The Dominican Republic is situated within the Caribbean Region and is a nation on the island of Hispaniola. Partly occupied by the nation of Haiti, Hispaniola is one of two Caribbean islands occupied by two countries.
The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, spanning a little over 18,000 square kilometres and home to an estimated 10 million people.
Since the seventeenth century the Dominican Republic was inhabited by Tainos, pre Columbus residents that were believed to be relatives of the Arawakan people of South America. When Columbus arrived in 1492, there were five Taino chiefdoms and territories. This soon became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas.
In 1795 the French ruled the entire island, when by the Peace of Basel Spain ceded Santo Domingo as a consequence of the French Revolutionary Wars. However, in 1808, following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, there was a revolution against the French rule and with the aid of Great Britain – Spain’s ally at the time – Spanish control was recovered.
In 1821, after three centuries of Spanish rule, the country became independent and was quickly taken over by Haiti. In 1844, the Dominicans experienced extreme political turmoil after the War of Independence. The United States intervened during the period of 1916 – 1924, which created a subsequent period of calm, followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961.
The civil war in 1965, which was the country’s last, was ended when the USA intervened. There was an authoritarian rule by Joaquín Balaguer from 1966 – 78, but since then the Dominican Republic has followed representative democracy, led by Leonel Fernández from 1996 onwards.
There are three branches of power within the Dominican Republic – executive, legislative and judicial. The President heads the executive branch and laws passed by Congress. The legislative area is controlled by a Senate, consisting of 32 members and the Chamber of Deputies with 178 members. Finally, the Supreme Court of Justice, with 16 members, controls the judicial rule.
Today, the Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean, and was long known for its production of sugar. However, as times have changed, the country has moved towards providing services. Unfortunately though, elements of government corruption and inconsistent utilities have left the country with a plethora of problems that have hampered its development.
As a result, large flows of migrants enter the United States, where the current total of Haitians is in excess of £1.3 million. This, in fact, benefits the Dominican Republic as these individuals send billions of dollars back home to fund their families, which in turn pays for economic development and is accountable for 10% of the country’s GDP.