On Monday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller issued a statement to congratulate Dominican President Luis Abinader on his re-election Sunday, adding that “[w]e look forward to working closely with President Abinader’s new administration”.

Now that the election is over, the first question for the Biden Administration is simple: what actions will it take over the worsening human rights abuses that were documented only weeks ago in it its own State Department’s 2023 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Dominican Republic?

To recap, the human rights abuses under Abinader’s government documented by “credible reports” sourced in State’s country report included “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention” as well as prolonged preventive detentions, lack of access to essential detainee information and routine violation of due process.

The report concluded that Abinader’s government “did not take credible steps to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses.”

The State Department also documented the Abinader government’s continued failure to combat sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. “Child pornography was rampant and growing due to the ease of online exploitation” over the government’s failure to “enforce the law effectively,” the report said.

This follows the downgrade of the Dominican Republic by the State Department in June 2023 to the Tier 2 Watch List for the Abinader government’s failure to address human trafficking throughout the country. Last year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report put out by State called out the Abinader government’s failure to strengthen laws “that would remove the requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion in sex trafficking cases involving child victims.”

The State Department’s new human rights report confirms that the Abinader government has taken no action to remedy this, and child sexual exploitation is “rampant” according to their findings. This conclusion supports arguments in favor of a downgrade of the Dominican Republic to Tier 3 as the 2024 TIP Report is being prepared for release in the coming weeks.

According to official summaries of diplomatic meetings (known as “readouts”), U.S. officials have not raised human rights violations or related issues with Dominican representatives in any recent high-level meetings.  That includes the White House statement about Abinader’s meeting with President Biden in November, Abinader’s meeting with top Biden advisor Tom Perez in January, or USAID’s “Democracy Delivers” event last September that praised Abinader.

Even greater concerns are raised as leaders have moved to silence human rights advocates in the Dominican Republic as well as attack the work of human rights monitors at the State Department who document and source the annual Country Report on the Dominican Republic:

With the election now behind us, will human rights take its place on the list of U.S. priorities in the bilateral relationship with the Dominican Republic? Will there be accountability for the worsening human rights violations that are being reported by the State Department’s own officials?