the late 20th century, social protest became a major theme, particularly in the short stories of the leftist politician Juan Bosch (Bosch, Juan), who wrote largely from exile. Contemporary writers have focused to some degree on daily life in the Dominican Republic.

Sports and recreation
      National holidays on February 27 and August 16 commemorate the country's independence struggles. Other holidays are largely defined by the calendar of the Roman Catholic church, but the way in which they are celebrated reveals a mixture of official church and ancient folk traditions. carnival, observed during several weeks preceding Lent, is especially colourful in Santiago. Masked and costumed men and boys circulate in the streets, hitting each other with inflated pig and goat bladders and chanting traditional rhymes intended to provoke each other to what is today usually only playful retaliation. Their masks are usually homemade and constitute a recognized art form in the country. During the final few days of Carnival, elaborately costumed groups of men and women perform in the streets in return for handouts of rum and cash.

       baseball in the Dominican Republic is more than a sport and national pastime—it is a passion. After U.S. marines introduced the sport there, it slowly gained popularity until the 1960s, when Juan Marichal, the Alou brothers (Felipe, Mateo, and Jesus), and other Dominicans became prominent major league players. Their success prompted North American teams to increase their local scouting, recruiting, and financial investments, and by the 1990s major league teams had fielded scores of Dominican players, including the outfielder Sammy Sosa (Sosa, Sammy) and many shortstops. Hundreds more also play in the minor leagues.

      Several Dominicans have become successful amateur or professional athletes in basketball, volleyball, and boxing, such as the bantamweight boxer Pedro Nolasco, who won a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games. Football (soccer) is also played in the Dominican Republic, though not as widely as in other Caribbean nations. Cockfighting—usually accompanied by gambling—remains a traditional and popular spectator sport, although it is discouraged in many areas.

Press and broadcasting
      From the 1930s to the '60s, the Trujillo regime severely restricted the press's freedom of expression, but subsequent constitutional guarantees generally have been upheld. The most influential of the island's several daily newspapers are published in Santo Domingo and include El Caribe, founded in 1948, and Listín diario, founded in 1889. Other important daily and weekly publications include La información, El nacional, and Rumbo. A variety of newspapers and periodicals are also imported from the United States. Compared with other developing countries, the Dominican Republic has a high per capita rate of newspaper circulation. There are several television stations and dozens of radio stations. Among the main broadcasters, which are concentrated in Santo Domingo, is the government-owned Radiotelevisión Dominicana. Usage of the Internet had increased rapidly by the beginning of the 21st century.

Nancie L. González Howard J. Wiarda

      The following discussion focuses on the history of the Dominican Republic from the time of European settlement. For a treatment of the country in its regional context, see West Indies, history of (West Indies), and Latin America, history of.

      At the time of Christopher Columbus (Columbus, Christopher)'s first landing on Hispaniola in 1492, the Carib people, for whom the Caribbean Sea is named, were preying on the Taino (an Arawak people), who had previously settled there. The two peoples had village-centred societies based on farming, fishing, and hunting and gathering, but they were less advanced than the large pre-Columbian civilizations of Mexico, Central America, and Peru.

      Columbus established a small colony on the north coast, but Indians slaughtered the first settlers. He returned and established a second colony, but reports of abundant gold farther south quickly led the Spaniards to abandon the northern outpost and found (1496) the city of Santo Domingo on the Caribbean coast.

The colonial (colonialism, Western) era
       Hispaniola was the first area in the New World to receive the full imprint of Spanish colonial policy. The oldest cathedral, monastery, and hospital in the Americas were established on the island, and the first university was chartered in Santo Domingo in 1538. The earliest experiments in Spanish imperial rule were conducted there as well. Class and caste lines were rigidly drawn, and the Roman Catholic Church (Roman Catholicism) served as the strong right arm of temporal authority. A cruel, exploitative slave-based society and economy came into being.

      During the first half century of Spanish rule, Hispaniola flourished: its rich mines and lush lands yielded abundant wealth, and it served as the administrative centre for Spain's burgeoning American empire. However, European diseases and brutal treatment decimated the Indian population, and the Spanish crown soon turned to more lucrative conquests in Mexico and Peru, where gold and silver were more easily available. The more ambitious Spaniards emigrated.

      For the better part of the next three centuries, Hispaniola remained a neglected, poverty-ridden backwater of the Spanish empire. Successive raids by British, Dutch, and French marauders and buccaneers further devastated the island. Eventually, the Spanish crown recognized France's claims to the western third of Hispaniola, a region that was renamed Saint-Domingue (later Haiti); a prosperous sugar-producing colony based on black slavery grew up there. The Spanish colony also experienced a modest economic boom in the 18th century as a by-product of Saint-Domingue's prosperity, but its population reached only about 100,000—about one-fifth that of the French colony.

Power struggles and nationalism
      In 1795 Spain ceded the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola to France as a result of its defeat in the wars that had been raging in Europe. Under French control the economy and vitality of the colony declined further. Meanwhile, a slave uprising had begun in Saint-Domingue, inflamed by the desire of mulatto freedmen for political rights, the inhuman conditions under which black slaves were forced to labour, and the revolutionary (French Revolution) currents then sweeping France. Led by Toussaint-Louverture (Toussaint Louverture), the Haitians not only succeeded in throwing off French rule but soon overran parts of the previously Spanish eastern end of the island as well, instilling terror in the white ruling class. For a time French, British, and various Haitian armies all vied for control of Hispaniola. The Haitians evicted the main French army from the western part of the island, but Dominican colonists and British forces, in turn, drove the Haitians from the eastern part. In 1809 the colony was reunited with Spain. But in 1821 a group of Dominicans deposed the Spanish governor and declared independence, following the lead of the countries on the mainland. They named the fledgling nation the Independent State of Spanish Haiti.

Haitian occupation
      Within weeks Haitian troops under Jean-Pierre Boyer (Boyer, Jean-Pierre) (president of Haiti, 1818–43) again overran the eastern part of the island, initiating a 22-year occupation (1822–42). Haitians monopolized government power, severed the church's ties with Rome, forced out the traditional ruling class, and all but obliterated the western European and Hispanic traditions. In addition, Haitian troops arbitrarily confiscated foodstuffs and other supplies, and ethnic tensions caused further resentment. Dominican historians have portrayed the period as cruel and barbarous, but Boyer also freed the slaves, and his administration was generally efficient.

      In the 1830s Juan Pablo Duarte (Duarte, Juan Pablo)—known as the father of Dominican independence—organized a secret society to fight the Haitians. The rebellion gained strength after a devastating earthquake in 1842, as well as the outbreak of civil war in Haiti itself, and in 1844 independence was finally achieved. However, Duarte and other idealistic freedom fighters were soon forced into exile.

      From 1844 until 1899 several caudillos (military strongmen) dominated the Dominican Republic, most notably Pedro Santana and Buenaventura Báez (Báez, Buenaventura), two dictatorial presidents who prevented the growth of democracy and sold out the country to foreign and commercial interests. Santana's maladministration and heavy military spending (to ward off Haitian attacks) bankrupted the nation, and in 1861 he invited Spain to reclaim its former colony and arranged to have himself named governor-general. Santana was thoroughly discredited as a traitor, and Spain withdrew its troops after a brief occupation (1861–65) and a series of battles against patriotic forces. Báez then approached the United States with a protectorate plan. Pres. Ulysses S. Grant (Grant, Ulysses S.) favoured annexation, but the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the treaty by one vote.

      The instability continued during the 1870s. Ulises Espaillat, an idealistic reformer, was elected president and then overthrown in 1876, marking the country's first (though short-lived) democratic government. Báez returned to the presidency for a fifth time (1876–78) but was also forced out. A period of civil unrest with a succession of presidents ensued, out of which emerged Ulises Heureaux (Heureaux, Ulises), who dominated the country from 1882 to 1899. Heureaux presided over a time of unprecedented stability and national growth. His regime built new roads, dug irrigation canals, increased agricultural production, and brought in a great amount of foreign investment, particularly major sugarcane producers from Cuba; like his predecessors, however, he ruled with a dictatorial hand. He created a fearsome secret police force, restricted the press, and committed blatant electoral fraud.

      Heureaux was assassinated in 1899 by Ramón Cáceres, a rival politician, and the country returned to the chaotic politics of the past. New leaders took over and were in turn forced out, including Juan Isidro Jiménez and Horacio Vásquez—two bitter rivals—and Cáceres himself. Even the accession of the archbishop Adolfo Nouel to the presidency in 1912 failed to stem the disorder, and within four months he too was forced to resign.

Intervention by the United States
      Meanwhile, the United States had expanded its commercial interests in the Dominican Republic (and the entire Caribbean region), and it had replaced Europe as the republic's major trading partner. However, U.S. and European investors became alarmed by the republic's deteriorating financial situation. In 1905 the United States began to administer the Dominican Republic's customs agency, using it in part to pay off the republic's European creditors, who had threatened to collect on their debts. The United States assumed complete control of the nation's government in 1916 after its fragile political structure collapsed again.

      During the occupation (1916–24) the United States placed thousands of troops in the Dominican Republic as well as in neighbouring Haiti, which it administered from 1915 to 1934. The U.S. Marine Corps (United States Marine Corps, The) built roads, schools, communications and sanitation facilities, and other projects, and the occupation government enacted legal reforms that allowed U.S.-owned sugarcane companies to expand their operations. In addition, the marines transformed the nation's cultural life by introducing chewing gum and baseball, a sport that has since become a Dominican passion. Some Dominicans reacted strongly against the occupation forces, which had assumed arbitrary control and frequently abused their authority. As they prepared to depart the island, the marines (United States Marine Corps, The) created a modern, unified military constabulary that became the instrument by which future Dominican authoritarians would seize power.

Civil unrest, dictatorship, and democracy
      In 1924 Horacio Vásquez won a U.S.-supervised presidential election, but he proved to be an incompetent and corrupt leader, and pressure built up for his ouster. A revolution was launched in 1930, triggered in part by the initial economic shock of the Great Depression. The armed forces, under the firm control of its leader, Rafael Trujillo (Trujillo, Rafael), stood by, rather than defending the government, and let the revolution succeed. Trujillo then took power himself.

The Trujillo (Trujillo, Rafael) regime
      The dictatorship of Trujillo (1930–61) was one of the longest, cruelest, and most absolute in modern times. Trujillo maintained complete control of the military, appointed family members to key offices, strictly enforced censorship and conformity laws, and ordered the murder of political opponents and the massacre of thousands of Haitian immigrants. Trujillo also dominated the church hierarchy, educational system, entertainment industry, and virtually every other element of Dominican society. He had Santo Domingo renamed Ciudad Trujillo, and he amassed a vast fortune for himself by taking ownership of virtually everything he touched—land, airlines, trading monopolies, manufacturers, and most sugarcane producers—in all as much as three-fifths of the nation's gross domestic product and workforce.

      Most Dominicans deeply feared Trujillo and his secret police force, although they admired his bold personality—which they regarded as fundamentally Dominican—and his ability to control national affairs and promote public works projects. The country's political and economic stability attracted foreign investors and grants from the U.S. government, and the foreign news media extolled Trujillo's so-called “Dominican miracle” while downplaying his abuses and his failure to improve the lots of most impoverished Dominicans.

      Domestic opposition grew in the late 1950s as the secret police jailed and tortured even larger numbers of dissenters. Meanwhile, Trujillo became increasingly paranoid, particularly after discovering that the Cuban and Venezuelan governments had supported plots against him. Trujillo developed particularly strong rancor for Rómulo Betancourt, the Venezuelan president, whom Dominican agents attempted to assassinate in June 1960. This action was quickly condemned by the Organization of American States, which imposed economic sanctions; the United States also withdrew support. In May 1961 the dictator was assassinated on a rural highway. Trujillo's heirs and followers attempted to remain in power, but they were also driven out, and the country embarked on a more democratic course.

Bosch, Balaguer, and their successors
      In 1963 Juan Bosch (Bosch, Juan) and his moderately reformist Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano; PRD) took power; he was the first directly elected democratic and progressive president in the country's history. However, Bosch earned the enmity of the country's oligarchy and key U.S. officials, and after seven hectic months he was overthrown. In 1965 a democratic revolution was sparked to oppose the country's return to oligarchical rule, but the United States, fearing the installation of a communist regime (as had happened in Cuba the previous decade), again occupied the country in 1965–66 and snuffed out the revolt.

      The winner of the U.S.-organized 1966 elections was Joaquín Balaguer (Balaguer, Joaquín), a former Trujillo puppet who presented himself as a moderate conservative and a symbol of orderly change. Balaguer became one of the main national figures for the next three decades, in the face of political challenges from Bosch and other progressive politicians. Balaguer's conservative rule, and his reelections in 1970 and 1974, reflected the power of the business, commercial, and industrial oligarchy, as well as of the military. Balaguer's government made strong economic gains and instituted some social reforms, but large segments of the population still remained dissatisfied. As alternatives to conservative rule, many political activists supported the PRD or Bosch's newly founded Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana; PLD).

      In 1978 Balaguer was defeated by Antonio Guzmán Fernández (Guzmán Fernández, Antonio) of the PRD. Guzmán moved cautiously to implement reforms, but oligarchic elements remained powerful and the economy fragile. A hurricane devastated the country in 1979, and the faltering economy produced inflation, strikes, and depressed conditions. Guzmán was succeeded by another PRD candidate, Salvador Jorge Blanco, who served as president in 1982–86. Thus, the country completed eight years of truly democratic government, the longest in its history to that point. But Jorge Blanco was faced with falling sugar prices on world markets, widespread corruption in the government bureaucracy, and an economic recession. In an attempt to stabilize the economy, he initiated an unpopular austerity program that produced strikes and food riots. As a result, the aging (and by then blind) Balaguer was elected president again in 1986. In the 1990 election he narrowly defeated Bosch despite the nation's continuing economic difficulties and fears that Balaguer's advanced age and declining health would invite instability. The opposition claimed fraud in 1990 as well as in 1994, when Balaguer again won narrowly. In the face of massive public demonstrations, Balaguer agreed to step down after serving only two years of his term. During his three decades of rule, he had provided the country with stability and economic growth but at the cost of social injustices and human rights abuses.

      The 1996 presidential election was won by Leonel Fernández Reyna (Fernández Reyna, Leonel) of the PLD. Fernández, who hoped to mark the end of caudillo rule, proved an able but occasionally mercurial leader who oversaw unprecedented rates of economic growth. Hipólito Mejía, a former agrarian engineer, was elected president in 2000 as the PRD candidate.

Howard J. Wiarda
      Under Mejía, the Dominican Republic entered into the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA–DR) with the United States and several Central American countries. Mejía also sent Dominican troops to fight in the Iraq War. The end of Mejía's term was plagued by a declining economy and chronic power shortages. Mejía ran for a second term (after the constitution was altered to allow an incumbent to serve consecutive terms) but lost to Fernández, who took office in 2004 and who was reelected to a third term in 2008.


Additional Reading

Comprehensive treatment of the country is found in Richard A. Haggerty (ed.), Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies, 2nd ed. (1991), with chapters by Haggerty, Patricia Kluck, Daniel J. Seyler, Howard J. Wiarda, and Melinda Wheeler Cooke. Other general surveys include Ian Bell, The Dominican Republic (1981); and Howard J. Wiarda and Michael J. Kryzanek, The Dominican Republic, a Caribbean Crucible, 2nd ed. (1992), a discussion of the land, people, economy, and politics in both contemporary and historical settings.A more detailed study of the population and the social and economic situation is found in H. Hoetink, The Dominican People, 1850–1900: Notes for a Historical Sociology (1982; originally published in Spanish, 1971). Later social and economic developments are studied in Kenneth Evan Sharpe, Peasant Politics: Struggle in a Dominican Village (1977), which discusses local politics and the international economic system; and José A. Moreno, Barrios in Arms: Revolution in Santo Domingo (1970), a sociologist's eyewitness account of the impact of the 1965 revolution on inner-city Santo Domingo. The effects of migration are analyzed in Glenn L. Hendricks, The Dominican Diaspora: From the Dominican Republic to New York City—Villagers in Transition (1974); Eugenia Georges, The Making of a Transnational Community: Migration, Development, and Cultural Change in the Dominican Republic (1990); and Sherri Grasmuck and Patricia R. Pessar, Between Two Islands: Dominican International Migration (1991).Dominican visual arts and architecture are discussed in Jeannette Miller, “Dominican Republic,” in Edward J. Sullivan (ed.), Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century (1996), pages 103–117; Manuel E. del Monte Urraca, Memorias de la ciudad de Santo Domingo: origen, decadencia y rescate de su patrimonio cultural (1992); Eugenio Pérez Montás, La ciudad del Ozama: 500 años de historia urbana (1998); and Jane Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art, 34 vol. (1996), which includes a brief but useful survey article. Musical styles, instruments, and cultural traditions are introduced in Martha Ellen Davis, “The Dominican Republic,” in Dale A. Olsen and Daniel E. Sheehy (eds.), The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 2 (1998), pages 845–863.

Frank Moya Pons, The Dominican Republic: A National History (1995), provides detailed background. Robert D. Crassweller, Trujillo: The Life and Times of a Caribbean Dictator (1966), is a biography that serves as a good introduction to 20th-century history. Treatments of the 1965 revolution include John Bartlow Martin, Overtaken by Events: The Dominican Crisis from the Fall of Trujillo to the Civil War (1966), written by the former U.S. ambassador; and Abraham E. Lowenthal, The Dominican Intervention (1972), a political scientist's analysis of the same events. Interpretive studies of postrevolutionary history include Howard J. Wiarda, Dictatorship, Development, and Disintegration: Politics and Social Change in the Dominican Republic, 3 vol. (1975); Michael J. Kryzanek and Howard J. Wiarda, The Politics of External Influence in the Dominican Republic (1988); and G. Pope Atkins and Larman C. Wilson, The Dominican Republic and the United States (1998).Howard J. Wiarda

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