275. Telegram 620 From the Embassy in the Dominican Republic to the Department of State1 2

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  • Balaguer’s Views on Elections

1. Summary: In a cordial conversation on March 17, President Balaguer assured me that the vast majority of Dominicans want elections and that they will be held barring an “unforeseeable catastrophe” and will be free and relatively peaceful. He said that he would ask for OAS teams to observe the elections. The President capsulized his impressions of the various opposition parties, but did not allude to the issue of his reelection. I used the opportunity to repeat our assurances of absolute USG neutrality coupled with support for the constitutionally elected government and opposition to the use of force to effect a change.

2. I saw President Balaguer morning March 17 at my request for approximately one hour conversation during which I sought his views on the current political situation in the Dominican Republic and the possibilities for holding free elections May 16. Our conversation was relaxed, frank and cordial. Balaguer appeared well and vigorous, although complaining mildly of the exhausting toll of heightened pressures during the present election period which he described as almost overwhelming. Balaguer said, “barring some unforeseeable catastrophe,” elections will be held in the Dominican Republic May 16. He said these elections [Page 2] will be “peaceful and free” and indicated he intends to ask the OAS to send teams to observe the elections. When I questioned the word peaceful, Balaguer said naturally one must remember Dominicans are Latins and emotions run high. There will be incidents no doubt, but no widespread disorder, as he has the responsibility to maintain order. Santo Domingo holds the greatest possibilities in the country for disorder since it is a large urban mass with many leftist extremists. Balaguer said that with the exception of groups on the extreme left, which he enumerated and among which he included the left wing of the PRD, the Dominican people want elections and are preparing for them. The Central Electoral Commission is making careful preparation to ensure the elections are as free as possible. The commission which with the exception of one member was appointed in 1962 under the Bosch government, is strong-minded and independent of the government. Balaguer complained the Central Electoral Commission is demanding two million pesos, which he thought excessive, to defray its costs during the election. He agreed, however, with my comments as to the great importance that the elections be accepted as being free not only by the majority of Dominicans but by world opinion in general.

3. Despite inevitable charges of intimidation and repression by the police (who in spite of some improvement remain a source of concern to him) and the army whom he described as not much better, Balaguer felt conditions can be created where an individual may freely vote according to his conscience once he enters the privacy of the polling booth. OAS observers will help in this regard. He attributed charges by opposition leaders that conditions do not at present exist which would permit free elections to “election tactics.”

4. Turning to each of the major opposition political parties, Balaguer said the PSC will be sure to go to the elections. Garcia Godoy has had too short a time to organize a new party and has little support. It is possible he may drop out of the race because of lack of support and lack of money. The pro-election element in the PRD conceivably could throw their support to Garcia Godoy, which would keep him in the race, or might make a deal with Lora. The PRD left wing will not participate in elections no matter what deal is made by the leaders. In this connection he felt Pena Gomez is fundamentally opposed to elections since he is so deeply [Page 3] influenced and formed by Bosch who has become a revolutionary. Wessin, in Balaguer’s view has little popular support. Although he grudgingly admitted Wessin appears to have made some recent gains, he said Wessin is not “an electoral threat” although he enjoys the support of the conservative right. The danger from Wessin lies in the fact he may attempt a golpe. Although Wessin has the support of “some elements in the armed forces” there are not significant in number. Also, there is antagonism between many of the military leaders and Wessin.

5. I reminded Balaguer that in November I had publicly stated the United States Government has no favorites in the Dominican elections, firmly supports the completion of the government’s constitutional mandate and the orderly transfer of power, and is strongly opposed to attempts to change the government by force or violence. I told him that in current contacts with both political and military leaders my officers and I are continuing to emphasize that this is our position. Balaguer said that he was aware of this. He appreciated the position taken by the Embassy and considers it to be correct.

6. I also told Balaguer that despite any reports to the contrary, we are not rendering financial assistance to any individual or party. This spurred him to deny current press charges that his government is diverting state funds for election purposes. He had given a small amount of money to the MNJ for medicine to be used in social action work, but this he would do for anyone. Otherwise the stories were totally false. The PR has adequate funds from business, industry and private individuals. The Vicini family, Central Romana and many others have come forward with substantial offers of assistance. The PR has no need of state funds which he would not permit to be diverted for such purposes in any event. Balaguer concluded our conversation by reiterating that barring an unforeseeable catastrophe there will be elections May 16 and that these elections will be free and “reasonably peaceful.”

7. Comment: At no point did Balaguer even allude to reelection.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 DOM REP. Confidential. It was repeated to USCINCSO and USCINCLANT for POLADS. In telegram 598 from Santo Domingo, March 15, Meloy reported that he had relayed the same information to Sacha Volman of the PRD. (Ibid., POL 14 DOM REP)
  2. Ambassador Meloy discussed the upcoming elections with President Balaguer. During the meeting, the Ambassador reminded Balaguer that the United States remained neutral, supported an orderly transfer of power, and strongly opposed any change through violent means.