U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Under president Lyndon B. Johnson, the United States sent troops to the Dominican Republic reportedly to prevent the spread of communism in the Caribbean and to protect American lives and interests in that country.

Summary of Event

On April 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent more than twenty-two thousand U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic to help stabilize the country, which was in the throes of a civil war, and to protect American interests in the region and prevent the formation of a Cuban-type communist regime. This military intervention had profound effects on Johnson’s presidency, on the Dominican Republic, and on the international stature of the United States in Latin America. Dominican Republic;U.S. occupation of Operation Power Pack Cold War;Latin America Civil wars;Dominican Republic [kw]U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic (Apr. 28, 1965) [kw]Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic, U.S. (Apr. 28, 1965) [kw]Dominican Republic, U.S. Troops Occupy the (Apr. 28, 1965) Dominican Republic;U.S. occupation of Operation Power Pack Cold War;Latin America Civil wars;Dominican Republic [g]Caribbean;Apr. 28, 1965: U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic[08380] [g]West Indies;Apr. 28, 1965: U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic[08380] [g]Dominican Republic;Apr. 28, 1965: U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic[08380] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Apr. 28, 1965: U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic[08380] [c]Military history;Apr. 28, 1965: U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic[08380] [c]Cold War;Apr. 28, 1965: U.S. Troops Occupy the Dominican Republic[08380] Johnson, Lyndon B. [p]Johnson, Lyndon B.;Dominican civil war Bosch, Juan Balaguer, Joaquín Trujillo, Rafael Reid Cabral, Donald García Godoy, Héctor

Following the assassination of Dominican president Rafael Trujillo in May of 1961, Juan Bosch was elected Presidential elections, Dominican president in 1962 by popular vote. Shortly after taking office, Bosch introduced a series of liberal reforms, such as the legitimization of the Dominican Communist Party Communist Party, Dominican and policies on land reform and rent subsidies, which alienated both the conservative faction of the Dominican military and the prominent Dominican oligarchy, who feared that Bosch’s policies would cause them to lose their political and economic power and their wealth. Although he had the support of the poor and the working class, Bosch was overthrown Revolutions and coups;Dominican Republic by the right-wing faction of the Dominican military only seven months after he had become president, and he sought refuge in neighboring Puerto Rico. After Bosch’s ouster, the military handed the reins of the government to a triumvirate led by Donald Reid Cabral, a wealthy car dealer who had studied in the United States but who did not have the support of the people.

The Dominican populace opposed the rule of this triumvirate, believing that its recent exercise in democracy Democracy had been ignored. The military was divided into two factions: the Constitutionalists, who supported the return of Bosch, and the conservative Loyalists, who supported the triumvirate. The country was now engaged in a civil war, with business and public entities paralyzed and demonstrations and street fights occurring on a daily basis. The Constitutionalists openly supported the common people, to whom they distributed weapons and who clamored for the return of their duly elected president, Bosch. On April 24, the Constitutionalists forcibly freed all political prisoners and initiated a vigorous and bloody campaign against conservative elements of the military and the Dominican supreme court.

The Loyalists retaliated, and it soon became clear that the triumvirate was unable to bring order to the country. Reid Cabral resigned on April 25, the same time the U.S. embassy was ordering the evacuation of all Americans who lived and worked in the republic. At the behest of the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo, President Johnson dispatched more than twenty-two thousand troops to the republic on April 28, ostensibly to protect Americans living in the republic but in reality to prevent the spread of a Cuban-style communist regime. Johnson also directed American troops to offer military and logistical support to the Loyalist faction of the Dominican military as they waged civil war against the Constitutionalists, who were now being labeled insurgents and communists. The American marines and paratroopers, who led the Loyalist portion of the military, surrounded the insurgents and used their superior weapons to bomb key insurgent locations, hoping to stabilize the country and end the raging civil war.

U.S. troops guard a food distribution center during the American occupation of the Dominican Republic.

(National Archives)

At the same time that factional fighting was occurring, Johnson was attempting to end the civil war by peaceful means. He sent members of his cabinet to the Dominican Republic to meet with military commanders from both sides to discuss a compromise that would lead to a peaceful end of the civil war. Representatives of the Johnson administration were also sent to consult with Bosch in Puerto Rico, and they encouraged him to return to the Dominican Republic at the end of the civil war so that he could participate in a democratic election.

Pressured by U.S. superiority in firepower, training, and troop numbers, both the Loyalists and the Constitutionalists signed an act of reconciliation and institution, sponsored by the Organization of American States, on August 31. Among the act’s stipulations was the institution of Hector García Godoy as interim president of a provisional government (with general elections to follow). Among García Godoy’s many responsibilities was the restoration of the Dominican infrastructure and the peaceful reconciliation of all the principal factions of the Dominican military.

Before the elections, Bosch was allowed to return from exile and to campaign against Joaquín Balaguer for the presidency. Bosch wanted social reforms that would benefit the poor and the working class, but the Dominican oligarchy considered his proposed policies to be wholly contrary to their economic ambitions. Furthermore, the Johnson administration considered Bosch’s ideas too far to the left. In effect, both the U.S. administration and the Dominican oligarchy refused to support Bosch’s political ambitions.

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Balaguer, however, was a strong supporter of the status quo, of the wealthy classes, and of U.S. policies in the Caribbean. The Johnson administration had come to suspect Bosch of being a communist and so ordered the Central Intelligence Agency Central Intelligence Agency;Dominican Republic to provide psychological and logistical support to Balaguer, who then waged a vigorous electoral campaign against Bosch. On June 1, 1966, the Dominican Republic held general elections. Amid charges of electoral fraud, Balaguer emerged triumphant with more than 50 percent of the popular vote.

Significance

The U.S. military invasion of the Dominican Republic in April, 1965, thwarted the formation of a truly democratic government, whose apparent goal was the social betterment of the impoverished and underprivileged people of this Caribbean country. Balaguer’s U.S.-backed electoral triumph initiated his twenty-two-year reign as president, during which the entrenched economic and military powers of the oligarchy were strengthened and the plight of the poor was intensified.

Balaguer’s presidency was severely marred by repression of free speech and abuse of human rights Human rights;Dominican Republic throughout the Dominican Republic. The 1965 invasion also increased the distrust between the American populace and the Johnson administration and signaled the return of the “gunboat” diplomacy by the United States toward Latin America. On the other hand, the 1965 invasion provided the Dominicans with another opportunity to participate in a nominally democratic process and marked the continuation of elections in that country. Dominican Republic;U.S. occupation of Operation Power Pack Cold War;Latin America Civil wars;Dominican Republic

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chesterman, Simon. Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. A comprehensive account of U.S. military interventions around the world, including the Caribbean, and an evaluation of the justifications for these interventions from a global legal perspective.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chomsky, Noam. What Uncle Sam Really Wants. Berkeley, Calif.: Odonian Press, 1993. A detailed analysis of U.S. policies abroad, particularly in Latin America. Chomsky explains the main goals of U.S. foreign policy and demonstrates how these policies are being realized. Provides an analysis of the results of these policies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crandall, Russell. Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Discusses U.S. military policy, international relations, national security, and diplomacy during the time of the Dominican Republic intervention of 1965. Highly recommended as an updated resource.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Keen, Benjamin, and Keith Haynes. A History of Latin America. 7th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. An incisive and detailed account of the events that have shaped the history of this region. Includes comprehensive descriptions of various U.S. military invasions of different countries of Latin America.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kenworthy, Eldon. America/Américas: Myth in the Making of U.S. Policy Toward Latin America. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. An objective analysis of the rationale postulated by a number of American presidents, including Ronald Reagan, that underpins U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pons, Frank Moya. The Dominican Republic: A National History. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener, 1998. Asserts that the Dominican Republic’s shaky financial situation convinced the U.S. government that Trujillo’s ouster was an imperative.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sassen, Saskia. Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. An analysis of the effects of globalization both in the host and generator countries and of the effects of military interventions throughout the years.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tanca, Antonio. Foreign Armed Intervention in Internal Conflict. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993. Discusses the reasons for and the results of foreign military interventions in the internal conflicts and problems of different countries.

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