The word in vogue for the national problems without a solution is "challenge", which in its broadest sense is, according to the Dictionary, " a task or situation that tests someone’s ability “or "a goal or commitment difficult to carry out, and therefore constitutes a stimulus to overcome an obstacle for whoever faces it". We all have learned, of course, that the present and the future are a direct consequence of our acts of the past.
Opportunity on the other hand, although its formal definition is "a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something " for the topic at hand, it should be better defined as "the ideal platform from which someone can efficiently meet the challenges”. Within this context, in order to establish which are the present and future challenges of the Dominican Republic, it is essential to examine first what had been our opportunities as a society, and what challenges we could not meet successfully in the past, to infer then from our past history, our collective behavior in the future.
According to many analysts, Rafael Trujillo , with his long and ferreous dictatorship of 31 years, was the creator of the modern Dominican State. It is true that Trujillo created and made people respect important national institutions such as the Armed Forces, the Central Bank , Government Ministries - among others. Yet to celebrate 25 years of his reign, Trujillo came up with the so-called Fair for the Peace and Fraternity of the Free World in 1955.
Commenting on this event I wrote: "Reign is the proper word, because the celebration of this event, which lasted throughout 1956, was a carnival-like caricature of a tropical Versailles, where only Marie Antoinette was absent. That significant, non-reproductive investment, which some estimate reached fifty percent of the National Budget for that year, included a kingdom where it was crowned as Princess, Angelita the youngest daughter of the dictator who, with her blushed Chamberlain , Joaquin Balaguer, walked on a red carpet three kilometers long to a continuous party that included performances with the dancers from the Lido of Paris and, among others, the orchestra of Xavier Cougat, on a stage set on a glamorous Light and Water Theatre built for the occasion, whose fountains might have sprinkled champagne instead of water. Adjoining the Peace Fair also opened a Livestock Show to display specially imported competition cattle and horses owned by the dictator.
They say that the great historical sin of Trujillo was that, with a power over a nation like few humans have had, he did not carry out the social transformations to catapult to progress and collective welfare, a country permanently married to extreme poverty and misery. The pomp and waste of the 1956 Fair was a monument to the superficiality and extreme insensitivity of its organizers and a slap on the face to the hunger, disease, and ignorance of the poor masses.
Subsequently, the Grand Chamberlain of the Fair, Joaquin Balaguer, assumed and exercised the power inherited from Trujillo with an almost despotic arm for 22 years. Here Balaguer respected some basic freedoms but, to gain and maintain personal power, systematically destroyed the institutions created by Trujillo and, like his predecessor, with so much power in his hands-rather than making social changes -via an authentic vocation of service to his people- neglected it due to his tragic and ever unfulfilled quest for personal power .
The "democratic" governments that succeeded Balaguer - 12 years of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) followed by an equal number of years by Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD)- brought more of the same: The PRD with its internal conflicts mainly over the acquisition of material goods through the use and abuse of public resources - more Personal Power - obscured the great contribution made by that party to remove the vestiges of the "trujillismo" left alive by the Government of Balaguer. The second party the PLD, a luke-arm, half-succesful experiment of shadows and lights, also marked its tenure in Power by allowing to take root and flourish, that permanent administrative corruption, the power continuity culture, impunity and the imprudence of not paying the large social debt accumulated over so many years, mortgaging the future and investing in public works whose ultimate aim was the glory, material wealth and Personal Power of the staff in charge of the Goverment.
So, the first present and future challenge of the Dominican Republic is to empower a caste of rulers who are not seduced by "the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie" and who are decided to marry with glory, as did Lula da Silva in Brazil, practicing " the so called art of doing the obvious " , that is "what everyone knows has to be done , but for some strange reason no one does", which in our case is ceasing in the search and enjoyment of personal power and glory , and embracing a genuine service mission . Brazil which was a global laughing stock for being permanently "the country of the future" was not only transformed by that outstanding labor leader Lula, with only 6 years of primary school education but rather those who succeeded him have continued to implement his program of government and making that country an example of the changes that can take place when their rulers consider their first task to devote themselves to the service of their people.
Faced and successfully resolved this first challenge , the second and most important challenge is to order the many and troublesome issues of the national agenda, which today- for the long neglect of our leaders- are struggling for supremacy and priority: public safety, changing the national culture regarding corruption and respect for the law, the drug traffic and its penetration into the high levels of government, our tourism infrastructure, the neglected national agricultural and food security , overpopulation and the Haitian issue, a quality public education, health , public debt , the power generation deficit , the regulation of elections and parties, a long and never ending list that, because of our limited resources, should become a National Plan with the support and consensus of the majority, a roadmap to be used and respected by future governments. This ambitious long-term task, if carried out, could become one of the greatest achievements of present and future Dominicans.
As far as the future is concerned, being the Dominican Republic - for better or worse - a dependent small country, just a tiny part of this globalized and dysfunctional world in which we live, where the rules and conditions of the game change every day, its most important challenge is to monitor the socioeconomic daily storms of the planet and consequently adjust its policies and decisions to these changing gusts, knowing that the global village is just a complicated chessboard whose pieces are constantly changing in form and function, where the rich country of today becomes in the morning a broken country, which needs to be rescued by Community support, caused by greed and fortuitous circumstances and fueled by the almighty power of world markets and new technologies.
Rafael Martínez Céspedes
Published originally on:
June 15, 2012 .