217. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Political Situation in the DR: Views of the PRD


  • Jose Francisco Pena Gomez, Secretary General of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano2
  • Terence A. Todman, Assistant Secretary for American Republic Affairs
  • George Lister, Special Assistant and Human Rights Officer—ARA
  • Gerald de SantillanaARA/CAR

After an exchange of courtesies, Pena Gomez reported briefly on his attendance at recent meetings of the Second (Socialist) International in Europe. He remarked that the Socialist International was very interested in Latin America, and had delegated Portugese Prime Minister Mario Soares (whom Pena Gomez had met with) to head a special mission to several Latin American countries later this year.

Support for the Administration’s Foreign Policy

Pena said the PRD executive committee had asked him to convey the party’s warm support for the foreign policy of a recent statement by ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary Bray before subcommittees of the House International Relations Committee on U.S. policy concerning the recent elections in El Salvador (copy of Mr. Bray’s statement attached).3 The PRD had been very pleased to learn of the U.S.’s interest in free elections and of the connection between U.S. assistance programs and the observance of certain human rights. Pena said he had brought Mr. Bray’s statement to the attention of the Socialist International.

The Political Situation in the DR

Pena said the Dominican Republic at present is neither a dictatorship nor a democracy, but somewhere in between. The country has [Page 521] “all the conditions” for a democracy, including a completely free press and freedom for opposition parties. Repression has diminished greatly in the past few years, and the Dominican military has become “more moderate”.

At the same time, the military has become more involved in politics than they should. Referring briefly to his own run-in with the Dominican military earlier this year, Pena said in his January meeting with the military leaders he had strongly censured them for campaigning on behalf of President Balaguer. According to Pena, some “over-eager” members of President Balaguer’s Reformista party have been lobbying the military, drawing them into politics on behalf of the Reformista party. This could lead the country to disaster.

In sum, Pena said the PRD is concerned for possible military intervention in the 1978 general elections. It hopes for “moderation” by the military, and elections that are basically free.

The U.S. Role

Pena said that the U.S., which has great influence in the Dominican Republic, can play a vital role in helping to assure “relatively free” elections and the attainment of full democracy in the country. Most of the other parties in the DR, and other important institutions, such as the Catholic Church, share the PRD’s views on the elections. Moreover, some of the Dominican military, such as Police Chief General Neit Nivar Seijas, seem to be relatively moderate, and would listen to the U.S. On the other hand, some of the Dominican officers are incredibly ignorant, Pena said; several of them had accused the PRD of being communist for its participation in the Socialist International!

The 1978 elections, he concluded, would be a major “test case” for democracy in the Hemisphere.

President Balaguer

Pena Gomez characterized Balaguer as a highly talented and capable political leader, who has achieved impressive progress in making the DR a freer society. If Balaguer could complete the attainment of democracy by ensuring free elections in 1978, his place in history would be assured.

Amembassy—Santo Domingo

Pena Gomez commented favorably on Ambassador Hurwitch and our Embassy in Santo Domingo, which he said has maintained close and friendly contact with the PRD.

Ambassador Todman said he was very pleased to learn of Pena Gomez’s views, and to have had the opportunity to meet with him.

COMMENT: Pena Gomez was quite friendly and positive in tone. He seemed genuinely encouraged with the progress in the Dominican [Page 522] Republic. Pena remarked that he had also met with Ambassador Young in New York, and with Rep. Donald Fraser and Mr. Schneider of Sen. Kennedy’s office here in Washington.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770066–1854. Confidential. Drafted by de Santillana; cleared by Todman and Lister. The meeting was held in Todman’s office.
  2. The Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) was the leading opposition party in the Dominican Republic.
  3. Not attached. In telegram 51614 to San Salvador, March 8, the Department transmitted the text of Bray’s statement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770080–0276)