Dominican Republic History

The history of the Dominican Republic is, until 1697, common to that of the whole Hispaniola island, of which it occupies the eastern part. In 1492, when it was explored by Christopher Columbus, the island was inhabited by Caribbean populations who opposed a heroic and fierce resistance to the attempts of Spanish occupation. However, they had to yield to the destructive force of Spanish weapons and were soon decimated by ferocious repressions and diseases imported by the Spaniards, so much so that, fifty years later, when they wanted to colonize the region, populations were imported from Africa. With the Treaty of Rijswick (1697) Spain was forced to cede the western half of the island to France. Since then the two parts of Hispaniola acquired two distinct characteristics: while the French part was populated almost exclusively by black Africans (Haiti), the Spanish part maintained the Creole character of all the Spanish colonies. In 1795, with the Treaty of Basel, also the eastern part of the island was ceded to France and in 1801 the black leader of Haiti, Touissant Louverture, occupied Santo Domingo and unified the government of the whole island. The Creoles, however, did not resign themselves to Haitian domination and, with British help, they rebelled. Expelled the French, the Dominicans, under the leadership of José Nuñez de Cáceres, proclaimed independence in 1821 and gave themselves a Constitution. In 1822 the Haitian president J.-P. Boyer it reconquered Santo Domingo and only in 1844 the Dominicans could again obtain independence thanks to the secret society La Trinitaria, founded by the patriot JP Duarte. Still under the threat of Haiti, they nevertheless asked for help from Spain (1861), which tried to restore it as a colony.

But the Dominicans could not bear the new dominion and in 1865 they got rid of it forever. The economic life of the small Republic, however, was far from prosperous, to the point that, in 1904, Belgium, France and Italy threatened its occupation for the collection of credits they boasted; the United States took advantage of it and occupied the country until 1924. After the withdrawal of US troops there was a brief period of relative calm, but in 1930 the dictator RL Trujillo Molina took over the presidency., which in 1961 was overthrown by the opposition. The period following the fall of Trujillo Molina opened an agitated phase of adjustment. The economy was based on the export of sugar and therefore very vulnerable: the task of modernizing the country was difficult. The first free elections were held in 1962: they were won by J. Bosch, head of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, with a progressive tendency; However, Bosch was overthrown in 1963 by a military coup d’état opposing his reform plan. Two years later, the people, backed by a section of the army, rose up to restore them to power. The United States, fearing a “new Cuba”, sent several thousand marines to Santo Domingo.

When the revolt failed, Washington’s troops withdrew. On June 1, 1966, according to usaers, the elections for the choice of the new President of the Republic took place: the conservative Joaquín Balaguer (reconfirmed in 1970) won them, with a small difference in votes, against Bosch, compromised with the circles of Trujillism. Balaguer’s presidency – reconfirmed in 1974 – left the levers of power in the hands of the economically and financially privileged classes. In these conditions, the new elections took place on May 16, 1978: after a few days of uncertainty, which seemed to lead to yet another coup, the government admitted the defeat of Balaguer, who had just reappeared, sanctioning the victory of Antonio Guzmán Fernández of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). In July 1982, Guzmán Fernández committed suicide after being accused of fraud against the state. In August Salvador Jorge Blanco, a PRD socialist, was elected president; but in 1986 he had to leave the position to Balaguer, who had returned to victory. The new government, after eliminating from the administrative and military structures some senior officials responsible for corruption (as well as the former president), adopted severe austerity measures (reduction of public employees, increases in tariffs, etc.), a cause of widespread discontent and of strong trade union unrest. Despite this the political opposition was unable to defeat the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) in the elections, which maintained a majority in 1990 and 1994 while its leader, Balaguer, was confirmed as president. The Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Liberation Party also had good successes.

Balaguer’s precarious health conditions forced him to accept the reduction of the presidential term from four to two years. The elections of 1996 decreed the victory of Leonel Fernandez, belonging to the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), but the two opposition parties (PRSC and PRD), thanks to a compromise that allowed them control of both chambers, in fact they prevented the President from keeping his electoral commitments. In the subsequent elections, held on May 16, 1998, the PRD, at the apex of popular consensus, it registered an absolute majority of seats. The Dominican Revolutionary Party was also the winner in the elections of May 2000, forming a government chaired by Rafael Hipólito Mejía Domínguez. The presidential elections held in 2004 were won by the candidate of the Dominican Liberation Party, Leonel Fernandez. In the legislative elections of May 2006, the PLD won with 52.4% of the votes and the PRD obtained 21.9%. In May 2008 the presidential elections were held which confirmed the presidency of L. Fernández of the liberal party with 53% of the votes, while in May 2010 the political and administrative elections saw the victory of the ruling party, the PLD.

Dominican Republic History

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