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Dominican Republic, 1916-1924

Triggered by concerns about possible German use of the Dominican Republic as a base for attacks on the United States during World War I, the U.S. Government began a military occupation and administration of that country in 1916, which would last until 1924. U.S. occupation caused considerable Dominican and international opposition.

Growing U.S. investment in the Dominican Republic, along with a foreign policy that increasingly emphasized curbing European influence in Latin America led to greater U.S. influence in Dominican affairs. In 1905, citing the Roosevelt Corollary, the U.S. Government took over the administration of Dominican customs to pay off foreign creditors. U.S. administration of Dominican customs was formalized in a 1907 treaty.

In 1912, following the assassination of Dominican President Ramón Cáceres, the United States sent 750 Marines to the Dominican Republic, cut off funds from the customs receivership, and installed Adolfo Nouel, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, as president. In 1914, U.S. officials compelled the resignation of a succeeding president, José Bordas. In 1915, concerned about rising Dominican national debt and continued political instability, Washington issued demands for greater U.S. control of Dominican finances and the replacement of its military with a constabulary force headed by an appointee chosen by the U.S. Government. The demands led to the collapse of the newly installed government of President Juan Isidro Jiménez, whose attempts to accede to U.S. demands faced overwhelming public opposition. Washington denied funds to Jiménez to put down the revolt that threatened his government, and instead announced a military intervention to support Jiménez, despite his personal opposition to such a direct move. On May 7, 1916, after U.S. troops had landed in Santo Domingo and coastal towns, Jiménez resigned. Dominican leaders attempted to negotiate with the U.S. Government, but William Russell, the U.S. minister to the Dominican Republic, had been instructed not to concede any U.S. demands.

When elections scheduled for December 3 seemed unlikely to result in a candidate acceptable to the U.S. Government, Washington moved to replace the current Dominican government with direct U.S. military rule, which was declared by U.S. Naval Captain Harry Knapp on November 29. Knapp cited violations of the 1907 treaty as a rationale for U.S. actions.

Dominican émigrés, mainly working out of Cuba, responded with an increasingly successful public relations campaign against U.S. occupation and military rule. Other Latin American governments began to lodge protests, and viewed U.S. actions with increasing concern. U.S. Senate hearings proved embarrassing when Dominican witnesses argued that the occupation violated international law and contravened Wilson's Fourteen Points, and discussed the mistreatment of imprisoned Dominican insurgents. In response to international pressure, U.S. diplomat Sumner Welles authored a plan for gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces and a return to Dominican self-rule, but with provisions allowing for further U.S. intervention, similar to the U.S. relationship with Cuba at that time. The plan divided the Dominican public, some of whom opposed the plan on nationalist grounds, others tepidly supporting it as a basis for a return to sovereignty. After the inauguration of U.S. President Warren Harding, his administration offered a new plan that removed the right of intervention but maintained U.S. control of the national constabulary force, or Guardia Nacional. The new plan also triggered public protests and nationalist opposition, although some moderate Dominican leaders favored it. In the face of public opposition, however, negotiations came to an impasse.

The arrival of Dominican negotiator Francisco Peynado in Washington in March of 1922 led to the Hughes-Peynado agreement. After year of stalled negotiations, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes was more willing to seek compromise, while Peynado sympathized with Dominican nationalists but sought to achieve what he thought was practically possible with the U.S. Government. Nevertheless, the Peynaldo -Hughes agreement was strongly criticized by Dominican nationalists. President Harding dispatched Welles to the Dominican Republic, and Welles established a Commission of Representatives to modify the plan set forth in the Peynaldo-Hughes agreement. The commission announced a final draft of the plan on September 23, 1922. By this time, Dominican public opinion had generally shifted in support of the Peynaldo-Hughes agreement, and Dominicans sensed that U.S. withdrawal was inevitable.

Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos was chosen by Dominican representatives as provisional president and inaugurated on October 21, 1922. The United States agreed that a permanent government should come into power in 1924. Welles remained in the Dominican Republic, along with the U.S. military governor, who retained certain budgetary powers prior to the 1924 withdrawal. The last U.S. forces left the Dominican Republic on September 18, 1924 when they handed over policing authority to the Guardia Nacional.


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