Dominican Civil War
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|Dominican Civil War
Guerra de Abril
Revolución del 65
|Part of the Cold War|
|(CEFA) Dominican Armed Forces Training Center
(SIM) Dominican Military Intelligence Service
(IAPF) Inter-American Peace Force
| Dominican Armed Forces Constitutionalists
|Commanders and leaders|
|Gen. Elías Wessin y Wessin
Lyndon B. Johnson
Gen. Robert York
|Col. Francisco Caamaño|
|42,000 US Marines
82nd Airborne Division
2,200 (IAPF) Personnel
|Casualties and losses|
|13 US soldiers dead,
20+ (IAPF) Personnel
|500+ guerrillas died
3000+ civilians killed
The Dominican Civil War, also known as April War or April Revolution, took place between April 24, 1965, and September 3, 1965, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It was the bloodiest armed conflict in the Dominican Republic in the twentieth century.
It started when civilians and military men who wanted to restore the constitutionally elected president Juan Bosch, overthrew President de facto Donald Reid Cabral, but they met the opposition of the Armed Forces Training Center (led by Elías Wessin y Wessin), that requested the United States intervention and occupation of the Dominican Republic, the second US occupation of the country in the century.
Juan Bosch was the first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic after a period of dictatorship. Sworn into office in February 1963, he led a liberal, democratic government that expressed concern for the welfare of all Dominicans, particularly those of modest circumstances. He was known as a voice for those whose voices had never been heard before in the National Palace. A new constitution in April of that year guaranteed civil and individual rights and endorsed civilian control of the military. The new document granted the people freedoms they had never known; it declared specific labor rights, and mentioned unions, pregnant women, homeless people, the family, rights for the child and the young, for the farmers, and for illegitimate children. 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 the Trujillo Regime. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church also resented the secular nature of the new constitution, in particular its provisions for legalized divorce and homosexuals. The hierarchy, along with the military leadership and the economic elite, also feared communist influence in the republic, and they warned of the potential for "another Cuba". The result of this concern and opposition was a military coup on September 25, 1963.
The coup effectively negated the 1962 elections by installing a civilian junta, known as the "Triunvirato", dominated by the remaining Trujullistas. The initial head of the Triunvirato was Donald Reid Cabral. The Triumvirate never succeeded in establishing its authority over competing conservative factions both inside and outside the military; it also never convinced the majority of the population of its legitimacy. The widespread dissatisfaction with Reid and his government, coupled with lingering loyalties to Bosch, produced a revolution on April 24th.
In 1965 a revolution began, led by the perredeistas (members of the PRD) and other supporters of Bosch, who called themselves Constitutionalists (a reference to their support for the 1963 constitution). The movement counted some junior military officers among its ranks. A combination of reformist military and aroused civilian combatants 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, led by army general Elías Wessin y Wessin, struck back against the Constitutionalists on April 25. These conservative forces called themselves Loyalists. Despite tank assaults and bombing runs by Loyalist forces, the Constitutionalists held their positions in the capital; they appeared poised to branch out and to secure control of the entire country.
On April 28, the United States intervened in the civil war. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered in forces that eventually totaled 42,000, to "secure" Santo Domingo and to "restore order". Johnson acted in the stated belief that the Constitutionalists were dominated by communists and that they therefore could not be allowed to come to power. The United States imposed the creation of an OAS-sponsored peace force, which supplemented the United States military presence in the republic in violation of international laws. An initial interim government was headed by one of Trujillo's former allies, then estranged, Antonio Imbert Barrera; later on, Héctor García-Godoy assumed a provisional presidency on September 3, 1965. Violent skirmishes between Loyalists and Constitutionalists continued sporadically as the US set the stage for the election of a US-imposed puppet president, Joaquín Balaguer Ricardo.
Daryl Worthington, writing for the New Historian, says that although Balaguer, a Conservative and supporter of the United States, was officially elected, controversy surrounded the election, with many questioning the legitimacy of the democratic process. He points to documents which have been declassified in the United States since the 1980s, which he says have confirmed this accusation, proving that the elections which elected Balaguer’s 22 year dictatorship were not free.
According to Worthington, US President Lyndon B. Johnson stated that the US troops had been deployed to prevent the Dominican Republic becoming a Communist dictatorship, with suggestions repeatedly being made that the Dominican Republic could become a “new Cuba”. "Lists of supposed Communists in the Dominican Republic were given to the US media by the American government. These were quickly discredited however, as many of the names on the lists were revealed to be either dead, or to have incredibly tenuous links to Communism."
Daryl Worthington goes on to point out that Johnson’s decision to send troops into the Dominican Republic was met with criticism in the United States. He adds that the justifications were viewed as flimsy, and that in the context of the growing discontent over US involvement in the Vietnam War, the events in the Dominican Republic brought American foreign policy further into question. "For many Latin American countries, the US intervention in the Dominican Republic set a worrying precedent, suggesting a return of the US intervention in Latin American affairs that had been so common in the early twentieth century".