|Dominican Republic Table of Contents
A fractious campaign ensued between the country's two leading political figures: Bosch and Balaguer. Bosch's appeal was tempered by fear; many Dominicans felt that his reelection would rekindle the violence of April 1965. This trepidation aided Balaguer, who also appealed to conservative voting sectors such as peasants, women (considered to be more religious than men), and businesspeople. Balaguer thus won handily, garnering 57 percent of the vote in balloting held July 1, 1966. His Reformist Party (Partido Reformista--PR) also captured majorities in the Congress.
Balaguer went on to serve as president for twelve years. A relative nonentity under Trujillo, he demonstrated, once in power, the astuteness with which he had studied the techniques of the late dictator. Even though as a conservative he theoretically was more secure against military machinations, he actively sought to head off opposition from the armed forces by rewarding officers loyal to him, purging those he suspected, and rotating everyone's assignments on a regular and frequent basis. He curtailed nonmilitary opposition through selective (compared to the Trujillo years) repression by the National Police. His reelection in 1970 and in 1974 was accomplished largely through intimidation. The PRD, the only viable, broad-based opposition party, boycotted both elections to safeguard the well-being of those who would have been their candidates.
The Dominican economy expanded at a record rate under Balaguer. Favorable international prices for sugar provided the basis for this so-called Dominican miracle. Foreign investment, foreign borrowing, foreign aid, the growth of tourism, and extensive public works programs also contributed to high levels of growth. By the late 1970s, however, the expansion had slowed considerably as sugar prices dipped and oil prices rose. Rising inflation and unemployment diminished support for the government, particularly among the middle class.
The PRD, feeling the mood of the population and sensing support from the administration of United States president Jimmy Carter, nominated Silvestre Antonio Guzmán Fernández to oppose Balaguer in the elections of May 16, 1978. A relatively heavy 70 percent turnout seemed to favor the PRD; early returns confirmed this as Guzmán built a sizable lead. Early in the morning of May 17, however, military units occupied the Central Electoral Board and impounded the ballots. Clearly, Balaguer was attempting to nullify the balloting or to falsify the results in his favor. Only forceful remonstrances by the Carter administration, backed up by a naval deployment, moved Balaguer to allow the resumption of the vote count. Two weeks later, Guzmán's victory was officially announced.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress