229. Morning Reading Item for President Carter Prepared in the Department of State1

May 18. Dominican Elections Situation Report.

As of 5:00 a.m. on May 18, 1978, the situation in the Dominican Republic is as follows:

It appears that Balaguer and the Dominican military, faced with questionable prospects for Balaguer’s reelection, have decided to vouchsafe his “reelection” by any means available, whether the pretext is plausible or not.

—The government probably acted before it had thought through the consequences of its actions. There appears to be some disarray within the government.

—Despite its present difficult position, the government seems to have decided to “cuff it out” in the hope that the entire problem will eventually disappear and leave Balaguer in peace—and in power.

—The government is trying to deflect responsibility for the army’s actions onto the opposition. Only government claques seem to take this seriously.

—President Balaguer responded to the Secretary’s note to him of yesterday morning.2 He was disappointingly vague, and even disen[Page 541]genuous in places. He claimed that the vote count was interrupted “not by military interference but by rumors propagated by anti-democratic sectors about a supposed coup d’etat.” He added that his honor was at stake and that he would honorably fulfill his duties as president of his country and as a Dominican.3

—The government has vacillated over whether to continue the vote count. First Balaguer informed the OAS observers that there would be no further vote count; then he reversed himself. The possibilities of fraud are manifold and manifest, however, and it may well be that the only possible proof of an honest election would be a Guzman victory.

—A strong reaction by the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) could be developing. Its general executive committee voted late yesterday to reject any effort by the government to restart the tabulation. A general strike could be called to head off the count, but no time has been set.

Meanwhile, several Latin American countries, organized by President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela, have begun to plan a strategy to ensure an honest election:

—For a while it appeared that either two or all three of the OAS observers would leave the country. Perez reacted strongly to these reports and lobbied hard with the OAS to keep all of them in place. Our Deputy OAS Representative also urged acting Secretary-General Zelaya to keep the observers in the Dominican Republic. Finally, they agreed to stay for two more days.

—President Perez has consulted with President Lopez Michelsen of Colombia, General Torrijos of Panama, and President Carazo of Costa Rica. They have all agreed that, if the tabulation of the votes is not resumed or if the result is fraudulent, they will sever their diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic. If they do so, they would want the United States to take a similar action.

—President Perez also suggested that a meeting of the OAS Organ of Consultation (Foreign Ministers, the equivalent of the UN Security Council) be called to discuss the Dominican elections. We thought this would be premature until the situation in the Dominican Republic clarifies itself. It now appears that Perez has had second thoughts and agrees with us.

We are waiting to see how the situation in the Dominican Republic develops today before we consider any concrete courses of action.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 17, Dominican Republic, 1/77–1/81. Confidential. Carter wrote at the top of the first page, “To Cy, We must support actual decision of voters—Be forceful & public.” The Reading Item was returned to Vance on May 18, under a covering memorandum from Aaron who wrote, “The President has returned the attached State Department Situation Report on the Dominican elections with a note for your further action.”
  2. See Document 226.
  3. The Spanish text of Balaguer’s letter was transmitted in telegram 2649 from Santo Domingo, May 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780208–0996)