Halfway through his presidency, Antonio Guzman appears to have few friends in the Dominican Republic. Alienated from many in his own political party, burdened with a faltering economy and besieged by complaints from both labor and business, he is surrounded by contenders for his job nearly two years before the next scheduled election.
Among them are his own vice president, the former president of his Dominican Revolutionary Party and the current opposition leader that Guzman succeeded two years ago in the first democratic transition of power here in the last 100 years.
The Dominican left, and even much of the center, says Guzman has moved the country too close to the United States, while the political right and the financial elite say his economic programs are a disaster.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Guzman has not been able to please many of the people much of the time. Three decades of dictatorship, followed by the 1963 overthrow of a populist leader, revolt, U.S. occupation and 12 years of conservative rule under Joaquin Balaguer had raised both popular expectations and a widespread cynicism about the possibilities for their fulfillment.
But if the political scene here is somewhat strident, it is a free political scene -- a rarity in Latin America.
"If you talk to anybody here, they'll tell you of course things are awful with such a ridiculous government as this one," noted a Western diplomat who says his country is encouraged by Dominican developments. "Then they'll end up saying that the only solution is elections in 1982.
"In other words, people here are making politics; they're not making coups."
Guzman's first several months in office were packed with heady achievements -- a large increase in the minimum wage after a 12-year freeze under Balaguer, removal of powerful old-guard military officers, payment of old government debts and renegotiation of multinational firms' contracts considered unfavorable to the country.
Even many current critics readily concede that Guzman had a tough job cut out for him and that circumstances following his inauguration made it worse.
"He inherited an economic apparatus full of corruption and chaos," said the daily El Sol in its inaugural anniversary edition. "He has had to deal with three hurricanes, a 140 percent increase in oil import prices, and the repugnance to change and new taxes within the business community."
But critics charge that all of these problems have been "exacerbated by the lack of a decisive policy," according to El Sol, and a "timidity in dealing with the private sector." Under Guzman, the Dominican Republic has a budget deficit for the first time in memory and the national debt has gone up.
Some of the harshest of the critics are within Guzman's party, which previously had ruled for only seven months in 1963. It had become the umbrella for a wide opposition spectrum that was spared the divisiveness of government decision-making. Guzman turned out to be far more to the right than much of the party leadership, which has retaliated with a vengeance.
On foreign policy, the breach has been nearly total and has led to contradictions between the president and his party that many Dominicans find both amusing and ominous.
The party has sharply aligned itself with liberal and revolutionary causes throughout the world, and party secretary general Jose Francisco Pena Gomez serves as Latin American president of the Socialist International, the loose coalition of social democratic parties. Much to the anger of the party leadership, however, the Dominican Republic was one of seven nations -- the sole one besides Guatemala in Latin America and the Third World -- to vote against the recent U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements and calling for a Palestinian state.
This month, the split came closer to home. The party hosted, and stressed its support for, a delegation from El Salvador's Democratic Revolutionary Front, the leftist opposition coalition seeking to overthrow that country's civilian-military junta.
The day after the delegation arrived, the government publicly received the Salvadoran junta's foreign minister, who proceeded to denounce the Revolutionary Front and meet with Guzman. The Dominican Revolutionary Party denounced the Salvadoran minister, his junta and, by implication, the party's own standard bearer. The government then said it had not invited the minister but had only received him.
The next day, government security services picked up one of the Salvadoran leftist leaders at his hotel and questioned him for two hours. When the party denounced the action, the president reportedly apologized, saying it had all been a mistake.
On the domestic front, the party repeatedly has objected to Guzman's Cabinet, many of whose members do not belong to the party. The education minister, an engineer not affiliated with the party, fired about 100 teachers for alleged incompetence recently. Many turned out to be members of the Dominican Professors' Association, whose parent union federation is close to Guzman's party but not to him.
Party leaders denounced the firing. Other teachers staged sympathy strikes. Guzman indicated he would investigate the matter.
"The party thinks one thing," a leader said disgustedly, and the government does something else.
The number one plank in the party platform and founding principles limits a president to one term. But there are rumbles of an all-out battle to come, as Guzman -- despite numerous nudges from the party -- has failed to exclude unequivocally his candidacy in 1982.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of potential candidates already are on the stump to say they can do a better job. High on the list are Balaguer, still popular at 74; Vice President Jacobo Majluta, and former Revolutionary Party president Salvador Jorge Blanco.
The United States, which pressured against a coup that would have overturned Guzman's victory in 1978, has indicated no preference as long as the democratic process continues.
Internal factions, however, are taking up positions. Among them are the increasingly restive labor movement, the conservative business class and, in the background, the military. None has shown a marked reluctance to involve itself in politics in the past.
Just below the hustle and excitment of a rough-and-tumble but still relatively tame political surface is a nagging anxiety.
"A country can't go through all the history that this country has," said one close follower of Dominican life, "and then forget it all" in two short years.