Dominican Republic Table of Contents

THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC EXPERIENCED many setbacks on the road to the democratic system under which it functioned in the late 1980s. The nation did not enjoy full independence until 1844, when it emerged from twenty-two years of occupation by Haiti; this liberation came later than that of most Latin American countries. Reacceptance of Spanish rule from 1861 to 1865 demonstrated the republic's insecurity and dependence on larger powers to protect it and to define its status. Dominican vulnerability to intervention from abroad was also made evident by the United States military occupation of 1916-24 and by a more limited action by United States forces during a brief civil war in 1965.

Politically, Dominican history has been defined by an almost continuous competition for supremacy among caudillos of authoritarian ideological convictions. Political and regional competition overlapped to a great extent because mainly conservative leaders from the south and the east pitted themselves against generally more liberal figures from the northern part of the Valle del Cibao (the Cibao Valley, commonly called the Cibao). Traditions of personalism, militarism, and social and economic elitism locked the country into decades of debilitating wars, conspiracies, and despotism that drained its resources and undermined its efforts to establish liberal constitutional rule.

In the late 1980s, the republic was still struggling to emerge from the shadow of the ultimate Dominican caudillo, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina (1930-61), who emerged from the military and held nearly absolute power throughout his rule. The apparent establishment of a democratic process in 1978 was a promising development; however, the survival of democracy appeared to be closely linked to the country's economic fortunes, which had declined steadily since the mid-1970s. As it had throughout its history, the republic continued to struggle with the nature of its domestic politics and with the definition of its economic and political role in the wider world.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress