La República Dominicana

A brief history lesson...


The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by Tainos, an Arawak-speaking people. The Tainos welcomed Columbus in his first voyage in 1492, but subsequent colonizers were brutal, reducing the Taino population from about 1 million to about 500 in 50 years. As you can see below, Taino art has been preserved, unlike the rest of their culture, in various regions of the Dominican Republic. These photos were taken in a cave very close to La Romana, which is located on the east coast of the country. The photo of the rock carvings was taken in the southern region of the country. These photos undoubtedly serve as a reminders of what used to be.





To ensure adequate labor for plantations, the Spanish brought African slaves to the island beginning in 1503. In the next century, French settlers occupied the western end of the island, which Spain ceded to France in 1697, and which, in 1804, became the Republic of Haiti. The Haitians conquered the whole island in 1822 and held it until 1844, when forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte, the hero of Dominican independence, drove them out and established the Dominican Republic as an independent state. In 1861, the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire; in 1865, independence was restored. Economic difficulties, the threat of European intervention, and ongoing internal disorders led to a U.S. occupation in 1916 and the establishment of a military government in the Dominican Republic. The occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected Dominican Government.

Juan Pablo Duarte





In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, a prominent army commander, established absolute political control. Trujillo promoted economic development--from which he and his supporters benefitted--and severe repression of domestic human rights. The dictator proceeded to rule the country like a feudal lord for thirty-one years. He held the office of president from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952. During the interim periods, he exercised absolute power, while leaving the ceremonial affairs of state to puppet presidents such as his brother, Héctor Bienvenido Trujillo Molina, who occupied the National Palace from 1952 to 1960, and Joaquín Balaguer Ricardo, an intellectual and scholar who served from 1960 to 1961.

Raphael Trujillo

Although cast in the mold of old- time caudillos such as Santana and Heureaux, Trujillo surpassed them in efficiency, rapacity, and utter ruthlessness. Like Heureaux, he maintained a highly effective secret police force that monitored (and eliminated, in some instances) opponents both at home and abroad. Like Santana, he relied on the military as his primary support. Armed forces personnel received generous pay and perquisites under his rule, and their ranks and equipment inventories expanded. Trujillo maintained control over the officer corps through fear, patronage, and the frequent rotation of assignments, which inhibited the development of strong personal followings. The other leading beneficiaries of the dictatorship--aside from Trujillo himself and his family--were those who associated themselves with the regime both politically and economically. The establishment of state monopolies over all major enterprises in the country brought riches to the Trujillos and their cronies through the manipulation of prices and inventories as well as the outright embezzlement of funds. Mismanagement and corruption resulted in major economic problems. In August 1960, the Organization of American States (OAS) imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Dominican Republic as a result of Trujillo's complicity in an attempt to assassinate President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela. These sanctions remained in force after Trujillo's death by assassination in May 1961. In November 1961, the Trujillo family was forced into exile.



In January 1962, a council of state that included moderate opposition elements with legislative and executive powers was formed. OAS sanctions were lifted January 4, and, after the resignation of President Joaquin Balaguer on January 16, the council under President Rafael E. Bonnelly headed the Dominican Government. In 1963, Juan Bosch was inaugurated President. Bosch was overthrown in a military coup in September 1963.
Another military coup, on April 24, 1965, led to violence between military elements favoring the return to government by Bosch and those who proposed a military junta committed to early general elections. On April 28, U.S. military forces landed to protect U.S. citizens and to evacuate U.S. and other foreign nationals. Additional U.S. forces subsequently established order.




In June 1966, President Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now called the Social Christian Reformist Party--PRSC), was elected and then re-elected to office in May 1970 and May 1974, both times after the major opposition parties withdrew late in the campaign.
In the May 1978 election, Balaguer was defeated in his bid for a fourth successive term by Antonio Guzman of the PRD. Guzman's inauguration on August 16 marked the country's first peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to another.
The PRD's presidential candidate, Salvador Jorge Blanco, won the 1982 elections, and the PRD gained a majority in both houses of Congress. In an attempt to cure the ailing economy, the Jorge administration began to implement economic adjustment and recovery policies, including an austerity program in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In April 1984, rising prices of basic foodstuffs and uncertainty about austerity measures led to riots.

Balaguer was returned to the presidency with electoral victories in 1986 and 1990. Upon taking office in 1986, Balaguer tried to reactivate the economy through a public works construction program. Nonetheless, by 1988 the country slid into a two-year economic depression, characterized by high inflation and currency devaluation. Economic difficulties, coupled with problems in the delivery of basic services--e.g., electricity, water, transportation--generated popular discontent that resulted in frequent protests, occasionally violent, including a paralyzing nationwide strike in June 1989.
In 1990, Balaguer instituted a second set of economic reforms. After concluding an IMF agreement, balancing the budget, and curtailing inflation, the Dominican Republic is experiencing a period of economic growth marked by moderate inflation, a balance in external accounts, and a steadily increasing GDP.



Hipólito Mejía

Today, the president of the Dominican Republic is Hipólito Mejía. He has been a member of the Dominican Revolutionary Party since 1976, initially as leader of the Agricultural Sector until reaching the organization’s vice-presidency in 1982. He was part of the Agricultural Sectors Political Commission until 1983. Hipólito Mejía has had as mentors President Antonio Guzmán and doctor Peña Gómez and the likeness to both is easily noticed. These conditions, together with his sincerity and honesty, have been important elements for the Dominican people to have chosen him their Constitutional President, the fourth leader that reaches that position heading the PRD ticket.


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