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Dominican Republic: Missions
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Role of the Military in Public Life > Missions


The Dominican Republic faced no serious external military threat during the 1980s, and as of 1989, it appeared unlikely that the armed forces would be required to undertake an external defense mission during the 1990s. Nonetheless, military posture continued to focus on the potential security threats represented by Haiti and Cuba.

The nation's traditional enmity toward Haiti made security along the common border a matter of concern, and army troops and observation posts were located along the length of the 388- kilometer frontier. The Dominican armed forces did not view defense against a possible Haitian invasion as a particularly high priority, however. Border defense commanded relatively few military resources, in part because Haitian military capability was clearly unequal to that of Dominican forces. Despite these factors, the Dominicans showed no signs of forgetting Haiti's historically proven ability to raise large armies on short notice. Practically speaking, however, continuing political upheaval in Haiti represented a more serious concern than did a potential invasion. Several hundred thousand illegal Haitian immigrants were working in the nation as agricultural laborers, and the Dominicans feared that the number could grow if the economic situation in Haiti continued to deteriorate. Continuing border disputes between the two nations were also a source of concern.

After Fidel Castro Ruz's assumption of power in 1959, the Dominican Republic also viewed Cuba as a potential external threat. This stance was rooted in the anticommunist sentiments first espoused by Trujillo and still felt by most military officers as the 1980s ended. It also had a basis in a 1959 Cubanbased invasion attempt by anti-Trujillo Dominicans. Cuba itself had never taken overt military action against the nation, however, and security concerns usually focused on the prevention of Cuban-sponsored insurgency. Critics of the armed forces charged that the military justified attacks on political groups and on political and labor activists by falsely accusing them of having ties with Cuba.

In practice, the primary mission of the armed forces was to maintain internal security and public order in the nation. Until the mid-1970s, the military occasionally conducted operations against limited insurgencies, but by the late 1970s, the country was relatively free of insurgent groups. Those still in existence in 1989 were small underground groups confined mainly to remote mountain areas. These groups rarely presented a threat to public peace.

As part of its mission to assist the police in maintaining public order, the military kept close watch on political groups that it deemed possible sources of instability, including legal opposition parties. The armed forces were also frequently called out to augment police efforts to control demonstrations and riots. On several occasions during the 1980s, such disturbances resulted in injuries and loss of life, leading critics to charge that the armed forces had used unnecessarily harsh tactics to restore order.

Article 93 of the Constitution states that an objective of the creation of the armed forces is to pursue civic action programs and, at the direction of the executive branch, to participate in projects that promote national social and economic development. As a result, the armed forces maintained an active civic action program. Units of the armed forces dug wells, constructed roads, built houses and schools, and provided educational and sports equipment to rural schools. Military medical and dental teams made visits around the country. As part of its civic action mission, the army was largely responsible for protecting and replanting the nation's forests. It supervised the Directorate General of Forestry, through which the army helped to protect against forest fires and worked to publicize the need for forest conservation. The air force transported medicine, doctors, and food to areas damaged by hurricanes or other natural disasters, and flew the injured to hospitals. Navy schools trained most of the nation's diesel mechanics, and the navy played a large role in transporting the nation's stock of fuel oil. Critics of the armed forces asserted that these contributions, although varied, were sometimes limited in scope and were not nearly so important to national development as claimed in armed forces public relations statements.

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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