Joaquín Balaguer’s mandate, in accordance with his U.S. sponsors, had as a primary goal the destruction of the popular groups that had participated in the April ’65 Revolution. For this purpose, he used the army as well as a paramilitary group of professional killers called “La Banda”, which he called “uncontrollable forces” in his speeches. It is estimated that more than 3,000 Dominicans were murdered between 1966 and 1974. Upon turning over the presidency in 1978, Balaguer had exterminated the most promising youth with the most advanced ideas in the nation.
Foreign Investment. Throughout the course of his government, extended through repression and fraudulent elections for three constitutional periods, Balaguer favored the foreign investment of U.S. capital: from 155 million dollars in U.S. investments in the Dominican Republic in 1965, the figure catapulted to almost 600 million dollars in 1977 in the areas of financing, communications, the sugar sector, the mining sector, tourism, duty-free zones, etc. Among the companies that arrived or that broadened their investments during this time were Falconbridge Dominicana, a Canadian-American firm dedicated to iron nickel extraction; Rosario Dominicana, U.S. gold extraction company; Shell, Nestlé, Gulf & Western and Philip Morris.
Economic Aid and External Debt. A total of 122 million dollars was distributed by the United States between April 1965 and June 1966 to avoid the total economic paralysis of the country. This sum rose to 133 million dollars annually during the three following years, while from June 1969 to June 1973, the assistance averaged some 78 million per year. These funds were supplied through donations and long-term loans negotiated through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In addition, the Balaguer government guaranteed the influx of significant amounts of foreign currency thanks to the Dominican sugar quota in the U.S. market.
Infrastructure Works. Public investment during the twelve years was, for the most part, directed toward the construction of public works: ports, highways, aqueducts, streets, schools, cultural centers, sports complexes, sidewalks, hydroelectric dams, etc. The cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago were the major receipients, and the other towns also grew and modernized.
Economic Growth and Social Inequality. The flow of investment and economic assistance from the United States contributed to enlivening the national economy, allowing the Dominican Republic to enjoy one of the highest macroeconomic growth rates in Latin America. However, the benefits were concentrated on the small local bourgeoisie that consolidated foreign interests. Consequently, in 1972, the annual inflation rate was 15%, the buying power of the peso descended by 26%, the unemployment rate increased by more than 20%, the underemployment rate reached over 60% and salaries were frozen.
Government Corruption. Another of the disproportionate sources of wealth enjoyed by the small national elite supported by the Balaguer government was public administration. Among public officials, an innumerable quantity of illegal operations and fraudulent acts became normal: bribes, contraband, commission charges, extortion of businessmen and tax avoidance were part of daily life. Facing the impossibility of denying what was far too obvious, Balaguer dared to affirm that corruption “was held at the door of his office”.
Surrender of Power in 1978. In the 1978 elections, Doctor Joaquín Balaguer with his Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC) faced Antonio Guzmán Fernández for the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), a political organization that in 1973 had seen the resignation of its leader and creator, Professor Juan Bosch, who immediately founded the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana.
The overwhelming victory of the PRD was not accepted in principle by Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, who ordered a military assault on the Central Electoral Committee, interrupting the counting and confiscating and destroying the urns of votes. The pressure exercised by the United States president Jimmy Carter refusing to accept a government that did not have a majority vote was necessary to diffuse the situation. However, through the falsification of the electoral results that gave a senatorial majority and an ample participation in the House to the Partido Reformista, Balaguer ensured control of the Senate and with it, judicial power, for himself, as judges were named by the Senate.
In this way, Balaguer protected himself and the members of his party against an eventual judicial subjugation for any of the multiple cases of crimes or corruption committed in his prolonged presidency and guaranteed an important amount of power while outside of the presidency, to which he would return for 10 more years, from 1986 to 1996.
Joaquín Balaguer, one of the fundamental officials and intellectuals of the Trujillo dictatorship, a central figure in the 18 years after the tyranny, would also dominate national politics during the shaky electoral “democracy” established in the period from 1979 to the beginning of the 21st century.
Poet, politician, lawyer and essayist, he was born in Navarrete on September 1, 1906 and died in Santo Domingo on July 14, 2002. He was President of the Dominican Republic seven times. He was the son of Puerto Rican Joaquin Balaguer Lespier and Dominican Carmen Celia Ricardo. He completed his primary and middle school at the Escuela Paraguay, in Santiago de los Caballeros, under the mentorship of Juan Tomas Lithgow, and his secondary school at the Escuela Normal Teórica, in Santiago.
He graduated from high school in 1922, and seven years later, in 1929, he received a law degree from the University of Santo Domingo. In 1924, he completed his doctoral studies in law at Sorbonne University in Paris, where he also studied Political Economy.
He entered public life at a young age as a public high school teacher. He was a State Attorney at the Tribunal de Tierra (Land Court) in 1930, Secretary of the Dominican Delegation in Madrid (1932-1935), Undersecretary of the Presidency (1936), Undersecretary of Foreign Relations (1937), Special Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister to the Colombian and Ecuadorian governments (1940 and 1943), Ambassador in Mexico (1947), Secretary of Education and Fine Arts (1949 and 1955), Secretary of Foreign Relations (1953 and 1957), Secretary of the Presidency (1956) and Vice-president of the Republic (1957). In 1960, when Hector B. Trujillo resigned, Balaguer became the President of the Republic and, in 1962, he presided the State Council. After Trujillo’s assassination, Balaguer founded the conservative Reformist Party (which later became the Christian Social Reformist Party) that took him to the presidency of the Republic six times (1966-1970, 1970-1974, 1974-1978, 1986-1990, 1990-1994 and 1994-1996).
He developed his literary career along with his political career, although, he started on the former earlier during his adolescence. His literary work includes poetry, essay, history, literary critique, speeches and biography. Historical and biographical essays stand out above the rest of his work. For several decades, his “Historia de la Literatura Dominicana” was used as the official senior year Literature text book in high schools across the country.
Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC), Joaquín Balaguer biography: http://www.prsc.com.do/st/index.php/en/2013-02-18-14-00-15
Fundación Joaquín Balaguer: http://fjoaquinbalaguer.blogspot.com