The Dominican Republic has been occupied by foreigners, including U.S. forces, or under dictatorship for almost half of its 134 years since independence from Spain. In between the interventions, political instability has been the rule.

Occupying two-thirds of Hispaniola Island in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic was invaded soon after independence in 1821 by neighboring Haiti. The Haitians left in 1844.

The United States occupied the country from 1916 to 1924 after internal chaps disrupted foreign trade revolving around the main export, sugar. By 1930, a police officer trained by the Americans, Rafael Trujillo, had seized power and was to rule a tight dictatorship until his assassination in 1961.

Evidence that has turned up in recent years has indicated close official U.S. ties to Trujillo's assassins.

In 1962, a moderately left-wing writer, Juan Bosch, was elected president. He served seven months and fell to a military coup following extensive U.S. press coverage indicating that a Communist takeover was at hand.

The scramble for power following the 1963 coup led to virtual civil war in 1965 and yet another U.S. intervention. President Johnson ordered in U.S. troops on the basis that leftist forces were likely to consolidate power.

Through the Organization of American States, the intervention become an international peace force that restored order and prepared elections in 1966. Joaquin Balaguer, who had been the figurehead president at the time of Trujillo's death, was elected.

Under Balaguer, the economy still oriented toward agriculture, has grown faster than the population - which has increased at almost 3 percent annually. The current total is about 5 million in a territory not quite twice the size of Maryland.

Until the leap in the price of oil imports crimped the economy, it was growing by about 6 percent annually. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, however, "the increases in real wages have lagged behind the rise in national income despite stated national goals of seeking a redistribution of income in favor of the lower wage earners.

In the last two years, the always high unemployment rate has increased to above 15 per cent in the cities, which house half of the population.