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The Dominican Civil War better known as Guerra de Abril took place between April 24, 1965 and September 3, 1965, in Santo Domingomarker, Dominican Republicmarker. It is known to be the bloodiest armed conflict in the Dominican Republic in the twentieth century.

Background

On December 20, 1963, Juan Bosch won the election to the presidency of the Dominican Republicmarker with 64 percent of the vote; his party, the PRD, also captured two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, with the support came mainly from the urban lower class.

The Bosch administration was very much an oddity in Dominican history up to that point: a freely elected, liberal, democratic government that expressed concern for the welfare of all Dominicans, particularly those of modest circumstances, those whose voices had never really been heard before in the National Palace. The 1963 constitution separated church and state, guaranteed civil and individual rights, and endorsed civilian control of the military. 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 Trujillo. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church also resented the secular nature of the new constitution, in particular its provision for legalized divorce. 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 Cubamarker." 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 Triumvirate, dominated by the Unión Cívica Nacional. The initial head of the Triumvirate, Emilio de los Santos, resigned on December 23 and was replaced by 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 in April 1965.

La Guerra de Abril

The vanguard of the 1965 revolution, the perredeistas (members of the PRD) and other supporters of Bosch, 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, however, the Constitutionalists held their positions in the capital; they appeared poised to branch out and to secure control of the entire country.

Main article: Operation Power Pack

On April 28, the United Statesmarker intervened in the civil war. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered in forces that eventually totaled 20,000, to secure Santo Domingomarker and to restore order. Johnson had 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 intervention was subsequently granted some measure of hemispheric approval by the creation of an OASmarker-sponsored peace force, which supplemented the United States military presence in the republic. An initial interim government was headed by one of the assassins of Trujillo, Antonio Imbert Barrera; later on, Héctor García Godoy assumed a provisional presidency on September 3, 1965. Violent skirmishes between Loyalists and Constitutionalists went on sporadically as, once again, elections were organized.

See also




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