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In 1915, President Wilson reacted to mounting debt and persistent political instability in Haiti by sending in the marines. His prime motivation was to protect against a plausible threat of German intervention on the island.Strategic concerns over protecting the Panama Canal rendered Wilson incapable of resisting use of armed intervention — a tactic of previous administrations he had roundly criticized. For all intents and purposes, Haiti became an American protectorate.In 1916, the same approach was used under similar circumstances in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Occupying Marine forces there set up a pro-American dictatorship to establish peace and assure the continuation of foreign investment interests.Wilson counseled that he was only directing affairs toward stability. In spite of the latter gestures, distrust of the United States deepened among Caribbean residents, as well as elsewhere in Latin America.
To other Wilson foreign affairs activities.
History of Dominican Republic
The following discussion focuses on the history of the Dominican Republic from the time of European settlement. For a treatment of the country in its regional context, see West Indies, history of, and Latin America, history of.
… in the early 1820s invaded Santo Domingo and incorporated the former, almost forgotten Spanish colony into a Hispaniola-wide Haiti. In 1844, Dominicans rejected Haitian hegemony and declared their sovereignty. Later they reverted briefly to the Spanish crown, and they achieved their final independence in 1865. The third independence from a…
…brothers brought baseball to the Dominican Republic in the 1880s, and Cubans, along with local nationals who had studied in the United States, introduced baseball to Venezuela in 1895 and to Puerto Rico in 1897.
…arrival of players from the Dominican Republic in increasing numbers. Osvaldo Virgil, an infielder with the Giants, was the first Dominican in the majors (1956), and Felipe Alou (1958), with the same team, was the second. The first Dominican star, pitcher Juan Marichal, made his debut in 1960, also with…
The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic now forms the eastern two-thirds and the Republic of Haiti occupies the rest, has a turbulent history that is reflected in 21st-century cultures. Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492. The
…unilateral military intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965 to prevent a left-wing government from coming to power. In the wake of the U.S. invasion, the OAS created an inter-American military force that kept the peace in the Dominican Republic until new elections were held there in 1966. The left-wing…
…severed diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic in 1960 (after Dominican agents attempted to assassinate Betancourt) and broke relations with Cuba in 1961 (following repeated Cuban attempts to aid the Venezuelan communists). It became a founding member of OPEC in 1960–61.
…and prominent family in the Dominican Republic. He was educated in Europe and began his political career in 1843 by helping lead the revolt that established the independence of the Dominican Republic from Haiti, with which it shares the island of Hispaniola. At this time, Báez believed that his nation…
troops into the Dominican Republic to prevent a leftist takeover, but such interventionism only reminded Latin Americans of past “Yankee imperialism” and gave credence to Castro’s anti-American propaganda.) The existence of a Communist base in the Caribbean, therefore, was to be a source of unending vexation for future…
…congressional approval, Roosevelt forced the Dominican Republic to install an American “economic advisor,” who was in reality the country’s financial director.
…commanders joined the Spaniards of Santo Domingo, the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic). Knighted and recognized as a general, Toussaint demonstrated extraordinary military ability and attracted such renowned warriors as his nephew Moïse and two future monarchs of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henry Christophe. Toussaint’s
…course, occupying Haiti and the Dominican Republic and governing them as protectorates. Mexico, which was torn by revolution and counterrevolution, proved most vexing of all. First adopting a policy of “watchful waiting” and then seeking to overthrow the military dictatorship of Victoriano Huerta only dragged the United States into interventions…
The Dominican Republic and Haiti: one island riven by an unresolved past
W hen Haiti was hit by the devastating earthquake in 2010, its island neighbour, the Dominican Republic, rushed to help. It was among the first to send rescue workers, food and water, and also allowed overseas relief agency flights to land at Santo Domingo airport.
But three years on, the goodwill seems to have dissipated and old tensions resurfaced. Just over a week ago the Dominican Republic's highest court ruled to revoke the citizenship of children of illegal Haitian migrant workers – a measure to be applied to anyone born after 1929, and thus affecting not only migrants' children, but their grandchildren and, in some cases, even great-grandchildren.
This is the latest legal attack on the rights of Haitians and their descendants measures in the past few years have included reclassifying migrant workers as "in transit" rather than legal residents. This meant any child born in the Dominican Republic – which had been one basis for citizenship – also needed one Dominican parent, or one who was a legal resident.
The latest ruling could leave thousands who identify themselves as Dominican but may have had a Haitian ancestor facing an uncertain future – already some 40,000 people have been told they will not receive identity documents. Without official papers, it is impossible to access services such as schools or healthcare. Human rights groups and local NGOs have expressed their concern, and the UN will be reviewing this ruling.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, where Christopher Columbus established the first European settlement in 1492. Despite their shared history of colonialism and slavery, dictatorship and oppression, a physical and emotional border has long separated them.
The western third of the island was ceded by Spain to France in 1697, and the entire island by 1795. By 1801 the famed former slave General Toussaint Louverture had freed all the slaves on the island and united it under his governorship, though this was short-lived.
In 1808, a group of Dominicans started the war of reconquest to drive out the French and return the eastern part the island to Spanish rule – the west by this point was the republic of Haiti. But by 1822 Haiti had established control of the whole island once more. Indeed, the Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti, not Spain, in 1844.
Modern times have been no less complicated. In 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo – who wore makeup to lighten his skin and was obsessed with "whitening" the predominantly mixed-race island – ordered the massacre of Haitians in border areas, where many worked cultivating sugar. To determine who was Haitian, soldiers with machetes asked dark-skinned people to say the word "perejil", which is Spanish for parsley. For Creole-speaking Haitians, the "r" sound was difficult to pronounce, and a slip of the tongue became a death sentence. Estimates of the massacre range from 10,000 to 25,000 people killed over the course of a few weeks. And the bitter irony was that Trujillo's grandmother was Haitian.
Today the border continues to inspire fear. Dominican-born children of Haitian descent number around 210,000, in a nation of 10 million. Haitians have long been migrant workers, with many finding seasonal employment in sugar cane fields or other low-wage work, which has become especially crucial in the aftermath of the earthquake. And, like immigrants elsewhere, they are often blamed for taking jobs. At the same time, racialised fears of "Haitianisation" are still regularly voiced by politicians and sections of the media, though many Dominicans have expressed shock and anger over the court's decision. But violence is still directed at Haitians crimes against them often go unreported and many continue to live in dire poverty.
Deportations of workers who have no chance to appeal are common – the Dominican military reported it sent away some 47,700 Haitians in the past year, up from 21,000 the year before. And now tens of thousands of people who consider themselves Dominicans face a one-way trip to a country where they cannot speak the language, may not have any family, and face extreme economic hardship. The Haitian government said it "strongly disagrees" with the decision and has recalled its ambassador to the Dominican Republic for consultations on the implications of the ruling.
Anti-Haitianism in the Dominican Republic reaches back decades, if not centuries unacknowledged and institutionalised, it has been manipulated and put to political use. Rather than being united by their shared histories, the two sides of Hispaniola remain riven by an unresolved past. It is not yet clear how this ruling will be turned into policy, but in facing such an uncertain future, these Dominicans also carry with them a heavy burden of the past.
Bitter-Tasting Sugar: the United States, Haiti and Racism in Dominican Bateyes
Hidden behind years of societal and governmental oppression, the current humanitarian crisis in the Dominican Republic combines racism, US imperialism, and the demands of the global sugar market. While the world grapples with a racial reckoning and a historic pandemic, the violent history of the bateyes remains absent from discourse. A deeper look into the crisis that binds the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the United States together provides the key to awareness and a first step towards reconciliation.
The Batey System
A batey is a community built around the sprawling green stalks of a sugar mill. Although located in rural settings, they resemble what many know as a shanty town, a slum, or a ghetto—in stark contrast to the greenery and bright beaches associated with the Dominican Republic. In effect, these settlements around the Dominican Republic (DR) house between 200,000 to 1 million people who have little to no access to water, electricity, education, or legal counsel, especially pertaining to their labor rights. This juxtaposition of extreme poverty and Caribbean paradise traces back to the nation’s authoritarianism in the twentieth century. During his 30 years of rule from 1931 to 1961, dictator Rafael Trujillo created the batey system, in which workers from Haiti would be brought to work during the seasonal sugar-cane cutting harvest, minimizing the cost of labor. The system was intended to satisfy the growing need for quick and cheap sugar to export through what the Latin American Research Review describes as “a government-managed system of semi coerced exploitation.”
A view of the cane fields surrounding a Dominican batey. Workers are contracted seasonally to cut down the stalks, which are then sent to a processing facility.
Sources and Causes of Emigration from Haiti
While Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic, Haiti suffered from instability and an economic crisis. The country gained its independence from France in 1824, but at a large price: Haiti had to pay its former colonizer an indemnity, which left the new nation indebted and vulnerable to foreign influence. The effects of this vulnerability worsened in the early years of the 20th century as Germany heightened its activity and economic influence in Haiti. Instability increased between 1911 and 1915 when seven presidents were assassinated, prompting the United States to take action. The United States occupied Haiti from 1915-1934, an interventionist move geared towards preserving a diplomatic and military stronghold in the region. Racial segregation, peasant uprisings, strikes, press censorship, and labor abuses followed US intervention until American withdrawal in 1934 in accordance with Woodrow Wilson’s Good Neighbor Policy. During this complex geopolitical and economic crisis, thousands of Haitian migrants left to work in the Dominican sugar industry, prompted by promises of work, Trujillo’s increase of labor demand, and Haiti's capitalization on emigration. During joint American-Haitian rule, recruiting permits and emigration fees for workers sent to the DR made up the Haitian government’s largest internal source of revenue. Haitians looking to improve their conditions were funneled into the sugar plantation labor system at the benefit of both countries’ economies, or seemingly so on the macroeconomic level. Back in the DR, Trujillo’s economic policies eventually led to him possessing 60 percent of the DR’s sugar, tobacco, and other assets, heightening economic inequality and plunging many Dominicans into poverty.
The economic history of Haiti and the DR is crucial in understanding the racism, animosity, and poverty that the bateyes face. Not only was Trujillo instrumental in the economic downturn of his country, but he also served to heighten xenophobia and racism. Supposedly sparked by Dominican complaints over cattle rustling and theft, the Parsley Massacre in 1937 followed Trujillo’s aim to “whiten” the DR. For five to eight days, the military drove out or killed Haitian workers that had settled for work at the border, using a twisted linguistic tactic to differentiate Haitians from “purer” Dominicans. The word for parsley in Spanish is “perejil,” which involves a distinct pronunciation of the j and r sounds that were difficult to emulate in the French language of Haiti. This ethnolinguistic massacre left between 9,000 and 30,000 dead, including descendants of Haitian immigrants and darker-skinned Dominicans.
While the Dominican economy eventually moved away from sugar cane and toward mining, manufacturing, and tourism, racism in the DR persisted after Trujillo, coming to be known as antihaitianismo, or anti-Haitianism. Under recent President Danilo Medina, this anti-Haitian sentiment still lingers as seen in citizenship law changes. In 2013, a court ruling stripped citizenship from Dominican-born children of undocumented parents for the past century. This was a widely contested move that led to a slight amendment in 2014 for Dominicans of Haitian descent. In regards to the bateyes, this amendment did nothing many of the bateyes’ occupants have no documentation, be it a birth certificate or any other proof of citizenship, making the reclamation of citizenship impossible. The time and financial toll of registration and citizenship reclamation deepened inaccessibility to the process. The law received strong backlash from activists and organizations which saw it as a means of revealing, persecuting, and deporting undocumented Haitian immigrants and their descendants, but to no avail. The policy rendered at least 210,000 people stateless in contrast with the government’s official report of no more than 13,000. Repatriation and forced deportation still occur, with at least 10,000 people having been deported back to Haiti by the end of 2015.
Another troubling element of antihaitianismo is its prevalence within Dominican culture. Important journalists, authors, and politicians highlight the wide-spread racist and aggressive anti-Haitian culture that includes direct personal attacks, historical manipulation, and policies aimed at keeping Haitians in the lowest social strata. Textbooks of Dominican history present a biased, and often false, account of the history between the two nations of Hispaniola with Haiti often presented as an aggressor. Undocumented children are barred from getting an education past the eighth grade and Dominicans of Haitian descent must carry with them a pass called a cedula, which is identification required to access a range of political and social rights, but is impossible to receive without a birth certificate. This racist and nationalist animosity also leads to violent, personal attacks. In one such instance reported by the Economist, a Haitian bears the mark of a Dominican’s machete, inflicted in an argument over debt.
Graffiti translating to "Out with Illegal Haitians." The photo was taken in 2013 in the midst of new citizenship legislation in the Dominican Republic. "Haitianos ilegales" by Fran Afonso is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Repercussions of COVID-19 and Initiatives for Change
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the shutting down of small businesses did not spare the batey and Haitian-Dominican communities. Government aid was only given to citizens, thereby excluding many in these communities. In a quote to Telemundo 47, a Dominican worker named Anilda states that “el hambre está desesperando a las personas,” the hunger is waking up the people. In the midst of economic recession caused by the pandemic, these communities have additional fears about access to health care and basic resources. As of October 7, 2020, the DR had 116,148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,159 confirmed deaths in a population of about 10.8 million people.
Back in the bateyes, few are talking about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis due to a lack of awareness across the DR. This makes humanitarian efforts difficult to pursue. Nonetheless, organizations, such as the Batey Relief Alliance, the Asociación Scalabriniana al Servicio de la Movilidad Humana (ASCALA), and the Batey Foundation, work to promote development, sustainability, and education in these severely impoverished and disadvantaged communities through hunger relief, labor and female empowerment, legal aid, and entrepreneurship training. All three of these organizations push for internal initiatives, promoting long-term sustainability rather than only short-term gain from foreign volunteers and donations.
Awareness and action are necessary to solve this issue, which hits on immigration, forced repatriation, racism, and previous US intervention. Casting light on this culmination of a conflict-heavy history and the dark side of global market competition works to ensure that the workers of the bateyes are recognized and afforded the human rights they are currently lacking. It is far past time that the United States stares directly at the consequences of its involvement in Latin America and works to promote anti-discriminatory behavior abroad as much as it is seeking to do so within its borders. The United States’ recognition of past racist international policy, reparation, and aid will go far in improving the lives of the bateyes’ stateless.
The Haitian Revolution is one of the most brutal uprisings in human history, giving birth to the world’s first nation born out of slavery. In truth, it was more of a series of uprisings, led by numerous opposing factions, some supported by the Spanish colonists, others supported by the British.
It was not simply slaves against oppressors8 there were a vast array of conflicting interests at play including those of the French Government, white settlers, both black and white slave owners, as well as the interests of the slaves themselves.
Famously, Napoleon himself even became involved when he sent his brother in law, Charles Leclerc to crush a former slave and now military commander named Louverture. He was playing France and England against one another, trying to vie for his political agendas and power, but would eventually be betrayed by the French after signing an armistice in May 1802. Less than a year later, he would die in a French prison.
What men like Louverture had started though could not be stopped, and in 1804, Saint Dominque won her freedom. Her new citizens named her ‘Haiti’, an old Arawak word meaning ‘mountainous land’. Brutal civil war continued for years, however, as did repression and even a kind of return to slavery for a time. Haiti, the nation of slaves, was shunned by the rest of the world, many of whom feared what such news might mean for their slave populations. Even the United States, perhaps Haiti’s most obvious ally in the region, largely ignored her, with the Southern States afraid of the ramifications Haiti could have on their slaves.
Ironically, France would be one of the first countries to recognise Haitian independence — for a price. For the loss of their colonial territory, they demanded 100 million francs, paid annually until 1887. This is roughly equivalent to $370 million today and it crippled what little remained of the Haitian economy, further fuelling the country’s strife.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic: One island, two worlds
They might share an island, but the Dominican Republic and Haiti couldn't be more different. While the former is a popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Palm trees, sandy beaches stretching for miles, a brilliant blue sea – at first glance, the Dominican Republic seems like a real paradise. Several million tourists visit the country each year. But the stunning landscape and the luxurious hotels mask the fact that the Dominican Republic actually belongs to the less wealthy countries in Latin America, and that it shares a border with Haiti, the poorest country in the western world.
Around four million tourists travel to the Dominican Republic each year
Though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island, they remain worlds apart. That's seen, for instance, in the infrastructure. "The Dominican Republic has proper streets so that you can get from one place to another without serious problems," Heinz Oelers, an expert on Latin America at the Christian charity Misereor says. In Haiti, on the other hand, "you often need an hour just to travel a few kilometers," he adds.
It's a similar picture in other areas too. According to the United Nations, only about 50 percent of Haitians can read and write (as opposed to nearly 90 percent in neighboring Dominican Republic) and child mortality rates in Haiti are three times higher than in the Dominican Republic.
Climate change hits Haiti hard
The huge differences between the two countries play a direct role in how far they are affected by climate change and how they're dealing with the consequences.
Haiti's huge coastline makes it especially vulnerable to hurricanes. Since all the country's big cities are located on the coast, floods often have dramatic repercussions. The weak infrastructure hampers quick delivery of aid and emergency help during natural catastrophes. As a result, some 220,000 people were killed during an earthquake in early 2010.
Most people in Haiti live in shanty towns that are dotted around the country
Since no Haitian city has a regular electricity supply, for many residents wood remains the most important source of energy. That's one reason why the island's forest cover has largely disappeared.
The bare mountains lead to strong rains washing away the soil cover. That in turn makes life worse for the local residents since Haiti is densely populated and heavily rural.
Thick vegetation is needed to keep the soil intact, Heinz Oelers says. To do that "you could for instance combine forestry and food crop cultivation," he says. "Instead of growing grain on large areas, you could turn to cultivating fruits such as cassava, bananas and avocados that grow well in the Tropics."
Different colonial pasts
So just how did two neighboring island nations turn out so differently? The main reasons lie in the region's history. The entire island of Hispaniola was long under Spanish rule until 1697, when the Spanish rulers handed over the western third of the island to France.
The area called “Saint-Domingue” became the wealthiest French colony. Hundreds of thousands of African slaves were brought there to help in the production of sugar, coffee, coco and cotton.
In 1791, the region witnessed a slave rebellion. Soon after, slavery was abolished and, following a brutal war of liberation, the region finally gained independence in 1804. Saint-Domingue was renamed Haiti.
About two thirds of Haiti's population make a living from farming
But the former colony faced a mountain of challenges. The big estates were divided among the population and soon, almost every Haitian owned some land. But hardly anyone could live from it since the allotments were too small and the new owners struggled to agree on a shared management of the land.
The problem was compounded by Haiti's ethnically diverse population. "The slaves came from over a hundred different ethnic groups and originally had nothing to do with each other," Oliver Gliech, an expert on Haiti at the Latin America Institute at the Free University in Berlin, says.
"For centuries, they've experienced how power was brutally practiced and legitimized," he says. It's little wonder that the bloody wars in the 19 th century were followed by rebellions, political upheaval and coups as well as frequently changing self-proclaimed monarchs and dictators, he adds. That pattern has continued in the country till today.
Preserving environment the key
Once the Spaniards had exploited several raw materials from their part of the island, most of the settlers moved on to Mexico. The Spanish colony “Santo Domingo,” which later became the Dominican Republic, soon came to be dominated by livestock farming. "There, a homogenous society of Spanish descent with a very slim class of African slaves developed," Oliver Gliech says.
Gliech says the fewer ethnic differences are one reason why the Dominican Republic, that gained independence later than Haiti, soon became much more stable than its neighbor, both economically and politically.
Though it did experience its fair share of dictators and civil wars, the Dominicans have managed in the last 50 years to establish a halfway democratic political system. Tourism now forms the backbone of the country's economy, bringing much needed revenue.
Poverty and political chaos are hampering Haiti's development
That's something Haiti is still far removed from. Reforestation projects could be one concrete step to help the crisis-plagued country get back on its feet again. Forested areas also help prevent landslides through floods and storms, which have been on the rise in the region due to climate change.
As opposed to that, the Dominican Republic has paid more attention to preserving its environment. Due to the significantly improved living conditions there, many Haitians try to find work and asylum in the neighboring country. Though the Dominican Republic isn't one of Latin America's wealthier countries, for many Haitians it's simply paradise.
1. Dominican Republic (1902-present)
Crisis Phase (April 26, 1902-June 19, 1904): Vice-President Felipe Horacio Vásquez led a rebellion against the government of President Juan Isidro Jimenez beginning on April 26, 1902. Vice-President Vásquez’s forces entered Santo Domingo, and President Jimenez was overthrown on May 2, 1902. Vice-President Vásquez was named President of a Provisional Government on May 2, 1902. General Alejandro Wos y Gil overthrew the government of President Vásquez on March 23, 1903. U.S. naval ships and 25 troops commanded by Lt. Richard McConnell were deployed in support of the government in Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata on March 30-April 21, 1903. President Vásquez formally resigned on April 23, 1903. General Wos y Gil was elected president without opposition on June 20, 1903, and he was inaugurated as president on August 1, 1903. President Wos y Gil was overthrown in a rebellion led by General Carlos Morales Languasco on November 24-25, 1903, and General Morales Languasco established a provisional government on December 6, 1903. Some 300 U.S. troops were deployed in support of the government in Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata on January 2-February 11, 1904. Government troops suppressed a Jimenista rebellion in March 1904. The political factions signed a peace agreement in June 1904. General Morales Languasco was elected president in May 1904, and he was inaugurated as president on June 19, 1904. Some 100 individuals were killed during the crisis.
Post-Crisis (June 20, 1904-November 18, 1911): On February 7, 1905, representatives of the U.S. and Dominican Republic governments signed an agreement, under which the U.S. assumed responsibility for the Dominican Republic’s debt and customs duties. President Morales Languasco resigned, and Vice-President Ramón Arturo Cáceres Vasquez was sworn in as president on January 12, 1906. Supporters of former President Morales Languasco rebelled against the government in Santiago and Puerto Plata in January 1906. A Constituent Assembly convened in Santiago in November 1907, and approved a new constitution on February 22, 1908. Ramón Arturo Cáceres Vasquez was elected president by an electoral college on May 30, 1908, and he was inaugurated as president on July 1, 1908.
Crisis Phase (November 19, 1911-March 29, 1914): President Ramón Arturo Cáceres Vasquez was fatally wounded during an assassination attempt on November 19, 1911, and Colonel Alfredo Victoria took provisional control of the government on November 20, 1911. Some 30 individuals were executed for their involvement in the assassination. Senator Eladio Victoria was elected provisional president by the Congress on December 6, 1911, and he was inaugurated as president on February 27, 1912. A rebellion broke out against the government on June 5, 1912. The U.S. government send a mediation commission to the Dominican Republic, and some 750 U.S. troops were deployed in support of the government on September 24, 1912. President Victoria resigned on November 26, 1912. Archbishop Adolfo Nouel was elected as provisional president by the Congress on November 30, 1912, and he was inaugurated as president on December 1, 1912. President Nouel resigned on March 31, 1913. José Bordas Valdez was elected as provisional president by the Congress, and he was inaugurated as president on April 14, 1913. Former president Felipe Horacio Vásquez led a rebellion (Revolucion del Ferrocarril) against the government beginning on September 1, 1913. The U.S. government mediated a ceasefire agreement between the government and Haracistas. Elections for the Constituent Assembly were held on December 15, 1913. The U.S. government deployed 29 observers headed by Hugh Gibson, J. H. Stabler, and F. A. Sterling to supervise the elections on December 12-16, 1913. Some 100 individuals were killed during the crisis.
Conflict Phase (March 30, 1914-August 6, 1914): General Desiderio Arias led a rebellion against the government in La Vega and Santiago beginning on March 30, 1914. José Bordas Valdez was elected president without opposition on June 15, 1914. U.S. naval ships intervened to end the bombardment of Puerto Plata beginning on June 26, 1914. U.S. troops were deployed in support of the government in Santo Domingo in July 1914. The U.S. government mediated the signing of a ceasefire agreement between government and rebel representatives on August 6, 1914. Some 500 individuals were killed during the conflict.
Post-Conflict Phase (August 7, 1914-April 14, 1916): Ramon Baez was elected as provisional president by the Congress, and he was inaugurated as provisional president on August 27, 1914. On September 8, 1914, the U.S. government agreed to supervise the upcoming presidential elections. Juan Isidro Jiménez was elected president on October 25, 1914, and he was inaugurated as president on December 4, 1914.
Conflict Phase (April 15, 1916-June 30, 1922): General Desiderio Arias led a rebellion against the government of President Juan Isidro Jiménez beginning on April 15, 1916. The Congress voted to impeach President Jiménez on May 1, 1916. Some 280 U.S. troops were deployed in support of the government in Santo Domingo beginning on May 5, 1916, President Jiménez resigned on May 7, 1916, and the U.S. government demanded the withdrawal of General Arias’ troops from Santo Domingo. Some 1,500 U.S. troops occupied Santo Domingo on May 15, 1916 (some 3,000 U.S. troops were eventually deployed in the Dominican Republic). Three U.S. soldiers were killed during clashes in June-July 1916. Dr. Francisco Henriquez Carvajal was elected as provisional president by the Congress on July 25, 1916, and he was inaugurated as president on July 31, 1916. The U.S. government decided to withhold customs duties from the government in August 1916. The Constituent Assembly convened in Santo Domingo on September 29, 1916. U.S. troops and Dominicans clashed near Santo Domingo on October 24-25, 1916, resulting in the deaths of two U.S. soldiers and three Dominicans. Captain H. S. Knapp of the U.S. Navy established a military government in the Dominican Republic on November 29, 1916, and he dismissed the government of President Henriquez Carvajal on December 8, 1916. U.S. troops and Dominican rebels led by Vicente Evangelista clashed in eastern Dominican Republic beginning on January 10, 1917. Vicente Evangelista and 200 rebels surrendered to U.S. troops in El Seibo on July 4, 1917. U.S. troops shot and killed Vicente Evangelista as he was “attempting to escape” on July 6, 1917. Ramon Batia, Bullito Batia, and Martin Peguero led a rebellion against the U.S. military government in eastern Dominican Republic beginning in July 1918. U.S. troops were attacked near Manchado on August 13, 1918, resulting in the deaths of four U.S. soldiers. Admiral Thomas Snowden was appointed military administrator on February 25, 1919. Dominican nationalists, including Fabio Fiallo and Americo Lugo, established the Dominican National Union (Union Nacional Dominicana – UND) in February 1920. Rebel leaders, Ramon Batia and Bullito Batia, surrendered to U.S. troops on May 8-9, 1922, and Martin Peguero surrendered to U.S. troops in Vasca on May 13, 1922. Some 140 rebels surrendered to U.S. troops between April 6 and May 31, 1922. The U.S. government and Dominican political parties signed the Memorandum of the Agreement of Evacuation on June 30, 1922, which provided for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. Some 1,000 individuals, including 140 U.S. soldiers, were killed during the conflict.
Post-Conflict Phase (July 1, 1922-September 18, 1924): Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos was chosen as provisional president on October 2, 1922, and he was inaugurated as provisional president on October 21, 1922. The U.S. military governor left the country on October 24, 1922. General Felipe Horacio Vásquez of the Progressive National Alliance (PNA) was elected president on March 15, 1924, and he was inaugurated as president on July 12, 1924. Legislative elections were held on March 15, 1924, and the PNA won 24 out of 31 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Patriotic Coalition of Citizens (PCC) won seven seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The U.S. government sent observers to monitor the elections. A new constitution went into effect on June 13, 1924. U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from the country on September 18, 1924.
Post-Crisis Phase (September 19, 1924-February 22, 1930): Elections for a constituent assembly were held in the Congress of the Dominican Republic on April 1, 1927. Supporters of Vice President Federico Velásquez boycotted the election in the Congress. On June 17, 1927, the Constituent Assembly approved amendments to the constitution providing for a six-year term for the president and vice-president. Vice-President Federico Velásquez was replaced by Dr. José Dolores Alfonseca on August 16, 1928. Elections for a constituent assembly were held on June 1, 1929, and the Constituent Assembly removed the limit of one term for presidents of the Dominican Republic. President Vásquez departed to the U.S. for surgery on October 31, 1929, and he returned to the Dominican Republic on January 6, 1930.
Crisis Phase (February 23, 1930-February 27, 1963): General Rafael Estrella Ureña led a rebellion against the government of President Felipe Horacio Vásquez in Santiago beginning on February 23, 1930. President Vásquez formally resigned, and General Estrella Ureña became provisional president on March 2, 1930. On April 21, 1930, General Estrella Ureña resigned as provisional president in order to run for vice-president. General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was elected president and General Estrella Ureña was elected vice-president with 99 percent of the vote on May 16, 1930. General Trujillo and General Estrella Ureña were inaugurated as president and vice-president on August 16, 1930. Opposition political parties claimed election fraud. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1930, and President Trujillo’s Confederation of Parties won 31 out of 31 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. President Trujillo suppressed opposition to his government, and forced many political opponents to go into exile. President Trujillo formally established the Dominican Party (Partido Dominicano – PD) on August 16, 1931. President Trujillo was re-elected unopposed on May 16, 1934, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1934. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1934, and the PD won 31 out of 31 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. A new constitution was approved by a constitutional convention on June 9, 1934. Some 20,000 Haitians, mostly born in the Dominican Republic, were massacred by government troops under President Trujillo’s orders near the border with Haiti on October 2-8, 1937. Vice-President Jacinto Peynardo of the PD was elected president on May 16, 1938, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1938. General Trujillo continued to exert influence over the government of President Peynardo. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1938, and the PD won all of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies. President Peynardo died on March 7, 1940, and Vice-President Manual de Jesus Troncoso assumed the presidency. Elections for a constituent assembly were held on December 16, 1941, and the Constituent Assembly adopted a new constitution on January 10, 1942. General Trujillo was elected president unopposed on May 16, 1942, and he was sworn in as president following the resignation of President Troncoso on May 18, 1942. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1942, and the PD won 35 out of 35 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. General Trujillo was formally inaugurated as president on August 16, 1942. Elections for a constituent assembly were held on December 14, 1946, and the Constituent Assembly adopted a new constitution on January 10, 1947. President Trujillo was re-elected with 93 percent of the vote on May 16, 1947, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1947. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1947, and the PD won 45 out of 45 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Costa Rican government imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of diplomatic relations) against the government of the Dominican Republic on May 9, 1948. Héctor Bienvenido Trujillo, the brother of President Rafael Trujillo, was elected president without opposition on May 16, 1952, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1952. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1952, and the PD won 50 out of 50 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Elections for a constituent assembly were held on November 13, 1955. President Héctor Bienvenido Trujillo was re-elected unopposed on May 16, 1957. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1957, and the PD won 58 out of 58 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Dominican exiles attempted an invasion from Cuba on June 14, 1959, but the invasion was defeated by government troops. Some 80 individuals were killed during the invasions. Venezuela accused the Dominican Republic of “flagrant violations of human rights,” and referred the matter to the Organization of American States (OAS) Council on February 5, 1960. The OAS Council established a four member fact-finding mission (El Salvador, Mexico, Uruguay, U.S.) to investigate the accusation beginning on February 8, 1960. On June 8, 1960, the OAS fact-finding commission reported that the Dominican Republic had violated the human rights of its citizens. The U.S. government imposed military sanctions (suspension of military assistance) and economic sanctions (withdrawal of the sugar quota) against the government of the Dominican Republic in June 1960. The Congress declared a state-of-emergency at President Trujillo’s request on July 1, 1960. President Trujillo resigned on August 2, 1960, and Vice-President Joaquin Balaguer was sworn in as president on August 3, 1960. OAS foreign ministers imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of diplomatic relations) and military sanctions (arms embargo) against the government on August 19, 1960. Provincial and local elections were held on December 15, 1960. OAS foreign ministers imposed economic sanctions against the government on January 4, 1961. Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Reilly accused the government of “acts of intimidation and persecution” on March 12, 1961. General Rafael Trujillo was assassinated by a group led by General Juan Tomas Diaz (possibly with the assistance of the U.S. C.I.A.) on May 30, 1961, and two of the assassins were killed by government police. The U.S. government mobilized naval ships in the area between May 30, 1961 and June 10, 1961. Lt. General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Martínez (“Ramfis Trujillo”), the son of the former dictator, took over as chief-of-staff of the Dominican armed forces on June 2, 1961. President Joaquin Balaguer promised to democratize the country and hold multiparty elections the following year. The U.S. government referred the matter of reports of human rights abuses by Dominican police to the OAS Council on June 2, 1961. The OAS Council established a five-member fact-finding mission headed by Augusto Guillermo Arango of Panama on June 5, 1961. The OAS fact-finding mission returned to Washington DC on June 15, 1961. The National Civic Union (Unión Cívica Nacional–UCN) was established on July 15, 1961. President Balaguer requested electoral assistance from the OAS Council on August 6, 1961. The OAS Council established a technical assistance mission to the country on August 7, 1961. The OAS mission, which consisted of representatives from Panama, Uruguay, and the U.S. (including three staff members), provided technical assistance from August 24 to October 19, 1961 and June 24 to December 20, 1962. The OAS fact-finding mission headed by Augusto Guillermo Arango of Panama returned to the Dominican Republic on September 12, 1961. Government police and demonstrators clashed in Ciudad Trujillo and other cities on October 16-25, 1961, resulting in the deaths of four individuals. Lt. General Ramfis Trujillo resigned as chief-of-staff of the armed forces, and fled the country on November 17, 1961. President Balaguer assumed control of the armed forces, and declared a state-of-emergency on November 19, 1961. The U.S. government deployed 14 naval ships near the country in support of President Balaguer between November 19 and December 5, 1961. Francisco Jose Oyarzun of Chile mediated negotiations between President Balaguer and Viriato Alberto Fiallo, leader of the UCN, in Santo Domingo on December 4-5, 1961. The PD was formally dissolved as a political party on December 28, 1961. President Balaguer relinquished power on December 31, 1961, and a seven-member provisional Council of State was installed on January 1, 1962. The OAS Council lifted economic sanctions against the government on January 4, 1962, and the U.S. government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the provisional government of the Dominican Republic on January 7, 1962. Government troops fired on demonstrators in Santo Domingo on January 15, 1962, resulting in the deaths of four individuals. The Council of State was overthrown by a seven-member military junta on January 16, 1962, but the military junta was overthrown on January 18, 1962. Rafael Bonnelly was installed as chairman of the Council of State, and President Balaguer went into exile. The Council of State imposed a state-of-emergency on February 21, 1962. The U.S. government agreed to provide military assistance to the government of the Dominican Republic on March 8, 1962. Legislative elections were held on December 20, 1962, and the Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano – PRD) won 49 out of 74 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The National Civic Union (Unión Cívica Nacional–UCN) won 20 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Juan Bosch Gavino of the PRD was elected president with some 60 percent of the vote on December 20, 1962, and he was inaugurated as president on February 27, 1963. The OAS sent 36 observers from 17 countries to monitor the presidential election from December 17-21, 1962. Government troops suppressed a rebellion in Palma Sol on December 28-30, 1962, resulting in the deaths of some 30 individuals.
Post-Crisis Phase (February 28, 1963-September 24, 1963): A new constitution went into effect on April 29, 1963. On April 1, 1963, the government of President Juan Bosch permitted the return from exile of Maximo Lopez Molina, leader of the Dominican People’s Party (DPP). A new constitution was promulgated on April 19, 1963. The Reformist Party (Partido Reformista – PR) was established by Joaquin Balaguer in July 1963. On July 12, 1963, General Elías Wessin y Wessin issued an ultimatum to President Bosch to adopt an anti-communist stance, but the ultimatum was rejected by President Bosch.
Crisis Phase (September 25, 1963-April 23, 1965): President Juan Bosch was deposed in a right-wing military coup led by General Elías Wessin y Wessin on September 25, 1963, and a military-backed provisional government headed by Dr. Emilio de los Santos assumed power and abolished the constitution on September 26, 1963. The U.S. government imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of diplomatic relations), economic sanctions (suspension of economic assistance), and military sanctions (suspension of military assistance) against the Dominican Republic on September 25, 1963. The Venezuelan government imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of diplomatic relations) against the government on September 25, 1963. The provisional government declared a state of siege in Santo Domingo on October 7, 1963. The governments of Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Honduras provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the provisional government on November 1, 1963. The U.S. government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the military junta and military assistance beginning on December 12, 1963. Aurelio Manuel “Manolo” Tavarez Justo, and some 19 other members of the left-wing June 14th Revolutionary Movement surrendered and were killed to government troops on December 21, 1963. Dr. Emilio de los Santos resigned as head of the military-backed provisional government, and Donald Joseph Reid Cabral was appointed as head of the provisional government on December 23, 1963. The U.S. government provided $100 million in economic assistance to the military junta between January 1964 and April 1965.
Conflict Phase (April 24, 1965-May 21, 1965): Some 2,700 Dominican soldiers led by Colonel Francisco Caamano Deno rebelled against the government of President Reid Cabral on April 24, 1965. The rebels seized the radio station and the headquarters of the army in Santo Domingo. President Reid Cabral was overthrown during a military rebellion led by Colonel Francisco Caamano on April 25-26, 1965, and Jose Rafael Molina Urena was named provisional president on April 26, 1965. General Elias Wessin y Wessin led a rebellion against the government of President Molina Urena. President Molina Urena requested military assistance from the U.S. on April 27, 1965. Some 32,000 U.S. troops were deployed in support of the government beginning on April 28, 1965. The Vatican (Papal Nuncio) attempted to mediate a ceasefire agreement on April 28-30, 1965. The OAS Council appealed for a ceasefire and offered to mediate on April 29, 1965. The OAS Council established a good offices commission (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Panama) chaired by Ricardo Colombo of Argentina on April 30, 1965. The OAS Council established Operation Socorro (Operation Help) consisting of 30 personnel to provide humanitarian assistance to some 500,000 individuals affected by the conflict on May 3, 1965. The Soviet Union referred the matter to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and the UN Security Council held 16 meetings concerning the matter from May 3-25, 1965. Colonel Caamano was elected president by the Dominican Congress on May 4, 1965. On May 5, 1965, the OAS good offices commission facilitated the signing of a ceasefire agreement (Act of Santo Domingo). OAS foreign ministers established the Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) on May 6, 1965. The IAPF, which was commanded by General Hugo Panasco Alvim of Brazil, consisted of 1,130 Brazilian soldiers, 21 Costa Rican military police, three Salvadoran soldiers, 250 Honduran soldier, 160 Nicaraguan soldiers, 184 Paraguayan soldiers, and 10,000 U.S. military personnel. The OAS secretary-general established a coordinating committee of Operation Sorocco, which –consisted of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), CARE, and Church World Service (CWS), on May 8, 1965. Government soldiers and rebel soldiers resumed military hostilities on May 13, 1965. The UN Security Council approved a resolution on May 14, 1965, which appealed for a cessation of military hostilities and invited the UN secretary-general to send a representative to the Dominican Republic. On May 15, 1965, the UN secretary-general appointed Jose Antonio Mayobre of Venezuela as his personal representative to the Dominican Republic. The UN Security Council established the UN Mission in the Dominican Republic to “observe the situation in the Dominican Republic and to report to the Secretary-General, and through him to the Security Council, on breaches of the ceasefire called by the Council or any events which might effect the maintenance of peace and order in the country.” DOMREP consisted of two military observers commanded by Major-General Indar J. Rikhye of India. Brazil, Canada, and Ecuador contributed military observers to the UN mission. The OAS good offices commission completed its mission on May 20, 1965. The UN Special Representative Jose Antonio Mayobre mediated a ceasefire agreement between the rival faction that went into effect on May 21, 1965. Some 3,500 individuals, including 1,000 civilians and 2,000 government soldiers, were killed during the conflict.
Post-Conflict Phase (May 22, 1965-September 20, 1966): The Organization of American States (OAS) good offices commission issued a final report on June 2, 1965. OAS foreign ministers established a conciliation committee (Brazil, El Salvador, U.S.) on June 2, 1965. Inter-American Peace Force (IAPF) forces clashed with rebels in Santo Domingo on June 15, 1965. The OAS conciliation committee mediated the signing of the Act of Dominican Reconciliation by the parties on August 31, 1965, which provided for the establishment of a provisional government to rule the country until elections. Hector Garcia-Godoy became provisional president on September 4, 1965. Five individuals were killed in political violence in Santo Domingo on October 16-19, 1965. Government troops and rebel soldiers led by Colonel Francisco Caamana clashed in Santiago de los Caballeros on December 19, 1965, resulting in the deaths of 28 individuals. Ten individuals were killed in political violence in Santo Domingo on December 19-24, 1965. Nineteen individuals were killed in political violence in Santo Domingo on February 9-13, 1966. Legislative elections were held on June 1, 1966, and the Reformist Party (Partido Reformista – PR) won 48 out of 74 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano – PRD) won 26 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Joaquin Balaguer of the PR was elected president with 58 percent of the vote on June 1, 1966, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1966. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 41 observers from 18 countries to monitor the presidential election from May to June 2, 1966, and reported that the election had been free and fair. The U.S. government sent 72 observers to monitor the elections. U.S. troops were withdrawn from the country beginning on June 28, 1966. The IAPF was withdrawn from the country on September 20, 1966. Forty-four U.S. military personnel were killed during the intervention. Some 500 individuals were killed in political violence between May 1965 and September 1966.
Post-Crisis Phase (September 21, 1966-January 29, 1971): The UN peacekeeping mission, DOMREP, was disbanded on October 22, 1966. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1970, and the Reformist Party (Partido Reformista – PR) won 45 out of 74 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Movement of Democratic Integration (MDI) won eleven seats in the Chamber of Deputies. President Balaguer Ricardo of the PR was re-elected with 57 percent of the vote on May 16, 1970, and he was inaugurated for a second term on August 16, 1970. The Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano – PRD) led by Juan Bosch boycotted the presidential and legislative elections. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent three observers to monitor the presidential and legislative elections, and issued a report on May 19, 1970. Some 45 individuals were killed in election-related violence.
Crisis Phase (January 30, 1971-August 16, 1978): The government suppressed a military rebellion on January 30, 1971. Government police and left-wing rebels clashed near Santo Domingo on January 12, 1972, resulting in the deaths of eight government policemen and 14 rebels. Government troops and rebels led by Colonel Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó clashed in Azua province on February 4-6, 1973, resulting in the deaths of three government soldiers and one rebel. President Balaguer declared a state-of-emergency on February 7, 1973. Colonel Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó was captured and executed by government troops on February 16, 1973. President Balaguer Ricardo of the Reformist Party (Partido Reformista – PR) was re-elected with 85 percent of the vote on May 16, 1974. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1974, and the PR won 86 out of 91 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Popular Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Popular – PDP) won three seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Some 25 individuals were killed in election-related violence. The Communist Party of the Dominican Republic (CPDR) was legalized on November 9, 1977. Two individuals were killed in political violence in Esperanza on February 19, 1978. Guillermo Rubirosa Fermin, leader of Los Trinitarios, was killed by government police in San Pedro de Macoris on March 26, 1978. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1978, and the Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano – PRD) won 48 out of 91 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PR won 43 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Silvestre Antonio Guzmán Fernández of the PRD was elected president with 52 percent of the vote on May 16, 1978, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1978. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent three observers from Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala to monitor the presidential election.
Post-Crisis Phase (August 17, 1978-present): Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1982, and the Domincan Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano – PRD) won 62 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Reformist Party (Partido Reformista – PR) won 50 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Salvador Jorge Blanco of the PRD was elected president with 47 percent of the vote on May 16, 1982, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1982. President Guzmán Fernández committed suicide on July 4, 1982, and he was succeeded by Vice-President Jacobo Majluta Azar. Salvador Jorge Blanco was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1982. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1986, and the Christian Social Reform Party (Partido Reformista Social Cristiano – PRSC) won 56 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRD-led coalition won 48 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo of the PRSC was elected president on May 16, 1986, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1986. Five individuals were killed in political violence on June 23, 1986. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1990, and the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana – PLD) won 44 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRSC-led coalition won 41 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo of the PRSC was re-elected as president with 36 percent of the vote on May 16, 1990. Juan Bosch, PLD presidential candidate, claimed election fraud. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent four observers to monitor the elections from May 13, 1990 to May 24, 1990. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Carter Center/Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government (CC/CFEHG) sent ten observers headed by Jimmy Carter to jointly observe the presidential election on May 14-17, 1990. The NDI and CC/CFEHG mission reported that election irregularities were insufficient to have changed the outcome of the election. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1994, and the PRD-led coalition won 57 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRSC-led coalition won 50 out of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. President Balaguer Ricardo was re-elected as president with 43 percent of the vote on May 16, 1994. Opposition groups claimed election fraud. The Organization of American States (OAS) Council sent 27 observers to monitor the election process from April 25 to August 17, 1994. The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) sent observers to monitor the presidential election. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) sent observers to monitor the presidential election, and reported that there had been election irregularities that could have affected the outcome. President Balaguer Ricardo agreed to hold a new presidential election. Leonel Antonio Fernández Reyna of the PLD was elected president with 51 percent of the vote in the second round of the elections held on June 30, 1996, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 1996. The NDI and CC/CFEHG sent 40 observers from eleven countries headed by Belisario Betancur of Colombia and Ramiro de Leon Carpio of Guatemala to jointly observe the presidential elections from May 12 to July 1, 1996. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 25 observers to monitor the presidential election from May 4, 1996 to July 1, 1996. Some 15 individuals were killed in election-related violence. One individual was killed by government police during a general strike in Santo Domingo on November 11, 1997. José Francisco Peña Gómez, leader of the Domincan Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano – PRD), died of stomach cancer on May 10, 1998. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 1998, and the PRD-led coalition won 83 out of 149 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PLD won 49 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 10 observers headed by Santiago Murray of Argentina to monitor the elections from May 13 to May 20, 1998. Twelve individuals were killed in election-related violence. On January 28, 1999, the U.S.-based human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), condemned the government of the Dominican Republic for police shootings. Three individuals were killed during clashes between protesters and government police in Salcedo in March 1999. Trade unions organized a general strike in the Dominican Republic on May 19, 1999. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) sent a pre-election assessment mission consisting of five personnel on April 9-14, 2000. Two opposition political activists were killed in political violence in Moca on April 29, 2000. Rafael Hipólito Mejía Domínguez of the PRD was elected president with 50 percent of the vote on May 16, 2000, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 2000. On August 4, 2000, General Joaquin Antonio Pou Castro was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the killing of left-wing journalist Orlando Martinez in March 1975. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 37 observers headed by Santiago Murray of Argentina to monitor the presidential election. The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) sent 19 observers headed by Rosa Marina Zelaya of Nicaragua to monitor the presidential election on May 11-18, 2000. The NDI and CC/CFEHG sent 24 observers headed by Belisario Betancur of Colombia to jointly observe the presidential election on May 12-18, 2000. On May 11, 2001, an appeals court in the Dominican Republic overturned the corruption conviction of former president Salvador Jorge Blanco, who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Three individuals were killed during clashes between protesters and government police in Santo Domingo in May 2001. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 2002, and the PRD-led coalition won 73 out of 150 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PLD-led coalition won 41 seats won 36 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent observers headed by Diego Paz Bustamante to monitor the elections. Six individuals were killed during clashes between protesters and government police across the country on November 11, 2003. Five individuals were killed in political violence on January 29-30, 2004. Leonel Antonio Fernández of the PLD was elected president with 57 percent of the vote on May 16, 2004, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 2004. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent observers to monitor the presidential election. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 2006, and the PLD-led Progressive Bloc won 96 out of 178 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRD-led Grand National Alliance won 60 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. President Leonel Antonio Fernández of the PLD was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote on May 16, 2008. Three individuals were killed in election-related violence. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 70 observers to monitor the presidential election. Legislative elections were held on May 16, 2010, and the PLD-led coalition won 105 out of 183 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRD-led coalition won 75 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 53 observers to monitor the legislative elections. Five individuals were killed in election-related violence. Antonio Pena Ramos, a supporter of the PRD, was killed in political violence in Moca on April 8, 2012. Danilo Medina of the PLD was elected with 51 percent of the vote on May 20, 2012, and he was inaugurated as president on August 16, 2012. The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 71 observers from 21 countries headed by Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay to monitor the presidential election. One individual was killed during clashes between protesters and government police in Santo Domingo on November 8, 2012.
[Sources: Agence France Presse (AFP), May 17, 2010 Associated Press (AP), July 1, 1996, April 30, 2000, May 19, 2000, August 16, 2000 Banks and Muller, 1998, 268-271 Bannon and Dunne, 1947, 762-767 Beigbeder, 1994, 231-233 Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 94-95, 126 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), November 11, 1997, May 11, 1998, May 18, 1998, January 28, 1999, March 19, 1999, May 19, 1999, May 1, 2000, May 16, 2000, May 18, 2000, August 4, 2000, August 16, 2000, May 11, 2001, May 17, 2001, July 14, 2002, November 12, 2003, January 30, 2004, May 17, 2004, August 16, 2004, May 17, 2008, May 22, 2012, May 23, 2012, August 16, 2012 Butterworth, 1976, 264-271, 400-402 Carter Center (CC) press release, May 10, 1996, June 26, 1996, May 12, 2000, May 18, 2000 Clodfelter, 1992, 1167 Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 254-258 Ellsworth, 1974, 65-71 Facts on File, May 9-15, 1948, April 6-12, 1961, June 1-7, 1961, June 8-14, 1961, June 15-21, 1961, October 26-November 1, 1961, November 16-22, 1961, January 11-17, 1962, February 22-28, 1962, December 27-31, 1962, September 19-25, 1963, December 12-18, 1963, April 22-28, 1965, April 29-May 5, 1965, May 13-19, 1965, May 20-26, 1965, May 27-June 2, 1965, October 14-20, 1965, December 23-29, 1965, February 10-16, 1966, May 19-25, 1966, July 23-29, 1970, January 16-22, 1972, February 4-10, 1973, May 25, 1974, March 3, 1978, April 21, 1978, June 2, 1978, August 25, 1978 Hispanic American Report (HAR), March 1960, April 1960, August 1960, September 1960, October 1960, February 1961, July 1961, August 1961, September 1961, November 1961, December 1961, January 1962, February 1962, March 1962, February 1963, March 1963, November 1963, February 1964 International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) press release, May 11, 2000 Ireland, 1941, 43-53Jessup, 1998, 163-165 Keesing’s Record of World Events, July 11-18, 1959, September 24-October 1, 1960, April 27-May 4, 1963 October 26-November 2, 1963, June 26-July 3, 1965, July 17-24, 1965, September 25-October 2, 1965, July 2-9, 1966, June 13-20, 1970, March 5-11, 1973, June 17-23, 1974, January 13, 1978, November 5, 1982, April 1987, June 1996, May 1998 Langer, 1972, 861-862, 1073, 1248-1250 Munro, 1961, 477-493 Munro, 1964, 78-125, 259-325 Munro, 1974, 44-70, 294-308 National Democratic Institute (NDI) press release, April 14, 2000, May 18, 2000 National Democratic Institute (NDI) statement, April 14, 2000, May 18, 2000 New York Times (NYT), May 17, 2008, November 8, 2012 Nye, 1971, 145-146 Organization of American States (OAS) press release, May 14, 1998, March 21, 2000, May 23, 2002, May 16, 2004, May 17, 2008, May 21, 2012 Reuters, May 17, 2000, August 16, 2000, May 22, 2012 Robertson, 1943, 410-416 Scheina, 2003, 48-53 Schwarz, 1970, 130-132 Survey of International Affairs (SIA), 1925 (supplement), 82, 1930, 560 Tillema, 1991, 17-18 Wainhouse, 1973, 459-501 Weisburd, 1997, 219-224 Wright, 1964, 79-90.]
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Intervention in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - History
History of the Dominican Republic
The History Section was revised and edited by Dr. Lynne Guitar, one of the foremost historians of the Dominican Republic.
For at least 5,000 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America for the Europeans, the island, which he named Hispaniola, was inhabited by indigenous peoples whom he called "Indians." Anthropologists have traced multiple waves of indigenous immigration from two principal places. Some of the early Amer-Indians came from Central America (probably Yucatan and Belize) and some came from South America, descendants of the Arawakan Indians in Amazonia, many of whom passed through the Orinocco Valley in Venezuela. It is from the blending of these waves of indigenous immigrants that the Taíno Indians, the people who welcomed Columbus on his arrival, are believed to have originated.
The word Taíno meant "good" or "noble" in their language, which they showed Columbus and his Spanish crew with their peaceful and generous hospitality. Early Spanish chroniclers document they saw no Taíno Indians fighting amongst themselves&mdashin fact, they substituted a ballgame called batey for battles. If two Taínos had an argument, they would choose a team of players and, in front of their kacikes ("chiefs") and all their people, would play the game, which was somewhat similar to today´s soccer. The winning team won the argument&hellip. By the end of the 15th century, the Taíno were well organized into five political units called kacikazgos and were considered to have been on the verge of moving from a nation to nation-state. Estimates based on recent archaeological and demographic research indicate there were probably several million Taíno living on the island at this time.
When Columbus crossed the Atlantic with his crew of Spaniards, he made stops on what are now known as the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba before landing on the island he named Hispaniola--the Taíno called it Kiskeya, Haití, and Bohío (there were several different indigenous tribes and nations on the island, each with its own language, although Taíno was predominant). It was Hispaniola that got the Spaniards excited for several reasons. Columbus' journal is full of descriptions indicating how beautiful the island paradise was, including high, forested mountains and large river valleys. He described the Taíno as very peaceful, generous, and cooperative with the Europeans, and as a result, the Europeans saw the Taíno as easy targets to conquer. In addition, they saw the Taíno had gold ornaments and jewelry from the deposits of gold found in Hispaniola's rivers. So after a month or so of feasting and exploring the northern coast of Hispaniola, Columbus hurried back to Spain to announce his successful discovery--but he had lost his flagship and had to leave many of his crewmen behind.
On Christmas Eve 1492, after returning from two days of partying with their Taíno hosts, Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, ran afoul on a reef a few miles east of present-day Cap Haitien, after the entire crew, except for a 12-year-old boy, had fallen asleep. With the help of the Taínos, they were able to salvage all of the ship's valuables, but the ship itself was lost. Before departing, Columbus ordered a small fortress built from the flagship´s timbers and left behind a group of 39 of his crewmen to collect gold until his return. He named this settlement Fortalesa La Navidad ("Fort Christmas").
Within a short time after Columbus' departure, the Spanish settlers began fighting amongst themselves, with some even killing one another. They deeply offended the Taínos by raping their wives and sisters and forcing both men and women to work as their servants. After several months of this abuse, a kacike by the name of Caonabó attacked the settlement and killed the Spanish settlers. When Columbus returned to the island with a large expedition the following January, he was shocked to find his men all dead and the fort burned to the ground.
The first permanent European settlement, Isabella, was founded in 1493, on the north coast of the island, not far from where Puerto Plata is now. From there the Spaniards could exploit the gold in the Cibao Valley, a short distance away, in the interior of the country. The Spaniards brought horses and dogs, and combined with their armor and iron weapons, as well as their invisible allies, disease germs against which the Taíno had no immunities, the Taíno were unable to resist for long. An expeditionary force was sent to capture Caonabó and another to put down a unified force of thousands of warriors at the site today known as Santo Cerro, after which the Taíno were forced into hard labor, panning for gold under conditions that were repressive and deplorable.
Columbus' brother, Bartholomew, was appointed governor while Christopher continued his explorations in the Caribbean region. After the discovery of gold on the island´s southern coast, Bartholomew founded the city of Santo Domingo in 1496. The Spaniards were jealous of the Columbus brothers' (Italian) leadership and so began accusing them of mismanagement when reporting back to Spain. These complaints had them relieved of their positions and Christopher and his two brothers were brought back to Spain in chains. Once there, it became evident that most of the accusations against them had been grossly exaggerated and Queen Isabella ordered their release.
Their successor as governor of the new colony, Nicolas Ovando, of Spain, decided to take action to "pacify" the Taíno once and for all. He arranged for Anacaona, the widely respected Taíno kacika ("chieftess" or "queen"), the widow of Caonabó, to organize a feast, supposedly to welcome the new governor to the island. When 80-plus of the island's kacikes were assembled in Anacaona's large wooden caney ("palace") near the site of today's Port au Prince, in Haití, the Spanish soldiers surrounded it and set it on fire. Those who were not killed immediately were brutally tortured to death. After a mock trial in Santo Domingo, Anacaona was also hanged. Ovando ordered a similar campaign to kill all the Taíno kacikes in the eastern part of the island. With few remaining Taíno leaders, future resistance from the Taíno was virtually eliminated. It was a pattern that Spaniards carried into the rest of the Americas.
Unlike Europeans, Africans, and Asians (who had exchanged diseases for centuries along with commercial goods), the remaining Taíno did not have immunities to the diseases that the Spaniards and their animals carried to the Americas. Forced into brute labor and unable to take time to engage in agricultural activities in order to feed themselves, famine accelerated the death rate. To escape from the Spaniards, some Taíno adopted the tactic of abandoning their villages and burning their crops. They fled to less hospitable regions of the island, forming cimarrón ("runaway") colonies, or fled to other islands and even to the mainland. Smallpox was introduced to the island in late 1518 and the indigenous death rate accelerated. After 25 years of Spanish occupation, there were fewer than 50,000 Taíno remaining in the Spanish-dominated parts of the island. Within another generation, the survivors had nearly all become biologically mixed with Spaniards, Africans, or other mixed-blood people--had become the tripartite people today known as Dominicans. Some modern historians have classified the acts of the Spaniards against the Taíno as genocide.
In the first decade of the 1500s, one of the Taíno kacikes, Hatuey, escaped to Cuba, where he organized armed resistance against the Spanish invaders. After a brave but uneven struggle, he was captured and burned alive. As the flames leaped upwards, a priest attempted to convert him to Christianity o that Hatuey could go to Heaven. Hatuey asked if there were Spaniards in Heaven, and when the priest answered, "Yes," Hatuey refused his blessing. The most successful resistance against the Spaniards took place on Hispaniola from 1519 to 1534, after the Taíno population had been almost completely decimated. This occurred when several thousand Taínos escaped their captivity and followed their leader Enriquillo to the mountains of Bahoruco, in the south-central part of the country, near the present border with Haiti. It was here, after raiding Spanish plantations and defeating Spanish patrols for 14 years, that the very first truce between an Amer-Indian chief and a European monarch was negotiated. Enriquillo and his followers were all pardoned and given their own town and charter.
By 1515 the Spaniards realized that the gold deposits of Hispaniola were becoming exhausted. Shortly thereafter, Hernándo Cortés and his small retinue of soldiers made their astonishing conquest of Mexico, with its fabulous riches of silver. Almost overnight the colony on Hispaniola, which was usually called Santo Domingo after its capital city, was abandoned and only a few thousand "Spanish" settlers remained behind (many of whom were the offspring of Spanish fathers and Taíno mothers). Columbus' introduction of cattle and pigs to the island had multiplied rapidly, so the remaining inhabitants turned their attention to raising livestock to supply Spanish ships passing by the island en route to the richer colonies on the American mainland. Hispaniola's importance as a colony became increasingly minimized.
By the middle of the 17th century, the island of Tortuga, located to the west of Cap Haitien, had been settled by smugglers, run-away indentured servants, and members of crews of various European ships. In addition to capturing livestock on Hispaniola to sell for their leather, Tortuga became the headquarters for the pirates of the Caribbean, who predominantly raided Spanish treasure ships. This area became the recruiting grounds for expeditions mounted by many notorious pirates, including the famous British pirate Henry Morgan.
The French, envious of Spain's possessions in the Americas, sent colonists to settle Tortuga and the northwestern coast of Hispaniola, which the Spaniards had totally abandoned by 1603 (under royal mandate, the island's governor, Osorio, forcibly moved all Spaniards to a line south and east of today's San Juan de Maguana). In order to domesticate the pirates, the French supplied them with women who had been taken from prisons, accused of prostitution and thieving. The western third of Hispaniola became a French possession called Saint Domingue in 1697, and over the next century developed into what became, by far, one of the richest colonies in the world. The wealth of the colony derived predominantly from cane sugar. Large plantations were worked by hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were forcibly imported to the island.
Inspired by events taking place in France during the French Revolution and by disputes between whites and mulattos in Saint Domingue, a slave revolt broke out in the French colony in 1791, and was eventually led by a French Black man by the name of Toussaint L'ouverture. Since Spain had ceded the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo to France in 1795, in the Treaty of Basilea, Toussaint L'Ouverture and his followers claimed the entire island.
Although L'Ouverture and his successor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, succeeded in re-establishing order and renewing the economy of Saint Domingue, which had been badly devastated, the new leader in France, Napoleon Bonaparte, could not accept having France's richest colony governed by a Black man. Succumbing to the complaints of former colonists who had lost their plantations in the colony, a large expedition was mounted to conquer the Blacks and re-establish slavery. Led by Napoleon's brother-in-law, General Leclerc, the expedition turned into a disaster. The Black army definitively defeated the French, and the Blacks declared their independence on January 1, 1804, establishing the Republic of Haiti on the western third of the island of Hispaniola.
The French retained control of the eastern side of the island, however, and then in 1809 returned this portion to Royal Spanish rule. The Spaniards not only tried to re-establish slavery in Santo Domingo, but many of them also mounted raiding expeditions into Haiti to capture Blacks and enslave them as well. Due to the neglect of the Spanish authorities, the colonists of Santo Domingo, under the leadership of José Núñez de Cáceres, proclaimed what came to be called the Ephemeral Independence. In 1822, fearful the French would mount another expedition from Spanish Santo Domingo to re-establish slavery, as they had threatened to do, Haiti's President Jean-Pierre Boyer sent an army that invaded and took over the eastern portion of Hispaniola. Boyer once again abolished slavery and incorporated Santo Domingo into the Republic of Haiti.
For the next 22 years the whole island of Hispaniola was unified under Haitian control--Dominicans call the period "The Haitian Occupation." Due to their loss of political and economic control, the former Spanish ruling class deeply resented the occupation. During the late 1830s, an underground resistance group, La Trinitaria, was organized under the leadership of Juan Pablo Duarte. After multiple attacks on the Haitian army, and because of internal discord among the Haitians, the Haitians eventually retreated. Independence of the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola was officially declared on February 27, 1844, and the name República Dominicana (Dominican Republic) was adopted.
The Trinitaria leaders of the move for Dominican independence almost immediately encountered political opposition from within, and in six months were ousted from power. From this time on the Dominican Republic was almost constantly under the rule of caudillos, strong military leaders who ruled the country as if it were their personal fiefdom. Over the next 70 years, the Dominican Republic had multiple outbreaks of civil war and was characterized by political instability and economic chaos.
For the next quarter of a century, leadership seesawed between that of General Pedro Santana and General Buenaventura Báez, whose armies continuously fought each other for political control. In an effort to maintain some type of stability, the two military leaders and their armies resorted to outside assistance. In 1861, General Pedro Santana invited Spain to return and take over its former colony. After a short period of mismanagement by Spain, the Dominicans realized their mistake and forced the Spaniards out so they could restore the Republic. Another attempt was made for stability when Dominicans invited the United States to take over a decade later. Although U.S. President Grant supported the request, it was defeated by the U.S. Congress.
During the 19th century, the country's economy shifted from ranching to other sources of revenue. In the southwestern region, a new industry arose with the cutting down and exporting of precious woods like mahogany, oak, and guayacán. In the northern plains and valleys around Santiago, industry focused on growing tobacco for some of the world's best cigars, and on coffee.
In 1882, General Ulysses Heureux, known as "Lilis," came into power. His brutal dictatorship consisted of a corrupt regime that maintained power by violent repression of his opponents. Lilis handled the country's affairs so poorly that it regularly rocked back and forth between economic crisis and currency devaluations. Following his assassination in 1899, several individuals came to power, only to be rapidly overthrown by their political opponents, and the country's internal situation continuously degenerated into chaos.
Around the turn of the century, the sugar industry was revived, and so many Americans came to the Dominican Republic to buy plantations that they came to dominate this vital sector of the economy. In 1916, Americans, wanting to expand their influence and power in the Dominican Republic, used the First World War as an excuse to bring in U.S. Marines to "protect it" against vulnerability to large European powers such as Germany. They had used this argument just prior to send U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti.
The U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic (called the "intervention" in U.S. history books) lasted 8 years, and from the very beginning the Americans took complete control. They ordered the disbanding of the Dominican Army and forced the population to disarm. A puppet government was installed and obliged to obey orders from the occupying U.S. Marine commanders. A re-modeling of the legal structure took place in order to benefit American investors, allowing them to control ever greater sectors of the economy, and remove customs and import barriers for any American products being brought into the Dominican Republic. Although many Dominican businessmen experienced losses due to these changes, the political violence was eliminated and many improvements in the Dominican Republic's infrastructure and educational system were introduced.
One of the changes the Americans made was to establish and train a new army, which had previously been done in next-door Haiti. Their reasoning was that an internally trained army would maintain law, order, and public security. In both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the end result was to shift power away from civilians to the military. During the time of the American occupation, the Quartermaster of the new Dominican Army was a former telegraph clerk by the name of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. This unscrupulous strongman utilized his powerful position to amass an enormous personal fortune from embezzlement activities, initially involving the procurement of military supplies. Although the Dominican Republic had its first relatively free elections after U.S. forces left in 1924, within a short time Trujillo was able to block any government reform actions, and in 1930 he took complete control of the country´s political power.
Using the Army as his enforcer, Trujillo wasted no time in setting up a repressive dictatorship and organized a vast network of spies to eliminate any potential opponents. His henchmen did not hesitate to use intimidation, torture, or assassination of political foes to terrify and oppress the population to ensure his rule and amass his fortune. Before long he consolidated his power to such a degree that he began to treat the Dominican Republic as his own personal kingdom. He was so arrogant and confident that, after just six years at the head of government, Trujillo changed the name of the capital city from Santo Domingo (which name had existed for over 400 years), to Cuidad Trujillo (Trujillo City).
Trujillo received American support of his leadership because he offered generous and favorable conditions to American businessmen wanting to invest in the Dominican Republic. More importantly to the U.S., after World War II, Trujillo showed his political support of the U.S.A.'s stand against the evils of communism. By 1942 Trujillo even arranged to repay all of the foreign debt due to the U.S., which had for decades limited the Dominican government´s economic initiatives. But after several years of confiscating ownership of the majority of the most important domestic businesses, he began to take control of major American-owned industries too, in particular, the very important sugar industry. These take-over activities, combined with Trujillo's meddling in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, led to increasing U.S. disenchantment with the Dominican Republic's dictator.
One of Trujillo's most notorious acts was committed against the Dominican Republic's neighbor, the Republic of Haiti. For centuries there had been a lack of clear definition of the border between the two countries--a source of aggravation and conflict for both. Not only had the border area become a nest for incessant smuggling activities, but also thousands of Haitians had begun to settle the lands around the ambiguous frontier. Trujillo had never hidden his racist ideas about the "inferiority and unattractiveness" of the black-skinned Haitians, so in 1937, after first negotiating an internationally lauded border agreement with Haiti's president, he ordered his army to oversee the massacre of all Haitians on the Dominican side of the border. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 unarmed men, women, and children, many of whom had lived in the Dominican Republic for generations, were slaughtered in a bloodbath of violence. Most of this bloodshed took place around the border town of Dajabón and the aptly named Massacre River.
In an attempt to deflect international criticism of this horrendous massacre, Trujillo offered to accept into the Dominican Republic as many as 100,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. But when it came to action, a total of only 600 or so Jewish families were offered refuge in 1942, settling in what is known today as the El Batey section of Sosua (about 20 kms east of Puerto Plata). Of these families, only a dozen or so remained permanently in the area, although they contributed greatly to the region´s economic development.
Trujillo remained in power for more than 30 years, but toward the end of his reign he succeeded in alienating even his most avid former supporters, including the U.S. The final straws came when he ordered the assassination of three upper-middle class sisters&mdashPatricia, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal&mdashwho were members of the June 14th Movement to topple his dictatorship, and when he was linked with an abortive assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Rómulo Bétancourt. On May 30, 1961, Trujillo's personal automobile was ambushed upon returning from a rendezvous with his mistress, and the dictator met a violent end. At his death, he was one of the richest men in the world, having amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of $500 million U.S. dollars, including ownership of most of the large industries in the country and a major sector of productive agricultural land.
After Trujillo's assassination, his vice-president at the time, Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, took control of the presidency. A year and a half later, Juan Bosch, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), was elected president. Bosch's socialist program was judged to be too extreme by the U.S., who were then paranoid about the possible spread of communism after Fidel Castro's successful revolution in Cuba, and because the Dominican Army had maintained Trujillo in power for so many years. The army's proponents maneuvered to block every one of Bosch's legislative reforms, and only nine months later they engineered a coup d'état to oust him from the presidency.
The following two years saw political and economic chaos in the Dominican Republic. This culminated when the disatisfied working classes, allied with a dissident army faction, rose in rebellion and took action to re-establish constitutional order on April 24, 1965. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered the U.S. Marines to occupy the Dominican Republic (again), this time under the pretext that communists were responsible for the political uprising.
A year later, former leader Dr. Joaquín Balaguer was elected president once again, with U.S. help, in what was acknowledged by all observers to have been a rigged election. Balaguer remained in power for the next 12 years, winning re-election in both 1970 and 1974. In both instances the opposition parties maintained that the elections would again be rigged, so they did not even nominate candidates to participate in the electoral races.
In the elections of 1978, the Dominican citizens showed their desire for change by electing Dr. Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Balaguer and his supporters had become aware of the pro-PRD movement during the campaign and election, and unwilling to cede defeat, attempted to put an end to the vote counting in order to maintain Balaguer in the presidency. But under international pressure, particularly President Jimmy Carter's government in the U.S., Balaguer was forced to admit defeat and step down.
Just before Guzmán's 4-year term ended in 1982, he committed suicide, allegedly after becoming aware that close family members were involved in massive corruption and embezzlement of government funds. Dr. Salvador Jorge Blanco, of the same political party, replaced Guzmán as president. Blanco continued in the time-honored Dominican tradition of rewarding family members, close friends, and political supporters with lucrative governmental posts. His term in the Dominican Republic Presidency was, in the end, marred by allegations of massive corruption and misappropriation of government funds. He was later found guilty of both and convicted to 20 years in prison.
Thoroughly disillusioned by the mismanagement and corruption of the leaders of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), Dominicans returned to the polls in 1986 to opt again for Dr. Joaquín Balaguer. Due to divided and disorganized opposition parties at the next elections in 1990, Balaguer was once again re-elected. With all of his years as President of the Dominican Republic, he had become almost as dictatorial as Trujillo.
During this period, the international community condemned the Dominican government for their continued exploitation of Haitian braceros (sugar cane workers). It has been alleged that thousands of these workers were forced to do backbreaking work for long hours under the hot sun, under the supervision of armed guards. International observers reported that laborers were forced to survive in deplorable living conditions. They were paid only pennies for their toil and were not permitted to leave their places of employment, conditions that have been likened to slavery. In June 1991, bowing to international pressure, all of the Haitian workers were deported. It is suspected that some of these working and living conditions continue to exist for Haitians in the Dominican Republic today--thousands of Haitians work in mainly heavy manual labor and low-paying jobs in the construction and agricultural industries within the Dominican Republic, jobs scorned by the bulk of Dominican citizens. Given the chaotic state of the Haitian Republic, it is understandable that anything offered in the Dominican Republic is more than welcomed in terms of work and living conditions, for something is better than nothing.
In 1994, at 88 years of age, Balaguer once again declared victory in an election that the O.A.S. and other international observers unanimously agreed had been rigged. Thousands of names of supporters of his main opponent, José Francisco Peña Gómez, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), had been removed from the voting. In an effort to avoid a major outbreak of violence, Balaguer and Peña Gómez met and negotiated an agreement whereby Balaguer promised to remain in power no longer than two years and not to run for re-election after that. Run-off elections scheduled for May 1996 had early returns showing Peña Gomez holding a plurality. On July 2, 1996, Dr. Leonel Fernández and his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) edged out Gómez because Balaguer gave his support to help Fernández come from behind and win with 51% of the vote. According to international observatory organizations, the election was declared clean. The Dominicans seemed to accept the vote with little protest and waited, hoping to see significant government reforms from Fernández.
Part of Leonel Fernández's reforms depended on his party gaining a majority in the elections for the National Assembly in May 1998. A few weeks before the elections were held, Peña Gómez died of cancer. The Dominican Republic declared a two-day mourning period to honor the politician who many believed would have been president had past elections not been tampered with. Election results in the National Assembly election gave a majority to the Peña Gómez party, which opposed Fernández's, showing people's shifting opinions and the beginnings of true democratic elections in the Dominican Republic.
In 2000, Fernández was voted out of office in remarkably free and fair elections, particularly by Dominican standards. Although the country was enjoying its greatest economic growth and success in its history, voters chose Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), due to their increasing distaste over the alleged corruption permeating the Fernández administration. The election gave Hipólito and his party control of the executive branch, a majority in the upper house legislature, and near control of the lower house.
Up until 2001, tourism and manufacturing sustained the Dominican Republic's economy with an impressive seven percent average annual growth. Added to the expansion in these sectors, the Dominican Republic received substantive remittances from Dominicans living outside the country, the majority of whom were now living and working in and around New York/New Jersey.
The following two years saw the hopeful signs exhibited early in Hipólito's administration give way to political scandal as well as a global recession. In 2003, the Dominican Republic's third largest private financial institution, Banco Internacional (Baninter), went into bankruptcy due to enormous fraud engineered by the bank's owners and administrators. Shortly thereafter, two other major Dominican banks also declared bankruptcy. The impact on the Dominican economy was devastating. By January 2004, a mere seven months after Baninter's collapse, the peso-to-dollar exchange rate had fallen to 50:1 (down from 16:1, where it had held steady from 1996 through 2002). To make the economic situation even worse, for a time the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended their loans to the Dominican Republic, citing Hipólito's purchase of two private energy facilities (which were once owned by the Dominican Republic and sold to private holders by Fernández during his administration) and spending on public programs they believed were used solely to boost Hipólito's reputation with the country's poor. The loans were eventually dispersed but not before the peso's exchange rate went down even further against the U.S. dollar.
During Hipólito's time in office, he orchestrated a constitutional amendment allowing sequential presidencies (which was previously prohibited), although he vowed publically over and over that he would not run again in 2004--but he did. In May 2004, the country's citizens, desperate for a return to prosperity, and despite having accused his previous administration of corruption and fraud, again voted in Dr. Leonel Fernández and his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Although all educated Dominicans knew it would take severe measures and many years to restore the country to prosperity after the economic chaos of 2003-04, in less than a year it was clear that the hoped for miracle--a return to the stability, economic growth, and success their country experienced in the 1990's--was not going to happen. Complaints began to arise, especially from the resource poor masses who, along with the tiny middle class, are hardest hit by the new taxes that have been levied to secure and pay back the billions of dollars in international loans that the Fernández administration took out to stabilize the country's finances and help bring about positive change unfortunately, one of Fernández's most expensive projects is an underground Metro system for Santo Domingo that has already cost many times its proposed total and is nowhere near completion. At least Fernández did manage to stabilize the peso, but there are accusations that the peso has been pegged artificially high against the U.S. dollar and that when it falls, the country will again fall into economic chaos&hellip. Since 2009, the peso has been slowly but steadily declining in value.
Despite inflation, increasing taxation, growing complaints, and general strikes called against his administration, Fernández ran again for the presidency in 2008, promising the country's citizens that the next time around he would devote more money and energy to education and the needs of Dominicans in the countryside. So far, Fernández has managed to avoid the accusations of personal corruption that plagued his predecessors, but the same cannot be said of those who assist him within his administration. And he has not paid much attention to his promises to improve education and the plight of the poor. As 2012, yet another election year, approaches, there are fiercer and more frequent strikes and protests across the country. The two main contenders for the presidential elections are Leonel Fernández and Hipólito Mejía, if Leonel is successful, that is, in pushing through a constitutional change to allow him to run for a third consecutive time. When one asks on-the-street Dominicans why they would vote for a man who has held power for so long, their general response is that it only makes sense to vote for someone with experience.
Even with its many problems, in recent decades the Dominican Republic has evolved into a reasonably free and democratic nation, with a growing middle class. Political demonstrations take place openly and freely in the streets, and politicians are able to campaign without being censored. Average Dominican people are involved in the political arena and the country's newspapers provide a free and open flow of information for its citizens. Despite these advancements, the country is still watched over by the National Police and Army, which tend to act in the interests of the politicians holding power (although no one in the military can vote). The threat of force, along with continual widespread corruption among those in power, need to be overcome before the Dominican Republic can call itself a true and developed democracy.
Richard André, Americas Quarterly
A conversation with Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz.
In a landmark ruling, the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court last September stripped an estimated 210,000 individuals—most of whom are Dominicans born to Haitian sugar cane workers—of their citizenship, effectively leaving them stateless. The ensuing outcry from the international community has included Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat—two of the best-known contemporary authors from the island of Hispaniola. Friends for over 20 years, Danticat (from Haiti) and Díaz (from the D.R.) have been relentless in their condemnation of the ruling. In a written exchange moderated by Americas Quarterlyproduction editor and Haitian-American Richard André, Díaz and Danticat discuss the roots and legacies of racism and conflict in the neighboring nations, the impact of the court’s ruling, and the responsibility of the diaspora to build bridges between Dominicans and Haitians and defend human rights at home and abroad.
What do you think most Haitians/Dominicans don’t understand about the other side?
DIAZ: Depends on who you’re asking. Some folks on the D.R. side know a lot more about their neighbor than others. Some Dominicans are in fact descended from said neighbor and might know a thing or two because of it.
Yet there is no question that there’s not enough real contact, and that the anti-Haitian derangements of certain sectors in the Dominican Republic have helped to widen the gulf between the two nations, and have made it harder for our communities to be in fruitful communion except through the most reductive, divisive, and—on the Dominican side—sensationally racist generalizations about one another. But if I have to answer you most specifically: [neither side understands] we’re sisters and brothers, that we share a poor, fragile island, and that without true solidarity we won’t make it.
DANTICAT: I agree that it has a lot to do with who you’re asking, and also where you are. There are many mixed families, of course and in many places on the island, people who grow up in close proximity to one another are practically indistinguishable physically. There are also a lot of people who understand that we share a common struggle, and especially that poor people on both sides of the island are battling similar types of detention and immigration policies in the diaspora. Perhaps we need to hear more about these people. Often in the dialogue we bring up our historical scars, but not our historical bridges. Because our neighbors are solely defined by what they did to us, rather than what we can do together.
That being said, I think some—certainly not all—Dominicans have a very limited, almost stereotypical idea of what a Haitian person looks and acts like. And it often has to do with the people some are most prejudiced against: the people who work in the bateys [sugar plantation towns]. When I used to travel to the D.R., I would have to spend the first 15 minutes of a lot of conversations going back and forth with someone trying to convince me that I’m not really Haitian because they feel they know what a Haitian is supposed to be. I know many people who never left Haiti and who’ve also had that experience. It is grounded in a kind of inflexibility of sorts an inability on the part of some to see us in a variety of ways: as neighbors, friends, allies, and as brothers and sisters in both a looser and broader sense.
What role, in your opinion, does history play in the way the two nations interact?
DIAZ: Quite a lot. But for me to say simply that “history plays a role” without at least trying to examine the hard facts of what actually happened would only serve to obfuscate both the complexity of the situation and also the profound culpability that the European and North American powers bear in Haiti’s immiseration and in the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
History indeed plays a role in what you’re seeing today. But it’s a complex, multivalenced history that involves former dictator Rafael Trujillo and genocide [against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent]— a history over which looms the predations of Europe and the U.S. and Haitian elites and, yes, the Dominican Republic.
There’s no question that many Dominican elites have historically deployed a metaphysics of Haiti-hating to curry favor with the colonial powers and also as a way to modulate all manners of internal contradictions within the Dominican state (and as a way of consolidating power through nationalist practices). But the Dominican Republic’s tortured history with Haiti can never be understood in isolation from the larger histories of the colonial powers that helped initiate the D.R. into the metaphysics of Haiti-hating in the first place.
DANTICAT: History plays a huge role of course. Not just the history we can’t avoid but speak out about—the time when the leaders of our side of the island were also on your side of the island. Or Trujillo’s massacre in 1937. One thing that is not mentioned as often is that early in the twentieth century (1915 to 1934 for Haiti, and 1916 to 1924 for the D.R.), the entire island was occupied by the United States. Then again, in the D.R. in the 1960s, Trujillo—who not only organized a massacre, but wiped out several generations of Dominican families—was trained during the occupation by U.S. Marines and put in power when they pulled out. Same with the Haitian army that terrorized Haitians for generations. It is not a matter of blame but a matter of historical record.
The U.S. sugar interests grew more and more powerful during that first occupation, and the U.S. even had a hand in deciding where the two countries’ borders should be. So we have had our own internal problems, but there has also been this very powerful historical meddling to make sure that we stay divided—for our resources to be pilfered more easily, as in the case of sugar production or to serve as a wall against communism. When people talk about colorism in the Dominican Republic—and I am sure this is not the only source of it—you can imagine these Marines from the southern U.S. who came during the U.S. occupations and set up their clubs and their hierarchies, just as they did in Haiti, rewarding any kind of proximity to whiteness, pushing us beyond colorism to a version of the U.S. Jim Crow system.
What can be done to heal those historical scars?
DANTICAT: We have to keep talking to each other and air the different layers of truth. We have to be willing to listen to the other side and accept being questioned as we, too, question others. Not just here where it’s easier, but on the island, too. Often, when you talk healing, people think you mean cultural occupation. We have to find ways to have difficult conversations about how we got here.
I know those conversations are being held. I know a lot of activists are having them, and students and friends. But people who speak the loudest speak with the laws they create, or with the notion that there is a whole nationalistic machine behind them.
We must keep dialoguing, and not just in the way that heads of governments employ to give the appearance that “they got this,” while we wait for them to come up with some kind of solution that will probably mean more money in the pockets of the people at the top who want license and our silence so they can go forward with their trade and tourism projects, etc.
But we must keep talking to each other without dismissing the other side altogether. It is always a very painful thing to me to remember that very few Haitian leaders have shown much care or concern about the people working in the cane fields in the Dominican Republic. During the [Francois and Jean-Claude] Duvalier dictatorship, people were picked up by the Tonton Macoutes [Duvalier’s militia] and practically sold across the border. As a child, I knew many people this happened to. After the 1937 massacre, outsiders had to urge our then-president to give a damn. The Haitian government was totally silent for weeks after the recent Constitutional Court ruling. The reaction reminded us—as if we needed to be reminded—that our governments, regardless of which side of the island they’re on, discriminate against the poor.
But to cite someone I know you like, Oscar Wilde, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, writes, “The curves of your lips rewrite history.” So let’s all keep talking.
DIAZ: All of us who want to see a better future for our nations need to fight the toxicologies of the past by practicing the simple revolutionary techniques of contact, compassion and critical solidarity. And we really do have to find a way to get our elites out from between us. They have done more to promote the circulation of hate and suspicion than anyone else. I keep imagining what might be possible if our elites weren’t constantly shouting in our ears.
What role, in your opinion, does race and class play in the conflicts—past and present—between Haitians and Dominicans?
DIAZ: Anti-Haitianism is a racist ideology, whether it’s practiced by France, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, or Haitian elites. So race is clearly at the core. It is a racism born of colonialism, whose foundational tenet is that people of color are not human. It’s not only white folks who avail themselves of its bestial logic. If only white people were implicated in white supremacy it would have been a lot easier to extirpate, but, alas, the hydra has planted a hissing head in all of us.
DANTICAT: We also have a situation, I think, on both sides of the island—or maybe all over the world really, but it might seem more pronounced in these two poor countries—where light skin color is a kind of currency, where skin color can be perceived as a kind of class of its own. Even in the word’s first black republic, we are still not exempt from that.
Where do you think Haitians and Dominicans can find common ground?
DIAZ: Are we not one African diasporic people, survivors of this world’s greatest act of sustained inhumanity, sharing one beautiful island? Are not all of us being slowly destroyed by the same forces that colonialism put into play? Doesn’t the fact that our elites spend so much energy keeping us apart suggest that our ultimate liberation begins with us coming together?
Many of us already work together both at home and in the diaspora. One day, we will become the majority, and I suspect that in the revolutionary eschatology of the future, this will be the first seal whose opening signals our liberation.
DANTICAT: I don’t want to be “kumbaya”-esque about this, but we share a common vulnerability—an environmental vulnerability. Certainly we share some nasty fault lines. Our people often end up in the same boats in the same oceans. Haitians spend millions of dollars on Dominican products, so we are trade partners, formally and informally. Some people share bloodlines, a common history.
Two novelists are not going to solve this problem. It will require some real give and take to get to some point of balance in the exchange, and maybe the basic understanding that Haitians are not trying to destroy the Dominican Republic any more than Dominicans are trying to destroy the United States when they come here. And the “kumbaya” part, of course, is that we are always stronger together than torn apart.
What was your first thought when you heard about the ruling?
DIAZ: That the political leadership in the D.R. is both mad and cruel beyond measure. And also that when it comes to destroying immigrant lives, ex-President Leonel Fernández and current President Danilo Medina have learned well at the feet of the United States. What’s going on in the D.R. is a nightmare in its own right, but has to be understood as part of a larger global movement to demonize and marginalize immigrants—and as part of the U.S.’s post-9/11 push to “strengthen borders”—which is really to militarize them. The U.S. helped the D.R. militarize its border, helped the D.R. create its very own border patrol based on a U.S. model. The world is slowly dying and our elites are draining it to the lees, and yet this is what our idiot politicians want us to focus on.
DANTICAT: I remember feeling very sad. There is always this sense of ultra-vulnerability when you are an immigrant or the child of immigrants. But it’s something you hope goes away with the generations. Or diminishes. I remember thinking, “What are all these people going to do now?” especially when I heard that the ruling was irreversible. But soon after, I was heartened by how many people spoke up: ordinary people as well as international organizations….Dominicans who are not of Haitian descent speaking up for their brothers and sisters.
I spent time with two amazing women activists in Miami, Ana María Belique Delba and Noemi Mendez, who are part of an organization called Reconocido (Recognized). They are so unified in this struggle. That was also very inspiring. I also remember missing Sonia Pierre, the founder of the Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitiana (Movement for Dominican Women of Haitian Descent—MUDHA). I kept thinking, “She is going to have a lot of work to do.” Then I remembered that she died of a heart attack at 48, two years ago. This citizenship struggle, which was sealed but did not begin with this ruling, has been going on for decades. And it had broken her heart.
Where do you see things going next?
DIAZ: Fortunately, the mobilization against the sentencia has been strong and the international reaction unanimously negative. (Though it’s worth noting that the [Barack] Obama administration, no friend of immigrant rights, has been pretty muted in its condemnation.) I am very sad to say that the politicians who masterminded this vast human rights violation clearly weren’t expecting this kind of backlash. But we’ll see how it goes. Right now, the party in power, the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (Dominican Liberation Party—PLD), is trying to save face by making it seem as though they never intended this as an assault against our citizens of Haitian descent—just an attempt to “regularize” a broken system, which clearly is just a bold-faced lie. Like I said, we’ll see. We’ll keep fighting, of course. But it goes to show you that it takes more than helping out during an earthquake for a country to unlearn the metaphysics of Haiti-hating.
DANTICAT: I think it will probably go the way of individual action. People will start asking themselves if they can spend their money in a place where people can be treated this way in a legal fashion, which then of course gives license to others to act on what this ruling says or take it even further. I wish the commercial interests, the tourist boards etc., would jump into the conversation and become more vocal, because ultimately it comes down to money. Where pocketbooks are concerned, people are nudged into action.
Why should the world—and especially citizens of the Americas—be paying attention to what’s going on in the Dominican Republic? Given that you are both children of the island of Hispaniola living in the U.S., why is this issue important to you?
DIAZ: First, the world should always be concerned whenever a vast human rights violation occurs anywhere on the planet. There’s a reason it’s called human rights: a blow to one is a blow to all. Injustices have a way of birthing horrors if left unchecked, and right now we have enough horrors in the world.
And why is it important for me? Because that island is my birthplace and one of my two homes and if people like me don’t fight its injustices, don’t fight for the better future we deserve, who will? As a Dominican living in the U.S., it matters to me a whole hell of a lot that political elites in the D.R. are inflaming ethnic-racial hatred against Haitians to divide the pueblo and keep it from organizing against its real enemies—the elites themselves.
Supporters of the sentencia defend it with a lot of high-flying gibberish about bureaucratic necessity, etc., but the reality is that the ruling is all about creating a permanent group of second-class citizens in the Dominican Republic. As for the human cost, all one has to do is travel to the D.R. and you will see the terrible damage this kind of politics has caused and continues to cause. At a structural level, I know people who have had their papers taken away and others who are unable to secure documentation to travel or even to be educated. But on a more basic level, the anti-Haitian mood has reached a level I’ve never experienced before.It’s a disaster. This is the type of deforming political sorcery that’s going to take a lot of work and good faith to undo.
DANTICAT: Both Junot and I—correct me here if I am wrong, Junot—grew up in relative poverty on our respective sides of the island….
DIAZ: Oh yes, poverty aplenty.
DANTICAT: In both our lives, even when we were living on the island, we were also aware of our relative privilege when we traveled to see the relatives or spent time in the campo or the pwovens [rural provinces]. That makes you extraordinarily aware of what opportunity means. And it makes you hypersensitive to seeing not just a few but a slew of rights and opportunities being taken away in one swoop.
You hope you would always speak up. Even when the issue is not as clear as this. You hope you would speak up if someone is sleeping on the floor in an immigration cell in Texas, or if people are being tortured in Guantánamo, no matter what their nationality. People’s lives are being affected here in a way that touches their children and their children’s children.
Even in the name of self-interest, the people in power in the Dominican Republic should see that they are creating an even greater problem here. They are trying to kick a Sisyphean boulder down the road for political gain or as a bargaining chip for trade. Maybe they are hoping that several generations of their citizens will “self deport” to Haiti if you take their identity away. But what they’re doing is creating a tier of people who cannot contribute, beyond perhaps their limited physical strength, to a growing society. You take away their ability to learn, to work, and you also take away their ability to continue to build a society that they’ve helped sustain for many generations now.
What should be the domestic and international response by individuals and policymakers? What role can you play in advocating on this issue?
DANTICAT: Recently, members of the Dominican senate and lower house approved a citizenship bill. But, at least at this point, it looks like people who were never able to get their birth certificates in the first place will still have a hard time using the channels offered by the bill.
When the lower house unanimously voted in favor of the bill, Juliana Deguis Pierre, who was the plaintiff in the Constitutional Court case that was central to the ruling, told journalists, “I hope to God they give [my citizenship] back to me because of everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve suffered.” Just for those who doubt that the ruling has real consequences, Deguis was not able to travel to the U.S. because, with as much attention as she’d gotten given her involvement in a landmark case, she did not have the papers to travel.
Imagine what it’s like for someone who is much less visible living on a batey.
A Haiti/D.R. bilateral commission has met a few times, and as of the time that we’re talking now, in mid-May, it has not produced conclusive results. The initial international interest in this has cooled a bit. News cycles are short and people move on quickly, but it’s important to remain vigilant. There might have initially been a perception that this ruling would go undetected. But the little progress we’ve had, that the Dominican (and even the Haitian) government has been forced to take some action at all, has a lot to do with the fact that people have spoken out all over the world, that there have been calls for boycotts, that people have written letters and taken to the airwaves—and that some groups have canceled their conferences and taken their dollars elsewhere.
All this has helped and will continue to help. We must continue to listen closely to the leaders on the ground, to the people who are taking the heat every day. I am sure they are not ready to rest any time soon. And neither can we. Struggles like this are long and hard, and people have to keep their eyes on the prize. And when you have a just outcome, it not only improves the specific situation we’re talking about it is also a step forward for oppressed people everywhere. This is why we can still learn lessons from the U.S. civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The right outcome in situations like this can eventually make the world itself a better place.
DIAZ: We need to throw everything we can at the Dominican government to stop this travesty. We need protests and letters and emails. People are talking about a boycott against the country until the sentencia is dropped. Fortunately, there are plenty of organizations and individuals fighting this. One could always reach out to them. On my side of the island, there’s Comité de Solidaridad con Personas Desnacionalizadas (Committee of Solidarity with Stateless People) and Reconocido. There’s Dominicanos Por Derecho(Dominicans for Rights) and Sonia Pierre’s MUDHA. As for myself, I do what I can. I fight these idiots with all my strength. But if you’re like me, you always feel you can do more.
Pirates. Slaves. Sugar plantations. Parrots. Voodoo. The history of Hispaniola – you know, that strangely shaped island in the Greater Antilles – looks like it was patched together from the crazed ramblings of Jack Sparrow and Guybrush Threepwood. And sure, at first glance, it’s a stereotypical Caribbean island, with tropical forests and mountains and colourful cities and a history of violent dictatorship, but if you just scratch beneath the surface there’s a huge amount of history, interconnectivity and culture that the “Banana Republic”descriptions just don’t cover. For a start, the island is split almost down the middle between the French-Creole speaking Haiti and the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, two nations with enough bad blood between them to fill an ocean, but it’s also got brutal presidents, revolutionary heroes, secret mountain cults and the world’s first independent slave republic. Ladies and gentlemen, the history of Hispaniola.
The Taino get ther collective freak on.
Hispaniola’s first known inhabitants were the Taíno, a South American Arawak culture who followed Polynesians’ example by sailing around discovering shit until they owned pretty much an entire ocean’s worth of islands. You can get a really good idea of how a culture works from its religion, and if I tell you that the Taíno had two main gods – a goddess of fresh water and fertility and a god of salt water and cassava – you can probably get a good idea of their priorities. (For the record, they also had two smaller spirit-gods for different types of cassava, and Arawak itself is the native word for cassava flour – there’s a definite theme here that I can’t quite place). Like a lot of Aboriginal American cultures they had a matrilineal society, where women owned lands and titles more often than men, and split the island into about 5 different clans, each with a distinctly different culture. When the Europeans came, however – Columbus “discovered” Hispaniola on his first voyage in 1493 and, because he had a flag, claimed it for Spain – the Taíno quickly died out, – that had no real resistance to Eurasian diseases like plague and smallpox. (If it’s any consolation, we had no resistance to syphillis, but…ugh. Unfortunate implications.) What records we have on them, however, are surprisingly positive – Columbus said that they “have the sweetest voice in the world and are always laughing” – but they are limited, and when Spanish colonisation really began the only Taíno left (about 10% of the original population after smallpox epidemics) were taken as slaves and concubines. The sweet-voiced Taíno only really survive in the name they gave to their island. They called it Ayiti.
The Isle of Tortuga – the real-life base of piracy, just off the coast of Haiti.
Spain, and this is a general theme throughout history, are terrible at empires. They survived mostly by mining silver in Peru – amazingly, that caused huge inflation and a market crash so huge that the Netherlands declared war on them in frustration – and through African slave labour. The slave system in Hispaniola created a natural class system – with Spanish whites at the top, then colony-born whites, then freed slaves and mixed race “mulattoes” with slaves, unsurprisingly, at the bottom. Meanwhile, the awful economic advice crippled the economy of the entire west half of the island and moved most of the Spanish population to the east, essentially giving it what would become Haiti to whoever wanted some more colonial land. In the 1600s, that meant “France and pirates”, and because the French had money and a military and didn’t rely on crime, eventually just “France” – although the fact that a pirate republic existed at all is awesome. By the 1700s, then, Hispaniola was split between the mostly slave French bit and the mostly mulatto Spanish bit. But you know the 1700s. Shit goes down in France in the 1700s. So that’s when things got interesting.
Dangerous times call for dangerous hats.
Through the Enlightenment, slaves rebelled pretty constantly in Haiti in an attempt to make slavery unprofitable and dangerous. Many ran away into the mountain where they became “marrons” – which is where we get the word “marooned” – who started worshipping traditional African spirit gods in the guise of Catholic saints. This secret pagan worship became known as Voduo or Voodoo, and your impression of it is probably wrong – mine was – so just understand that it was important in uniting escaped slaves and Baron Samedi is a hell of a lot better than the Grim Reaper because HE KILLS ZOMBIES AND WEARS A DINNER JACKET. This rebellion was happening all throughout the New World – in Florida, black slaves joined forces with the local Seminole Indians and repelled the Spanish for several decades – but nowhere was anti-slavery feeling stronger than in Haiti. The French Revolution near the end of the century promised to change that – specifically, it promised to free all slaves– but Napoleon quickly reversed that policy and that sort of pissed people off (is the understatement of the century). The mixed race-mulattoes, who had been campaigning for civil rights, and the slaves, who had been rebelling for freedom, quickly rose up against the whites – and then against each other – in a three-way struggle for Haiti. The result was unprecedented, unexpected and completely horrifying to the French. The slaves won – – and formed the first slaves’ republic in history.
Unfortunately – you shoule be able to see this coming a mile off by now – the republic of Haiti was kind of doomed from the start. France demanded that the slaves pay reparations for the loss of such an important colony – roughly £8,400,000,000 in today’s terms – and most of Haiti’s wealth had been lost to fleeing ex-slave-owners in the revolution. France, to this day, has refused to repay the charges. Revolutionary heroes like Toussaint L’Ouverture (yes, his name means All-Saints-Day the Overture – he was awesome, look him up) had been executed for treason and the chance of further rebellion was high. After only one year, Haiti abandoned democracy and installed an emperor. The worst would be yet to come.
In the Spanish half of Hispaniola, however, a new kind of revolutionary fervour was taking root. The early 1800s saw most of South America rise up against their Spanish overlords to form free and equal…well, fine, they were republican dictatorships led by colonial whites but they were still a step in the right direction. Spanish Hispaniola rose up and attempted to join the sort-of South American Union but was invaded by – who else- Haiti, and a 20-year occupation of the Dominican Republic began. Campaigners like Juan Duarte eventually secured freedom for the Dominicans, however, and set the stage for the rest of the 19th century. The Dominican Republic could become a trading power by exporting sugar, bananas, coffee – all massively fashionable in the pre-Starbucks USA. Haiti could become an intellectual capital, living evidence against Social Darwinism and racist ideologies. And, for a little while, they were.
The 20 th century, however, is not kind to countries. The Dominican Republic declined in stability until a 1930s coup by President Rafael Trujillo, generally accepted as one of the worst dictators in Central America whose lasting legacy is that of the “Parsley Massacres”, a genocidal act in which Haitians in the Dominican Republic were identified – because they couldn’t say the Spanish for “parsley” – and murdered. Haiti, not wishing to be outdone, had successions of presidents who lasted less than a year until “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a dictator who claimed that voduo made him invincible and who – I kid you not -had the Lord’s Prayer rewritten so it began “Our Doc, who lives in the National Palace” Now, the status quo is turning yet again – as strong links to Spanish speaking South America make the Dominican Republic one of the area’s most powerful economies while earthquakes and disease cripple their French-Creole speaking neighbours. For all the twists and turns in history, Haiti and the Dominicans are left in the same imbalanced situation as they were in some 500 years earlier. History is interconnected, and holistic, and beautiful. But it’s definitely not fair.
Intervention in Haiti, 1994–1995
On September 30, 1991, a military coup under the leadership of Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras overthrew the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first popularly elected president in Haitian history. President George H.W. Bush called for the restoration of democracy, and worked with the Organization of American States (OAS) to impose a trade embargo on all goods except medicine and food. During his 1992 presidential candidacy, Bill Clinton criticized the Bush administration for its policy on refugee return and promised to increase pressure on the military junta by tightening economic sanctions.
Unburdened by the Cold War international framework that structured U.S. foreign policy for nearly fifty years, the Clinton administration sought to outline new objectives for U.S. foreign policy, including novel uses for military power. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright outlined a U.S. policy of “assertive multilateralism,” with an increased role for the United Nations. National Security Advisor Anthony Lake emphasized the role of economic power in the new world order, and argued for a U.S. role in the “enlargement” of the community of free nations. The new administration, however, faced multiple challenges in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, North Korea, and Haiti that complicated their attempts to implement the broad strategies and objectives defined by the administration’s leaders.
Clinton appointed Lawrence Pezzullo as special envoy for Haiti, and as promised in his campaign, worked to increase economic and diplomatic pressure on the junta. On June 16 the United Nations voted to impose a ban on petroleum sales to Haiti. Cedras agreed to participate in talks sponsored by the United Nations and the OAS. The so-called “Governors Island Accord” signed by Aristide and Cedras on July 3 called for Aristide’s return to Haiti by October 30, 1993, an amnesty for the coup leaders, assistance in modernizing the Haitian Army, and the establishment of a new Haitian police force. The agreement provided for the suspension of U.N. sanctions once Aristide had assumed office in Haiti.
Despite indications that the Haitian military was backing away from the agreement, the United States dispatched the USS Harlan County with 200 U.S. and Canadian engineers and military police on board to prepare for the return of Aristide. On October 11 the ship was met at the pier in Port-au-Prince by a mob of Haitians, appearing to threaten violence. With the street battle in Mogadishu only a week past, the administration proved unwilling to risk casualties in Port-au-Prince. The ship pulled away the following day and returned to the United States, a significant setback for the Clinton administration.
Four days later, the United Nations Security Council imposed a naval blockade on Haiti. Through the following months the administration pursued a dual strategy, planning for military intervention while hoping that the threat of a U.S. invasion would coerce the Haitian leaders to surrender power. Pressure toward action continued to build, with Congressional Black Caucus members especially vocal in demanding an end to military rule in Haiti.
The Clinton administration built the diplomatic foundation for the operation in the summer of 1994, working to secure a United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) authorizing the removal of the Haitian military regime. On July 31 the Security Council passed UNSCR 940, the first resolution authorizing the use of force to restore democracy for a member nation. It provided for the reinstatement of the Aristide government and a six-month mandate for the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), which would maintain order after the operation. The U.N. mandate authorizing the intervention enabled the administration to recruit forces from Caribbean nations to serve in the post-invasion security force.
In early September planning and preparation for the invasion was completed under the code name Operation Uphold Democracy. The invasion force numbered nearly 25,000 military personnel from all services, backed by two aircraft carriers and extensive air support. Although the United States provided the vast majority of the forces, a multinational contingent from Caribbean nations agreed to serve in an operation conducted under U.N. mandate. The addition of these multinational forces shifted the operation from a U.S. military intervention to U.N.-sanctioned multinational action. The operation was scheduled for September 19.
With military action clearly imminent, former President Jimmy Carter led a delegation to Haiti in search of a negotiated settlement. Carter, Senator Sam Nunn, and General Colin Powell flew to Haiti on September 17, well aware that they had little time to reach agreement. President Clinton approved Carter’s mission, but insisted that the military operation would proceed as scheduled. The invasion forces launched with the negotiations in progress, without any certainty whether they would make an opposed or a peaceful entry on to Haitian soil.
The Haitian leadership capitulated in time to avoid bloodshed. Having launched the operation with the expectation of a forced-entry assault, the forces conducting the operation displayed remarkable discipline and flexibility in adjusting to this new and uncertain environment. General Hugh Shelton, commander of the invasion force, was transformed enroute to Haiti from commander to diplomat, charged with working out a peaceful transition of power. Shelton and Cedras met on September 20, 1994, to begin the process, and Aristide returned to Haiti on October 15.
Military planners had defined the conditions for hand-off to UNMIH as the restoration of basic order, the return of Aristide, and the conduction of a presidential election and subsequent peaceful transfer of power. The operation ended with the transfer to UNMIH command on March 31, 1995, and a peaceful election and transferal of power occurred on February 7, 1996. The operation yielded important lessons about the complexities involved in managing complex contingency operations, which were captured in PDD/NSC 56, “Managing Complex Contingency Operations,” issued in May 1997.