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Dominican Republic

Background: A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative, rule for much of the 20th century was brought to an end in 1996 when free and open elections ushered in a new government.
Government type: representative democracy
Capital: Santo Domingo
Currency: 1 Dominican peso (RD$) = 100 centavos

Geography of the 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
total: 48,730 sq. km
land: 48,380 sq. km
water: 350 sq. km
Land boundaries:
total: 275 km
border countries: Haiti 275 km
Coastline: 1,288 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 6 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%
permanent crops: 9%
permanent pastures: 43%
forests and woodland: 12%
other: 15% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 2,300 sq. km (1993 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 agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate 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 of the Dominican Republic

About half of Dominicans live in rural areas; many are small landholders. Haitians form the largest foreign minority group. All religions are tolerated; the state religion is Roman Catholicism.

Population: 8,581,477 (July 2001 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  34.11%
15-64 years:  60.99% 
65 years and over:  4.9% 
Population growth rate: 1.63% 
Birth rate: 24.77 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 4.7 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: -3.81 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 34.67 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  73.44 years
male:  71.34 years
female:  75.64 years 
Total fertility rate: 2.97 children born/woman 
noun: Dominican(s)
adjective: Dominican
Ethnic groups: white 16%, black 11%, mixed 73%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%
Languages: Spanish
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 82.1%
male: 82%
female: 82.2% (1995 est.)

History of the Dominican Republic

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by Tainos, an Arawak-speaking people. The Tainos welcomed Columbus in his first voyage in 1492, but subsequent colonizers were brutal, reducing the Taino population from about 1 million to about 500 in 50 years. To ensure adequate labor for plantations, the Spanish brought African slaves to the island beginning in 1503.

In the next century, French settlers occupied the western end of the island, which Spain ceded to France in 1697, and which, in 1804, became the Republic of Haiti. The Haitians conquered the whole island in 1822 and held it until 1844, when forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero of Dominican independence, drove them out and established the Dominican Republic as an independent state. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire; in 1865, independence was restored. Economic difficulties, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing internal disorders led to a U.S. occupation in 1916 and the establishment of a military government in the Dominican Republic. The occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected Dominican Government.

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

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

In 1963, Juan Bosch was inaugurated President. Bosch was overthrown in a military coup in September 1963. Another military coup, on April 24, 1965, led to violence between military elements favoring the return to government by Bosch and those who proposed a military junta committed to early general elections. On April 28, U.S. military forces landed to protect U.S. citizens and to evacuate U.S. and other foreign nationals.

Additional U.S. forces subsequently established order. In June 1966, President Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now called the Social Christian Reformist Party–PRSC), was elected and then re-elected to office in May 1970 and May 1974, both times after the major opposition parties withdrew late in the campaign. In the May 1978 election, Balaguer was defeated in his bid for a fourth successive term by Antonio Guzman of the PRD. Guzman’s inauguration on August 16 marked the country’s first peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to another.

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

Balaguer was returned to the presidency with electoral victories in 1986 and 1990. Upon taking office in 1986, Balaguer tried to reactivate the economy through a public works construction program. Nonetheless, by 1988 the country slid into a 2-year economic depression, characterized by high inflation and currency devaluation. Economic difficulties, coupled with problems in the delivery of basic services–e.g., electricity, water, transportation–generated popular discontent that resulted in frequent protests, occasionally violent, including a paralyzing nationwide strike in June 1989.

In 1990, Balaguer instituted a second set of economic reforms. After concluding an IMF agreement, balancing the budget, and curtailing inflation, the Dominican Republic is experiencing a period of economic growth marked by moderate inflation, a balance in external accounts, and a steadily increasing GDP.

The voting process in 1986 and 1990 was generally seen as fair, but allegations of electoral board fraud tainted both victories. The elections of 1994 were again marred by charges of fraud. Following a compromise calling for constitutional and electoral reform, President Balaguer assumed office for an abbreviated term. In June 1996, Leonel Fernandez Reyna was elected to a 4-year term as president. In May 2000 Hipolito Mejia was elected to a 4-year term as president.

Dominican Republic Economy

The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism, energy, telecommunications, and Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption. Tourism accounts for nearly $1.5 billion in annual earnings. Free Trade Zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. Remittances from Dominicans living in the United States are estimated to total more than $1.5 billion per year.

Following economic turmoil in the late 1980s and 1990, during which the GDP fell by up to 5% and consumer price inflation reached an unprecedented 100%, the Dominican Republic entered a period of high growth and moderate inflation. GDP in 2001 grew by only 3.0% following 5 straight years of growth above 7.0%. The inflation rate in 2001 was about 5%.

Despite a widening merchandise trade deficit, tourism earnings and remittances have helped build foreign exchange reserves. The Dominican Republic is current on foreign private debt and has agreed to pay arrears of about $130 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation. The government faces several economic policy challenges–high real interest rates, poor tax-collection rates, and reduced demand for Dominican exports due to the slowdown in the world economy. Years of tariff protection for domestic production have left the economy vulnerable in a rapidly integrating global economy.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $48.3 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 8.3% (1999 est.), 8% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $5,700 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture:  11.3%
industry:  32.2%
services:  56.5% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.6%
highest 10%: 39.6% (1989)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.1% (1999), 7.9% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 2.3 million to 2.6 million
Labor force – by occupation: services and government 58.7%, industry 24.3%, agriculture 17% (1998 est.)
Unemployment rate: 13.8% (1999 est.)
revenues: $2.3 billion
expenditures: $2.9 billion, including capital expenditures of $867 million (1999 est.)
Industries: tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel and gold mining, textiles, cement, tobacco
Industrial production growth rate: 8% (2000 est.)
Electricity – production: 7.29 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  87.19%
hydro:  12.4%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0.41% (1999)
Agriculture – products: sugarcane, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, bananas; cattle, pigs, dairy products, beef, eggs
Exports: $5.1 billion (f.o.b., 1999), $5.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports – commodities: ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats
Exports – partners: US 66.1%, Netherlands 7.8%, Canada 7.6%, Russia 7.4%, UK 4.5% (1999 est.)
Imports: $8.2 billion (f.o.b., 1999), $9.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports – commodities: foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals
Imports – partners: US 25.7%, Venezuela 9.2%, Mexico 4%, Japan 3%, Panama 2.6% (1999 est.)
Debt – external: $4.7 billion (2000 est.)
Economic aid – recipient: $239.6 million (1995)
Currency: Dominican peso (DOP)

Map of the Dominican Republic