Dominican Republic

Communist Party of Labor (PCT)

Origins of the PLD government and the current situation in the Dominican Republic

On various occasions we have raised the need to form a National Front that, with the increase of national and popular struggles that the circumstances demand, is the only way to remove the Party of Dominican Liberation, PLD, from control of the state. This approach is based on our conviction that the PLD is in the process of establishing a self-perpetuating tyranny, but with the absence of a strong personality like Buena Ventura Baez or Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.1 The PLD is a real corporation that manages the country as it wishes and for the main benefit of a small group of followers. To support this view, here is a brief outline of the origins of the PLD, followed by an analysis of the current situation in our country.

I. The intervention of the USA in 1916 and the origins of Trujilloism

The first element to be noted is that during the 19th century the region of Latin America and the Caribbean began their process of independence under the leadership of the local oligarchies. However this process was thwarted from the outset, both by the inability of the oligarchies themselves to create national states, as well as by the imposing presence of the U.S. empire, whose emergence had already eclipsed the European powers in this hemisphere.

On this point there are more than enough explanations, because since Bolivar, all the independence leaders of the south have denounced U.S. imperialism.

Now, at the end of that century, the United States set out to conquer the Caribbean.2 Already in 1897 the McKinley government ordered Lt. Gen. Nelson Miles to lead the campaign that was to begin the following year in the Caribbean, starting with Cuba.3 In 1906 Cuba was taken over by the U.S. under the infamous Platt Amendment; in 1915 Haiti suffered the same fate and in 1916 so did the Dominican Republic, pursuant to the Dominican-American Convention of 1907.4

The U.S. intervention of 1916 created the institutions and infrastructure necessary to establish a modern state in our country. Among these institutions were the establishment of a land court to legalize the land grabs carried out by the U.S., the national guard, customs duties, the country's main highways, etc.5 It is in this context that Trujillo arose, an officer of the Dominican National Guard, later called the Dominican National Police.

During the presidency of Horacio Vasquez, Trujillo rose to the highest positions of the military command and in collusion with the domestic productive sectors represented by Estrella Ureña and others. The Trujillo dictatorship was established by the oligarchy and the productive sectors, including the emerging national bourgeoisie.

Despite its ties with bourgeois interests, Trujilloism constituted a new oligarchy.

The main feature of Trujillo’s government was the personal enrichment of the dictator and his closest allies through violence, the abuse of power and crimes. It is of great importance that this be understood, because this is the key to understanding the government of the PLD in its full measure. Trujilloism, as mentioned above, constitutes a new oligarchy based on the use of organized violence by the state and therefore, although it adapted itself to the old oligarchy and the national bourgeoisie, this adaptation was always tense. Thus, Trujilloism became the dominant political and economic force in the country with the acceptance of all sectors.

II. The real legacy of the tyrant Trujillo, Trujilloism without Trujillo

Trujillo's death had a significant impact on the life of the country. But this fact is rarely analyzed from the political point of view. It is important to note that the tyrant's death did not occur as a result of the growing opposition to the regime by democratic sectors of the country. While the landings had already taken place in 1949 and 1959, and the economic situation worsened, the regime still had a large repressive capacity and clear economic dominance. Similarly, it is not sufficient to explain the death of the dictator by the discontent that emerged within the ranks of  Trujilloism itself due to the violent excesses of the "Boss" toward his own supporters. While both elements played a role, there are two factors whose influence should not be underestimated. One is the role of the United States, and the other is the role of the old local oligarchy.

In 1959, the Cuban Revolution showed that it was possible for a regime such as that of Trujillo to be toppled by a popular movement and a democratic government put in place. Moreover, Trujillo himself had become difficult for the U.S. to control, due to his vast accumulation of power and wealth. As noted by Balcácer, for the United States, the main problem was that a possible movement against Trujillo, not controlled by them, could lead to the establishment of a government similar to that of Cuba.6

On the other hand, the old oligarchy had sought the physical elimination of Trujillo for some time and only then had it managed to obtain the appropriate allies. Thus, under the guidance and leadership of the United States, represented by Consul Henry Dearborn and agents Thomas Stocker and Lorenzo Berry, alias Wimpy, was the conspiracy formed to kill Trujillo.7 The oligarchic sectors represented and led by Juan Bautista Vicini and Severo Cabral joined several representatives of Trujilloism who were discontented with their leader (such as Luis Amiama Tio, Juan Tomas Dias, Jose Roman Fernandez, Antonio Imbert Barreras) and sectors of the middle strata of the society committed to anti-Trujilloism (such as Salvador Estrella Sadhala and Antonio de la Maza) to do away with Trujillo. In the end, it was the traditional oligarchy that would rise to political power immediately after Trujillo's death and later the Triumvirate.8

On the death of Trujillo, the traditional oligarchy came together around the National Civic Union, while the Trujilloists, trying to maintain power, ended up splitting into two. One group, more compromised with his crimes came together around Balaguer. The other was attracted to the recently formed PRD thanks to Bosch's slogan of a “clean slate.” On the other hand, the more democratic sectors of the middle classes were grouped around the June 14 Movement and the popular sectors were divided between the PRD, attracted by the talented leadership of the young Jose F. Peña Gomez, Jr. and representative of the soul of the people, and other smaller organizations like the MPD [Dominican Popular Movement].

Like many Trujilloists, Balaguer fled the country. The oligarchy tried to fill the power vacuum but the alliance formed by the PRD between Trujilloists and the popular sectors allowed that party to win a fleeting victory. Now, the radicalization of the popular elements within the PRD, led by Peña Gomez, as well as certain measures taken by the government to weaken the position of the army, and the climate of political tolerance toward more radical parties such as the June 14 Movement and the MPD, among others, created the conditions for the oligarchy to again take charge and orchestrate the coup against Bosch and install the Triumvirate. This de facto government was supported until the end by the U.S., because it represented their interests.

Despite U.S. support, the puppet government failed to pacify the country. The popular movements and the left became stronger, also within the major parties. In this context, the PRD got the support of a group of young military officers who were sons of families highly compromised with Trujilloism, such as Fernandez Dominguez and the Caamaño cousins, to rid the country of the hated regime of the Triumvirate and reinstate Bosch in the government. The success of this action was due in equal measure to the unpopularity of the government of Reid Cabral, the participation of the people roused by the leadership of Peña Gomez, the inaction of the Trujilloist faction of Balaguer, who remained in exile, and the incorporation of Trujilloist faction that supported Bosch.

Given the initial success of the movement and the experience of the previous government of Bosch, the U.S. intervened militarily in the country and returned to put their weight behind the institutions that they had created since 1916 and returned to power the exiled Trujilloists, led by Balaguer. With the Balaguer dictatorship established, the PRD and the left parties became radicalized, which justified the departure of Bosch and his group from that party and the birth of the PLD formed as a unity of the Trujilloists sectors that continued to support Bosch and the petty bourgeoisie intellectuals not compromised with the militarist and criminal wing of Trujilloism (who supported Balaguer).

It is important to note two things about the Balaguer dictatorship: First, that the political opposition, legal and illegal, to the Balaguer government never allowed it to achieve the same power that Trujillo had managed to accumulate, since the alliance between the PRD, the MPD and other parties and movements were able to create a broad resistance. Second, that Balaguer achieved the incorporation or acceptance between Trujilloism and the old oligarchy. Thus, the representatives of the latter always had important positions in the Balaguer government.

III. The reunification of Trujilloism and the dominance of the PLD

Now, in the mid-1990s, in order to block the way to a possible electoral victory of Dr. Peña Gomez, candidate of the PRD, the two sectors of Trujilloism finally reunited again in the so-called Patriotic Front, concluded between Balaguer and his followers and Bosch and his. It matters little whether the latter was conscious of it or not, since it was the party that he built and the cadres he educated who made the pact. The result of that event was the coming of the PLD to power in 1996.

As worthy heirs of the Trujilloist tradition, all the PLD governments have been characterized by the abuse of power for the accumulation of wealth and more power. For example, the full political committee of the PLD is composed of millionaires and all have occupied or are occupying key political positions in the country. The source of this wealth is undoubtedly the abuse of state resources and the abuse of power for economic advantage.

Even worse, the PLD has gained control of all agencies of the State, except for some municipalities, especially the Executive Branch, the so-called High Courts and the Central Electoral Board. Since Trujillo no government has had such power without a combative, energetic and broad opposition, as the PLD has today.

The PLD, like Trujillo, does not represent a class capable of producing a national independence, since its political and economic activity is rife with corruption and subservience to the U.S. Furthermore, the PLD has carried these characteristics to an extreme which Trujillo never achieved. The presence in the local market of foreign capital linked or favourable to the United States is alarming. The national economy is in foreign hands or those of the PLD and its allies. Corruption scandals such as those of Margarita Cedeño, wife of the former President Leonel Fernandez; Radhames Segura, Felix Bautista, Victor Diaz Rua and the extortion of foreign entrepreneurs form an interminable litany of examples that support the accusations against the PLD.

On the other hand, repression has become an everyday reality. From 1997 to mid-2012, the National Police killed 4,069 people in so-called exchanges of fire.9 In recent months videos have circulated that prove these extrajudicial executions. The National Police has instituted the death penalty and the civilian population has not been able to do anything about it.

IV.  What is to be done?

Given the accumulation of political and economic power, it is unlikely that the pure and simple electoral road will provide a way to get the PLD out of government. The elections have become a business like any other and the PLD does not just concentrate a great economic weight, but also controls the electoral judges and the apparatus of repression and justice. So we must ask, as did Lenin, what is to be done?

The flight of the remnants of Trujilloism immediately after the dictator's death in 1961, and that of 1978 with the electoral defeat of Balaguer, were achieved by the permanent mobilization of the masses that created almost insurrectionary situations, caused both times by the alliance of all forces opposing the regime. Only a state of continuous mobilization can cause the removal from power of the heirs of Trujilloism.

But as in those years, a state of general mobilization can only be the product of a National Front that brings together the whole opposition to the PLD and represents a viable option to take power. Nobody will believe in sectarian projects, nor in half-hearted proposals. We cannot underestimate our people. The lack of response is due to the fact that only a serious project which puts forward the inclusion of most sectors will receive the popular support needed.

It is important to note that a front of this kind can only be built on the basis of the active organization of the popular masses. That is, it should be a front that arises from this work, not one that pretends to do the job after it has been created. The Front is a line expressed in a slogan, not an acronym.


1) Strongmen who dominated the life of the country, one in the middle of the 19th century and the other from 1930 until 1961.

2) Soto Jimenez, J.M. Memorias de Concho Primo (Memories of Concho Primo). 5th Republic Foundation, Santo Domingo, 2009, p. 585.

3) Bosch, J. De Cristobal Colon a Fidel Castro: El Caribe, Frontera Imperial (From Christopher Columbus to Fidel Castro: The Caribbean, Imperial Frontier). Alfa y Omega, Santo Domingo, 2009, p. 585..

4) Ibid., pp. 612-620.

5) See ibid., p. 625.

6) Balcácer, J.D. Trujillo, El Tiranicidio de 1961 (Trujillo, the Killing of a Tyrant in 1961). Taurus, Santo Domingo, 2007, p. 133.

7) Ibid., p. 134.

8) Ibid., p. 136.


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