FEDECARES Dominican Republic
Total Population: 8,890,000 (2005)
Life expectancy at birth: 68 years (2005)
GNI per capita (US$): 237 (2005)
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The Dominican Republic is a country located on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bordering Haiti. A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule lasted for much of the 20th century; the move towards representative democracy has improved vastly since the death of military dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1961.
The Dominican Republic was the first European settlement in the New World and became the first point of colonisation in the Americas from explorers from Europe. Christopher Columbus explored and claimed Hispaniola for the Spanish crown during his first voyage to the hemisphere in 1492. On his return the following year, Columbus founded the first European settlement in America at La Isabela. Large numbers of Tainos and other native migrants of island were killed by diseases like smallpox and others were enslaved. Hispaniola was to become a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland. In 1697, Spain recognised French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became independent Haiti after a slave rebellion.
Haiti controlled the western 2/5 of the island and the remainder of the island, 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 February 27 of the year 1844. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire, but two years later a war of independence was launched, ending with victory in 1865. The United States ruled Dominican territory with a military government from 1916 to 1924. From 1931 to his assassination in 1961 dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic. During this time, the nation experienced social and economic progress. A continual slow growing economy has been seen by the past decades.
In 1965, US troops invaded the Dominican Republic to steer the outcome of a civil war in Operation Powerpack, later to be joined by forces from other countries in an early example of a "coalition of the willing". They remained in the country for over a year and left after supervising elections, in which they ensured victory by Joaquín Balaguer. He retained power for 12 years, which saw moderate repression presumably to avoid pro Cuba or pro communist parties to gain power in the country. This succeeded, and saw a growing disparity between rich and poor, until 1978, where a small gap and relief in democracy, two periods elapsed without direct control or repression until Balaguer re-attained power for another two periods of 4 years each in 1986, which saw almost complete freedom of speech and expression. Balaguer was pressured out of office in 1994 following international outcry over fixed elections but rearranged elections in 1996 when the Dominican Liberation Party gained elections for the first time.
The Dominican Republic is a middle-income developing country primarily dependent on trade, and services, especially tourism. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans, agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place (behind mining) in terms of export earnings. According to the 2005 Annual Report of the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Development in the Dominican Republic, the country is ranked #71 in the world for resource availability, #94 for human development, and #14 in the world for resource mismanagement. These statistics emphasize the national government corruption, the foreign economic interference in the country, and the rift between the rich and poor.
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