Dominican faces American soldier, 1965

Dominican faces American soldier, 1965

In 1898, while U.S. and Spanish troops fought in an uneven combat to obtain sovereignty and control over the Caribbean, the then-young Dominican Republic declared itself neutral in these important international events. Far from being uninterested in the Spanish-American War, the reality was that the Dominican economic interests were tied to U.S. companies.

A little-known fact is that in 1892 the U.S. government founded the San Domingo Improvement Company. The company was created to operate exclusively in the Dominican Republic and to take charge of the country’s foreign debt. The company soon purchased the Dominican foreign debt, which was in Dutch hands. Later, it took control of customs and, gradually, of all of the island’s revenues, including the National Bank. This was one of the least known steps taken by the United States in its interest in gaining control over the Caribbean. The company did not spring up overnight, however, and it took a long process for it to obtain hegemony in the country.

In 1916, because of political instability in the country that increased the foreign debt, the United States occupied the Dominican Republic. The justification for this act was the violation of Article III of the Convention of 1907, which established that the country could not increase its external debt without consent from the United States. At the same time, the United States wanted to provide political stability in the Dominican Republic to improve the economy and collect on its loans.

This led to what was called the First U.S. Invasion, which extended from 1916 to 1924. During the eight years of occupation, the country automatically lost its national sovereignty. The United States government implemented some positive measures and many negative measures, which led to its rejection by the population and, as a result, the end of the occupation. When the troops left Dominican territory, they left behind a new power system through which the military brought about the resurgence of President Horacio Vásquez. The invasion was also motivated by economic interests, as the Dominican Republic had significant resources.

In 1965, civil groups that were unhappy with the government of Donald Reid Cabral — who sought to return the country to constitutional rule — provoked a confrontation between two national sectors. With civil or constitutionalist war impending, the United States intervened on Dominican soil again on April 28, 1965. For a second time, U.S. troops invaded the territory of the Dominican Republic, again limiting national sovereignty. The United States asserted that it was obligated to intervene to protect the U.S. citizens who lived there.

Some 42,000 soldiers were sent to Dominican territory in this invasion. The pretext was the fear that the country would form a communist government similar to the one recently implemented in Cuba. Finally, on June 12, 1966, the United States left the Dominican Republic after constitutional presidential elections. The elections were won by the Reformist Party, which was represented by its main leader, Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, as president, and Augusto Lora as vice president. This government maintained relative political stability for 20 years. Thus ended the Second U.S. Military Intervention.

Author: José Lee Borges
Published: December 27, 2011.

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