"The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti (see Figure 1). A population of about 10.1 million occupies an area about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. With a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of roughly $5,530 (2011), the Dominican Republic is classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country. This stands in sharp contrast to neighboring Haiti, a low-income country with a per capita GDP of just $726 that was struggling economically even before a devastating earthquake hit the country in January 2010. The two countries had similar GDP per capita levels in 1960, but while growth in Haiti has stagnated and its per capita GDP has shrunk by half since that time, the Dominican Republic has posted one of the fastest growth rates in Latin America and its per capita GDP has quadrupled. After fighting to achieve its independence from Spain in 1821 and then from Haiti in 1844, the Dominican Republic embarked upon a bumpy road toward its current democratic form of government characterized by frequent coups, dictatorships, and U.S. interventions (including 1916-1924 and 1965-1966).3 Rafael Trujillo ruled the country as a dictator from 1930 to 1961, often employing violent tactics to quell political opposition. Despite his brutality, Trujillo's strong anticommunist stance earned him tacit support from the United States. His acolyte, Joaquín Balaguer, then served as president from 1960-62, 1966-78, and 1986-96. As a result of the dominance of these caudillo (strongman) leaders, the Dominican Republic did not develop into a modern democracy until the 1990s. In 1994, an agreement commonly referred to as the 'Pact for Democracy' removed the aging Balaguer from power and paved the way for the country's first truly free and fair elections to be held in 1996."
CRS Report for Congress, R41482