José Francisco Peña Gómez
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José Francisco Peña Gómez (March 6, 1937 – May 10, 1998) was a politician from the Dominican Republic. He was the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), a three-time candidate for president of the Dominican Republic and former Mayor of Santo Domingo. He is considered, along with Joaquín Balaguer and Juan Bosch, as one of the most prominent Dominican political figures of the 20th century.
Reportedly born to Haitian immigrants Oguís Vincent and María Marcelino, on March 6, 1937 in Mao, Valverde, Dominican Republic, Peña Gómez was adopted as an infant by a Dominican peasant family when his parents were forced to flee back to Haiti as the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo enacted the Parsley Massacre against Haitians that same year.
The April Civil War and Exile
Since 1961, Peña Gómez became a supporter of Juan Bosch, then leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Bosch won the presidential elections of 1962, the first democratic president in 32 years, but his government was ousted in a military coup on September 25, 1963. In 1965, Peña rose to political prominence as he went on Radio Santo Domingo and called for a popular insurrection against the military coup and a return of Bosch. U. S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered a military invasion to prevent what he feared was a possible communist movement within the country.
Leadership of the P.R.D.
In December 1973, Bosch formed the Dominican Liberation Party (P.L.D.). Under Peña's leadership, the P.R.D. won the presidential election in 1978 (Antonio Guzmán) and 1982 (Salvador Jorge Blanco), and he himself was Mayor of Santo Domingo from 1982 to 1986. His period is mostly remembered for the creation of the Plaza Güibia (Güibia Plaza), on the seaside boulevard and plantation of ornamental trees in mayor Santo Domingo city avenues.
In 1990, Peña ran for the presidency, coming in third behind Balaguer of the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) and Bosch of the PLD.
By 1994, the PRD was solidified and motivated. The presidential campaign was violent and dirty, and Peña lost to Balaguer in an extremely tight election marred by strong irregularities and fraud. Peña called a general strike which was widely supported by his followers and after international protest and intense negotiations, Balaguer announced that he would leave office prematurely in 1996 after serving seven terms in power.
In the 1996 poll, Peña won the first round of voting but fell short of the majority needed. In the second round of voting, Leonel Fernández, a lawyer representing the PLD, won a narrow victory due to an alliance between the PLD and the PRSC.
Peña Gómez was one of the most popular leaders in recent political history in Dominican Republic, especially among the poor masses.
Being a key political figure until his death, the main Dominican Republic international airport was renamed from "Aeropuerto Internacional Las Américas" to "Aeropuerto Internacional Las Américas José Francisco Peña Gómez". Honoring his memory was not the motivation, but mainly a political retaliatory action excised by the PRD congressional members against the executive branch's naming the newly founded Puente Presidente Bosch (President Bosch Bridge) after the winning party’s late founder, Juan Bosch.