Dominican Republic

Introduction Explored and claimed by Christopher COLUMBUS on his first voyage in 1492, the island of Hispaniola became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland. In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought to gain its own independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years; it finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire, but two years later they launched a war that restored independence in 1865. A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule followed, capped by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas TRUJILLO from 1930-61. Juan BOSCH was elected president in 1962, but was deposed in a military coup in 1963. In 1965, the United States led an intervention in the midst of a civil war sparked by an uprising to restore BOSCH. In 1966, Joaquin BALAGUER defeated BOSCH in an election to become president. BALAGUER maintained a tight grip on power for most of the next 30 years when international reaction to flawed elections forced him to curtail his term in 1996. Since then, regular competitive elections have been held in which opposition candidates have won the presidency. Former President (1996-2000) Leonel FERNANDEZ Reyna won election to a second term in 2004 following a constitutional amendment allowing presidents to serve more than one term.
History

The Taínos

The island of Hispaniola was inhabited by the Taínos, an Arawakan-speaking people, who may have arrived around A.D. 600, displacing earlier inhabitants.[5] The Taínos lived in villages headed by chiefs and called the island Kiskeya or Quisqueya that meant "highest land" also Ayti and Bohio.[6] By 1492 they were divided into five chiefdoms (cacicazgos in Spanish, from cacique, chief).

There are widely varying estimates of the population of Hispaniola in 1492, including 100,000,[7] 300,000[5] 3 million,[8] and 7-8 million.[9] They engaged principally in farming and fishing,[3] as well as hunting and gathering.

Spanish rule

Christopher Columbus landed at Môle Saint-Nicolas on December 5, 1492, in his first voyage, and claimed the island for Spain. Nineteen days later, the Santa Maria ran aground near the present site of Cap-Haitien; Columbus was forced to leave 39 men, founding the settlement of La Navidad. He returned to Spain, voyaging back to America three more times.

After initially friendly relations, the Taínos resisted the conquest. One of the earliest leaders to fight against the Spanish was the female Chief Anacaona of Xaragua, in the southwest, who married Chief Caonabo of Maguana, in the center and south of the island. The two fought hard against the Europeans; she was captured by the Spanish and executed in front of her people. Other notables who resisted include Chief Guacanagari, Chief Guamá, and Chief Hatuey, who later fled to Cuba and helped fight the Spaniards there. Chief Enriquillo fought victoriously against the Spaniards in the Baoruco Mountain Range, in the southwest, to gain freedom for himself and his people in a part of the island. The Taínos were by then nearly extinct. Most of the survivors mixed with runaway African slaves, called cimarrones, producing zambos. The mestizos increased in number as native women conceived to European men.

By the mid-1500s the majority of Taíno people had died out from mistreatment, disease, suicide, the breakup of family unity, starvation,[5] forced labor, torture, and war with the Spaniards. In 1561 Bartolomé de las Casas wrote that when he reached Hispaniola in 1508 "There were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this?"[10] Due to the total lack of previous interaction with Europeans, and hence no previous exposure to European diseases, the Taíno had developed no immunity to smallpox — which they probably contracted in some cases via sexual relations with Europeans — and other contagious diseases, resulting in a catastrophic loss of life that some have termed a genocide.

The Taíno bloodline in Hispaniola diluted more and more as the decades went by, primarily due to the establishment of Africans and Mulattos on the island; however, it is believed that many Dominicans today retain some native ancestry.[11][12] It has been stated that Las Casas exaggerated the Indian population decline in an effort to better persuade King Charles to intervene, and that encomenderos also exaggerated it, in order to receive permission to import more African slaves. Moreover, censuses of the time did not account for the number of Indians who had fled from the Spanish into remote communities, where they often lived alongside runaway Africans. To this are added further problems of racial categorization itself which, evidence suggests, was influenced by social factors: for instance, mestizos who were culturally Spanish were counted as Spaniards.[11]

In 1496 Bartolomeo Columbus, Christopher's brother, built the city of Nueva Isabela (New Isabella), now Santo Domingo, in the south of Hispaniola. It was one of the first Spanish settlements, and became Europe's first permanent settlement in the New World. The Spaniards created a plantation economy on Hispaniola, particularly from the second half of the 16th century.[7] The island became a springboard for European conquest of the Caribbean islands, called "Antilles", and soon after, the South American mainland, including what is modern-day coastal Venezuela and Colombia. Santo Domingo colony was for decades the headquarters of Spanish power in the New World. However, with the conquest of the mainland empires of the Aztecs and Incas, Hispaniola declined and Spain paid ever less attention to it. French bucaneers settled in the western part of the island, and in the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick Spain ceded that part of Hispaniola to France. It grew into the wealthy colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), with four times the population of Santo Domingo at the end of the 18th century.[13]

French rule

France came to own the whole island in 1795, when in the Treaty of Basel Spain ceded Santo Domingo as a consequence of the French Revolutionary Wars. At the time the slaves in the western part (Haiti), led by Toussaint Louverture, were in revolt against France. In 1801 Toussaint Louverture captured Santo Domingo from the French, thus gaining control of the entire island. However, an army sent by Napoleon captured him and sent him prisoner to France in 1802; still, Toussaint Louverture's successors, and yellow fever, expelled the French again from Haiti and gained independence, although France went on to recover Spanish Santo Domingo. In 1808, following Napoleon's invasion of Spain, the criollos of Santo Domingo revolted against French rule, and with Britain's (Spain's ally) and even Haiti's help,[14] returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control.[15]

The Ephemeral Independence and Haitian rule

After a dozen years of Spanish misrule and neglect and failed independence plots by various groups, former Spanish Lieutenant-Governor José Núñez de Cáceres declared the colony's independence as the state of Haití Español (Spanish Haiti) on November 30, 1821, requesting admission to Simón Bolívar's Gran Colombia. But the new nation's independence was short-lived, as Haitian forces, led by Jean-Pierre Boyer, invaded just nine weeks later in February 1822.[16]

As Toussaint Louverture had done the first time, the Haitians abolished slavery. But they nationalized all public property; most private property, including all the property of landowners who had left in the wake of the invasion; much Church property; as well as all property belonging to the former rulers, the Spanish Crown. All levels of education suffered collapse; the university was shut down, as it was starved of resources and 16-25 year-old Dominican men were drafted into the Haitian army. A "heavy tribute" was imposed on the Dominican people.[17] Many whites fled Santo Domingo for Puerto Rico, Cuba (both under Spanish rule), Venezuela and elsewhere.

Boyer also changed the Dominican economic system to place more emphasis on cash crops to be grown on large plantations, reformed the tax system, and allowed foreign trade. But the new system was widely opposed by Dominican farmers, although it produced a boom in sugar and coffee production. Boyer's troops, which included many Dominicans, were unpaid, and had to "forage and sack" from Dominican civilians. In the end the economy faltered and taxation became more onerous. Rebellions occurred even by freed Dominican slaves, while Dominicans and Haitians worked together to oust Boyer from power. Anti-Haitian movements of several kinds — pro-independence, pro-Spanish, pro-French, pro-British, pro-U.S. — gathered force following Boyer's overthrow in 1843.[17]

Independence

In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte founded a secret society called La Trinitaria that sought pure and simple independence of Santo Domingo without any foreign intervention.[18] Ramón Matías Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, (the latter one having African ancestry)[19] in spite of not being among the founding members, went on to be decisive in the fight for independence and are now hailed, along with Duarte, as the Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic. On February 27, 1844, the Trinitarios, as the members of La Trinitaria were known, declared independence from Haiti, backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo who became general of the army of the nascent Republic and is known as "El Liberador." The Dominican Republic's first Constitution was adopted on November 6, 1844, and was modeled after the United States Constitution.[3]

Yet the decades that followed were filled with tyranny, factionalism, economic difficulties, rapid changes of government, and exile for political opponents. Threatening the nation's independence were renewed Haitian invasions, occurring in 1844, 1845-49, 1849-55, and 1855-56.[17]

Meanwhile, archrivals Santana and Buenaventura Báez held power most of the time, both ruling arbitrarily. They promoted competing plans to annex the new nation to another power: Santana favored Spain, and Báez the United States.

The voluntary colony and the Restoration republic

In 1861, after silencing or exiling many of his opponents and mainly due to political and economic reasons, Santana signed a pact with the Spanish Crown and reverted the Dominican nation to a colonial status,[20] the only Latin American country to do so. Opponents launched the War of the Restoration in 1863, led by a group of men including Santiago Rodríguez and Benito Monción among others; General Gregorio Luperón distinguished himself at the end of the war. Haitian authorities, fearful of the re-establishment of Spain as colonial power on their border, gave refuge and logistics to Dominican revolutionaries to re-establish independence.[20] The United States, then fighting its own Civil War, vigorously protested the Spanish action. After two years of fighting, the Spanish troops abandoned the island.[20] The Restoration was proclaimed on August 16, 1863.

Political strife again prevailed in the years that followed; warlords ruled, military revolts were extremely common, and the nation amassed debt. In 1869 it was the turn of Báez to act on his plan of annexing the country to the United States,[16] with a payment of 1.5 million dollars by the U.S. as part of the deal, in order to alleviate the Dominican Republic's debts.[21][3] U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant supported this plan, but the United States Senate refused on June 30, 1870,[16] albeit by just one vote. President Grant thought that former American slaves could go to the Dominican Republic and live in peace, free of harassment by Southern whites.

Báez was toppled in 1874, returned, and was toppled for good in 1878. A new generation was now entirely in charge, with the passing of Santana (he died in 1864) and Báez from the scene. Relative peace came to the country in the 1880s,[23] which saw the coming to power of General Ulises Heureaux.

The new president was initially popular.[24] He was, however, "a consummate dissembler", who put the nation deep into debt while using much of the proceeds for his personal use and to maintain his police state.[24] Heureaux's rule became more despotic with time and he all the more unpopular.[25][24] In 1899 he was assassinated. However, the unprecentedly long calm over which he'd presided allowed for some improvement in the Dominican economy. The sugar industry was modernized,[26] and the country attracted foreign workers and immigrants, both from the Old World and the New.

From 1902 on, short-lived governments were again the norm and provincial leaders held much of the power. Furthermore, the national government was bankrupt and, unable to pay its debts, faced the threat of military intervention by France and other European powers seeking repayment.

U.S. intervention

It was this situation that U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sought to prevent, in great part in order to protect the vicinity of the Panama Canal, which was then under construction.[24] He made a small military intervention to ward off the European powers, proclaimed his famous Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and in 1906 the Dominican Republic and the United States entered into a 50-year treaty giving control of customs administration to the United States.[3] In exchange the United States agreed to use the customs proceeds to help reduce the immense foreign debt of the Dominican Republic,[3] and even assumed responsibility for said debt.[24]

In 1914, the United States, due to extreme political internal instability in the Dominican Republic (inability to elect a president), expressed concern and stated that a leader must be elected, or the United States would impose one.[27] As a result, Ramón Báez Machado was elected provisional president on August 27, 1914.[27] Presidential elections held on October 25 returned Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra to the presidency. Despite his victory, however, Jimenes felt impelled to appoint leaders and prominent members of the various political factions to positions in his government in an effort to broaden its support. The internecine conflicts that resulted had quite the opposite effect, weakening the government and the President and emboldening Secretary of War Desiderio Arias to take control of both the armed forces and the Congress, which he compelled to impeach Jimenes for violation of the constitution and the laws. Although the United States ambassador offered military support to his government, Jimenes opted to step down on May 7, 1916.

Arias never assumed the presidency formally. The United States government, apparently tired of its recurring role as mediator, had decided to take more direct action. By this time, U.S. forces were occupying Haiti. The initial military administrator of Haiti, Rear Admiral William Caperton, had actually forced Arias to retreat from Santo Domingo by threatening the city with naval bombardment on May 13, 1916.

U.S. occupation

The first Marines landed three days later, on May 19, 1916. Although they established effective control of the country within two months, the United States forces did not proclaim a military government until November. Most Dominican laws and institutions remained intact under military rule, although the shortage of Dominicans willing to serve in the Cabinet forced the military governor, Harry Shepard Knapp, to fill a number of portfolios with United States naval officers. The press and radio were censored for most of the occupation, and public speech was limited.

The surface effects of the occupation were largely positive. The Marines restored order throughout most of the republic (with the exception of the eastern region); the country's budget was balanced, its debt was diminished, and economic growth resumed. Infrastructure projects produced new roads that linked all the country's regions for the first time in its history. A professional military organization, the Dominican Constabulary Guard, replaced the partisan forces that had waged a seemingly endless struggle for power. Most Dominicans, however, greatly resented the loss of their sovereignty to foreigners, few of whom spoke Spanish or displayed much real concern for the welfare of the republic.

The most intense opposition to the occupation arose in the eastern provinces of El Seibo and San Pedro de Macorís. From 1917 to 1921, the United States forces battled a guerrilla movement in that area known as the "gavilleros". The guerrillas enjoyed considerable support among the population, and they benefited from a superior knowledge of the terrain. The movement survived the capture and the execution of its leader, Vicente Evangelista, and some initially fierce encounters with the Marines. However, the gavilleros eventually yielded to the occupying forces' superior firepower, air power (a squadron of six Curtis Jennies), and determined (often brutal) counter-insurgency methods.

After World War I, public opinion in the United States began to run against the occupation. U.S. President Warren G. Harding, who succeeded Woodrow Wilson in March 1921, had campaigned against the occupations of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In June 1921, United States representatives presented a withdrawal proposal, known as the Harding Plan, which called for Dominican ratification of all acts of the military government, approval of a loan of US$2.5 million for public works and other expenses, the acceptance of United States officers for the constabulary — now known as the Guardia Nacional (National Guard) — and the holding of elections under United States supervision.

Popular reaction to the plan was overwhelmingly negative. Moderate Dominican leaders, however, used the plan as the basis for further negotiations that resulted in an agreement allowing for the selection of a provisional president to rule until elections could be organized. Under the supervision of High Commissioner Sumner Welles, Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos assumed the provisional presidency on October 21, 1922. In the presidential election of March 15, 1924, former President Horacio Vásquez Lajara handily defeated Francisco J. Peynado. Vásquez's Alliance Party (Partido Alianza) also won a comfortable majority in both houses of Congress. With his inauguration on July 13, control of the republic returned to Dominican hands. He gave the country six years of good government, in which political and civil rights were respected and the economy grew strongly, in an atmosphere of peace.[28]

Trujillo era

The Dominican Republic was ruled by dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Trujillo ruled with an iron fist, persecuting anyone who opposed his regime. There was considerable economic growth during his rule, although a great deal of the wealth went to the dictator and other regime elements. He also renamed many towns and provinces after himself and members of his family, including the capital city Santo Domingo, renamed Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City).

In 1937 Trujillo (who was himself one-quarter Haitian),[29] in an event known as the Parsley Massacre or in the Dominican Republic as El Corte (The Cutting),[30] ordered the Army to kill Haitians on the Dominican side of the border. An estimated 17,000 to 35,000 Haitians were killed over approximately five days, from the night of October 2, 1937 through October 8, 1937. Haitians were cut down with machetes.[29][16] The soldiers of Trujillo would go out and interrogate anyone with dark skin, hold up a sprig of perejil (parsley) and pronounce what they were holding up. Haitians who spoke French and/or Kreyol said the "r" in perejil with a flat long pronunciation, while Dominicans said it with a trilled "r" sound.[30] This massacre was alleged to have been an attempt to seize money and property from Haitians living on the border.[31] As a result of this massacre the Dominican Republic agreed to pay Haiti $750,000.00, which was later reduced to US$525,000.[32][20] The Dominican government headed by Trujillo for a long time was supported by the USA,[33] the Catholic Church, and the Dominican elite; even after the death of Dominicans in the political opposition and over 17,000 Haitians.[30] Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961 in Santo Domingo.

Post-Trujillo

A democratically-elected government under leftist Juan Bosch took office in 1963, but was overthrown later in the year. After nineteen months of military rule, a pro-Bosch revolt took place in 1965. US Marines arrived in the Dominican Republic to restore order in Operation Powerpack, later to be joined by forces from the Organization of American States.[34] They remained in the country for over a year and left after supervising elections which led to the victory of Joaquín Balaguer, who had been Trujillo's last puppet president, over Bosch.

Balaguer remained in power as president for 12 years. His tenure was a period of repression of civil liberties, presumably to prevent pro-Cuba or pro-communist parties from gaining power in the country. Balaguer's rule was accompanied by a growing disparity between rich and poor.

1978 to present

In 1978, Balaguer was succeeded in the presidency by opposition candidate Antonio Guzmán Fernández, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). From 1978 to 1986, the Dominican Republic experienced a period of relative freedom and basic human rights. Balaguer regained the presidency in 1986, and was re-elected in 1990 and 1994, defeating PRD candidate José Francisco Peña Gómez, a former mayor of Santo Domingo. Both the national and international communities generally viewed these elections as a major fraud, leading to political pressure for Balaguer to step down. Balaguer responded by scheduling another presidential contest in 1996, which was won by Bosch's Dominican Liberation Party for the first time, with Leonel Fernández as its candidate. In 2000, Hipólito Mejía won the electorate when opposing candidates Danilo Medina and a very old Joaquín Balaguer decided that they would not force a runoff after the first got 49.8% of the votes. In 2004, Leonel Fernández was elected again, with 57% of the votes, defeating then-incumbent president Mejía.

Geography 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: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 6 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
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: 22.49%
permanent crops: 10.26%
other: 67.25% (2005)
Irrigated land: 2,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 21 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3.39 cu km/yr (32%/2%/66%)
per capita: 381 cu m/yr (2000)
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
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti
Politics

The Dominican Republic holds elections every four years at the congressional levels as well as every four years at the presidential levels. The country becomes highly politicized, as millions of dollars are spent in propaganda and campaigning. The political system is characterized by clientelism, which has corrupted the system throughout the years.[36]

There are many political parties and interest groups and, new in this scenario, civil organizations. The three major parties are the conservative Social Christian Reformist Party (Spanish: Partido Reformista Social Cristiano [PRSC]), in power 1966–78 and 1986–96; the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Dominicano [PRD]), in power in 1963, 1978–86, and 2000–04); and the increasingly conservative Dominican Liberation Party (Spanish: Partido de la Liberación Dominicana [PLD]), in power 1996–2000 and since 2004.

Foreign relations
Main article: Foreign relations of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic maintains close relations with the nations of the Western Hemisphere and the principal nations of Europe. Relations with the U.S. are very close.[37]

The country is a member of the following international organizations:[2] ACP, Caricom (observer), ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA (graduate), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (suspended), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (or ITSO), Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent member), ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), PCA, Rio Group, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Unión Latina, UNOCI, UNWTO (or WToO), UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (or WTrO).

People Population: 9,365,818 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 32.1% (male 1,532,813/female 1,477,033)
15-64 years: 62.2% (male 2,971,620/female 2,851,207)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 247,738/female 285,407) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 24.5 years
male: 24.3 years
female: 24.6 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.5% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 22.91 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.32 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.59 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.868 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 27.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 30.05 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 25.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.07 years
male: 71.34 years
female: 74.87 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.81 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.7% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 88,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 7,900 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Dominican(s)
adjective: Dominican
Ethnic groups: mixed 73%, white 16%, black 11%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%
Languages: Spanish
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87%
male: 86.8%
female: 87.2% (2002 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Dominican Republic
conventional short form: The Dominican
local long form: Republica Dominicana
local short form: La Dominicana
Government type: democratic republic
Capital: name: Santo Domingo
geographic coordinates: 18 28 N, 69 54 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 31 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 district* (distrito); Azua, Bahoruco, Barahona, Dajabon, Distrito Nacional*, Duarte, El Seibo, Elias Pina, 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, San Cristobal, San Jose de Ocoa, San Juan, San Pedro de Macoris, Sanchez Ramirez, Santiago, Santiago Rodriguez, Santo Domingo, Valverde
Independence: 27 February 1844 (from Haiti)
National holiday: Independence Day, 27 February (1844)
Constitution: 28 November 1966; amended 25 July 2002
Legal system: based on French civil codes; Criminal Procedures Code modified in 2004 to include important elements of an accusatory system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal and compulsory; married persons regardless of age; note - members of the armed forces and national police cannot vote
Executive branch: chief of state: President Leonel FERNANDEZ Reyna (since 16 August 2004); Vice President Rafael ALBURQUERQUE de Castro (since 16 August 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Leonel FERNANDEZ Reyna (since 16 August 2004); Vice President Rafael ALBURQUERQUE de Castro (since 16 August 2004)
cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second consecutive term); election last held 16 May 2004 (next to be held in May 2008)
election results: Leonel FERNANDEZ elected president; percent of vote - Leonel FERNANDEZ 57.1%, Rafael Hipolito MEJIA Dominguez 33.7%, Eduardo ESTRELLA 8.7%
Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional consists of the Senate or Senado (32 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Camara de Diputados (178 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 16 May 2006 (next to be held in May 2008); House of Representatives - last held 16 May 2006 (next to be held in May 2008)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLD 22, PRD 6, PRSC 4; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLD 96, PRD 60, PRSC 22
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges are appointed by the National Judicial Council comprised of the president, the leaders of both chambers of congress, the president of the Supreme Court, and an additional non-governing party congressional representative)
Political parties and leaders: Dominican Liberation Party or PLD [Leonel FERNANDEZ Reyna]; Dominican Revolutionary Party or PRD [Ramon ALBURQUERQUE]; National Progressive Front [Vincent CASTILLO, Pelegrin CASTILLO]; Social Christian Reformist Party or PRSC [Enrique ANTUN]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Citizen Participation Group (Participacion Ciudadania); Collective of Popular Organizations or COP; Foundation for Institution-Building and Justice (FINJUS)
International organization participation: ACP, Caricom (observer), FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (suspended), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Flavio Dario ESPINAL Jacobo
chancery: 1715 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-6280
FAX: [1] (202) 265-8057
consulate(s) general: Anchorage, Boston, Chicago, Mayaguez (Puerto Rico), Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador P. Robert FANNIN
embassy: corner of Calle Cesar Nicolas Penson and Calle Leopoldo Navarro, Santo Domingo
mailing address: Unit 5500, APO AA 34041-5500
telephone: [1] (809) 221-2171
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 featuring a shield supported by an olive branch (left) and a palm branch (right) is at the center of the cross; above the shield a blue ribbon displays the motto, DIOS, PATRIA, LIBERTAD (God, Fatherland, Liberty), and below the shield, REPUBLICA DOMINICANA appears on a red ribbon
Culture

The culture of the Dominican Republic, like its Caribbean neighbors, is a blend of the European colonists, Taínos and Africans, and their cultural legacies. Spanish, also known as Castellano (Castilian) is the official language. Other languages such as Haitian Creole, English, French, German, and Italian are also spoken to varying degrees. Haitian Creole is spoken fluently by 159,000[93] or as many as 1.2 million[94] Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and is the third most spoken language after Spanish and English. European, African and Taíno cultural elements are most prominent in food, family structure, religion and music. Many Arawak/Taíno names and words are used in daily conversation and for many items endemic to the DR.

Cuisine

Dominican Republic cuisine is predominantly made up of a combination of Spanish, Taino and African influences over the last few centuries. Typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries but, many of the names of dishes are different. Breakfast usually consists of eggs and mangú (mashed, boiled plantain). For heartier versions, these are accompanied by deep-fried meat and/or cheese. Similar to Spain, lunch is generally the largest and most important meal of the day. Lunch usually consists of some type of meat (chicken, pork or fish), rice and beans, and a side portion of salad. "La Bandera" (literally, The Flag), the most popular lunch dish, consists of broiled chicken, white rice and red beans.

Typical Dominican cuisine usually accommodates all four food groups, incorporating meat or seafood; rice, potatoes or plantains; and is accompanied by some other type of vegetable or salad. However, meals usually heavily favor meats and starches, less dairy products, and little to no vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs and spices sautéed to bring out all of the dish's flavors. Throughout the south-central coast, bulgur, or whole wheat, is a main ingredient in quipes or tipili (bulgur salad). Other favorite Dominican dishes include chicharrón, yucca, casave, and pastelitos.

Some treats Dominicans enjoy are arroz con leche (or arroz con dulce), bizcocho dominicano, habichuelas con dulce, flan, frio frio, dulce de leche, and caña or sugar cane.

The beverages Dominicans enjoy include Morir Soñando, rum, beer, Mamajuana, batida (smoothie), ponche, mabí, and coffee.

Music

Musically, the Dominican Republic is known for the creation of Merengue music,[96] a type of lively, fast-paced rhythm and dance music consisting of a tempo of about 120 to 160 beats per minute (it varies wildly) based on musical elements like drums, brass and chorded instruments, as well as some elements unique to the music style of the DR, such as the marimba. Its syncopated beats use Latin percussion, brass instruments, bass, and piano or keyboard. Not known for social content in its commercial form (Merengue Típico or Perico Ripiao is very socially charged), it is primarily a dancehall music that was declared the national music during the Trujillo regime. Well-known merengue singers include Juan Luis Guerra, Fernando Villalona, Eddy Herrera, Sergio Vargas, Toño Rosario, Johnny Ventura, and Milly Quezada. Merengue became popular mostly on the east coast of the United States during the 1980s an 90s,[97] when many Puerto Rican groups such as Elvis Crespo were produced by Dominican bandleaders and writers living in the US territory[citation needed]. The emergence of Bachata-Merengue along with a larger number of Dominicans living among other Latino groups (particularly Cubans and Puerto Ricans in New York, New Jersey, and Florida) contributed to the music's growth in popularity.[98].

Bachata, a form of music and dance that originated in the countryside and rural marginal neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic, has become quite popular in recent years. Its subjects are often romantic; especially prevalent are tales of heartbreak and sadness. In fact, the original term used to name the genre was "amargue" ("bitterness," or "bitter music"), until the rather ambiguous (and mood-neutral) term bachata became popular.

Bachata grew out of — and is still closely related to — the pan-Latin American romantic style called bolero. Over time, it has been influenced by merengue and by a variety of Latin American guitar styles.

Sports

Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic today.[99] After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in the U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB). These players, some of them regarded as some of the best in the game, include:
Sammy Sosa, 1998 National League MVP Award and member of the exclusive (only 4 other players have reached the mark) 600 home run club.
Albert Pujols, 2001 National League Rookie of the Year 2005 National League MVP Award winner.
Pedro Martínez, three time Cy Young Award winner, considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
Vladimir Guerrero, 2004 American League MVP Award winner and 2007 Home Run Derby winner.
David Ortiz, first baseman/ designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox
Jose Reyes, 2007 MLB's Stolen Base Leader
Manny Ramírez, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox
Miguel Tejada
Alfonso Soriano, infielder/outfielder for the Chicago Cubs

The Dominican Republic has participated in the Baseball World Cup winning one Gold (1948), three Silver (1942, 1950, 1952), and two Bronze (1943, 1969), second behind Cuba's record of twenty-five Gold, two Silver and two Bronze.

The country also participated in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, the inaugural tournament in which they finished semifinalists along with Korea.

Historically, the Dominican Republic has been linked to MLB since Ozzie Virgil, Sr. became the first Dominican to play there. Other very notable players were Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou, Rico Carty, George Bell, Jose Rijo and Stan Javier, among many others.

The Dominican Republic also has its own baseball league, which runs its season from October to January (called The Winter League by MLB), and includes six teams: Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers), Aguilas Cibaeñas (Cibao Eagles), Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao Giants), Azucareros del Este (Eastern Sugar-makers), Estrellas Orientales (Eastern Stars), and Leones del Escogido (Escogido Lions). Many MLB players and minor leaguers play in this six-team league during the off-season. As such, the Dominican winter league serves as an important "training ground" for MLB.

Olympic gold medalist and world champion over 400 m hurdles Félix Sánchez hails from the Dominican Republic, as does current defensive end for the San Diego Chargers (National Football League (NFL)), Luis Castillo. He was the cover athlete for the Spanish language version of Madden NFL 08.[100]

The National Basketball Association (NBA), also has players from the Dominican Republic, such as:
Francisco García, guard-forward, Sacramento Kings.
Al Horford, power forward and 3rd overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Felipe López, former shooting guard for several teams

Boxing is one of the more important sports after baseball, and the country has produced scores of world-class fighters and world champions, among them Carlos Teo Cruz, Leo Cruz, Héctor Acero Sánchez, Julio César Green, Joan Guzmán, and Juan Carlos Payano.

Economy Economy - overview: The Dominican Republic has enjoyed strong GDP growth since 2005, with double digit growth in 2006. In 2007, exports were bolstered by the nearly 50% increase in nickel prices; however, prices are expected to fall in 2008, contributing to a slowdown in GDP growth for the year. 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 economy is highly dependent upon the US, the source of nearly 80% of exports, and remittances represent about a tenth of GDP, equivalent to almost half of exports and three-quarters of tourism receipts. With the help of strict fiscal targets agreed to in the 2004 renegotiation of an IMF standby loan, President FERNANDEZ has stabilized the country's financial situation, lowereing inflation to less than 6%. A fiscal expansion is expected for 2008 prior to the elections in May and for Tropical Storm Noel reconstruction. Although the economy is growing at a respectable rate, high unemployment and underemployment remains an important challenge. The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest 10% enjoys nearly 40% of national income. The Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) came into force in March 2007, which should boost investment and exports and diminishes losses to the Asian garment industry.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $85.4 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $35.49 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7.2% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $9,200 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 11.5%
industry: 28.3%
services: 60.2% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 3.986 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 17%
industry: 24.3%
services: 58.7% (1998 est.)
Unemployment rate: 15.5% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 42.2% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.4%
highest 10%: 41.1% (2004)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 51.6 (2004)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.8% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 17.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $7.014 billion
expenditures: $6.985 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 40.4% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: sugarcane, coffee, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, bananas; cattle, pigs, dairy products, beef, eggs
Industries: tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel and gold mining, textiles, cement, tobacco
Industrial production growth rate: 5.5% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 12.22 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 92%
hydro: 7.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.4% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 8.791 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 12 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - consumption: 116,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 116,700 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 239.8 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 239.8 million cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$1.993 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $6.881 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats, consumer goods
Exports - partners: US 72.7%, UK 3.2%, Belgium 2.4% (2006)
Imports: $12.89 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals
Imports - partners: US 46.9%, Venezuela 8.4%, Colombia 6.3%, Mexico 5.7% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $76.99 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $2.525 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $8.842 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $10.67 billion (2006 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $59 million (2006 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Dominican peso (DOP)
Currency code: DOP
Exchange rates: Dominican pesos per US dollar - 33.113 (2007), 33.406 (2006), 30.409 (2005), 42.12 (2004), 30.831 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 897,000 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 4.606 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: relatively efficient system based on island-wide microwave radio relay network
domestic: fixed telephone line density is about 10 per 100 persons; multiple providers of mobile cellular service with a subscribership of roughly 50 per 100 persons
international: country code - 1-809; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and US; 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 (2003)
Televisions: 770,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .do
Internet hosts: 81,218 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 24 (2000)
Internet users: 1.232 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 34 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 15
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 19
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 11 (2007)
Railways: total: 517 km
standard gauge: 375 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 142 km 0.762-m gauge
note: additional 1,226 km operated by sugar companies in 1.076 m, 0.889 m, and 0.762-m gauges (2006)
Roadways: total: 12,600 km
paved: 6,224 km
unpaved: 6,376 km (1999)
Merchant marine: total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 1,587 GRT/1,165 DWT
by type: cargo 1
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Boca Chica, Caucedo, Puerto Plata, Rio Haina, Santo Domingo
Military Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Dominicana, FAD) (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 2,133,142
females age 18-49: 2,032,840 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 1,671,493
females age 18-49: 1,536,257 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 91,699
females age 18-49: 87,550 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.8% (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: Haitian migrants cross the porous border into the Dominican Republic to find work; illegal migrants from the Dominican Republic cross the Mona Passage each year to Puerto Rico to find better work
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; substantial money laundering activity; Colombian narcotics traffickers favor the Dominican Republic for illicit financial transactions; significant amphetamine consumption