After a half-year honeymoon bigne of goodwill and high expectations, President Antonio Guzman's government has awakened to a throbbing hangover of political, social and economic problems.
Few of the thousands who danced in the streets last August and toasted the new government's inauguration as a democratic milestone would choose to return to the old days of corruption and demogoguery.
But in much the same way as Jimmy Carter saw his popularity plummet when presidential descisions began replacing campaign promises, Guzman has fallen into a major postelection slump.
In the past two months, his administration has faced a serious schism in its own political party, with charges of cronyism and fealty to big business in filling government jobs.
As the prices paid for the Dominican Republic's sugar and other agricultural exports have gone down, the bill for imported oil has gone up. Both labor and industry have criticized a government austerity program, but at the same time both charge Guzman with failing to act aggressively to control the economy.
Workers complain that government-decreed salary increased are too small, business charges they are too high, and a major strike in March promises to have been only a prelude to more labor unrest.
By contrast, even its harshest critics give the new government high praise for respecting human rights, depoliticizing the military and paying national debts.
"Compared with all the things that have happened here in the past," the editor of one of the country's leading newspapers said, "This government has created a democratic paradise."
Guzman's strongest asset, however, continues to be the fact that many Dominicans, based on past experience, fear his overthrow more than anything he might do in office.
"This is a government of trauma," the editor said. "The last time [Guzman's] Dominican Revolutionary Party was in power, it lasted seven months."
That was in 1963, when president Juan Bosch was ousted by a military-backed junta that said he was soft on communism." Efforts to restore Bosch to power led to revolt and U.S. military intervention in 1965.
When the smoke finally cleared, Joaquin Balaguer, former puppet president under the 30-year dicatorship of Rafael Trujillo, had once again assumed the presidency. Despit eventual opposition charges of political repression, electoral fraud and subservience to the United States, Balaguer stayed for three four-year terms.
By election time last May, However, even the violence-scarred population had tired of him.
Guzman's victory, marking the first time one elected Dominican president would hand power over to an elected successor in 100 years, was nearly aborted when Balaguer's troops interrupted the vote counting and threatened a coup. Popular outcry and strong international pressure, particularly from a United States suddenly embarrassed by the long-favored Balaguer, turned the tide, however, and Guzman's inauguration went smoothly.
In a bold first act that many took as early indication of a strong administration, Guzman fired virtually all the high military commanders who had plotted against him. Within two months, he also doubled minimum wages frozen for 12 years under Balaguer.
Much of the criticism since then has been what some see as the natural result of expectations built up in a broad-based opposition during 16 years on the outside. The Dominican Revolutionary Party, as the largest and most effective of a handful of opposition parties, represented a wide spectrum of popular and political interests. After the inauguration, they all lined up to cash in on their loyalty.
"After taking power," Guzman, 68, said in an interview last week, "we naturally received a series of petitions, many of which we haven't been able to attend to. Each of the valiant comrades who struggled to elect this government has a meritorious appeal, but there hasn't been an opportunity to please everyone in the party."Many in Guzman's party were more than displeased at his selections for Cabinet posts and personal advisers. Several have strong ties to large local and foreign business interests, and most are not party members.
Guzman's daughter, Sonia, 32, who some now refer to as the "female Rasputin" of the government, and her husband, were named secretary and deputy to the president.
Among the most strongly criticized was Guzman's appointment as central bank president. He named Eduardo Fernandez, a former vice president of Gulf and Western, the mammouth multinational company that controls at least a third of the Dominican territory in sugar plantations and refineries, tourist operations and miscellaneous smaller holdings.
Members and alternates of the Monetary Board, the Dominican equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which determines fiscal policy here, include the editor of the country's largest newspaper, a number of leading industrialists and the president of U.S-owned Rosario Mining Corp., another big multinational.
Critics say this results from an overaggressive desire to disprove Balaguer campaign propaganda that charged that Guzman's party was communist.
Guzman defends the appointments. "There has been a lot of criticism," he acknowledged, but my goverment has utilized, and will continue to utilize, the best people in this country, no matter where they come from. There are officials who have had relations with one of the multinationals in the past, but this has nothing to do with whether they're capable for their jobs."
Sen. Salvador Jorge Balnco, president of Guzman's party and a narrow loser to Guzman for the party nomination and has been a particularly outspoken critic.
"In spite of the fact that [Guzman] won with the support of the party," Jorge Blanco said, "there have been more appointments outside the party than in it."
While the party schism has filled the local newspapers lately, however, one political analyst viewed it as a relatively minor diversion compared to the country's economics and labor problems.
Both Guzman's admirers and detractors admit he inherited a corruption-ridden government saddled with huge debts, including a $200 million balance-of-payments deficit.
"The biggest difficulty was a destroyed economy," Guzman said.
Through debt consolidation and foreign borrowing, the government has managed to pay off most of its predecessor's bills. The continuing low price of sugar, the country's main export, makes economic progress difficult, however.
While workers have been given hefty raises, the amount does not begin to make up for a cost of living that has soared. Guzman has asked for belt-tightening, but unions and some economists charge that the austerity affects them more than big business.
The biggest economic criticism, though, is of government inaction. Guzman, the political analyst said, "is afraid to make mistakes, afraid of a loss of popularity. There is a feeling that growing problems are not being addressed."
Guzman's daughter Sonia described the many complaints against her father as natural democratic growing pains, not serious trouble.
"People now feel more free to complain and criticize and go to the newspapers," she said.
"I think it's good that the people are learning not only democracy but civilian democracy." CAPTION: Map, no caption, By Dave Cook-The Washington Post; Picture, ANTONIO GUZMAN . . .'government of trauma'