Joaquín Amparo Balaguer Ricardo (September 1, 1906 – July 14, 2002) was the President of the Dominican Republic from 1960 to 1962, from 1966 to 1978, and again from 1986 to 1996. An unlikely strongman, he had been a protégé of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, and, though frequently accused of election fraud and of intimidating would-be opponents, he was considered one of the craftiest politicians and leading figure in the history of his country.
1 Early life and introduction to politics
2 First presidency and its aftermath
3 The "12 Years" (1966-1978)
4 The defeat and his return to power
5 Ten more years: 1986-1996
6 Death and Legacy
7 Recognized as an environmentalist
8 Personal life
10 External links
 Early life and introduction to politics
Balaguer was born in Villa Bisono (today known as Navarrete), a small town in northern Dominican Republic. His father was Joaquín Balaguer Lespier, a Catalan born in Puerto Rico, and his mother was Carmen Celia Ricardo, daughter of Manuel de Jesus Ricardo and Rosa Amelia Heureaux. He was the only son in a family of several daughters.
Since he was a child, Balaguer felt attraction by literature. He composed verses that were published in local magazines even when he was very young. He was also involved in politics because of the American military occupation (1916-24), and after graduating from school, Balaguer earned a law degree from the University of Santo Domingo and a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne. As a youth, Balaguer wrote of the awe with which he was struck by his father's fellow countryman, the Harvard graduate and political leader from Puerto Rico, Pedro Alibizu Campos. Despite the profound differences regarding their ethical and world visions, Albizu Campos' fiery and charismatic rhetoric captured Balaguer's imagination and his recollection of this occasion was a testament to the harbinger of his passion for politics and intellectual debate.
Since 1930, Doctor Joaquín Balaguer held numerous positions in the public burocracy: he was Attorney in the Court of Properties (1930), Secretary of the Dominican Legation in Madrid (1932-1935), Undersecretary of the Presidency (1936), Undersecretary of Foreign Relations (1937), Extraordinary Ambassador to Colombia and Ecuador (1940-43 and 1943-47), Ambassador to Mexico (1947-49), Secretary of Education (1949-55), Secretary of State of Foreign Relations (1955-57), and vice-president of the Republic (1957-1960).
Much has been discussed about Balaguer's role during the Era of Trujillo, especially the relationship between the diminutive and soft-spoken scholar, and the boisterous Generalissimo. Sometimes, he was overlooked just as a mere employee; others distinguished him as a close counselor of Trujillo. It is known that the tyrant enjoyed to humiliate and to insult his servants in public, and the dictator had a special way to treat each and everyone. However, Trujillo never tried to degrade Balaguer nor to play practical jokes on him.
Balaguer corresponded spending those three decades as one of the most efficient public aides of the dictatorship, without seeming perturbed or showing the smaller gesture of disgust for the excesses and aberrations that were common at the time. Balaguer was, without a doubt, an useful minister of Trujillo, although it is not entirely possible to speak of total loyalty.
 First presidency and its aftermath
When Trujillo arranged to have his brother Héctor Trujillo re-elected to the presidency in 1957, he chose Balaguer as vice-president. Three years later, when pressure from the Organization of American States convinced the dictator that it was inappropriate to have a member of his family as president, Trujillo forced his brother to resign, and Balaguer succeeded to the post.
So, Balaguer became another puppet president of Trujillo, but at the time of his assassination in 1961, doctor Balaguer was able to outmaneuver more imposing rivals during the turmoil that followed the night of May 30, and became a force in his own right - a feat of political skill captured by Mario Vargas Llosa in his historical novel The Feast of the Goat.
However, things went from bad to worse. Pressed by the right wing, the military and by leftist oppositors, Balaguer was booed and insulted in the streets. Wishing to give true samples of democracy within the country, he traveled to New York to pronounce a speech before the forum of the United Nations, on October 2, 1961.
Trujillo's family had left the Republic (after Ramfis killed Trujillo's assassins). Due to the pressure exerted by the National Civic Union, a Council of State was created, and Balaguer only retained power until January 16, 1962. A military coup d'etat, led by air force chief Rodríguez Echaverría, forced him into exile in New York and Puerto Rico. During those years the Dominican Republic had only seven months of true democracy, under the presidency of Juan Bosch. When a military coup overthrew Bosch, the country began a tumultuos period which resulted in the civil war of April 24, 1965. Military officers had revolted against the provisional Junta to restore Bosch, whereupon U.S. President Lyndon Johnson sent 42,000 U.S. troops to defeat the revolt in the Operation Power Pack, on April 28.
The provisional government, headed by Héctor García-Godoy, announced general elections to be celebrated in 1966. Balaguer seized his chance, and using his mother's illness as an excuse, asked permission to return from exile, which was granted. Therefore, soon he became the presidential candidate backed by the U. S. and the Dominican establishment. In a country military and politically controlled by the American forces, his Reformist Party easily won the elections, defeating a weakened Juan Bosch, and thus Balaguer inaugurated his new presidency thanks to Washington.
 The "12 Years" (1966-1978)
Balaguer found a nation severely beaten by decades of turbulence, with few short times of peace, and virtually ignorant of democracy and human rights. He sought to pacify the enmities surviving from the Trujillo regime and from the 1965 civil war, but political murders continued to be frequent during his administration. He succeeded in partially rehabilitating the public finances, which were in a chaotic state, and pushed through a modest program of economic development.
During his years as President, Balaguer ordered the construction of schools, hospitals, dams, roads, and many important buildings. No doubt he made an important contribution, but at the same time he neglected (even intentionally) the people's education and public health.
Already blind and not charismatic in the traditional manner, Balaguer nonetheless fully achieved the personality cult of a typical caudillo. In 1973, he oversaw the military defeat of a guerrilla invasion by Dominican expatriates led by former National Guard Colonel and now National Hero Francisco A. Caamaño Deñó. Later, Caamaño was shot to death.
His regime was characterized by the constant abuses of civilians. Balaguer promoted a sense of deep corruption within the beaurocracy, and destroyed the little institutionality that was left, including the independence of Legislative and Judiciary Powers. He even claimed that "corruption stops right in front of my office's door", implicitly denouncing the filth of his government, but doing nothing to stop it.
Thus, the skilled leader perpetuated himself in power with electoral farces in 1970 and 1974. The political opposition could not even participate, alleging fraudulent conditions which were dismissed by Balaguer. Through machiavellian methods, he controlled justice completely, and politically orchestrated the Armed Forces and the Police, as well as the electoral system, the public comptroller, and the National Congress. He did not share the power with anybody, not even with his party, nor he allowed not one of his "compatriotas" to create their own political projects.
The violent regime continued with confrontations between the government forces and left-wing extremists, or the students in the University of Santo Domingo, which were more than frequent. It was usual the surge of paramilitary groups and factions within the army, at times stimulated by the presidency itself.
Balaguer always practiced a certain tolerance towards his most ardent opponents, but he was determined to behead the progressive, free-thinking generation of young Dominicans that did not follow his path. With the help of the CIA and the "uncontrollable forces", as he called his own hunting dogs, many people were exterminated in and out of the country, mostly for political reasons. It is important to say that this was a period in the Dominican history that has to be evaluated with measurement. Those were times of high political unrest, where leftist groups began an unprecedented practice of kidnappings and terrorist tactics in Santo Domingo.
Perhaps the most outspoken and coherent of Balaguer's critics was Orlando Martínez Howley, a young journalist who was the director of the magazine Ahora!. His constant attacks to the regime and the figure of Balaguer were significant, and sometimes scathing, but never gratuitous. His last article is specially memorable.
In 1975, the government had ordered an impediment of entrance to painter Silvano Lora, a close friend of Martínez Howley. Clearly upset by this abuse, Martínez published an unyielding article on February 25, 1975, in which he plainly asked Balaguer to leave the country:
Why not, Doctor Balaguer?
Mr. President of the Republic, since you prevent that an artist of the prestige and the moral quality like that of Silvano Lora can live in his own country, since leaving Dominicans abroad pleases you or produces political gains, I am going to give you some recommendations. I hope that mainly you meditate the last one.
Since you have said that in this government, and seems to be true, the corruption only stops in the door of your office, why don't you remove from the Dominican Republic all those corrupt people?
As here exists a galloping inflation of delinquents without [military] uniforms and, according to you, also uniformed, why don't you order the calieses of the regime to catch them and put them in an airplane? Why don't you say to the janissary that serve in the airport to catch not those who bring marijuana cigarettes, but the big fishes of the drug traffic?
Why don't you send to exile those who receive commissions for negotiating contracts that give out our wealth to the multinational companies? Why don't you install in a boat the richest estate owners, those who want this country in a permanent underdevelopment and the situation of collective misery that accompanies it?
Why don't you enter in that same boat those who in the cities are the ideological support of those landowners? And also, those who are the armed support, those that beat, jail and torture poor farmers who fight for their rights.
As you are a good pal of the Americans, why don't you ask them for an aircraft carrier to send away to whichever place the numerous calieses that benefit from the work of the people?
In case that your friendship with the United States is closer than we suspect, why don't you request to the Pentagon the latest rocket with the scientific objective of creating a colony of calieses on the moon?
Why don't you make disappear from the sight of the honest Dominicans, which is the majority, all that lazy people that in this government receive money without working? Why don't you, take into account, deposit in a comfortable seat of first class, those civil employees who think of themselves as modern Fouché, and, when it's time to assume responsibilities, they never show their faces?
And my final recommendation: If it is inevitable that this situation continues, if it is impossible to avoid immoral and miserable acts like that in which I was present on Sunday in the airport, why doctor Balaguer, don't you decide to go in the airplane or in the boat and disappear definitively from this country, next to all previously mentioned?
On March 17, Martínez was ambushed and shot to death in a street of Santo Domingo, near the University. His mother, Ms. Adriana Howley, maintained for more than twenty years the accusation against Balaguer, as intellectual author of the crime, and against several of his former strong men, like Enrique Perez Perez, Ramon Emilio Jiménez, Salvador Lluberes, Joaquín Pou Castro, Freddy Lluberes and Felix Manuel Vargas.
Balaguer even had the impudence of infamously leaving a "Blank Page" in his Memoirs, where he wrote the following about Orlando Martínez's death:
"This page is inserted in blank. During many years, it will remain silent, but one day it will speak, so that its voice will be gathered by history. Still, as a tomb whose secret will rise, accusing, when time allows to raise the slab under which the truth remains lying. Its content is left in the hands of a friend who for age reasons is supposed to survive me and that have been ordered by me to make it public some years after my death."
Evidently, the Justice never prosecuted Balaguer, not even with such declaration.
 The defeat and his return to power
By 1978, Balaguer wanted a new period as President, but the Dominican Revolutionary Party, the international community and the people itself, were impatient for a change. The atmosphere was indeed tense, but the seemingly unperturbable Balaguer didn't care. His antidemocratic convictions were so firm that even so when he was practically forced to lose the elections, as certainly had happened, he managed to keep control over the Congress with illegal actions. During the transitional period, it never occurred to him to amnesty the political prisoners, knowing that his successor, Antonio Guzmán would have to do it anyway.
In his 12 years there were so many crimes and persecutions that the country had lived almost in the dictatorship. The fundamental difference was the freedom of press sustained in some journalistic media. Even for national leaders like Juan Bosch and Jose F. Peña Gómez it was prohibited to use the radio and television. The liberties of meeting, manifestation, transit, political and union organization, were severely limited.
With Antonio Guzmán, a new period began. Political prisoners (who Balaguer called sarcastically "imprisoned politicians") were amnistied, as were the dissidents who were in exile. The Army was freed (if not entirely) of politics, and the Balaguerist military was retired. Guzmán tried to fulfill the people's wishes for a better government, and indeed his administration marked a great step for human rights and personal freedoms, but the corruption within his party and his administration sank the economy and the finance.
In the 1982 elections, PRD's Salvador Jorge Blanco defeated Balaguer, now candidate of the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC). The economic difficulties continued, as did the internal conflicts in the Dominican Revolutionary Party.
When the government shipwrecked because of the ambitions and the divisions among their main members, with many of their leaders corrupted, Balaguer was vindicated and his return was inminent. The official candidate, Jacobo Majluta, did not have the full support of the PRD, and lost against Balaguer in the general elections of 1986. Nevertheless, serious fraud accusations were made.
 Ten more years: 1986-1996
Joaquín Balaguer, now 80 years old, would demonstrate great capacity of adaptation to the new times. His second government was very different from the first three terms.
When Balaguer reassumed the presidency, there was more respect for political liberties and human rights. But the electoral manipulation resurged with force, expressing itself in the elections of 1990 and 1994 with scandalous frauds that created strong political crises. The corruption was multiplied and destroyed almost every public state industry or institution even the National Lottery in two occasions.
Labor unrest, violent anti-government protests, and calls for Balaguer's resignation followed his 1990 highly questioned victory against Juan Bosch, when food and fuel shortages plagued the country, and Balaguer initiated a program of tight economic controls in an effort to limit inflation and reduce the government deficit.
However, he continued with massive infrastructure projects, such as the construction of highways, bridges, schools, housing projects and hospitals. Following the style of Trujillo, these highly visible projects were very publicized over government-controlled media and through grandiose public ceremonies designed to enhance Balaguer's popularity. The projects were also used as a means to reward his political supporters with lucrative public works contracts.
Once completed, much of this infrastructure would go unmaintained or unsupported. Schools without teachers or books, and hospitals without doctors or medicines, were commonplace.
For the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing in the Americas and the visit of Pope John Paul II, Balaguer spent millions on a restoration of parts of historic, colonial Santo Domingo, and on sprucing up the parts of the City to be transversed by the Pope, including the construction of a grand new avenue lined with modern housing blocks.
Faro a Colón
More controversial was that Balaguer spent two hundred million US Dollars on the construction of a massive ten-story Columbus Lighthouse. Completed in 1992, the Columbus Lighthouse was designed to beam the image of a Christian cross into the night sky and to be visible for tens of miles. Since completion, the Columbus Lighthouse, now also houses Columbus' remains, has been a minor tourist attraction. Its light has almost never been used due to extremely high energy costs and frequent blackouts in the country.
In January of 1994 he decided to run again for the presidency, even when he was almost 90 years old and completely blind. This time, his principal contender was José Francisco Peña Gómez of the PRD.
Peña Gómez was an extremely popular leader who proved to be Balaguer's staunchest opponent in an electoral fight. The campaigns (from both sides) were as dirty as possible. Peña Gómez, who was of Haitian ancestry, was insulted and accused of having a plan to unify the island, while Balaguer was reminded of his dark past many times.
The electoral fraud of May 16 was so blatant, that a huge national crisis exploded. Balaguer would have dodged it, but the PRD and Peña Gómez had extensive international support, and the pressure on the old caudillo made him waver. Both parts reached the "Pact for the Democracy", according new presidential elections, but without the participation of Balaguer.
But doctor Balaguer demonstrated once again his tremendous ability in politics. He sensed that only one man could beat Peña Gómez, and that man was Leonel Fernández, a fresh face from the Dominican Liberation Party. He did not doubt in sacrificing his own party PRSC in 1996 for the sake of his personal glory, so that he could vanquish Peña Gómez.
Boycotting the presidential candidacy of the then Vicepresident and official candidate Jacinto Peynado, he didn't even went to vote in the first round for him. With Peynado out, Balaguer immediately gave his votes in favor of Fernández, forming "The Patriotic Front", an alliance between the PRSC and the Dominican Liberation Party.
It was his check mate against the PRD, and maybe his greater political success. Fernández won with 52% against 48% of Peña Gómez, Balaguer was declared "Father of Democracy", sharing the stage with a senile and deteriorated Juan Bosch. Moreover, many of those who fought Balaguer in the past would dispute his favor until the day of his death.
 Death and Legacy
In 2000, Balaguer decided to seek an eighth term as president of the Republic. He did not win the election, receiving around 23% of the votes. On July 14, 2002, Joaquín Balaguer died of heart failure at Santo Domingo's Abreu Clinic. He was 95. He had ordered a wake of four days, and his funeral lasted 16 hours.
He never lost his mental faculties. When he could not move anymore, he transferred the party to his own house, but never yielded before the reclamation for democratization of the party.
The balance in term of his contributions to the Dominican democracy is poor. With 72 years of political life, 45 of which he exercised power and referee until he was 95, Joaquin Balaguer was a phenomenon and thus he will have to be registered. For the sake of rod and cement and handling at will the national budget, the sly caudillo sacrificed the basic services, degrading education, eliminating social security, ruining hospitals and public transport, and leaving the country sunk obscurity, because he refused to make the investments that the energy industry demanded.
Perhaps his worst legacy was how he abused the state resources, his political crimes and the weakening of the democratic institutions, almost like synonymous of political success. For a long time there will be generation of politicians trying to repeat the balaguerism.
 Recognized as an environmentalist
Jared Diamond's Collapse mentions Balaguer's push for environmental protection as a key difference between the environment of the Dominican Republic and its neighbour, Haiti. It included the enlargement of the national park system, demolishing illegal construction within the limits, substitution as popular fuel of scarce wood by imported Venezuelan gas.
This environmental trend led him to some confrontations with powerful landowners, and was controversial because of its impact on the rural poor. However, Balaguer actively worked on environmental matters despite the political risk.
There are several reasons proposed for this, including that his sisters had a great love for nature and that he specifically desired to distinguish the Dominican Republic from Haiti, the neighboring country which he despised for being unabashedly of African influence.
 Personal life
Balaguer never married and officially never had children. This fact has been a frequent subject of controversy, since it is publicly known that at least he had two sons and one daughter. However, he always kept a very private and strange life; a servant of him was a dwarf woman who cleaned his house.
He wrote in his Memoirs that he was a catholic, but some say that he was also a Rosicrucian.
Balaguer was Second Secretary of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an International Organisation based in Italy. (see and ).
Balaguer was a prolific author, having written many books for contemporary Dominican literature. His most famous work was his only narrative novel, called "Los Carpinteros". The most controversial of his works is perhaps "Memorias de un Cortesano en la Era de Trujillo", in which Balaguer, shielded by his political power admitted knowing the truth about the death of the revolutionary journalist Orlando Martínez. Balaguer left a blank page in the middle of the book to be filled in at the time of his death.
Balaguer explored several branches of literature. As a thorough researcher, he published many biographical books still used as reference, along with compilations and analysis of Dominican folk poets. As a poet, he was mostly of Post-Romantic influence, and his style remained strictly unchanged along his long career. Other themes, despite the sorrow expressed, are mostly noble: and idyllic view of nature, nostalgia, and memoirs of the past.
His total list of literary works is as follows:
Psalmos paganos (1922)
Claro de luna (1922)
Tebaida lírica (1924)
Nociones de métrica castellana (1930)
Azul en los charcos (1941)
La realidad dominicana (1941)
El Tratado Trujillo‑Hull y la liberación financiera de la República Dominicana (1941)
La política internacional de Trujillo (1941)
Guía emocional de la ciudad romántica (1944)
Letras dominicanas (1944)
Heredia, verbo de la libertad (1945)
Palabras con acentos rítmicos (1946)
Realidad dominicana. Semblanza de un país y un régimen (1947)
Los próceres escritores (1947)
Semblanzas literarias (1948)
En torno de un pretendido vicio prosódico de los poetas hispanoamericanos (1949)
Literatura dominicana (1950)
El Cristo de la libertad (1950)
Federico García Godoy (antología, 1951)
El principio de alternabilidad en la historia dominicana (1952)
Juan Antonio Alix: Décimas (Prólogo y recopilación, 1953)
Consideración acerca de la producción e inversión de nuestros impuestos (1953)
Apuntes para una historia prosódica de la métrica castellana (1954)
El pensamiento vivo de Trujillo (1955)
Historia de la literatura dominicana (1956)
Discursos. Panegíricos, política y educación política internacional (1957)
Colón, precursor literario (1958)
El centinela de la frontera. Vida y hazañas de Antonio Duvergé (1962)
El Reformismo: filosofía política de la revolución sin sangre (1966)
Misión de los intelectuales (Discurso, 1967)
Con Dios, con la patria y con la libertad (Discurso, 1971)
Conjura develada (Discurso, 1971)
Ante la tumba de mi madre (1972)
Temas educativos y actividades diplomáticas (1973)
La marcha hacia el Capitolio (1973)
Discursos. Temas históricos y literarios (1973)
Temas educativos y actividades diplomáticas (1974)
Cruces iluminadas (1974)
La palabra encadenada (1975)
Martí, crítica e interpretación (1975)
La cruz de cristal (1976)
Discursos escogidos (1977)
Discurso en el develamiento de la estatua del poeta Fabio Fiallo (1977)
Juan Antonio Alix, crítica e interpretación (1977)
Pedestales. Discursos históricos (1979)
Huerto sellado. Versos de juventud (1980)
Mensajes al pueblo dominicano (1983)
Entre la sangre del 30 de mayo y la del 24 de abril (1983)
La isla al revés (1983)
Galería heroica (1984)
Los carpinteros (1984)
La venda transparente (1987)
Memorias de un cortesano de la «Era de Trujillo» (1988)
Romance del caminante sin destino (Enrique Blanco) (1990)
Voz silente (1992)
De vuelta al capitolio 1986‑1992 (1