It is ten years on Saturday (26 April) since the United States directly intervened in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic following the outbreak of civil war in the Caribbean state.
It is ten years on Saturday (26 April) since the United States directly intervened in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic following the outbreak of civil war in the Caribbean state. Over 22,000 U.S. troops and marines were sent to the Dominican Republic after an army revolt failed to overthrow the ruling military junta...and sparked off a four-month struggle which claimed at least 3,000 lives before a settlement was achieved.
The U.S. decision to intervene was justified at the time by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson as preventing a Communist takeover of the country. It represented the only instance this century in which the United States interfered overtly and with massive military strength in the affairs of any American state...and illustrated the fear with which almost all American states viewed any possible repetition of the Cuban revolution.
After four months of bitter fighting centred among the streets of the capital, Santo Domingo, an agreement was reached through the offices of the United States ambassador and the officials of the Organisation of American States (OAS) between the heads of the rival factions in the Republic. This paved the way for the withdrawal of U.S. troops...and the installation of a provisional government under Dr. Hector Godoy. In June the following year (1966), Dr. Godoy was defeated in national elections by Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, who has ruled the country with little serious challenge since that time.
The period of Dr. Balaguer's Government has been relatively peaceful with considerable economic progress made to bring the country out of its former backward state. There have been, however, sporadic outbreaks of violence of "rebel activity". The most serious took place in February 1973 and led to the death of the military leader who engineered the abortive 1965 coup, Colonel Francisco Caamano--the only man believed to be powerful and popular enough to present a real threat to Dr. Dalaguer.
Much of the finance behind the Dominican Republic's economic progress has come from the United States...either in direct foreign aid from the Government, or form commercial foreign investment. The largest single employer in the country is the U.S. firm Gulf and Western, with interests in all sectors of the country's economy--especially sugar--and the largest single foreign investor.
In addition, the Dominican authorities have spent vast amounts of money to improve tourist facilities..thus increasing potential foreign currency earnings. Huge and splendid hotels have been constructed specifically to cater for the expensive tastes of U.S. tourists in the capital and coastal resorts.
Since the beginning of the 1970s industry int eh Republic has also expanded, thanks to foreign investment. Mineral resources are being developed in various parts of the island, and oil production and refining is becoming increasingly important and profitable.
Despite the growth of these industries, 70 per cent of the country's population of over 4 million still live and work on the land. Although only two-fifths of the arable land is in use, agriculture remains the mainstay of the country's economy at the moment...with sugar, coffee, cocoa and tobacco as the main cash crops. The rise in world prices in these commodities over the past two years has done much to strengthen the economy...yet, poverty is still widespread and unemployment high in the country areas.
Even ten years after the end of their military presence, the United States influence is still obvious in the Dominican Republic. Hamburger and fried chicken stalls abound, and Santo Domingo's main cinemas show many U.S. films. Much of this is necessary for the booming tourist trade, but outside the city the "sophistication" of U.S. life are still few and far between.
By far, the most important influence in the development of the Dominican Republic's economic life is U.S. money in whatever form it comes...foreign aid, foreign investment or tourist currency. This monetary dominance has created a growth in anti-U.S. feeling among certain sections of the population. But, as far as most Dominicans are concerned, the influx of foreign money has brought a promise of an improved future as the economy strengthens.