Dominican Republic Table of Contents

After a brief period of armed conflict, the revolutionaries prevailed. Vásquez headed a provisional government established in September 1899. Free, direct elections brought to the presidency Juan Isidro Jiménez Pereyra on November 15. The Jiménez administration faced a fiscal crisis when European creditors, led by the French, began to call in loans that had been contracted by Heureaux. Customs fees represented the only significant source of government revenue at that time. When the Jiménez government pledged 40 percent of its customs revenue to repay its foreign debt, it provoked the ire of the San Domingo Improvement Company. A United States-based firm, the Improvement Company had lent large sums to the Heureaux regime. As a result, it had not only received a considerable percentage of customs revenue, but also had been granted the right to administer Dominican customs in order to ensure regular repayment. Stung by the Jiménez government's resumption of control over its customs receipts, the directors of the Improvement Company protested to the United States Department of State. The review of the case prompted a renewed interest in Washington in Dominican affairs.

The death of Heureaux, however, had by no means ushered in an era of political tranquility. Jiménez's various financial negotiations with foreign powers had aroused opposition among nationalists, particularly in the Cibao, who suspected the president of bargaining away Dominican sovereignty in return for financial settlements. Government forces led by Vásquez put down some early uprisings. Eventually, however, personal and political competition between Jiménez and Vásquez brought them into more serious conflict. Vásquez's forces proclaimed a revolution on April 26, 1902; with no real base of support, Jiménez fled his office and his country a few days later. Although highly principled, Vásquez was not a strong leader. Squabbles among his followers and opposition to his government from local caciques grew into general unrest that culminated in the seizure of power by ex-president Woss y Gil in April 1903.

Dominican politics had once again polarized into two largely nonideological camps. Where once the Blues and the Reds had contended for power, now the jimenistas (supporters of Jiménez; sing., jimenista) and the horacistas (supporters of Vásquez and Cáceres; sing., horacista) vied for control. Woss y Gil, a jimenista, made the mistake of seeking supporters among the horacista camp and he was overthrown by the jimenista general, Carlos F. Morales Languasco, in December 1903. Rather than restore the country's leadership to Jiménez, however, Morales set up a provisional government and announced his own candidacy for the presidency-- with Cáceres as his running mate. The renewed fraternization with the horacistas incited another jimenista rebellion. This uprising proved unsuccessful, and Morales and Cáceres were inaugurated on June 19, 1904.

Conflict within the Morales administration between supporters of the president and those of the vice president debilitated the government. By late 1905, it became clear that Morales had lost effective control to Cáceres and the cabinet. Morales resolved to lead a coup against his own government; his plan was discovered by the horacistas, however, and he was captured and dispatched into exile. Cáceres assumed the presidency on December 29, 1905.

The influence of the United States had increased considerably during the first few years of the twentieth century. United States military forces had intervened in a minor way to ensure the safety of United States citizens and to prevent the deployment of warships by European governments seeking immediate repayment of debt. By 1904 Washington had begun to take a greater interest in the stability of Caribbean nations, particularly those--like the Dominican Republic--situated along the approaches to the forthcoming Panama Canal. The administration of Theodore Roosevelt took a particular interest in resolving the republic's economic situation. It negotiated an agreement in June 1904 whereby the Dominican government bought out the holdings of the San Domingo Improvement Company. The Morales government also agreed to accept the appointment by the United States government of a financial agent to oversee the repayment of the outstanding debt to the Improvement Company from customs duties. This agreement was subsequently superseded by a financial accord signed between the two governments on February 7, 1905; under the provisions of this accord, the United States government assumed responsibility for all Dominican debt as well as for the collection of customs duties and the allocation of those revenues to the Dominican government and to the repayment of its domestic and foreign debt. Although parts of this agreement were rejected by the United States Senate, it formed the basis for the establishment in April 1905 of the General Customs Receivership, the office through which the United States government administered the finances of the Dominican Republic.

The Cáceres government became the financial beneficiary of this arrangement. Freed from the burden of dealing with creditors, Cáceres attempted to reform the political system. Constitutional reforms placed local ayuntamientos (town councils) under the power of the central government, extended the presidential term to six years, and eliminated the office of vice president. Cáceres also nationalized public utilities and established a bureau of public works to administer them. All of these actions engendered both opposition and support. The curtailment of local authority particularly irked those caciques who preferred to rule through compliant ayuntamientos. The continued financial sovereignty of the Yankees also outweighed the economic benefits of the receivership in the minds of many nationalistic Dominicans. Intrigues fomented in exile by Morales, Jiménez, and others beset Cáceres. On November 19, 1911, a small group headed by Luis Tejera assassinated Cáceres as he took his evening drive through the streets of Santo Domingo.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress