Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Balaguer Ricart, Joaquín Antonio (1906–2002)

President of the Dominican Republic during 1960–1962, 1966–1978, and 1986–1996. Born on 1 September 1906 in Navarrete, Dominican Republic, Joaquín Balaguer Ricart earned a law degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in 1929. A prominent government official during the dictatorship of Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo, Balaguer held positions in both the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Relations. He ascended to the presidency in 1960 upon the resignation from that office of Trujillo's brother, Héctor, who bowed to U.S. pressure for democratization in the aftermath of Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution in Cuba.

After Rafael Trujillo's assassination on 30 May 1961, Balaguer began a reluctant transition to democracy in the Dominican Republic. He was known for his strong support of U.S. Cold War policies. Following political unrest in early 1962, however, he was forced to resign and went into exile in the United States.

In April 1965, a leftist-inspired insurrection in the Dominican Republic, led by Francisco Caamaño Deñó, threatened U.S. foreign policy interests in the Caribbean. To forestall a potential "second Cuba," President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered 22,000 Marines to intervene. In June 1966, Balaguer won election to the presidency, a process supervised by the Organization of American States (OAS). Balaguer governed until 1978, when he lost a reelection bid to Antonio Guzmán Fernández. Balaguer returned to office in 1986 and left again in 1996.

As president, Balaguer relied more on persuasion than force. He maintained order and stability and simultaneously protected American interests in the Dominican Republic. Although he had an insatiable appetite for power and often resorted to undemocratic practices, unlike many of his contemporaries he did not use public office to enrich himself. As the leader of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC), Balaguer played a prominent role in Dominican politics until his death in Santo Domingo on 14 July 2002.

Michael R. Hall


Further Reading
Betances, Emelio. State and Society in the Dominican Republic. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995.; Moya Pons, Frank. The Dominican Republic: A National History. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1998.; Vega, Bernardo. Cómo los Americanos ayudaron a colocar a Balaguer en el poder en 1966. Santo Domingo: Fondación Cultural Dominicana, 2004.
 

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