The Dominican Republic as of 1916 had been a victim of enormous political instability that allowed over the creation a stationary political process. The lack of stable political parties to form control and legitimacy in the country was nowhere to be found. The constant back and forth political changes had only increased their external debt to Europe . The probability of European intervention, retaliation against the Dominican Republic only increased as instability had become a trend, and the debt seemed more and more unpayable.
The pressure the Dominican Republic faced became troublesome for the United States because of their influence on the region. European intervention in the unipolar western hemisphere presented potential business losses for the United States throughout Latin America. The proximity of the Dominican Republic to the Panama Canal also raised a pivotal concern for the US since it could potentially disrupt progress, its political inclinations, and the canal’s monetary expectations.
Ceasing some power to European countries would ultimately shatter the unipolar hegemonic influence the United States had achieved under the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary. The growth of political instability around the Western Hemisphere alerted the United States’ status as a hemisphere’s hegemon. The growing external debt accumulating around Latin America prompted their European creditors to start taking interest and subsequently start demanding their loans to be repaid.
The growing external debts added to the political instability found throughout the Americas. European nations therefore intervened in order to ensure the payment of their loans and for financial problems to not escalate out of control. “ The 1895 English seizure and naval occupation of Nicaragua’s Pacific seaport at Corinto also increased U. S. public concern about European interference in the region. By 1898, foreign and domestic creditors were demanding repayment on loans for which the government did not have fund “ (Tillman 2010).
Due to the fear of these nations challenging the unipolar hemisphere, the United States intervened in Cuba, Honduras, and Haiti in the beginning of the 20th century. The Dominican Republic with its extreme case of instability with revolutions against Buenaventura Baez and assassination of Ulises Heureaux signaled the lack of established political practices. The imbalance of power can be attributed to the legacy colonial culture had left in the country considering the elite dominated society did not develop properly into a democracy.
Certainly, the enormous business and power interest by European elites, Dominican elites, and American businessmen disrupted the formation of government capable of serving its people by creating a plutocracy where the elites took power , destroyed the country, and proceeded to pass it to the next ruler. The United States with its business interest in the Dominican Republic and its power interest around the world viewed this as a potential disturbance to the issued Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary.
The Roosevelt Corollary protected the Dominican Republic’s defaulting economy from the European powers who came their debts. The continuingly growing debt caused uncertainty for the United States because of the control in the region. However, in 1905 President Ramon Caceres agreed to cease custom houses to “ the United States took control of 55 % of the Dominican Republic’s custom houses to pay off debts. ( Fearon ,Laitin , 2006). For the Dominican Republic, the deal seemed positive because it decresed their foreign debt, while not surrendering their full autonomy.
Simultaneously, for the United States the deal meant control of the Dominican Republic and its debt to Europe. Therefore, it eliminated any potential power challenges in the US desired western hemisphere. Progress seemed eminent for both sides, until instability rose up and a coup raised arms against President Caceres in 1911. The United States business interest in the country, plus the newly negotiated governments deals seemed in jeopardy. The lack of formal institutional structure fit to operate a country was made evident with the rise of guerilla armies.
The dissatisfaction found in Dominican society had reached its peak. As a result of the presence of Dominican Guerrillas, President Woodrow Wilson issued an ultimatum to the Dominican Republic which stated to elect a president or have the United States will impose one “ ( global security). The ultimatum brought upon elections where Juan Isidro Jimenez was elected as president in December 1914. The newly appointed president Jimenez failed to bring the US desired institutional changes to the Dominican Republic and was ultimately overthrown by the US government.
Evidently, the constant shift in governments brought the United States’s attention to the growing political conflict. In an attempt to suppress violence and establish stable friendly democracy, Woodrow Wilson ordered for an invasion of the country in 1916 subsequently followed by martial law. The implementation of martial law signaled for the end of Dominican democracy and authoritarian United States control. The jurisdiction of the Dominican Republic under the United States resulted due to the incessant stability haunting the country.
However, arbitrary laws allowed for the legal acquisition owing to the “ Treaty of 1907 and of failing to maintain internal order and stability “ (Fuller , Comas ,24). The new government ruled by Harry Shepard Knapp assumed control of all aspects of the island’s life. Military presence was extended to government finances, law enforcement, judiciary and internal courts. The military occupation was highly scrutinized by the local population because it had ceased their control of their land, their government, and their future.
However, the military government in an attempt to extend power improved the economy in hopes of altering it into becoming a strategic partner. Huge improvements in infrastructure were implemented in order to improve their economy and subsequently the life the island. This was all achieved by balancing the country’s budget and diminishing the debt. Military rule would implement changes to the Dominican Republic’s army by creating and training the Dominican Constabulary Guard. The creation served the purpose of providing stability to the government with strong personnel that would triumph against opposing forces.
Additionally, adjustments executed by the military government seemed to benefit the local population, but these were done to create a system that benefitted the United States. The infrastructure boom and the military training were evidently beneficial for the United States because it now controlled the future of the island. The imperialist agenda of the United States allowed them to suppress sovereignty in order to plant its influence in the Dominican Republic to generate a relationship beneficial for them.
The new non-interventionist attitude emerging after the end of World War 1 utterly shifted the United States plan with the Dominican Republic. With public opinion shifting and pushing for a more pacific foreign policy stance, the government had begun to listen the growing attitude. Similarly, President Woodrow Wilson had proposed his Fourteen Points ,which included the creation an international organization (League of Nations) with the purpose of instituting a democratic meeting between countries.
The proposed group combatted global anarchy by instituting international laws which promoted cohesion, while reprimanding those who disobeyed them. The newly developed pacific attitude resulted in a US withdrawal plan called the Harding Plan. The Harding Plan stipulated for “Dominican ratification of all acts of the military government, approval of a loan of US$2. 5 million for public works and other expenses, the acceptance of United States officers for the constabular “ (US Library of Congress).
The newly emergent talks between Dominican Republic and the USA developed a potential path for further negotiations. These negotiations provided hopes for the reemergence of Dominican democracy. Martial law had however, finished exterminating the culture needed for democratic practices in the country. The lack of stability found in the country before the US intervention only grew as its institutions, its culture, its economy and its citizens adapted to a new form of rule. Consequently, provisional president Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos was introduced under US supervision in 1922.
Stability, nonetheless, would be short lived in the Dominican Republic due to the rise of Rafael Trujillo through military coup against elected president Horacio Vasquez. The military coup further demonstrates the United States failed attempt to establish democracy by hindering the democratic institutions and thus maintaining the power vacuum effectively utilized by US trained military leader Trujillo to gain power. Trujillo’s regime lasted 30 years and despite its atrocities involving deaths to more than 40,000 citizens. Trujillo’s regime although oppressive, was supported by the United States.
His rule devastated Dominican life as he assassinated many, fueled corruption, and concentrated wealth to elites and peers. Trujillo’s reign would end in 1961 with his assassination and the subsequent entrance of Juan Bosch. Nonetheless, the misfortunate events are a direct result of the United States’ intervention and its seizure of Dominican Republic’s sovereignty and self-determination. The United States operated paradoxically supporting freedom domestically, while internationally stripping it away from other countries because of its potential effects on its business interest and its global power.
The Dominican Republic in 1916, like many other Latin American countries at the time, is characterized for corruption and political instability. These practices became the political norm, which resulted in the constant military coups and constant change of president. The United States viewed the growing instability as a threat to democracy and their hegemonic power in the Western Hemisphere. As a result, it decided through negotiations appropriate the Dominican customhouse in 1905 in an attempt to control its foreign debt. The slight presence of the United States, however, did not deter the instability.
In 1916, the United States would invade the Dominican Republic, implant a martial law, and violate the Dominican Republic’s sovereignty. The United States would stay in the country for 8 years until it reestablished a friendly democracy through the Harding Plan in 1924. Although, the United States argued the invasion was for stability, the Dominican Republic continued to experience political instability and widespread corruption. The United States certainly violated Dominican autonomy by invading and establishing a government that favored the USA, while not fixing the real issues present in the Dominican Republic.