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History and Politics

First cathedral of America

The Dominican Republic has an incredibly rich history. The walls and the cobblestoned streets of its Colonial City bear witness to its past as the first city founded in the Americas. It was more than 500 years ago that the Dominican Republic began to write its history.

First Inhabitants

Pintura rupestre cueva IbericaThe island of Hispaniola of which the Dominican Republic forms the Eastern two thirds and Haiti the remainder, was for at least 5,000 years before Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1492, inhabited by Amer-Indians coming from Central America (probably Yucatan and/or Belize) and some from South America, descendants of the Arawakan Indians in Amazonia, moving from the Orinocco delta in South America.
It is from the blending of these waves of indigenous immigrants that the Taino Indians, the people who welcomed Columbus on his arrival, are believed to have originated.

The word Taíno means "good" or "noble" in their native Arawak language.

The Tainos called the island Quisqueya (“Mother of All Lands”) and had divided it into 5 provinces or cacicazgos (chiefdoms), each led by a cacique (chief). The Tainos, numbered approximately 200,000 at their peak, were dedicated to a sedentary lifestyle, simple, but rich in religious and agricultural traditions.

The Tainos created in the island one of the most outstanding cultures in the Caribbean region, however, the discovery and the methods of conquest exterminated this race during a period of about 50 years, limiting the impact of the indigenous culture over the Dominicans.

The final Arawak migrants who were fierce cannibals and robbers were the Caribs Indians who drove the Tainos to the island’s eastern coast, by the time the Spanish arrived in 1492. The Caribbean (gave its name to the Caribbean Sea).

Arrival of the Europeans

Arrival of EuropeansChristopher Columbus reached the island on December 6, 1492, during the first of his four voyages to America. He claimed the island for Spain and named it La Espaniola. The Tainos welcomed them with all the honors available. After the shipwrecking of the Santa Maria, Columbus decided to establish a small fort La Navidad, (Christmas fort), since the events of the shipwrecking and the founding of the fort occurred on Christmas Day. However, the powerful cacique Caonabo in rebellion to the misbehaving of the colonisers taking the wives and mistreating them could not tolerate any further affronts and destroyed La Navidad.

In 1493, Columbus came back to the island on his second voyage and founded the first European Settlement in the New World, the city of La Isabella, in the North part of the island. In 1496, Bartolomé Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, founds the city of Santo Domingo, on the eastern shores of the Ozama River. Santo Domingo, Ciuadad Primada de America, became Spain’s first capital in the New World and Europe’s first permanent settlement in the Americas. The first colonial social and cultural institutions arose as well as the first cathedral, fortress, castle, hospital, monuments and university in the Americas.

Due to its outstanding universal value, on December 8, 1990, the colonial part of the city was declared by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site under the name of Colonial City of Santo Domingo.

The Spaniards created a plantation and gold mining economy on the island. An estimated 400,000 Tainos living on the island were soon enslaved. As a consequence of oppression, force labor, hunger, disease and mass killings it is estimated that by 1508 that number reduced to around 50,000.
In 1511, Fray Antón de Montesinos denounces the mistreatment of the indigenous population in his Advent Sunday sermon. Subsequently, slaves from Africa are brought over.  Laws passed for the Indians’ protection beginning with the Laws of Burgos 1512-1513, however, they were not truly enforced. By 1535, only 6000 were still alive. One Taino rebel named Enriquillo attacked the Spanish repeatedly for fourteen years. The Spanish offered him a peace treaty and gave him and his followers their own city in 1534. The city did not last long.

African Enslavement

While sugar cane dramatically increased Spain’s earnings on the island, large number of African slaves managed to run away to the mountains joining the growing communities of cimarrones (literally wild animals), producing Zambos.

By the 1540’s the Caribbean Sea had become overrun with English, French and Dutch pirates.

In 1564, the main inland cites Santiago de los Caballeros and Concepcion de la Vega were destroyed by an Earthquake.

1540-1564

While sugar cane dramatically increased Spain’s earnings on the island, large number of African slaves managed to run away to the mountains joining the growing communities of cimarrones (literally wild animals), producing Zambos.

By the 1540’s the Caribbean Sea had become overrun with English, French and Dutch pirates.

In 1564, the main inland cites Santiago de los Caballeros and Concepcion de la Vega were destroyed by an Earthquake.

Colonial decline, French encroachment and Haitian Revolution

With the Conquest of the American mainland, Hispaniola quickly declined. Most Spanish colonies left for the silver-mines of Mexico and Peru. Agricultural dwindled new import of slaves ceased and white colonist freed blacks resulting in an inter-mix population from Spaniards, African and Taino descents. Dominican ports were forced to rely on contraband trade which along livestock became the soul of livelihood of the island dwellers.

In 1586 the famous English Pirate Sir Francis Drake invaded the island. This weakened the Spanish dominion over the island that more than fifty years, all but the capital was abandoned and left to the mercy of the pirates.

During 1605-1606, Sugar refineries and cattle stock were destroyed in order to prevent smuggling.

In 1697, Spain ceded the western half of Hispaniola to France under the Ryswick treaty. In 1777, The Treaty of Aranjuez is signed, which fixed the boundaries between the Spanish and French colonies. In 1795, Spain hands over all of La Hispaniola to France via the Treaty of Basilea. In exchange, France agrees to return all the occupied territory of the Iberian Peninsula to Spain. In 1804, a revolution started by the slave population headed by Toussaint Louverture, and gained independence for the western part of the island, which became the Republic of Haiti.

In 1809, Spanish power is restored after the conquest led by Creole Juan Sánchez Ramírez. This begins the time known as the "Era of Foolish Spain" in which the Spanish imperial government exercised only nominal power over its colony in Santo Domingo.

In 1821, José Núñez de Cáceres leads the 5 week "Ephemeral Independence."

In 1822, Haitian troops annex the Spanish part to Haití under the leadership of Jean Pierre Boyer.

In 1838, the secret La Trinitaria movement is founded, led by Juan Pablo Duarte. They want to overthrow Boyer and create an independent nation.

Haitian Occupation

The Dominican Republic continued to be ruled by France for another five years until the Haitians conquered the whole island in 1822.

The 22 years of Haitian occupation is recalled by Dominicans as a period of brutal military rule. It led to large-scale land expropriations and failed efforts to force productions impose military service, restrictions to use the Spanish language and the elimination of some traditions such as coq fighting.

It reinforced Dominicans perception of themselves as different from Haitians in language, race, religion and daily habits yet this was also a period of that ended slavery.

Independence

Padres de la Patria

In 1844 the Spanish part of the island regained its independence after 22 years of Haitian rule thanks to a group of patriots headed by  Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, and Ramon Matias Mella, the heroes of the Dominican Independence, being the “Puerta del Conde” the main scenario of this relevant event. It was then when the Spanish part of the island became the country known today as the Dominican Republic.

First Republic

On November 6th 1844, The Constituent Assembly is organized to draft the first Constitution of the Republic. On November 14, Pedro Santana is elected the first Constitutional President of the country.

During the first decade of independence, Haiti tried to re-conquer the eastern part of the island five times: in 1844, 1845, 1849, 1853, 1855-56. Each incursion was totally defeated. The article 210 forcedly imposed by Pedro Santana gave him the privileges of a dictatorship.  These privileges not only served him to win the war, but also allow him to persecute, execute and drive into exile his political opponents among which Duarte was the most important.

Annexation by Spain and the war of restoration

In 1861, Santana officially restored the Dominican Republic to Spain.

In 1861-65, Santana annexes the country to Spain. In 1863, the War for the Restoration of Independence begins in Santiago, second largest city of the Dominican Republic with Gregorio Luperón as its leader, establishing a provisional government.

This move was widely rejected and on August 16, 1863, a national war began in Santiago, second largest city of the Dominican Republic, where the rebels established a provisional government.

Spanish troops reoccupied the town, but the rebels fled to the mountains. Haitian president Fabre Geffrard provided the Dominican rebels with arms to fight alongside them.

Ulises Heureaux was president of the Dominican Republic during three mandates (1882-1883, 1887 and 1889-1899) until his assassination. During his terms, Heureaux ruled with very strong hand and mortgaged the economy of the country. He ruled as a dictator.

The sugar industry is developed, which also brings about the establishment of small manufacturing companies.

The internal ongoing disorders, political struggles and civil wars in the country led to a U.S. occupation in 1916, and the establishment of a military government in the Dominican Republic.

U.S. Occupation 1916-1924

In 1916, Americans, wanting to expand their influence and power in the Dominican Republic used the First World War as an excuse to bring U.S. Marines to protect it against European powers such as Germany.

The U.S occupation of the Dominican Republic lasted 8 years. They ordered the disbanding of Dominican army and forced the population to disarm. A puppet government was installed and was obliged to obey orders from U.S. marine commanders. Although many Dominican businessmen experienced loses due to these changes, the political violence was eliminated and many improvements in the Dominican Republic infrastructure and educational systems were introduced.

1924

U.S. occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected government under President Horacio Vasquez Lajara and a subsequent, calm and prosperous period was followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961.

U.S. Occupation 1916-1924

In 1916, Americans, wanting to expand their influence and power in the Dominican Republic used the First World War as an excuse to bring U.S. Marines to protect it against European powers such as Germany.

The U.S occupation of the Dominican Republic lasted 8 years. They ordered the disbanding of Dominican army and forced the population to disarm. A puppet government was installed and was obliged to obey orders from U.S. marine commanders. Although many Dominican businessmen experienced losses due to these changes, the political violence was eliminated and many improvements in the Dominican Republic infrastructure and educational systems were introduced.

1924

U.S. occupation ended in 1924, with a democratically elected government under President Horacio Vasquez Lajara and a subsequent, calm and prosperous period was followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961.

The Trujillo Era

Trujillo

When President Vasquez attempted to win another term, opponents rebelled in February, 1930, in sequent alliance with the Commander of the National Army G. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. Vasquez resigned, then Trujillo stood for elections by himself and in May 1930, was elected president virtually unopposed, after a violent campaign against his opponents.

Trujillo and his family converted the country into a private enterprise, controlling the sugar industry, monopolies of distribution of basic products, shipping lines, airlines and the national lottery. However there was considerable economic growth during his long and iron-fisted regime, there was progress in healthcare, education and transportation. He ordered building hospitals, clinics, schools, roads and harbors. Trujillo also carried out an important housing construction program and instituted a pension plan. He finally negotiated an undisputed border with Haiti in 1935, and achieved the end of the fifty years customs agreements in 1941, instead of 1956. He made the country debt-free in 1947, a proud achievement for Dominicans for decades to come.

Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961. In November 1961 Trujillo’s family were forced into exile. Joaquin Balaguer, figurehead president under Trujillo, remained in power but was forced into exile in 1962. Juan Bosch, elected president in 1963, was overthrown in a military coup and left the island.

US invade

April 24, 1965 civil war broke out and on April 28 the United States occupied the country. The Dominicans were able to resist the American soldiers of the navy for four months.

12 years of Joaquin Balaguer in Power

Joaquin Balaguer

In 1966, the Americans left the country and President Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, leader of the Reformist Party (now called the Social Christian Reformist Party – PRSC), was elected. He was reelected in May 1970 and May 1974. During 12 years, he maintained a tight grip on power. In 1978, Balaguer was defeated and for the first time there was a peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to another, Antonio Guzman.

In 1979, two hurricanes leave more than 200,0000 people homeless and cause damage worth 1 billion dollars as the economy continues to deteriorate due to high fuel prices and low sugar prices.

The PRD’s presidential candidate Salvador Jorge Blanco won the 1982 election.

Balaguer returned to power in free elections in 1986 and remained in office for the next ten years. In 1994, Balaguer was reelected, but agrees to serve only a two year-term after being accused of fraud.

In 1996 Leonel Fernandez Reyna of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was elected to a 4- year term as president. Fernandez political agenda was one of economic and judicial reform.

In 1998, Hurricane George causes widespread devastation.

On May 16, 2000, Hipolito Mejia, the PRD candidate was elected president in another free and fair election. During his government, the Dominican Republic signed a free trade agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States and five Central American countries. Mejia faced mounting domestic problems as deteriorating economy caused in large part by the government’s measures to deal with massive bank fraud and constant power shortages deteriorated his administration. During Mejia’s administration the constitution was amended to permit a second term, and Mejia ran for election.

In July 2002, Former president Joaquin Balaguer dies aged 95; thousands pay their last respects to a man who dominated politics for more than 50 years.

Leonel Fernandez

On May16, 2004, Leonel Fernandez was elected president defeating Mejia for 57.11%. In his inaugural speech he promised to promote fiscal austerity, to fight corruption and to support social concerns. He would support policies favoring International peace and security. During 2004, severe floods in the south-west, and in parts of neighbouring Haiti, leave more than 2,000 dead or disappeared.

In September 2005, the Congress approves a proposed free trade agreement with the US and Central American nations. The DR enters the accord in March 2007.

On May 16, 2008 President Fernandez was reelected with 53.8 5 of the vote.

In May 2012, Danilo Medina won the presidential election with 51% of the vote. Mr Medina's main rival, former President Hipolito Mejia, received 47% of the ballot.

Biography of H.E. Danilo Medina Sánchez President of the Dominican Republic

Leonel Antonio Fernandez Reyna - The President of the Dominican Republic

Danilo Medina Sánchez is the President of the Dominican Republic since August 16, 2012. He was President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Dominican Republic from 1994 to 1995 and subsequently served as Secretary of State of the Presidency from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2004 to 2006.
He was the presidential candidate of the Dominican Liberation Party in the 2000 presidential election, and was defeated by Hipólito Mejía. On May 20th, 2012 he won the presidential election defeating Hipólito Mejía with 51% of the votes.
Medina Sánchez was born on November 10, 1951, in Arroyo Cano, San Juan Province, in the southwest of the Dominican Republic. He is the oldest of eight children born of Juan Pablo Medina and Amelia Sánchez.

He did his primary and intermediate studies at the Public School Francisco del Rosario Sanchez and concluded his secondary studies at the Liceo Pedro Henríquez Ureña, where he graduated in Science of Business with the honor of "Best Student”, having obtained the highest grades in his class. Since he was 18 years old, he was a student leader, founding the San Juan de la Maguana branch of the Frente Revolucionario Estudiantil Nacionalista (Nationalist Revolutionary Student Front) at the UASD. He studied Chemical Engineering at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) and later economics at the Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors in1984.

He has been a member of the Central Committee of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) since 1983. In 1986 election he was elected a deputy in Congress. In 1987, he married psychologist Cándida Montilla and has three daughters, Sibeli, Vanessa and Ana Paula.
In 1990, Medina was elected member of the Political Committee of the Dominican Liberation Party together with Leonel Fernández and Juan Temístocles Montás. He was selected by his political organization to be the President of the Chamber of Deputies in the Dominican Republic.
As president of the Chamber of Deputies in the National Congress (1990–94), he was a key figure in congressional negotiations that led to the resolving of the 1994 political impasse.

Danilo Medina is considered the PLD leading political strategist and negotiator. As such, he was one of the brains behind the presidential campaign of today President Fernández. He was appointed Secretary of the Presidency in 1996 and was one of the President's closest aides. In 2000, as President Leonel Fernández could not run due to a Constitutional ban on reelection, Medina was the presidential candidate of the PLD, losing to the opposition candidate, Hipolito Mejía Domínguez.

As President Fernández acceded to a second term in 2004, Danilo Medina was once again appointed Secretary of the Presidency (Equivalent to Chief of Staff) and considered second in command on internal corridors of Government. As a new election approached in 2008, Danilo Medina was considered the main competition for President Fernández, as he was considered by some to have complete political control of the ruling party, the PLD. He resigned from the post on November 8, 2006 in order to launch his bid for the PLD presidential nomination against President Fernández.

After running a campaign under the slogans "Ahora Es" and "Lo Mejor Para Todos"("Now Is the Time" and "The Best for Everyone") Danilo Medina was eventually defeated by President Leonel Fernández in the May 6, 2007 PLD internal election to choose the party's candidate for the 2008 presidential election. Since its foundation the PLD had maintained an implicit non re-election policy, but President Fernández changed that allowing him to campaign against Medina from the Presidential Palace and opt for a second consecutive term in power (his third).

Since mid 2010, Medina declared that he will rely his aspirations for the presidency in his proposal of betting on the development through the incorporation of millions of Dominicans who are currently excluded from the formal economy, by incorporating them into the market and so increase the level of consumption and demand therein. He has called for a transformation in the agricultural sector, the education system and public safety.
On August 16, 2012 with the presence of the Prince of Asturias, H.R.H. Don Felipe de Borbon y Grecia, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Spain, H.E. Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia, H.E. Michel Martelly, President of the Republic of Haiti, H.E. Ricardo Martinelli, President of Panama, the Vice President of the Republic of Korea and more than 70 represented countries, Medina swore before Congress and all the Dominicans as the President of the Dominican Republic.

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