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Dominican Republic: National Security
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security


By tradition, the Dominican Republic's armed forces had been active participants in the competition for national political power and often had functioned as a praetorian guard for the government holding power. The military continued to play these parts as the 1990s neared; however, it appeared that, during the 1970s and the 1980s, successive governments had been able to reduce the military's former role in national political life (most evident in the early 1960s) as self-appointed final arbiter of public policy.

The armed forces' reduced stature was made evident in the late 1980s by their transformation into an interest group -- albeit an important one -- competing with other such groups for power and influence within the nation's increasingly pluralistic political system. It would be premature, however, to conclude that the goal of developing an institutionalized and apolitical military establishment had been completely realized by 1989. Individual military officers continued to exert considerable political influence, and armed forces units continued to be employed overtly during political campaigns. Nonetheless, the military's explicit support of civilian governments during the 1980s suggested that the armed forces had accepted the principle of civilian control.

As of mid-1989, the nation faced no credible external threat and only a negligible insurgent threat. As a result, the armed forces were principally employed in working with the National Police to maintain domestic order, chiefly by helping to control demonstrations, riots, and other large-scale threats to public order. Most such disturbances during the mid-1980s and the late 1980s received their impetus from domestic austerity programs inaugurated because of adverse international economic conditions. Public discontent over the concomitant deterioration of living conditions for ordinary citizens, as well as a decline in the level and the quality of public services, occasionally manifested itself in widespread, and sometimes violent, outbreaks that resulted in the intervention of the armed forces and police. The security forces were also called out on several occasions to deal with violence associated with political campaigning and elections.

National economic constraints during the mid-1980s and the late 1980s were reflected in defense budgets, as spending on weapons replacement and modernization was virtually eliminated. The military leadership apparently acquiesced in this policy, despite its serious effects on readiness. This acquiescence may have occurred because the armed forces' pay and benefits were largely shielded from the cuts.

For administrative purposes, the armed forces were under thejurisdiction of the secretary of state for the armed forces. Operational command of the approximately 21,000-member military was exercised through the deputy secretaries of state for the army, the navy, and the air force. The army was the largest and the most influential of the three services, and it was equipped mainly as a light infantry force. The navy was a coastal patrol force that included a battalion of marines. The air force flew transport planes and helicopters, and it had a small number of Cessna A-37B Dragonfly counterinsurgency aircraft used mainly for patrol purposes.

The National Police was the principal agency charged with maintaining public order. In addition to its paramilitary activities, it was organized to perform routine patrols and other crime prevention and control functions. Approximately half the members of the National Police were stationed in the capital. The rest were assigned to posts throughout the remainder of the country.

Criminal justice was the responsibility of the national government. The national judiciary, headed by the Supreme Court of Justice, administered the country's criminal courts, and the attorney general oversaw the system of government prosecutors. All penal and procedural statutes were issued by the central government.

Data as of December 1989

Last Updated: December 1989

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Dominican Republic was first published in 1989. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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