Records of the State Department Relating to Internal Affairs, The Dominican Republic, Political and Governmental Affairs, February 1963-1966

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The Dominican Republic has experienced many setbacks on the road to democracy. Dominican political history has been defined by traditions of personalism, militarism, and social and economic elitism which has undermined its efforts to establish liberal constitutional rule.

In December 1962, scholar and poet Juan Bosch Gaviño, elected by the urban lower class, was very much an oddity in Dominican history -- the first freely elected, liberal, democratic president that expressed concern for the welfare of all Dominicans, particularly those whose voices had never really been heard before in the National Palace. The Bosch government supported revisions to the constitution that separated church and state, guaranteed civil and individual rights, and endorsed civilian control of the military. These and other changes, such as land reform, struck conservative landholders and military officers as radical and threatening, particularly when juxtaposed against three decades of somnolent authoritarianism under Trujillo.

A combination of reformist military and aroused civilian combatants calling themselves Constitutionalists, took to the streets on April 24, seized the National Palace, and installed Rafael Molina Ureña as provisional president. The revolution took on the dimensions of a civil war when conservative military forces struck back against the Constitutionalists on April 25. Despite tank assaults and bombing runs by conservative forces, the Constitutionalists held their positions in the capital. On April 28, the U.S. intervened in the civil war. President Johnson ordered in forces that eventually totaled 20,000, to secure Santo Domingo and to restore order.

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Source: U.S. National Archives, College Park, MD