The enthusiasm, interest and support that Dominicans of la Gran Manzana show for their native Quisqueya -regardless of how long they have lived outside it- should be reciprocated with policies that help improve conditions for them, and in turn, the prosperity of the Caribbean island.
For decades, the financial contributions of the diaspora have been one of the island’s major sources of income. This goes far beyond remittances -which in 2011 totaled $2.9 billion. Stateside Dominicans pour millions of dollars into the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry and into real estate investment.
But the resources of expats were not the only reasons why candidates from the major Dominican political parties to campaigned in the New York area. The voting power of Dominican immigrants, which accounts for 5% of the country’s electorate, could be the deciding factor in this tight election.
In visits to the Big Apple, which houses 650,000 of the 1.4 million Dominicans living in the United States, the mainstream candidates offered their paisanos some of the same pledges they have delivered to islanders: vague promises to tackle the corruption that has threatened the Dominican economy and public safety.
Despite the significant role the diaspora plays in sustaining the island’s economy, the leaders of the two dominating parties seem to lack specific strategies to appeal to the more than 2 million Dominicans living outside a country with 10 million residents.
Hopefully, the new “Overseas Representatives” -seven legislative positions created last year and up for elections for the first time this Sunday- will make the voice of the Dominican diaspora heard in the Republic’s Congress.
The next presidential administration and future candidates must recognize that Dominicans living abroad expect concrete policies from their representatives, such as improved consular services, repatriation assistance and legal security so that they can feel confident in further investing in a beloved homeland riddled with challenges. They must understand that at the moment of casting a ballot, Dominican voters here leave the rhetoric and caravans behind.