- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
After Trujillo’s death, Joaquín Balaguer was president. But it was not a presidency that was supported by the people. He was merely a puppet. Soon, a council took control until elections could be held, at which point the first free elections in the Dominican Republic in years took place and Juan Bosch Gaviño won the presidency. A liberal man, he was a scholar and had a soft spot for workers and students. He enacted many liberal concepts, like separation of church and state, and wanted very much to instill economic and social justice. He went so far as to give Trujillo’s estates to peasants (what was left of them after Trujillo’s family took off with a majority of the money). After only seven months in office, Bosch was ousted by conservatives. Eventually a civilian triumvirate ruled the nation and did away with his constitution (saying Bosch’s ideas were outlawed), declaring it nonexistent.
But Bosch, with the aid of a group called the Constitutionalists, started plotting for his return.
The United States decided to back the conservatives, but even that didn’t deter the Constitutionalists, who, on April 24, 1965, led by Col. Francisco Caamaño Deño, rose up against the triumvirate to restore Bosch’s office. They seized the National Palace and radio stations, asking people to take to the streets and demand Bosch’s return. Lawlessness ensued; both sides were heavily armed.
Twenty-three thousand U.S. Marines were sent by Lyndon Johnson, ordered to restore peace and elections. Balaguer eventually was put back into power (no doubt with bribes) and won the elections again in 1970 and 1974. He lost in subsequent elections but won yet again, in 1986. In that term, he supported the need for a healthy tourism industry, set up the industrial free zones, and basically spent a lot of public money. Food and power were in short supply. And still, in 1990, he ran again. He won the 1994 election (by this time totally blind and 86 years old), but under pressure from the military, he cut his term short.
Dominican Republic Today
In 1996, Leonel Fernández (born and raised in the U.S.) won the presidency over José Francisco Peña Gómez (a liberal), and he brought a change of economic growth. But with the dawn of the new millennium came Hipólito Mejía, who promptly sank the peso to a hurtful RD$52 to the U.S. dollar.
In 2004, Fernández won again, defeating the incumbent Mejía. His win was likely in direct reaction to the severe economic crisis that was the signature of Mejía’s presidency, when food costs quadrupled and debt doubled and unemployment soared. It was a significant election in that it was the first time Dominicans abroad were allowed to vote in the national election.
President Fernández won a third term in office in May of 2008. Nevertheless, many Dominicans would argue that he has a fixation on technological development for the nation that sometimes is to the detriment of basic needs such as adequate health care. Around 40,000 people carry the HIV-AIDS virus, and most don’t know of their condition; 75 percent of the people carrying this virus are from the poorest populations. Yet, 2.2 million (23.8 percent) Dominicans have Internet access, and 56 percent of the population have cell phones, and Fernández controversially allocated US$700 million for Santo Domingo’s new Metro system.
Certainly the global economic crisis made 2008 a challenging and difficult year, but, looking to the future of the Dominican Republic, familiar challenges of the past continue to plague the president, and he continues to plead with the nation to have confidence that his government will find solutions for issues such as the ever-present energy crisis, crime, and food production while hopefully increasing economic growth and attracting investments.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition