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A Brief History of Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic, a nation on the island of Hispaniola, is a part of the Greater Antilles island chain in the Caribbean Sea.  The country, which ultimately claimed independence in July of 1924, occupies five-eighths of the aforementioned island, which it shares with the country of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, shared by two countries.  In terms of both area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with roughly 18,700 square miles (48,445 square kilometers) of total land space an estimated population of 10.1 million permanent inhabitants, of which roughly one million lives in the capital city of Santo Domingo.[i]
 
History of the Dominican Republic: Introduction
 
The history of the Dominican Republic can be traced back to 600 AD, when the lone occupants of the island were the Taino people, an indigenous tribe of early Amerindians.  On his 1492 voyage sponsored by the Catholic monarchs of Spain, the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the island, which soon after became the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World.[ii]
 
After three centuries of Spanish colonization, with periods of French and Haitian rule, the Dominican Republic became independent in 1821.  The ruler of the region, José Núñez de Cáceres, was intent on making the Dominican Republic part of the nation of Gran Colombia, but he was quickly removed by the Haitian government and "Dominican" slave revolts.
 
Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly internal troubles over the next seven decades, and also a brief return to Spanish rule. The United States occupied the country from 1916–1924, which was followed by a relatively tranquil and prosperous six-year period under the leader Horacio Vásquez Lajara.[iii]
 
Around 1930, the Dominican Republic found itself under the control of the ruthless dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, who ruled the country until 1961.  The civil war of 1965, the country's last significant period of strife, was ended by a United States-led intervention, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer, the leader from 1966–1978.[iv]  Since that time, the Dominican Republic has moved steadily toward representative democracy, and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time after 1996.  Danilo Medina, the Dominican Republic's current president, succeeded Fernández in 2012, winning 51% of the electoral vote over his opponent and ex-president Hipólito Mejía.
 
In the following article we will expound upon the history of the Dominican Republic, beginning with the early pre-Columbian period of the region through the present.
 
The Early History of the Dominican Republic:  The Pre-Columbian Period
 
For a little more than 5,000 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America under a voyage sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, the island, which he named Hispaniola, was inhabited by indigenous peoples whom he called "Indians." Anthropologists and historians have traced multiple waves of indigenous immigration to the island from two principal places: some of the early Amerindians came from Central America, most likely from the Yucatan and Belize; and some came from South America, the descendants of the Arawakan Indians in Amazonia, many of whom passed through the Orinoco Valley in Venezuela.[v]  It is from the blending of these waves of indigenous immigrants that the Taíno Indians, the people who welcomed Columbus on his arrival, are believed to have originated.

In the language of these indigenous people, the word Taíno means "good" or "noble," and they were named so due to the hospitality and affability they showed Columbus and his Spanish crew upon their arrival, demonstrating a peaceful and generous hospitality.   Chroniclers among the early Spanish settlers documented that they saw no signs of hostility or the Taíno Indians fighting amongst themselves—in fact, they often substituted a type of ballgame called batey in lieu of battles.[vi]  For example, if two Taíno Indians had an argument, they would typically settle their differences by choosing a team of players and, in front of their kacikes (chiefs) and all their people, they would play the game, which was somewhat similar to European football or soccer, and the winning team would then “win” the argument.

By the close of the 15th century, the Taíno were very well organized into five political units called kacikazgos.[vii]  They were so organized, that many historians believe they were on the verge of moving from a nation to nation-state.  Recent estimates, based on archaeological and demographic research, indicates that there were most likely several million indigenous Taíno Indians living on the island by the close of the 1400s.

When Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean with his crew of Spaniards, he made stops on what are now known as the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba before landing on the island he named Hispaniola, which today plays host to the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  The Taíno Indians had a number of names for Hispaniola, including Kiskeya, Haiti, and Bohío (there were several different indigenous tribes and nations on the island, each with its own language, although Taíno was predominant).[viii]  

Although the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba were of interest to the Spaniards, it was Hispaniola that got them excited for a number of different reasons.  Christopher Columbus' journal is full of descriptions indicating how beautiful the island paradise was, including high, forested mountains and large river valleys.  He described the Taíno as very peaceful, generous, and cooperative with the Europeans, and as a result, the Europeans saw the Taíno as easy targets to conquer.[ix]  In addition, they saw the Taíno had gold ornaments and jewelry from the deposits of gold found in Hispaniola's rivers. So after a month or so of feasting and exploring the northern coast of Hispaniola, Columbus hurried back to Spain to announce his successful discovery—but he had lost his flagship and had to leave many of his crewmen behind.

Dominican Republic and the Spanish

On Christmas Eve 1492, after returning from a two-day feast and celebration with their Taino Indian hosts, Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, ran afoul on a reef a few miles east of present-day Haiti, after the entire crew, save for a 12-year-old boy, had fallen asleep. With the help of the Taíno, the Spaniards were able to salvage all of the ship's valuables, but the ship itself was lost.  Before departing for Spain, Columbus ordered a small fortress built from the flagship´s timbers and left behind a group of 39 of his own crewmen to collect gold until his return. He named this settlement Fortalesa La Navidad, or "Fort Christmas."[x]

Not long after Columbus' departure for Europe, the Spanish settlers that were left behind on Hispaniola began fighting amongst themselves, with some even killing one another. They deeply offended the Taíno Indians by raping their wives and sisters and forcing both men and women to work as their servants. After several months of this abuse, a Kacike (Chief) by the name of Caonabó attacked the settlement and killed the Spanish settlers.[xi] When Columbus returned to the island with a large expedition the following January, he was shocked to find all of his men dead and the newly named Fortaleza La Navidad burned to the ground.

The first permanent European settlement on the island of Hispaniola was Isabella, founded by the Spanish in 1493 on the north coast of the island, not far from what is now the city of Puerto Plata.[xii]  From there the Spaniards could exploit the gold in the Cibao Valley, located just a short distance away in the interior of the country. The Spaniards had brought horses and dogs with them from Europe, along with armor and iron weapons.  They also brought with them some invisible allies—disease germs for which the Taíno had no immunities and would ultimately be unable to resist for long.  An expeditionary force was sent to capture Chief Caonabó, the leader of the former uprising, and another battalion was ordered to put down a unified force of thousands of warriors at the site today known as Santo Cerro, after which the Taíno were forced into hard labor, panning for gold under conditions that were repressive and deplorable. [xiii]

Columbus' brother, Bartholomew, was appointed governor of the new Hispaniola settlement while Christopher continued his explorations in the Caribbean region. After the discovery of gold on the island´s southern coast, Bartholomew founded the city of Santo Domingo in 1496, which continues to serve as the capital city of the Dominican Republic today.  The Spaniards were jealous of the Columbus brothers' (Italian) leadership and therefore began accusing them of mismanagement when reporting back to Spain. These complaints had them relieved of their positions and Christopher and his two brothers were brought back to Spain in chains.[xiv] Once there, it became evident that most of the accusations against them had been grossly exaggerated and Queen Isabella of Spain ordered their release.

Succeeding the Columbus brothers as governor of the new colony was a Spaniard named Nicolas Ovando, who decided to take proactive action in an attempt to pacify the Taíno Indians once and for all.  He arranged for Anacaona, the widow of Caonabó and the widely respected Taíno kacika (chieftess or queen), to organize a feast, supposedly to welcome the new governor (and his new policies) to the island.  However, when 80-plus of the island's kacikes were assembled in Anacaona's large wooden caney (palace) near the site of today's Port au Prince, in Haití, the Spanish soldiers surrounded it and set it on fire. Those who were not killed in the fire were brutally tortured to death.  After a mock trial in Santo Domingo, Anacaona was also hanged. Ovando ordered a similar campaign to kill all the Taíno kacikes in the eastern part of the island. With few remaining Taíno leaders, future resistance from the Taíno was virtually eliminated.[xv]  It was a pattern that Spaniards carried into the rest of the Americas.

Unlike Europeans, Africans, and Asians, who had exchanged commercial goods (and diseases) for centuries, the remaining Taíno did not have immunities to the types of potentially deadly diseases that the Spaniards and their animals carried to the Americas.  Forced into brute labor and unable to take the time to engage in agricultural activities in order to feed themselves, famine among the Taino only accelerated the death rate. To escape from the Spaniards, some Taíno adopted the tactic of abandoning their villages and burning their crops. They fled to less hospitable regions of the island, forming cimarrón (runaway) colonies, or fled to other islands and even to the mainland.  Smallpox was introduced to the island in late 1518 and the indigenous death rate accelerated. After 25 years of Spanish occupation, there were fewer than 50,000 Taíno remaining in the Spanish-dominated parts of the island. Within another generation, the survivors had nearly all become biologically mixed with Spaniards, Africans, or other mixed-blood people—becoming the tripartite people today known as Dominicans.[xvi]  Some modern historians have classified the acts of the Spaniards against the Taíno as genocide.[xvii]

In the first decade of the 16th century, one of the Taíno kacikes named Hatuey, escaped to Cuba, where he organized armed resistance against the Spanish invaders.  After a brave but uneven struggle, he was captured and burned alive.  As history tells the story, as the flames leapt upwards, a priest attempted to convert him to Christianity so that Hatuey could go to Heaven. Hatuey asked if there were Spaniards in Heaven, and when the priest answered, "Yes," Hatuey refused his blessing.[xviii]

The most successful resistance against the Spaniards took place on Hispaniola from 1519 to 1534, after the Taíno population had been almost completely decimated. This occurred when several thousand Taíno Indians escaped their captivity and followed their leader Enriquillo to the mountains of Bahoruco, in the south-central part of the country, near the present border with Haiti. It was here, after raiding Spanish plantations and defeating Spanish patrols for 14 years, that the very first truce between an Amerindian chief and a European monarch was negotiated. Enriquillo and his followers were all pardoned and given their own town and charter.[xix]

By the year 1515 the Spaniards realized that the gold deposits of Hispaniola were becoming exhausted.  Shortly thereafter, a man named Hernándo Cortés and his small retinue of soldiers made their astonishing conquest of Mexico, with its fabulous riches of silver. Almost overnight the colony on Hispaniola, which was usually called Santo Domingo after its capital city, was abandoned and only a few thousand "Spanish" settlers remained behind (many of whom were the offspring of Spanish fathers and Taíno mothers).[xx] Columbus' introduction of cattle and pigs to the island had multiplied rapidly, so the remaining inhabitants turned their attention to raising livestock to supply Spanish ships passing by the island en route to the richer colonies on the American mainland. Hispaniola's importance as a colony became increasingly minimized.[xxi]

French and Haitian Conquests

By the middle of the 17th century, the island of Tortuga (now part of Haiti), located just northwest of Hispaniola, had been settled by smugglers, run-away indentured servants, and members of crews of various European ships.  In addition to capturing livestock on Hispaniola to sell for their leather, Tortuga became the headquarters for the pirates of the Caribbean, who predominantly raided Spanish treasure ships. This area became the recruiting grounds for expeditions mounted by many notorious pirates, including the famous British pirate Henry Morgan.

The French were envious of Spain's possessions in the Americas, and thus sent colonists to settle the island of Tortuga and the northwestern coast of Hispaniola, which the Spaniards had totally abandoned by 1603 (under royal mandate, the island's governor, Osorio, forcibly moved all Spaniards to a line south and east of today's San Juan de Maguana).[xxii] In order to domesticate the pirates, the French supplied them with women who had been taken from prisons, accused of prostitution and thieving. The western third of Hispaniola became a French possession called Saint Domingue in 1697, and over the next century developed into what became, by far, one of the richest colonies in the world.[xxiii] The wealth of the colony derived predominantly from cane sugar. Large plantations were worked by hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were forcibly imported to the island.

Inspired by the events taking place in France during the French Revolution and by disputes between whites and mulattos in Saint Domingue, a slave revolt broke out in the French colony in 1791, and was eventually led by a French Black man by the name of Toussaint L'Ouverture.  Since Spain had ceded the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo to France in 1795, in the Treaty of Basilea, Toussaint L'Ouverture and his followers claimed the entire island.[xxiv]

Although L'Ouverture and his successor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, succeeded in re-establishing order and renewing the economy of Saint Domingue, which had been badly devastated, the new leader in France, Napoleon Bonaparte, could not accept having France's richest colony governed by a Black man. Succumbing to the complaints of former colonists who had lost their plantations in the colony, a large expedition was mounted to conquer the Blacks and re-establish slavery. Led by Napoleon's brother-in-law, General Leclerc, the expedition turned into a disaster. The Black army definitively defeated the French, and the Blacks declared their independence on January 1, 1804, establishing the Republic of Haiti on the western third of the island of Hispaniola.[xxv]

The French retained control of the eastern side of the island, but after failing to restore the economy in Santo Domingo, this portion was returned to Royal Spanish rule. The Spaniards not only tried to re-establish slavery in Santo Domingo, but many of them also mounted raiding expeditions into Haiti to capture Blacks and enslave them as well. Due to the neglect of the Spanish authorities, the colonists of Santo Domingo, under the leadership of José Núñez de Cáceres, proclaimed what came to be called the Ephemeral Independence. In 1822, fearful the French would mount another expedition from Spanish Santo Domingo to re-establish slavery, as they had threatened to do; Haiti's President Jean-Pierre Boyer sent an army that invaded and took over the eastern portion of Hispaniola. Boyer once again abolished slavery and incorporated Santo Domingo into the Republic of Haiti.[xxvi]

The Dominican Republic Is Formed

For the next two decades-plus the whole island of Hispaniola was unified under Haitian control, in a period Dominicans call the "The Haitian Occupation."[xxvii]  Due to their loss of political and economic control, the former Spanish ruling class deeply resented the occupation. During the late 1830s, an underground resistance group known as La Trinitaria was organized under the leadership of Juan Pablo Duarte.  After multiple attacks on the Haitian army, and because of internal friction among the Haitians, the Haitian armies eventually retreated.  Independence of the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola was officially declared on February 27, 1844, and the name República Dominicana (Dominican Republic) was adopted.[xxviii]

The new Republic was not void of problems, as the Trinitaria leaders, who had sparked the move for Dominican independence, almost immediately encountered political opposition from within.  As a result, in just six short months La Trinitaria was ousted from power. From this time on, the Dominican Republic was almost perpetually under the rule of caudillos, strong military leaders who ruled the country as if it were their personal kingdom.[xxix] Over the next 70 years, the Dominican Republic had multiple outbreaks of civil war and was characterized by political instability and economic chaos.
Once La Trinitaria was ousted from power, the next 25 years saw the leadership of the Dominican Republic seesaw back and forth between that of General Pedro Santana and General Buenaventura Báez, whose armies continuously fought each other for political control.  In an attempt to maintain some type of order and stability in the region, the two military leaders and their armies resorted to outside assistance. In 1861, General Pedro Santana invited Spain to return and take over its former colony. After a short period of mismanagement by Spain, the Dominicans realized their mistake and forced the Spaniards out so they could restore the Republic. Another attempt was made for stability when Dominicans invited the United States to take over a decade later. Although U.S. President Grant supported the request, it was defeated by the U.S. Congress.

During the 19th century, the prime sources of income for the Dominican Republic shifted from agriculture and ranching to other sources of revenue. In the southwestern region, a new industry, timber, arose with the cutting down and exportation of precious woods like mahogany, oak, and guayacán. In the northern plains and the valleys around Santiago, industry focused on growing tobacco for some of the world's best cigars, and on coffee production.[xxx]

Late in the 19th century (1882), General Ulysses Heureux, known throughout the country as "Lilis," came into power. His brutal dictatorship consisted of a corrupt administration that maintained power by violent repression and subjugation of his opponents. Lilis handled the country's affairs so poorly, in fact, that it regularly rocked back and forth between economic crisis and currency devaluations.[xxxi] Following his assassination in 1899, several individuals came to power, only to be rapidly overthrown by their political opponents, and the country's internal situation continued to spiral out of control.

The Dominican Republic and the United States

Around the turn of the 20th century, the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic saw a major resurgence, prompting many Americans to buy up plantations in the country—so many that these American landowners came to dominate this industry and vital sector of the DR economy.   In about 1916, the Americans decided they wanted to expand their sphere of influence and power in the Dominican Republic.  As such, they used the breakout of the First World War as an excuse to bring in United States Marines to "protect the country" against vulnerability to large European powers such as Germany. They had also used this argument just prior to sending troops to occupy Haiti.[xxxii]

The United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (called the "intervention" in U.S. history books) lasted 8 years, and from the very beginning the Americans took complete control.  They ordered the disbanding of the Dominican Army and forced the population to disarm. A puppet government was installed and obliged to obey orders from the occupying U.S. Marine commanders.  A re-modeling of the legal structure took place in order to benefit American investors, allowing them to control ever greater sectors of the economy, and remove customs and import barriers for any American products being brought into the Dominican Republic.  Although many Dominican businessmen experienced losses due to these changes, the political violence was eliminated and many improvements in the Dominican Republic's infrastructure and educational system were introduced.[xxxiii]

Dominican Republic History: Trujillo Comes to Power

One of the major changes accomplished by the United States government was the establishment and training of a new army in the Dominican Republic, which had previously been accomplished in neighboring Haiti. This was essential step, as an internally-trained army would be able to maintain law, order in the country, as well as public security. In both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the end result was a shift in power—a shift away from civilians to the military.[xxxiv]  

During the time of the American occupation, the Quartermaster of the new Dominican Army was a former telegraph clerk by the name of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. This unscrupulous strongman utilized his powerful position to amass an enormous personal fortune, culled primarily from embezzlement activities, initially involving the procurement of military supplies.  Although the Dominican Republic had its first relatively free elections after the American troops departed in 1924, within just a short time Trujillo was able to block any government reform actions, and in a 1930 coup he took complete control of the country´s political power.[xxxv]

Using the internal and newly-established army as his enforcer, Trujillo wasted very little time in setting up a repressive dictatorship and organizing a vast network of spies to eliminate any potential opponents.  His brutal henchmen did not hesitate to use intimidation, torture, or assassination of political foes to terrify and oppress the population; all to ensure Trujillo’s continued rule and the amassing of his fortune.  Before long, Trujillo managed to consolidate his power to such a degree that he began to treat the Dominican Republic as his own personal kingdom. He was so arrogant and confident that, after just six years at the head of government, Trujillo changed the name of the capital city from Santo Domingo (a name that had existed for over 400 years), to Cuidad Trujillo, or “Trujillo City.”[xxxvi]

Trujillo managed to secure American support of his leadership (dictatorship) because he offered generous and favorable conditions to American businessmen wanting to invest in the Dominican Republic.  More importantly to the U.S., after World War II, Trujillo showed his political support of the U.S.A.'s stand against the evils of communism.  By 1942, Trujillo even arranged to repay all of the foreign debt due to the U.S., which had for decades limited the Dominican government´s economic initiatives.[xxxvii]  But after several years of confiscating ownership of the majority of the most important domestic businesses, he began to take control of major American-owned industries too, in particular, the very important sugar industry. These take-over activities, combined with Trujillo's meddling in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, led to increasing U.S. disenchantment with the Dominican Republic's dictator.

One of Trujillo's most disreputable acts was committed against the Dominican Republic's neighbor, the Republic of Haiti. For centuries there had been a lack of clear definition of the border between the two countries—a border that had been a source of aggravation and conflict for both parties.  Not only had the border area become a nest for persistent smuggling activities, but also thousands of Haitians had begun to settle the lands around the vague frontier. Trujillo had never hidden his racist ideas and feelings about the "inferiority and unattractiveness" of the black-skinned Haitians, so in 1937, after first negotiating an internationally lauded border agreement with Haiti's president, he ordered his army to oversee the massacre of all Haitians on the Dominican side of the border.[xxxviii]  It is estimated that as many as 20,000 unarmed men, women, and children, many of whom had lived in the Dominican Republic for generations, were slaughtered in an atrocity of violence.  Most of this bloodshed took place around the border town of Dajabón and the aptly named Massacre River.

In an effort to avert international criticism of this unspeakable massacre, Trujillo offered to accept into the Dominican Republic as many as 100,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.  However, when it came to acting on this promise, a total of only 600 or so Jewish families were offered refuge in 1942, settling in what is now known as the El Batey section of Sosua, situated about 20 km east of Puerto Plata.[xxxix]  Of these families, only a dozen or so remained permanently in the area, although they contributed greatly to the region´s economic development.

Rafael Trujillo remained in control of the Dominican Republic for more than three decades, but toward the end of his reign he succeeded in alienating even his most avid former supporters, including the United States.  The final straws for his reign came when he ordered the assassination of three upper-middle class sisters—Patricia, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal—who were members of the June 14th Movement to topple his dictatorship, and when he was linked with an abortive assassination attempt against the Venezuelan President Rómulo Bétancourt.[xl]  On May 30, 1961, upon returning from a rendezvous with his mistress, Trujillo's personal automobile was ambushed and the dictator was killed in a violent assault.  At the time of his death, he was one of the richest men in the world, having amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of $500 million U.S. dollars, including ownership of most of the largest industries in the country and a major sector of prime agricultural land.[xli]

Dominican Republic:  Modern History

Following Trujillo's assassination, his vice-president at the time, Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, took control of the presidency.  Eighteen months later, a man by the name of Juan Bosch, leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), was elected president.  Bosch's socialist program was judged to be too extreme by the U.S., who were then paranoid about the possible spread of communism after Fidel Castro's successful revolution in Cuba, and because the Dominican Army had maintained Trujillo in power for so many years. The army's proponents maneuvered to block every one of Bosch's legislative reforms, and only nine months later they engineered a coup d'état to oust him from the presidency.[xlii]
In the two years following Bosch’s ouster from power, the Dominican Republic saw an inordinate amount of political and economic chaos.  This period came to a climax on April 24, 1965, when the not-so-satisfied working classes, allied with a nonconformist army faction, rose in rebellion and took action to re-establish constitutional order.  The U.S. President at the time, Lyndon Johnson, ordered the U.S. Marines to occupy the Dominican Republic (again), this time under the pretext that communists were responsible for the political uprising.[xliii]

A year later and with assistance from the United States, the former leader Dr. Joaquín Balaguer was once again elected to the presidency, in what many natives deemed to be a rigged or fixed election. Balaguer remained in power for the next 12 years, winning re-election in both 1970 and 1974.  In both instances the opposition parties maintained that the elections would again be rigged, so they did not even nominate candidates to participate in the electoral races.[xliv]

Finally, in the election of 1978, the Dominican citizens showed their desire for change by electing Dr. Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) as the new president.  Balaguer and his loyal supporters had become aware of the pro-PRD movement during the campaign and election, and unwilling to cede defeat, he attempted to put an end to the vote counting in order to maintain his title.  However, facing intense international pressure, particularly from the Jimmy Carter-led government of the United States, Balaguer was ultimately forced to admit defeat and step down.[xlv]

Just before Guzmán's four-year term ended in 1982, he committed suicide.  Most historians believe he took this route because he had become aware that some of his close family members were involved in a massive scheme of corruption and embezzlement of government funds.[xlvi]  Dr. Salvador Jorge Blanco, of the same political party, replaced Guzmán as president in 1982.  Blanco continued in the time-honored Dominican tradition of rewarding family members, close friends, and political supporters with lucrative governmental posts. His term in the Dominican Republic Presidency was, in the end, marred by allegations of massive corruption and misappropriation of government funds. He was later found guilty of both and convicted to 20 years in prison.[xlvii]

In 1986, after being thoroughly disillusioned by the mismanagement and corruption of the leaders of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), the Dominican citizens returned to the polls and once again elected Dr. Joaquín Balaguer. Due to divided and disorganized opposition parties at the next elections in 1990, Balaguer was once again re-elected. With all of his years as President of the Dominican Republic, he had become almost as dictatorial as Trujillo.

During this eight-year period, the international community condemned the Dominican government for their continued exploitation of Haitian braceros (sugar cane workers). It had been alleged that thousands of these workers had essentially been put into slavery, forced to do backbreaking work under the supervision of armed guards.  They were paid only pennies for their toil and were not permitted to leave their places of employment.  In June 1991, bowing to international pressure, all of the Haitian workers were deported, but it is widely believed that this practice continues today given the hectic state of the Haitian Republic.[xlviii]

Up until 2001, tourism and manufacturing sustained the economy of the Dominican Republic, with an impressive seven percent average annual growth.  In addition to the expansion of these sectors, the Dominican Republic also received substantial payments from Dominicans living outside the country, the majority of who were now living and working in and around the New York/New Jersey region.

Even with the myriad of problems the country has faced throughout its history, in recent decades the Dominican Republic has evolved into a reasonably free and democratic nation, with a growing middle class. Political demonstrations take place openly and freely in the streets, and politicians are able to campaign without being censored. Average Dominican people are involved in the political arena and the country's newspapers provide a free and open flow of information for its citizens.[xlix] Despite these advancements, the country is still watched over by the National Police and Army, which tend to act in the interests of the politicians holding power (although no one in the military can vote).  According to citizens, the threat of force, along with continued widespread corruption among those in power, are things that still need to be overcome before the Dominican Republic can call itself a true and developed democracy.[l]

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