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Dominican Republic Modern History

Decades after Trujillo's dictatorship (1930–1961), political life in the Dominican Republic was dominated by his patron Joaquín Balaguer, with Juan Bosch as his eternal opponent. Democratization began in the 1970s. From 1996, a new generation of politicians took over. PLD's Leonel Fernández was president for a total of twelve years, with a break in 2000-2004.

In 1961, the 30-year Trujillo dictatorship fell and the following year, presidential elections were held. Leftist Juan Bosch of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) won, but after only seven months in the presidential post, he was overthrown in a military coup and replaced by a right-wing junta. When PRD supporters tried to put down the junta in an armed uprising in 1965, civil war broke out. The US intervened with more than 20,000 Marines, the fighting was stopped and a temporary government ruled the country until new elections were held in 1966.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Dominican Republic. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The presidential election was won by Joaquín Balaguer who was president for a period also under Trujillo's patronage. Balaguer came to dominate politics for 30 years. He controlled the military as well as persecuted and killed dead PRD supporters and other opposites.

In 1973, a group of ex-Dominicans tried to ban Balaguer, but most insurgents were killed by the army. Juan Bosch was forced to leave the country for a time but founded the same year the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

Contemporary History of Dominican RepublicDemocratization

Balagues who were re-elected in 1970 also won in 1974, partly through scare tactics. But in the late 1970s, the Dominican Republic took important steps toward democratic rule and the military's power diminished. In the 1978 and 1982 presidential elections, the PRD managed to win. However, in the wake of the oil crisis, the economy deteriorated and promised social reforms could not be implemented. This led to popular dissatisfaction and Balaguer regained power in the 1986 election.

Balaguer was also re-elected in 1990 and 1994, but after accusations of election fraud in 1994, the last term of office was reduced to two years. The president was 87 years old and almost blind. During his time in power, he had created jobs in the public sector and encouraged investment in tourism and industry, which led to rapid growth. During the 1980s, however, the external debt had doubled. In 1991, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted the country a loan but at the same time demanded cuts in government spending. Foreign debt decreased after renegotiations and inflation fell. The beginning of the 1990s was characterized by strong economic recovery, but also by austerity.

New generation politician

In the 1996 presidential election, neither Balaguer nor Bosch participated for the first time in 30 years. In the election, PLD's candidate, 43-year-old Leonel Fernández, now won. This generational shift in politics led to hopes for political and economic reform.

Fernandez had privatized state companies and attracted foreign capital to the country. Growth increased further. But many of the government's proposals were stopped in Congress, and protests erupted as gasoline and transport prices were raised.

The Fernandez government had restructured the police and judiciary and investigated bribery charges in state companies. In 2000, four people, among them high-ranking soldiers, were sentenced to 30 years in prison each for the murder of a journalist. Balaguer was also called for questioning. He did not appear, but that he was called marked an important change in Dominican politics. Balaguer, however, had great influence over politics and social life until his death in 2002. He was seen by many as a national father and received the epithet "the father of Dominican democracy", despite his dictatorial methods. The whole country mourned when he died.

Mejía president

The 1998 congressional election was a great success for the PRD and in the presidential election two years later the party's candidate Hipólito Mejía won. The PRD also won big in both the congressional elections and the local elections in 2002.

With Mejía, public sector wage spending increased sharply, and the government took large loans to finance public investment. The country's economy deteriorated rapidly, which was also due to an economic downturn in the US. Foreign debt rose, inflation soared, unemployment rose and prices of many goods rose. Electricity prices rose by 130 percent in six months, while power outages became more and more common.

In March 2003, the country's second largest bank, Banco Intercontinental (Baninter), went bankrupt under scandalous circumstances. Extensive fraud and corruption were discovered. The owner, who had stolen from his own bank, was very close to the political elite. He had provided Fernández, Mejía and other tops in the PLD and PRD with precious gifts. The government decided to guarantee the savers' deposits. The government's note ended up with one fifth of the country's gross national income, GNI. The scandal led to capital flight, devaluation and inflation, and two more banks collapsed. To counter the crisis, the government sought help from the IMF.

At the same time, unemployment rose, prices soared and the constant power cuts continued (see Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment). Several people were killed and many injured in connection with protest actions and strikes.

Fernandez re-president

The economic crisis and the popular dissatisfaction contributed to Hipólito Mejía being supported only by one third of the voters in the 2004 presidential election. The PLD's Leonel Fernández won the first round and returned for a second term as president. Fernández lowered electricity subsidies for households and passed a tax reform.

In the 2006 congressional elections, PLD won big and the party got its own majority for the first time in both chambers. The economy improved and in the 2008 presidential election Fernández was re-elected in the first round, with close to 54 percent of the vote.

After the election, the president promised power to fight poverty and unemployment. However, the global financial crisis of 2008 worsened conditions, with high oil and food prices and lower amounts of money sent by Dominicans abroad. The country still managed relatively well during the crisis, which favored the government and in the 2010 congressional elections the PLD further strengthened its position. Foreign observers, however, criticized the fact that the PLD had used state funds for its own election campaign, and the PRD claimed that irregularities had occurred.

In the autumn of 2009, constitutional amendments had been adopted following a settlement between PLD and PRD. Among other things, the rules for re-election of President (see Political system) were changed and a very strict abortion legislation was adopted (see Social conditions).

The constitution came into force in 2010 and the members elected this year to the congress were given a six-year mandate rather than a four-year mandate.

According to the new rule in the constitution, Leonel Fernández was not allowed to run for election in 2012. He had been president for a total of twelve years. Prior to the election, there were pressures within the party to make a new constitutional change, to enable Fernández to stand. But he contradicted himself, and instead was aiming for a return in 2016. However, his wife Margarita Cedeño de Fernández was appointed vice president. Many Dominicans saw it as a way for the ex-president to keep his finger on the game.

Medina president

The PLD had a headwind and economist Danilo Medina, who was running as the party's presidential candidate instead of Fernández, already won the first round of the main opponent, ex-president Hipólito Mejía. The election results were questioned by the PRD, which accused the government of buying votes and other forms of cheating.

Medina's victory was largely based on Fernández's successful stabilization of the economy after the severe crisis in the early 2000s. PRD's choice of candidate made its way: Hipólito Mejía was seen by many Dominicans as the main responsible for the crisis. The PRD was also characterized by internal fragmentation. After the election, Mejía accused PLD of abusing power and voting and claimed that PLD used state funds in its election campaign.

The PLD was also assumed to benefit from the fact that the party had its own majority in both chambers of Congress - many voters feared a cumbersome political deadlock if the president and Congress were to pull in different directions for four years until the 2016 election.

 
 

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