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

6383. Subject: Asst Sec Todman’s Visit to the Dominican Republic Oct 16–19. Ref (A) Santo Domingo 6344 (Notal) (B) Santo Domingo 6351 (Notal) (C) Santo Domingo 6286.2

Summary. Ambassador Todman’s visit reinforced present excellent state of US–GODR relations and elicited Dominican desire to participate actively in Caribbean Consultative Group’s approach to socio-economic problems in the subregion. Todman’s reaffirmation of Carter administration’s determination to pay closer attention to Caribbean warmly received by all sectors in Dominican life. At same time, textiles and sugar remain as outstanding bilateral issues. Finally, unsurprisingly, visit was seen by two main contending political forces, government and opposition (PRD), as event to be exploited for partisan advantage. End summary.

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1. Ambassador Todman took advantage of his invitation to address annual InterAmerican Press Association (IAPA) convention here to underscore Washington’s intensified concern with developments in the Caribbean. He reiterated administration policies for promotion of human rights that include respect for the human person, political freedoms and economic and social needs of poorest. In Dominican context, main implication of this emphasis was considered to be support for free and open elections.

2. Regarding national elections scheduled here next May, Todman emphasized US neutrality both in private meetings with government and opposition figures and publicly in answer to questions from the press, which gave heavy and uniformly positive coverage to visit. In hour long meeting with leaders of Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), principal opposition party, he rejected their criticism of President Carter’s praise of President Balaguer for progress made in DR under his administrations (Ref A). PRD has been smarting under government’s exploitation of President Carter’s Sept 8 reference to Balaguer’s commitment to human rights as “source of inspiration”.3 PRD showed itself at a loss to cope with Balaguerista propaganda offensive. Some press commentary, for example, needles the party for its immaturity.

3. Asst Sec Todman’s emphasis on US interest in all groups in Dominican society, was manifest in his visit to Republic’s second city, Santiago, and in his tour of Santo Domingo, including poorest sections. Todman’s visit to Bishop Roque Adames, head of the Dominican Bishops’ Commission of Justicia y Paz in Santiago and leading force for defense of human rights in DR, while not as widely noted as his other activities here, further focused attention on weight US attaches to protection of human rights. He employed his appearance before IAPA convention to demonstrate coincidence of US and GODR policies supporting free press so staunchly defended by hemisphere Press Association.

4. Closeness of US and Dominican positions on most other issues also came through clearly in Todman’s formal meetings with President Balaguer and FonSec Jimenez, although latter expressed some apprehension about USG designs on DR textile exports (Ref B), and, in subsequent approach, about sugar. Convergence of US-Dominican interests regarding proposed Caribbean Consultative Group quickly became evident following Asst Sec Todman’s detailed outline of its aims and purposes. Dominicans emphasized interest in helping pro[Page 529]mote development of Haiti and in cooperation with GOH in island-wide tourism promotion effort. Foreign Secretary noted he had authorization to sign technical accords negotiated some time ago with Haiti on commerce, banking and transport and was eager to conclude them but he claimed that GOH was procrastinating on them.

5. At request of Foreign Secretary, Todman met with sugar executives to discuss recently concluded negotiations on ISA (Ref C). They complained that DR had been shortchanged in final version of ISA agreement and speculated that Dominican Congress might not approve ISA. (However, President Balaguer has plainly indicated to Ambassador that GODR will sign and ratify pact.)

6. Comment: Although Ambassador Todman had heavy competition with the torrent of publicity expended on encomiums to the press during the IAPA convention, his visit here received prominent and very favorable attention from Dominican media. Embassy contacts from various sectors of Dominican society also were complimentary, noting his ability to communicate in Spanish; skill in keeping his presence here, and USG, which is commonly assumed to arbitrate Dominican politics, disentangled from the electoral process now in full swing here; and his visits to both the Republic’s most honored monuments and its most wretched slums. While Dominican officials show unease over impending restraints on textile marketing in US and over prospects for Dominican sugar exports to US, and others speculate hopefully that USG’s new focus on Caribbean portends renewal of assistance on scale of Alliance for Progress, Todman visit, following on Ambassador Young’s tour here and President Balaguer’s talk with President Carter, was palpable evidence of US desire to maintain and strengthen close and cordial ties with this country.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770390–0384. Confidential. Repeated for information to Port au Prince.
  2. Telegram 6344 from Santo Domingo is dated October 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770386–0688) Telegram 6351 from Santo Domingo is also dated October 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770386–0772) Telegram 6286 from Santo Domingo is dated October 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770384–0272)
  3. President Carter made this statement shortly after meeting with Balaguer on September 8 (see Document 219). For the text of Carter’s exchange with reporters after the meeting, see Public Papers, Carter, 1977, Book II, pp. 1551–1552.