The USA’s Relationship with the Dominican Republic

2524 words (10 pages) Essay in International Relations

08/02/20 International Relations Reference this

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech on March 4, 1933 introduced his plans for a new peaceful America. Roosevelt mainly focused on improving relations between the United States and Latin America. This would become what is known as the Good Neighbor policy. Under Roosevelt’s presidency the emphasis for the Good Neighbor policy would be just that, a “Good Neighbor.” The idea was to encourage an alliance for trade deals rather than to continue to use the United States military in these Latin American countries to maintain diplomatic “stability in the hemisphere.”[1] Though the Good Neighbor Policy pertains to all Latin America, the motivation behind this research examines how and why the United States agreed to end the customs receivership of 1905. Meanwhile, in 1940 the Trujillo-Hull treaty between the United States and the Dominican Republic was implemented to replace the customs receivership. This was seen as a step forward for Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy and strengthened relationships with the Dominican Republic.

After the death of Dominican Republic President, Ulises Hilarión Heureaux Leibert in 1899, the country once again descended into complete anarchy. Four revolutions took place, while five Dominican presidents rose to power but ultimately faltered. This all transpired within a six-year time period.[2] Heureaux and his successors lead the country towards bankruptcy due to pending foreign debts, mostly from Europe, and the continuous “printing of money.”[3] Since the Dominican Republic could not repay their dues because of their own economic crisis, the foreign countries to which the Dominican Republic owed money started threatening to use military force to collect the owed debts. To avoid this conflict President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the United States to intervene in 1905 by taking control over the customs receivership of the Dominican Republic. A loan was given to the Dominican Republic and the United States repaid the foreign debts to stop foreseeable threatening events that would take place had they not intervened. 

According to Fred J. Rippy, there are many possible reasons as to why Roosevelt wanted to take over the customs receivership for the Dominican Republic. The main possibility is he was fearful that the European countries the Dominican Republic owed debts to would invade Latin America and find a permeant place there. This could have led to an eventual crossing of the border into the United States and the rest of North America. In order for the United States government to protect its citizen’s well-being, along with the country’s economy Roosevelt saw an opportunity to help the failing country. Though Roosevelt appeared to want to aid the reestablishment of the Dominican Republic from its own self-destruction, not everyone was content with the United States getting involved with the Dominican government. There were many people who believed the United States had no business meddling with foreign affairs, while others were skeptical about why exactly the United States would even want to help a failing country.   

   Though the United States took control of the customs receivership the country continued to experience a lack of stability. When President Woodrow Wilson took office in March 4,1913, he was worried the lack of a democratic government in the Caribbean was a threat to the United States. He found it obligatory to occupy the failing country and aid in setting up a newly established democracy, even if it had to be accomplished using force.[4] This eventually led to the United States Marines, who were already residing in the Dominican Republic, to seize complete control within the country on May 5, 1916. When the United States occupied the Dominican Republic, the country’s “Congress was suspended, the Supreme Court was stripped of its authority, and the military governor granted power to rule by decree.”[5] The marines were tasked to disarm all Dominican citizens and seized “over 53,000 firearms with in the first eighteen months” of their arrival.[6] It was essential to completely disarm the country to be able to minimize rebellion and violence while the United States was assisting them in building a democracy.

 While the United States government was in control, education improved. Following this came the building of infrastructures, such as highways and run-down buildings that were reconstructed and updated. Horses and donkeys became obsolete with the rise of automobiles and eventually they superseded the railway system as well, as it had become too expensive to maintain.[7] Due to the newly constructed roads, migration and internal movement throughout the country increased. This then gave a boost to the economy because people were able to expand their trading routes. However, with the United States importing their own products there was a decline in domestic trade and the Dominican citizens started to discourage American products.[8] The health concerns for failing sanitation systems and hospitals also improved. The United States Marines furthermore assisted the Dominican citizens to establish a police force that could have some kind of organized authority and jurisdiction over its citizens. With the newly recognized police force in the Dominican Republic came a few issues. Granted the every-day citizen acknowledged there was an authority figure, however, the police force operated like the Marines who had trained them. They would often use excessive force or repressive measures while conducting police matters.

After WWI, public opinion of the United States military occupation in the Dominican Republic became unpopular and in June 1921 representatives presented a withdrawal proposal, known as the “Harding Plan”.[9]  This was the plan that presented the

Dominican ratification of all acts of the military government, approval of a US $2.5-million loan for public works and other expenses, the acceptance of United States officers for the constabulary—now known as the National Guard (Guardia Nacional)—and the holding of elections under United States supervision.[10]

Though the overall opinion to the Harding Plan was unpopular, the Dominican Republic leaders were able to negotiate with United States representatives to be able to choose a temporary president to rule until elections were able to be organized. On October 21, 1922 Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos became the impermanent president under the supervision of United States Commissioner Sumner Welles until the presidential elections in the Spring of 1924.[11] This election brought General Horacio Vasquez to power over his opponent Francisco J. Peynado. Also, in 1924, shortly after the election a new treaty was signed that withdrew the United States marines from the Dominican Republic. However, this treaty still upheld the debt that was to be repaid under the customs receivership. This was the first time in eight years that the United States military were not present in the Dominican Republic.[12] Even though the United States was able to help bring down the debt, build a military police force, and establish a new government, there was a lack of instruction on how to supervise the “constabulary” and it monopolized excessive power.[13]

 Generalissimo Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was born October 24, 1891 in San Cristóba, Dominican Republic. Throughout Trujillo’s childhood, he fixated on everything military and held his personal appearance to a standard that suggested he was of a higher social standing than the reality of his family’s societal recognition.[14] He was one of eleven children and his family was of Haitian, Cuban, and Dominican decent. In 1916 Trujillo was twenty-five years of age when he held the position to “control Haitian cane-cutters.”[15] This would be the same year the United States Marines invaded the Dominican Republic.

It was the newly formed military police force that Trujillo was able to successfully move through the ranks, eventually domineering the Dominican Republic. This was through the efforts of leading a successful rebellion against President Vasquez while furtively aiding Rafael Estrella Ureña. Ureña was a young lawyer in charge of leading the uprising against Vásquez, ultimately placing him in the position of provisional president while waiting on the elections of 1930.[16] On August 16, 1930 Trujillo took the presidential oath making him the new leader of the Dominican Republic while placing Ureña in the role as his vice president. Trujillo was seen as a dominating figure throughout the Dominican Republic as well as in the rest of the Caribbean. Though Trujillo had no political background, he was able to rise to power while instituting and “maintaining one of the most durable regimes of the twentieth century.”[17] He would retain power from 1930 until his assassination on May 30, 1961.This however, does not dispute any account of Trujillo’s dictatorship. His reign has been regarded as an authoritarian governance who was consumed by power over the Dominican Republic and surrounding Caribbean countries, particularly Haiti.

When Trujillo came to power, one of his main concerns was being held by the obligations of the customs receivership of 1905. On May 21, 1933 Trujillo had a meeting with the Minister in the Dominican Republic, Hans Frederick Arthur Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld sent a letter to the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull pertaining to a conversation he had with Trujillo about the customs receivership. According to Schoenfeld, Trujillo openly admitted that the customs receivership being handled by the chosen American financial advisor, William E. Dunn is a political embarrassment.[18] Trujillo approached the United States government many times to negotiate modifications from the Convention of December 27, 1924.

On July 11, 1939 Trujillo met with the Dominican Minister, Senor don Andres Pastoriza, the American Minister to the Dominican Republic, Raymond Henry Norweb, the Chief of Division of the American Republics, Laurence Duggan, and the Assistant Chief of Division of the American Republics, Selden Chapin. Trujillo presented the proposal for the “President of the United States under the authority conferred on him by the Convention to nominate a Dominican citizen as Receiver General of Customs.”[19] He found an issue with the American Government being in control of the Dominican National Bank and furthered his plea by writing a letter to Roosevelt on July 26, 1929. In this letter he asked the president to reconsider letting a Dominican citizen be in control of the customs collections and further expressed his concerns that the treaty signed in 1924 was out-of-date compared to where the country now stood politically and economically and would like to regain control over their own tariffs.[20] He advance by expressing his concerns that the customs receivership infringed on the expressions with in the Good Neighbor policy.

 After further negotiations Trujillo met with secretary Hull in 1940 and signed the Trujillo-Hull treaty, later ratified in 1941. The treaty included nine articles that explained the convention of 1924 and signing of the dated treaty was now nullified. This ended the United states control over the collection of custom revenues permitting the Dominican government to set their own trade deals and control tariffs on imports.[21] However, the Dominican still owed debts to the United States which were to be deposited into a Dominican run bank with no governance from American citizens. 

Bibliography

  • Roorda, Eric. 1998. The Dictator next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1945. American Encounters/Global Interactions. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
  • Wiarda J. Howard. 1968. Dictatorship and Development: The Methods of Control in Trujillo’s Dominican Republic. Latin American Monographs, Second Series, Vol 5. A University of Florida Press Publication, 1968.
  • Rippy J. Fred. 1937. “The Initiation of the Customs Receivership in the Dominican Republic.” The Hispanic American Historical Review, no. 4: 419
  • Moya Pons, Frank. 1998. The Dominican Republic: A National History. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1998.
  • Metz, Helen Chapin. 2001. Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies. Area Handbook Series. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress: For sale by the Supt. of Docs. U.S. G.P.O., 2001. 
  • Atkins, G. Pope, and Larman Curtis Wilson. The United States and the Trujillo Regime, by G. Pope Atkins and Larman C. Wilson. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1971.
  • Geo. H. Dern, “Department of War,” United States Government Manual 1935 (1935): 25.
  • 1933-1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1933 vol. V, The American Republics (1952-1952) 
    Dominican Republic.
  • 1933-1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1940 vol. V, The American Republics (1961) 792 (1961). Dominican Republic.

[1] Wiarda J. Howard. 1968. Dictatorship and Development: The Methods of Control in Trujillo’s Dominican Republic. Latin American Monographs, Second Series, Vol 5. A University of Florida Press Publication, 1968., 9.

[2] Wiarda J. Howard. 1968. Dictatorship and Development., 9.

[3] Ibid., 11.

[4] Atkins, G. Pope, and Larman Curtis Wilson. The United States and the Trujillo Regime, by G. Pope Atkins and Larman C. Wilson. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1971., 29.

[5] Wiarda J. Howard. 1968. Dictatorship and Development., 9.

[6] Atkins, G. Pope, and Larman Curtis Wilson. The United States and the Trujillo Regime., 33.

[7] Moya Pons, Frank. 1998. The Dominican Republic: A National History. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1998., 336.

[8] Moya Pons, Frank. 1998. The Dominican Republic: A National History.

[9] Metz, Helen Chapin. 2001. Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies. Area Handbook Series. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress: For sale by the Supt. of Docs. U.S. G.P.O., 2001., 38.

[10]Metz, Helen Chapin. 2001. Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies.,38.

[11] Ibid., 38.

[12] Atkins, G. Pope, and Larman Curtis Wilson. The United States and the Trujillo Regime., 35.

[13] Ibid., 36

[14] Roorda, Eric. 1998. The Dictator next Door, 21.

[15] Ibid., 21.

[16] Atkins, G. Pope, and Larman Curtis Wilson. The United States and the Trujillo Regime., 37.

[17]Roorda, Eric. 1998. The Dictator next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1945. American Encounters/Global Interactions. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998., 21.

[18] 1933-1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt., 635.

[19] 1933-1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt., 580.

[20] Ibid., 584.

[21] 1933-1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1940 vol. V, The American Republics (1961) 792 (1961). Dominican Republic., 1106.

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