Corruption and Cartel Politics in the Dominican Republic

Dr. Jacqueline Jimenez Polanco

The Dominican Republic is one of the most corrupt countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the Transparency International 10th Global Corruption Barometer, the Dominican Republic occupies the second range in the region preceded by Venezuela and followed by Peru. 66% of Dominicans think corruption has increased and 93% believe corruption in government is a big problem.

Unlike in other Latin American countries, in the Dominican Republic corruption is rampantly increasing without punishment.

The Lava Jato scandal epitomizes the trend of corruption and impunity in the Caribbean nation. Indeed, although the Brazilian company Odebretch attested paying approximately US$92 millions in bribes to Dominican politicians and inflating the value of several construction contracts, the Attorney General argued a flawed case that implicated only six people and excluded some of the largest construction contracts including that of the electrical coal plant that is being constructed in Punta Catalina with enormous negative effects on the ecosystem.

To date, no one has been held accountable for Lava Jato in the Dominican Republic. In addition, no judicial process has been launched against politicians involved in campaign financing from Odebretch.

Political corruption has perverse socioeconomic and ecological effects that increase inequality.

In my paper I will analyze which are the causes and effects of political corruption in the Dominican Republic departing from its embeddedness in the clientelistic and populist practices of the dominant party PLD (Liberation Dominican Party). I will examine the major socioeconomic and ecological effects of the PLD corrupt practices since it seized power in 1996. I will also observe the characteristics of the irreverent enrichment of corrupt politicians and their families in their performance as businessmen rather than as public servants.

Using Katz and Mair’s model of cartel party I will examine the Neo-corporatist characteristics of the PLD government and its corruptive practices. The main question will be how corruption operates in the Dominican Republic and how it has allowed the PLD to hold an autocratic control of the political system, including the state branches, the electoral system, and the media.