284. Telegram 1712 From the Embassy in the Dominican Republic to the Department of State1 2

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  • Meeting With President: Tour d’Horizon

1. I called on President Balaguer at my request at 10:00 a.m. July 7, and had about an hour and a quarter conversation with him. I took the occasion to present to President Balaguer President Nixon’s message of congratulations on his reelection now that his election has been officially certified. Balaguer expressed appreciation and thanks to President Nixon.

2. I congratulated the President on the progress which has been made in the Dominican Republic under his leadership in the past four years in the face of many dangers, difficulties and obstacles. A good beginning has been made, but as he himself has said many fundamental and pressing problems remain. I would be interested in anything he could tell me about his new plans and programs for the next four years. What would he consider to be his major problems and where was he planning to place his priorities.

3. The President replied he had not yet decided on various personnel changes he intends to make. I said I was more interested in the policies than the personalities at the moment and asked if he were prepared to give me some indications as to the line of his thoughts. Balaguer said he is still working on the program of his [Page 2] new administration. However, the two fundamental columns upon which his programs will rest will be education and agriculture.

4. Regarding education, Balaguer said the pending educational loan from the United States was of the greatest importance for his new effort and he expressed the hope negotiations might be completed rapidly.

5. I said I would like to speak very frankly to the President about the educational loan. I had the impression the Dominican Government was schizophrenic in its attitude towards this loan. Sometimes they appeared to want it and sometimes not. In our files was a letter dated last year from the President himself in which he expressed disinterest in the loan. As the negotiations had dragged on in a desultory fashion for about a year, I had written to the President myself in December suggesting that if he perceived no objection we would proceed to deobligate the funds, but he had replied in January reaffirming the interest of his government in this loan. Nevertheless, almost nothing had occurred in the more than six months since that time to bring us nearer to an agreement.

6. Frankly, we were under considerable pressure to use these funds elsewhere if they were not going to be employed on mutually agreed projects and programs in the Dominican Republic.

7. In discussions with Mr. Robinson, the Director of the AID Mission, I had suggested that we might review the proposals and negotiations to date in the light of current conditions, realities and needs in the country, discard those elements for which we found a mutual lack of enthusiasm and perhaps devise a new package upon which we might both agree as being more responsive to current conditions. It was essential that both sides be in agreement as to the purposes and uses of the loan. Balaguer agreed. I said that whatever was done about the educational loan, quite frankly, would have to be done in a reasonably brief period of time. We really [Page 3] could not allow this matter to run on indefinitely with months passing between desultory and inconclusive conversations. I did not feel it unrealistic to expect we could determine whether or not an agreement were possible within the next month or six weeks at most.

8. Balaguer said he was in complete agreement that there had been divided opinions as to the desirability of the loan as proposed. He wants to concentrate his educational efforts on primary education throughout the country. The secondary schools are in crisis. They have become centers of political disturbance and unrest. Primary education is essential to the formation of the young people in the country, but something must also be done about improving the qualifications of the primary school teachers. Many of them are barely able to write their names. Students frequently repeat a course two or three times and the fault lies with the poor quality of the instruction and the lack of capacity of the teacher rather than with the student.

9. I pointed out to the President he was most unlikely to succeed in improving the quality of the instructors in the primary schools unless he adopted and applied the escalafon. He was not likely to get or retain good teachers unless he paid them adequately and the teachers could not be expected to be interested in improving their own qualification unless he gave them pay incentives for doing so. Balaguer agreed this was so. He said he was prepared to adopt and apply an escalafor for the teachers in the primary schools but this must be severely limited to the primary schools. He felt the teachers in the secondary schools were already adequately paid. I said I thought it possible the secondary school teachers might not agree with him, but certainly improvement was needed in the primary schools.

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10. Balaguer said not everyone could be a doctor, lawyer or government clerk. He thought well of the idea of making an effort in the field of vocational training. I pointed out I myself had seen what appeared to be excellent buildings, which I understood had been constructed for this purpose, standing empty and idle in various parts of the country, for example, just outside Barahona. The President replied these were good buildings and such centers existed in other places such as Santo Domingo and San Pedro de Macoris. The difficulty lay in obtaining qualified instructors for such vocational schools. They were totally lacking. I said I thought a solution for this need could perhaps be explored.

11. The President said he would like me to send Mr. Robinson to see him, preferably before the end of this week, so that he might describe to Mr. Robinson his own views with regard to the uses to which the educational loan should be put.

12. I asked if he wanted Mr. Robinson to speak to the Secretary of State for Education, but he replied no, he wanted to speak to Mr. Robinson himself to outline his ideas and then Mr. Robinson could carry on conversations from there with the Secretary [Page 5] of Education. I said we were in the process of studying various issues concerning the loan with the assistance of an expert in the field of education who had arrived from Washington only a day or so ago. We might not be in a position by the end of this week to present any views of our own. The President said that was all right. He just wanted to express his own views to the AID Mission. The matter could then be discussed in more detail with the Secretariat of Education. He said he would follow up with his own people to see that agreement was reached within a reasonably short time. He reiterated that a new effort in education is to be one of the fundamental principles of his new administration.

13. Turning to agriculture, the second of two pillars of his new administration, the President said he was determined to make a major effort in this field. Land reform, which was essential and which he felt had not been very well carried out in the past, must have greater emphasis. He mentioned four areas in the country, including the Coddea lands, as the areas in which he hoped to concentrate land reform efforts in the near future.

14. The whole program of the government with regard to agriculture and land reform needed reorganization, reinvigoration and new enthusiasm and direction, said the President. He is still looking for qualified individuals to use in this effort. The President said he thought IDECOOP had been less than successful in the past because of poor management. He hopes it will do better now under Julio Baez. The Office of Community Development needs a thorough reorganization and house cleaning. It must stop being used for political purposes and must be prevented from engaging in political activity. I agreed this was a worthy objective. The President said the work of the OCD had been lagging for some time and must be given new momentum. I replied that this depended entirely, in my view, on the will and determination of the Dominican Government not only in giving direction to the OCD, but in making available to it from its own resources the funds which it required. The President did not pursue the subject further.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 DOM REP. Confidential.
  2. On July 7, Ambassador Meloy met with President Balaguer to congratulate him on his electoral victory and to discuss Balaguer’s plans for the next four years and the role of U.S. assistance.