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The aboriginal inhabitants of Hispaniola were Taïnos people downward arawaks Arawaks, engaged principally in farming and fishing.They eventually became extinct as a result of exploitation by Spanish colonists. Black slaves were later imported to take the place of the Taïnos laborers. In time the Spanish migrated from Hispaniola to South America, and for about a century the island was sparsely populated. In 1697, by the Peace of Ryswick, the portion of Hispaniola that had been occupied by French adventurers was formally ceded to France and became known as Saint-Domingue; it is now Haiti. The remaining Spanish section, what is now the Dominican Republic, was called Santo Domingo.
Then the French were expelled and nominal Spanish rule restored. After 1814, however, the Spanish administration became increasingly tyrannical, and in 1821 the Dominicans rose in revolt, proclaiming their independence. It was short-lived. The following year Haitian President Jean Pierre Boyer led his troops into the country and annexed it to Haiti, thus bringing the entire island under his control. Boyer ruled until overthrown by revolution in 1843. A year later Santo Domingo again declared its independence, forming the Dominican Republic.
A Period of Strife : The first president was Pedro Santana, who served for three terms between 1844 and 1861. Both his administrations and the subsequent ones were characterized by popular unrest and frequent boundary disputes with Haiti. The internal strife was most clearly discernible in the two political groups that took root within the republic: One faction advocated return to Spanish rule and the other, annexation to the United States. For a brief period, from 1861 to 1863, the country, led by former President Santana, did return to Spanish rule, but a popular revolt between 1863 and 1864 and subsequent military reverses and U.S. intervention forced the Spanish government to withdraw its forces and to annul the annexation. The second Dominican Republic was proclaimed in February 1865. Political turmoil continued, however, through the rest of the 19th century.
Because of Dominican indebtedness to a number of European nations, some of which threatened intervention, the Dominican government signed a 50-year treaty with the United States in 1906, turning over to the United States the administration and control of its customs department. In exchange the United States undertook to adjust the foreign financial obligations of the Dominican government. Internal disorders during the ensuing decade finally culminated in the establishment of a military government by the U.S. Marines, who occupied the country on November 29, 1916. Control of the country was, however, gradually restored to the people, and by March 1924 a constitutional government had assumed control. Later that year the American occupation ended.
Christopher Columbus in December 1492 came upon an island that he named Hispaniola. On Columbus' second voyage, in 1493, he established the first Spanish colony in the Americas on what's now the north shore of the Dominican Republic. His brother Bartolome stayed to govern and later moved the capital to what is now Santo Domingo on the south coast. As the early headquarters of the Spanish Empire in the New World, Santo Domingo flourished. It was the first city in New Spain to build a cathedral and found a university.
During Trujillo's rise to power, however, considerable material progress was made. Many new hospitals and housing projects were finished, a pension plan was established, and public health facilities, harbors, and roads were improved. A boundary dispute with neighboring Haiti, going back to 1844, was settled in 1935, and in 1941 the U.S. government terminated the administration of the Dominican customs. In December 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, the Dominican Republic also declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. It subsequently became a charter member of the United Nations. In 1948 the country also became a charter member of the Organization of American States (OAS), which in subsequent years frequently condemned the Trujillo regime both for interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and "flagrant and widespread violations of human rights." OAS criticism culminated in 1960 in a resolution calling for severance of diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic; the United States did so shortly afterward. These external pressures were coupled with growing internal resistance to the regime. The Trujillo era ended with the dictator's assassination planed by the CIA on May 26, 1961.
Democracy Restored and Toppled : After the assassination, agitation mounted against the continued political dominance of the Trujillo family. Numerous exiles began to return home and political parties were reestablished. In October 1961 the two brothers of the late dictator left the country, but they returned in November, apparently with the intention of seizing governmental power. President Joaquin Balaguer, who had assumed the office as a Trujillo puppet in 1960, reacted to the threat by assuming control of the armed forces. To demonstrate support of Balaguer, the United States stationed warships and planes off the Dominican coast. The show of force speedily induced all members of the Trujillo family to leave the country. Opposition groups, however, rallied against Balaguer; after a wave of strikes and demonstrations, he and his opponents agreed on a plan under which he would retain the presidency until sanctions, imposed by the OAS since 1960, were lifted. The sanctions were revoked in January 1962, and shortly afterward Rafael Bonnelly, an opponent of Balaguer, was designated president to serve until elections were held.
In December 1962 the Dominican Republic held its first free election in nearly four decades. Juan Bosch, a returned exile, won by a wide margin and was inaugurated on February 27, 1963. Almost immediately, opposition to his regime began to develop. Bosch was criticized as being too tolerant of pro-Castro and Communist groups, and the business community felt threatened by changes in the country's economic policy. On September 25 Bosch was deposed by a military coup and the leaders installed a three-man civilian junta. To indicate disapproval of the coup, the United States withheld recognition until the new regime promised to hold elections by 1965.
The United States Intervenes : Throughout 1964 restlessness within the country was manifested by strikes and sabotage and by conflicts within the junta. On April 24, 1965, a group within the army rebelled against the government with the avowed purpose of restoring Bosch as president. Air force and navy elements opposed the insurgents, and Santo Domingo became the battleground of a civil war. Four days later, a contingent of U.S. Marines was landed in Santo Domingo to protect U.S. interests. The U.S. forces took up positions in a so-called international zone, which served as a barrier between the rebel-occupied area of the city and the sections occupied by the junta loyalists. From his exile in Puerto Rico, Bosch accused rightists of provoking intervention by the United States, which, he said, had prevented a rebel victory. He denied charges by the United States of Communist takeover of the rebel cause. In early May the OAS arranged a cease-fire and established an inter-American military force for peacekeeping duties. The OAS forces began arriving in mid-May, and in June U.S. Marines were withdrawn from the country; 12,500 other U.S. troops, however, remained.
The PRD Wins Power : In the mid-1970s a sharp decline in world sugar prices adversely affected the Dominican economy, and Balaguer's support began to dwindle; in the 1978 elections he was turned out of office, defeated by the PRD candidate, Silvestre Antonio Guzmán. After foiling a plot by right-wing military men to prevent him from taking office, Guzmán purged the armed forces of many Balaguer supporters, released some 200 political prisoners of the previous regime, and eased press censorship. The economy remained troubled by low sugar prices and was further damaged by two hurricanes in 1979 that left more than 200,000 people homeless and caused $1 billion in damages.
Guzmán chose not to run again in 1982. He died in July of that year, an apparent suicide, shortly after Senator Salvador Jorge Blanco was elected to succeed him. To rescue the country from its deepening economic crisis, Jorge Blanco turned to the International Monetary Fund, which demanded austerity measures in exchange for a three-year loan package. These measures, including price increases for basic foods and gasoline, led to protest riots throughout the nation in 1984 and 1985. Balaguer was returned as president in 1986. In 1988, Jorge Blanco was tried in absentia and found guilty of corruption during his presidential years. In the 1990 presidential election, Balaguer defeated Bosch by a narrow margin. He was reelected in 1994.
The Trujillo Era : The outstanding political development of the subsequent period was the dictatorship established by General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. Elected to the presidency in 1930, Trujillo forcibly eliminated all opposition, thereby acquiring absolute control of the nation. For the next 31 years, although he personally occupied the presidency only half that time (from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1943 to 1952), Trujillo presided over one of the tightest dictatorships in the world. With the military as the basis of his power, he and his family directed practically every aspect of the nation's life, from the courts down to the pettiest bureaucrat. The national economy, while greatly expanded and modernized, was run as the dictator's personal corporation, and the political process was completely dominated by his Dominican party. Backed at first by the United States, Trujillo used this support to his own advantage in shoring up his power. Discontent and criticism, widespread especially after World War II ended in 1945, were met with terror and self-serving propaganda.
The Balaguer Government : During the summer the OAS tried to arrange a settlement between the loyalists and the rebels (who called themselves "constitutionalists" to indicate their desire to restore the constitutionally elected government of Bosch). At the end of August the two factions agreed to establish a provisional government, and a few days later Hector García-Godoy, former foreign minister under Bosch, assumed the presidency. Subsequently, Bosch, Balaguer, and Bonnelly all announced their candidacies in the presidential election scheduled for June 1966. In the election, Balaguer, a conservative, won with 56 percent of the vote. Under his administration, although not completely democratic, relative stability was restored to the country. The economy showed strength, aided by high sugar prices, foreign investment, and increased tourism, enabling Balaguer to win reelection easily in 1970 and 1974. The Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), led by Bosch, boycotted both elections, charging restrictions on its campaign activities.