219. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Carter/President Balaguer Bilateral



    • Joaquin Balaguer, President of the Dominican Republic
    • Foreign Secretary Jimenez
    • Ambassador Vicioso
    • Ambassador to the OAS Dipp-Gomez
    • Dominican Aide Rafael Bello Andino
    • Mayor of Santo Domingo Estrella Rojas
  • U.S.

    • President Carter
    • Secretary Vance
    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Assistant Secretary Todman
    • Robert Pastor, NSC
    • Robert A. Hurwitch, Ambassador, Santo Domingo

President Carter thanked President Balaguer and his associates for coming to Washington to participate in the Panama Canal Treaties signing ceremonies. The Treaties were very important to the U.S. and for its relations with Latin America. President Balaguer’s presence was very beneficial to these ends.

Human Rights

President Carter also expressed his appreciation for the hospitality shown to Ambassador Young during the latter’s visit to the Dominican Republic.2 Ambassador Young had reported with satisfaction President Balaguer’s intention to sign the American Convention on Human Rights, and President Carter noted with gratification that the GODR had done so yesterday.

President Carter also thanked President Balaguer for co-sponsoring the resolution on Human Rights at the OAS General Assembly in Grenada. The example Balaguer is setting in the Dominican Republic is having a positive effect on other countries.

Dominican Elections

Referring to the Dominican elections in May 1978, President Carter expressed the hope that they would be conducted with cognizance of everyone’s rights. If Balaguer were to be a candidate, he wished him [Page 525] well. President Carter asked how President Balaguer saw the forthcoming elections and inquired as to the attitude of the Dominican people.

Balaguer responded that it was a great pleasure to participate in an historic signing ceremony. The New Panama Canal Treaty will greatly strengthen U.S. relations with the hemisphere. As he had said in remarks upon arriving in the U.S., Balaguer asserted that the Latin American nations should put their houses in order, improve the standard of living of their peoples, and respect human rights, including the rights to work and to enjoy education within the means of a developing country. Dominican support at Grenada and the signing of the Human Rights Convention conform to Dominican traditions in those areas.

President Balaguer admired the efforts President Carter was making to obtain the support of the American people for the new Panama Canal Treaty. Although there is little a small country could do, President Carter could count upon the full measure of Dominican moral support.

Concerning the forthcoming elections in the Dominican Republic, President Balaguer said that the process was proceeding normally. The institution of the electoral register (“registro electoral”) guaranteed the probity of the elections. Fraud was not possible under this system, although losers often cried fraud. The electoral register system had been initially proposed by a Chilean jurist; it is a progressive system and is better than any other in Latin America with the possible exception of Venezuela and Chile before Allende. All candidates will have an equal opportunity, Balaguer continued. If his party selects him, he will subject himself to the same conditions affecting all candidates—he would seek no advantages from his incumbency. President Balaguer said that he has not yet made up his mind regarding his candidacy and under the law is not required to do so until two months before the elections. Frankly speaking, although he thinks he should make way for a younger person, no one has arisen in his party, nor in the opposition, who can guarantee peace, progress and unity of the Armed Forces. This last is important, otherwise there is a risk of a repetition of the events of 1965.3 He had unified the Dominican Armed Forces, and although they are not monolithic, no severe rivalries now exist within the Armed Forces, as was the case elsewhere in the hemisphere. The Dominican Armed Forces now know their role to be that of peace-keepers. President Balaguer said that he has no further political ambi [Page 526] tions, and if he decides to run again, it would be a source of sacrifice, not satisfaction.


The President responded that it was a very exciting and gratifying experience to hear President Balaguer’s description of the political developments in the Dominican Republic. It is well on the way to becoming one of the most democratic of the countries of the hemisphere. The President continued that he knew both countries were seeking an international agreement on sugar, which he hoped would become a reality before the year’s end.4 The U.S. imports and produces large quantities of sugar and would value President Balaguer’s views concerning a sugar agreement, and concerning Cuban intentions on sugar.

President Balaguer replied that GODR did not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, but understood that Cuba was generally in line with the point of view of the Dominican Republic and other sugar exporters. As far as the Dominican Republic is concerned, it is unfortunately still a mono-culture, overly dependent upon sugar. Sugar represents 85 percent of its total exports.

The Dominican Republic hopes for special U.S. assistance in this area and at the least, if preferential treatment were not possible, equitable treatment. If no agreement could be reached at the international sugar negotiations in Geneva, and a U.S. quota system were reconstituted, then the Dominican Republic desired a quota approximately equivalent to its recent exports of sugar to the U.S.

President Balaguer emphasized that no other country found itself so dependent upon sugar. He is making strenuous efforts to diversify agricultural exports to diminish that dependence. Coffee production is being improved; new lands are being brought into production through an irrigation network. The Dominican Republic needs a period of from 2–5 years to diversify. In the meantime it is counting upon U.S. assistance, either through a Geneva agreement which would establish a 13.5 cent floor for sugar prices, enabling the Dominican sugar industry to survive, or through some other means.

President Carter replied that U.S. and Dominican positions would be compatible and that the U.S. would help. It was helpful to be reminded how important sugar is to the Dominican economy.

[Page 527]

Bilateral Relations

The President expressed appreciation for the identity of views between our two countries at the UN, and expressed hope that the cooperation would continue during forthcoming sessions. He presented Balaguer with a copy of his book and a book of satellite photos. Satellite photos served geologic and similar purposes as well as military.

If President Balaguer desired, the possibility of doing such photos of the Dominican Republic could be explored. The President closed the session with expressions of warm appreciation and admiration.

Balaguer responded equally warmly, and presented the President with a wooden case of 100 year old Dominican mahogany containing several pieces of 18th century ceramics.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770168–1185. Confidential. The meeting was held in the White House. President Carter’s talking points for this meeting stressed the importance of the 1978 elections and the International Sugar Agreement. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Latin America: Bilateral Meetings Background Material, 9/77)
  2. Ambassador Young visited the Dominican Republic on August 15.
  3. The United States occupied the Dominican Republic in April–May 1965 after unrest stemming from conflicts between the governing junta and supporters of exiled former President Juan Bosch threatened the lives of American citizens. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXXII, Dominican Republic; Cuba; Haiti; Guyana.
  4. In December 1977, the United States and the Dominican Republic both signed the International Sugar Agreement (ISA), which Ambassador Hurwich described as “the only method of achieving higher sugar prices.” (Telegram 7360 from Santo Domingo, December 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770466–0557)