339. Telegram From the Embassy in the Dominican Republic to the Department of State1

1860. Upon relinquishing responsibility for US-Dominican relations here after nine months, should like record following observations and recommendations:

Government of this country is now in hands of moderate, anti-dictatorial and anti-Communist group which if anything is over-friendly to and dependent on US in this age of nationalism. It is accepted or supported by vast majority of politically conscious elements of population as transition to elections at end of year.
Sentiment toward US is, on whole, good. US is widely credited with having played key role in ending Trujillo dictatorship and its vestiges and with being principal bulwark against a possible new Communist dictatorship. Active anti-American feeling and actions have been concentrated in juvenile delinquent groups receiving exaggerated publicity in downtown area, whose unrepresentative character demonstrated by recent success of anti-Communist students in gaining control of university. This, however, should not obscure equally important fact that there is deep seated and growing nationalism which resents patronism or bear-hug by US and which could flare up into more active anti-American feeling.
Stability of Council of State is reasonably well assured against any direct attempts to overthrow. The extreme left does not have control of or significant influence over labor unions, students or civic organizations, or armed forces and thus does not have instrument to take power. The Union Civica National (UCN) and Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) which control upwards of 85 percent of organized political party members are both avowedly anti-Communist though some lower echelon leftist infiltration exists in both through country offsetting to some degree government’s ineptness to date in internal security matters since destruction Trujillo’s security apparatus. The Castro-lining “14 June” party is currently torn by internal dissension though maintaining a high degree of Communist infiltration, while the Castroist MPD is underground with its leader Lopez Molina fugitive from police. However, firm and sometimes unpopular measures will be required by Council of State with US support if sparks of Communist infiltration in this [Page 697] volatile transitional period are not to set off a conflagration. Softness and timidity can be fatal.
The armed forces profess complete loyalty to constitutional government and to the Council. Experience of General Rodriguez Echavarria’s attempted January coup has provided officers corps with convincing evidence that neither Dominican people or USG would support military government at this time. However, armed forces remain uneasy, disoriented, in need of restraining [retraining?], reorganization, and some regroupment but most of all in need of feeling that Council State, Dominican populace and USG support them in their constitutional role of preserving security of state. At future date, should civilian government stumble and population become tired of disorders and inefficiency some elements of armed forces will be ready to move in.
The economic situation of Dominican Republic is manageable and vigor and imagination can make it into a showcase of democratic as against Communist revolution. Our 25 million dollar credits should tide country over balance payments difficulties caused by Trujillo family’s looting. Difficult problem will arise in maintaining internal fiscal soundness in view of $35 million plus (almost quarter of budget) deficit if taxes not raised by May and of wage increase of 100 percent in sugar industry, perhaps 40 percent nationally in what must be greatest redistribution of income this year in any country participating in Alianza para el Progreso. Against manageable danger of inflation, however, must be set politically-stabilizing upspurt in commerce and business.
In international relations, present Dominican Government can be counted on to remain firmly aligned with us on key international security questions although it may well have tendency to show token independence on lesser issues and on issues in which developing countries stand against industrialized countries. The success of regime is dependent on cooperation with US and it knows it.
I foresee following as areas which will spell success or failure of US policies here:
US sugar quota: if US adopts global sugar quota paying world market prices this year, in my judgment results would be psychologically, politically and economically virtually disastrous to our policy objectives here. Even to attempt to press for this would hand Castro/Communist one thing they most lack, a convincing issue on which to sell Dominican opinion on thesis US is working against Dominican interests and imposing a new, exploiting colonial occupation on country. Loss of sugar income cannot be compensated for [by] government to government loans and grants under Alianza para el Progresso, since sugar industry under new wage structure cannot break even without US premium price.
Return of $22 million of sugar preferential “withheld” by USG under sanctions which Dominicans view as being rightly theirs. Dominican opinion across spectrum unlikely acquiesce in “retention” this money and left is sure exploit issue as long as it lasts. As setting country on feet likely cost another $22 million, we would be well advised move forward swiftly to restore this money.
Anti-Communist measures. Council of State may hesitate from time to time to take energetic measures to control Communist infiltration and agitation because of public sensitivity to any methods reminiscent of Trujillos. However, a strong hand in this field is a must and GODR will need extensive encouragement and help in reorganizing its security services and policies along modern humanitarian lines within the framework of constitutional democracy adapted to local conditions.
Armed forces are in need of immediate US encouragement and help in reorientation and adaption to new missions under Council. Military assistance agreement should be signed early this month, missions arrive immediately afterward, and grant-aid uniforms and other soft goods be airlifted in as soon as possible.
Labor organizations are divided and FOUPSA, originally intended as free labor movement, has been infiltrated by anti-American leftist elements at top. Although these have cagily not yet brought in significant number leftists at lower echelons and are strongly opposed by FOUPSA libre, creation of unified, independent and anti-Communist labor movement should be first objective and one from which we should not be diverted because of agitation re AFL-CIO or Embassy personalities or tactics.

While above and other pressing problems will require energetic US actions in coming weeks, leave these responsibilities with basic sense of optimism that both Dominican nation and USG have already demonstrated ability to meet greater challenges in effort thus far successful to prevent reversion to Trujillo-type tyranny or Communist take-over.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.39/3-462. Confidential. John Bartlow Martin was sworn in as Ambassador to the Dominican Republic on March 2; he presented his credentials on March 9.