Dominican Republic: Background and U.S. Relations

Posted on November 25, 2012 • Filed under: Dominican Republic, United States

The Dominican Republic, a country of roughly 10.1 million people that shares the Caribbean
island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a close U.S. trade partner and political ally in Latin America.
The United States is the Dominican Republic’s main trading partner, with two-way trade totaling
more than $11.5 billion in 2011. In addition to trade, U.S. interest in the Dominican Republic has
recently focused on anti-drug cooperation and governance/human rights issues, as well as the
country’s role in helping resolve regional conflicts. U.S.-Dominican cooperation on bilateral and
regional issues intensified during Leonel Fernández’s last two terms in office (2004-2008 and
2008-2012), and is expected to continue during the Danilo Medina Administration.
Led by former President Fernández, the center-left Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) has
solidified its dominance over Dominican politics. In May 2010, the PLD captured two-thirds of
the seats in the Dominican Congress; the party will remain in control of the legislature through
May 2016. The PLD prevailed again in the May 20, 2012 presidential election, as its candidate,
Danilo Medina, soundly defeated former president Hipólito Mejía (2000-2004) of the populist
Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Medina benefitted from outgoing President Fernández’s
continued popularity and from infighting within the PRD.
Inaugurated on August 16, 2012, President Danilo Medina, a former congressmen and minister of
the presidency, is seeking to build upon his predecessors’ legacy while resolving lingering
challenges the country is facing related to its fiscal situation, energy sector, and education system.
Analysts are expecting more continuity than change from the new government, particularly since
Fernández’s wife, Margarita Cedeño, is Medina’s vice president, and several top Fernández
administration officials have retained their cabinet positions. Medina will benefit from his party’s
congressional majority, but his room to maneuver may be limited by the country’s budget
problems and need to secure support from the International Monetary Fund.
In recent years, congressional interest in the Dominican Republic has focused on trade, security,
and human rights issues. Trade and investment flows have expanded since the Dominican
Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force
for the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007. U.S. trade capacity building assistance has also
reportedly helped boost Dominican competitiveness in some sectors. The United States is one of
the largest bilateral donors to the Dominican Republic; in FY2012, assistance totaled some $30.1
million. The Dominican Republic is also receiving U.S. aid through the Caribbean Basin Security
Initiative (CBSI), a regional security initiative for which Congress appropriated $203 million
from FY2010-FY2012. For FY2013, the Obama Administration requested $29.8 million for the
Dominican Republic and $59 million for the overall CBSI program, with the Dominican Republic
slated to receive a portion. Human rights issues, including the treatment of Haitians in the
Dominican Republic and trafficking in persons, have also been of interest to Congress.
This report provides background information on political and economic conditions in the
Dominican Republic, as well as an overview of some of the key issues in U.S.-Dominican
relations. For additional information, see CRS Report R42468, The Dominican Republic-Central
America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA DR): Developments in Trade and
Investment, by J. F. Hornbeck. Read Report PDF

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