Country profile: Dominican Republic
Once ruled by Spain, the Dominican Republic (DR) shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony.
The Caribbean nation is a major tourist destination. Tourism, and the
DR's free-trade zones, have become major employers and key sources of
revenue. Sugar, coffee and tobacco are among the main exports.
The largely mountainous country includes Pico Duarte - the highest
point in the West Indies, the fertile Cibao Valley, swathes of desert,
and Lake Enriquillo - the lowest point in the region.
Politics: President Leonel Fernandez has made economic recovery a priority; he won his third term in May 2008
Economy: The DR has entered a free trade
accord with the US and Central American nations; President Fernandez
has cut spending, restructured debt and secured IMF funds
International: Hundreds of thousands of Haitians live and work illegally in the DR
The DR is inhabited mostly by people of mixed European and African
origins. Western influence is seen in the colonial buildings of the
capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in art and literature. African
heritage is reflected in music. The two heritages blend in the popular
song and dance, the merengue.
No blending of fortunes, however, is evident in the distribution of wealth between ethnic groups.
DR is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. There is a huge
gap between the rich and the poor, with the richest being the white
descendants of Spanish settlers, who own most of the land, and the
poorest comprising people of African descent. The mixed race majority
controls much of the commerce.
Mutual distrust has soured
relations between the DR and its troubled neighbour, Haiti. Up to one
million Haitians live in the DR, many of them illegally. The government
has carried out mass deportations.
- Full name: Dominican Republic
- Population: 10 million (UN, 2008)
- Capital: Santo Domingo
- Area: 48,072 sq km (18,696 sq miles)
- Major language: Spanish
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Dominican peso = 100 centavos
- Main exports: Ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats
- GNI per capita: US$4,390 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .do
- International dialling code: +1809
President: Leonel Fernandez
Leonel Fernandez of
the Dominican Liberation Party won a third term as president in
elections in May 2008, propelled back into office by what many see as
his success in pulling his country out of a deep economic slump.
Leonel Fernandez promised to tackle soaring inflation
He inherited a crumbling economy in 2004 when he became president for the second time. His first term was from 1996 to 2000.
the help of loans from the International Monetary Fund, Fernandez
managed to turn things around. However, official unemployment in 2008
was still nearly 16 percent and about a quarter of the population lives
below the poverty line, according to the government.
1953, the son of an army officer, the young Leonel Fernandez moved to
New York with his family. He returned to the Dominican Republic and
attended the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. Active in student
politics, he obtained a doctorate in 1978.
He has worked as a lawyer and university professor. He speaks Spanish, French and English, and is married with three children.
was dominated for decades by former President Joaquin Balaguer, who
jailed critics and rigged elections. He became president in 1960 and
stepped down after mass demonstrations in 1996.
Congress barred sitting presidents from seeking new terms but lifted
the ban in 2002, allowing presidents to run for four more years.
Ownership of TV channels, radio stations and newspapers is concentrated in a few economically or politically-powerful hands.
are several terrestrial TV channels and many multichannel cable TV
operators. More than 200 radio stations are on the air, most of them
commercial. The government operates TV and radio networks.
freedom is guaranteed by law and media outlets carry diverse political
views. Some subjects, such as the Catholic Church and the army, are
- DR1 - online news, English-language