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Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Sunday, 19 August 2012 12:18 UK

Dominican Republic country profile

Map of Dominican Republic

Once ruled by Spain, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony.

The Caribbean nation is a major tourist destination. This, coupled with free-trade zones, has become the country's major employer and key sources of revenue, replacing dependence on sugar, coffee and other exports.

Overview

The largely mountainous country includes Pico Duarte - the highest point in the West Indies, the fertile Cibao Valley, swathes of desert, and Lake Enriquillo - the lowest point in the region.

AT A GLANCE
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Politics: President Leonel Fernandez made economic recovery a priority; he won his third term in May 2008
Economy: The Dominican Republic entered a free trade accord with the US and Central American nations; President Fernandez cut spending, restructured debt and secured IMF funds
International: Hundreds of thousands of Haitians live and work illegally in the DR

The Dominican Republic is inhabited mostly by people of mixed European and African origins. Western influence is seen in the colonial buildings of the capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in art and literature. African heritage is reflected in music. The two heritages blend in the popular song and dance, the merengue.

Rapid economic development in the 1990s has increased national wealth and diversified employment opportunities, helping the country to rebound from the global market downturn of 2008, but a large gap remains in the distribution of wealth.

The richest 10% of the population, overwhelmingly the white descendants of Spanish settlers, own most of the land and benefit from 40% of national icome. The poorest peasants are people of African descent - including an estimated 800,000 of Haitian immigrant origin.

Distrust has soured relations between the Dominican Republic and its troubled neighbour, Haiti, and the government has carried out mass deportations of Haitian immigrants at various times.

The Dominican Republic is closely tied to the United States, its largest trading partner by far and home to a major diaspora. Remittances from US Dominicans account for up to 10% of national income.

Facts

  • Full name: Dominican Republic
  • Population: 10.1 million (UN, 2011)
  • Capital: Santo Domingo
  • Area: 48,072 sq km (18,696 sq miles)
  • Major language: Spanish
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Dominican peso = 100 centavos
  • Main exports: Ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats
  • GNI per capita: US$ 5,030 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .do
  • International dialling code: +1809

Leaders

President: Danilo Medina

The candidate of the governing Dominican Liberation Party, Danilo Medina, won the closely-fought presidential contest of May 2012 against former president Hipolito Mejia. The outgoing president, Leonel Fernandez, had served the maximum permitted two consecutive terms and so could not stand again.

President-elect Danilo Medina
President-elect Danilo Medina

Born in 1950, Danilo Medina became a student activist for the social-democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party, and followed its leader, opposition leader Juan Bosch, into the Liberation Party in 1973. The party, initially to the left of the Revolutionary Party, moved steadily to the centre in the 1990s.

Mr Medina was elected to Congress and served as its president in 1994-95, playing a major role in defusing a constitutional crisis and bringing to a close the era of veteran authoritarian president Joaquin Balaguer.

He served as chief of staff to the Liberation Party leader Leonel Fernandez during his presidential terms in the 1990s and again in 2004-06, and stood as Liberation Party candidate in the 2000 presidential election, losing to Hipolito Mejia.

He fell out with President Fernandez in 2006 when the latter beat him in the Liberation Party primaries for the presidential election of 2008. Mr Medina alleged that the president had thrown the resources of the state into the campaign, and played no part in President Fernandez's final administration.

Mr Medina secured Liberation Party nomination for the 2012 election, and his narrow win over Hipolito Mejia of the Dominican Revolutionary Party consolidated Liberation Party rule - the party controls both houses of Congress.

Mr Medina will have to contend with the persistently high unemployment and poverty rates that his predecessor's otherwise successful economic policies have failed to overcome.

Media

Ownership of TV channels, radio stations and newspapers is concentrated in a few economically or politically-powerful hands.

There are several terrestrial TV channels and many multichannel cable TV operators. More than 200 radio stations are on the air, most of them commercial. The government operates TV and radio networks.

Press freedom is guaranteed by law and media outlets carry diverse political views. Some subjects, such as the Catholic Church and the army, are generally avoided.

There were 4.6 million internet users by December 2011, including some 2.5 million Facebook users (Internetworldstats).

The press

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Radio

Internet



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Compiled by BBC Monitoring

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