Democratizing Violence: The Case of the Dominican Republic

Type Working Paper
Title Democratizing Violence: The Case of the Dominican Republic
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
The state of democracy in the Dominican Republic cannot be
analyzed exclusively according to how closely its
institutional functions and procedures conform to classic
ideals of representative democracy. Instead, the Dominican
Republic can perhaps best be described as a “contested
democracy” in acknowledgement of certain of its
characteristics: informal forms of citizenship, conflicting
governability, and precarious institutionalization. The
quality of its democracy must be viewed in the context of its
ability to offer basic civil guarantees, such as access to
security and social justice. This paper focuses primarily on
these factors, which determine actual governability in the
Dominican Republic.
An understanding of the challenges facing Dominican
democracy requires an examination at the structural and
policy levels. The issues to be considered include
mechanisms for the resolution of conflicting interests among
actors with asymmetrical access to power, as well as the
resilience of nondemocratic institutional cultures within the
police, political parties and other key institutions. Such
conditions typically inhibit democracy but could be
redirected to reach the “positive equilibrium” that John
Bailey discusses elsewhere.
Security and judicial policies tend to be directed from the top
down, but an official attitude that recognizes and nurtures
local initiatives and reforms that involve a variety of
strategic stakeholders could be more effective. Similarly, the
Dominican state must take greater efforts to identify positive
role models at the local and national levels, starting by
See John Bailey, "Security Traps and Democratic Governability in
Latin America: Dynamics of Crime, Violence, Corruption, Regime and
State," in Marcelo Bergman and Laurence Whitehead, eds., Criminality,
Public Security, and the Challenge to Democracy in Latin America
(Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press), 2009.

establishing a more responsible law enforcement system that
guarantees fair sanctions against predators and compensation
to the victims of criminal acts. These steps could have a
dramatic impact on curbing violence, crime and injustice.
The greatest challenge for the Dominican state, however, is
to disrupt the growing nexus between criminal elements and
political, economic and governmental actors.

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