Juan Bosch (politician)

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Juan Bosch
Juan Bosch (1963).jpg
Juan Bosch in 1963
43rd President of the Dominican Republic
In office
February 27, 1963 September 25, 1963
Vice PresidentArmando González Tamayo
Preceded by Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly
Succeeded by triumvirate
Personal details
Born(1909-06-30)June 30, 1909
La Vega, Dominican Republic
DiedNovember 1, 2001(2001-11-01) (aged 92)
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Political party Revolutionary (1939–73)
Liberation (1973–2001)

Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño (June 30, 1909 – November 1, 2001) was a Dominican politician, historian, writer, essayist, educator, and the first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic for a brief time in 1963. Previously, he had been the leader of the Dominican opposition in exile to the dictatorial regime of Rafael Trujillo for over 25 years. To this day he is remembered as an honest politician [1] [2] [3] and regarded as one of the most prominent writers in Dominican literature. [4] [5] [6] He founded both the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) in 1939 and the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) in 1973.


Early life

He was born to a Catalan father and a Puerto Rican mother of Galician descent. [7] [8] In 1934, he married Isabel García and had two children with her: Leon and Carolina. During Trujillo's dictatorship, Bosch was jailed for his political ideas, being released after several months. In 1938, Bosch managed to leave the country, settling in Puerto Rico.

A long exile

By 1939 Bosch had gone to Cuba, where he directed an edition of the completed works of Eugenio María de Hostos, something that defined his patriotic and humanist ideals. In July, with other Dominican expatriates, he founded the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), which stood out as the most active front against Trujillo outside the Dominican Republic.

Bosch heavily sympathised with leftist ideas, but he always denied any communist affiliation. He collaborated with the Cuban Revolutionary Party and had an important role in the making of the Constitution that was promulgated in 1940.

Bosch married for the second time, this time a Cuban, Carmen Quidiello, with whom he had two more children, Patricio and Barbara. At the same time, his literary career was ascending, gaining important acknowledgments like the Hernandez Catá Prize in Havana for short stories written by a Latin American author. His works had a deep social content, among them "La Noche Buena de Encarnación Mendoza", "Luis Pié", "The Masters" and "The Indian Manuel Sicuri", all of them described by critics as masterpieces of the sort.

Bosch was one of the main organizers of the abortive Cayo Confites expedition of 1947, in which a military force backed by the Caribbean Legion unsuccessfully attempted to invade the Dominican Republic from Cuba. Bosch fled to Venezuela after the expedition's failure, where he continued his anti-Trujillo campaign. In Cuba, where he returned by requirement of his friends in the Authentic Revolutionary Party, he played a notorious part in the political life of Havana, being recognized as a promoter of social legislation and author of the speech pronounced by President Carlos Prío Socarrás when the body of José Martí was transferred to Santiago de Cuba.

When Fulgencio Batista led a coup d'état against Prío Socarrás and took over the presidency in 1952, Bosch was jailed by Batista's forces. After being liberated, he left Cuba and headed to Costa Rica, where he dedicated his time to pedagogical tasks, and to his activities as leader of the PRD.

Molasses tycoon Jacob Merrill Kaplan earned his fortune primarily through operations in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. [9] The J.M. Kaplan Fund (named after the elder of the two) was found in a 1964 Congressional investigation to be a conduit for funneling CIA money to Latin America, including through the Institute of International Labor Research (IILR) headed by Norman Thomas, six-time Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. [9] These funds were used in Latin America by figures like José Figueres Ferrer, Sacha Volman, and Juan Bosch. [10]

The CIA gave Figures money to publish a political journal, Combate, and to found a left-wing school for Latin American opposition leaders. [11] Funds passed from a shell foundation to the Kaplan Fund, next to the IILR, and finally to Figures and Bosch. [11] Sacha Volman, treasurer of the IILR, was a CIA agent. [11]

In 1959 the Cuban Revolution took place, led by Fidel Castro, causing a major political, economic and social upheaval in the Caribbean island. Cord Meyer, a CIA official, was chief of International Organizations Division, a CIA sponsored front for manipulating international groups. [11] He used the contacts with Bosch, Volman, and Figueres for a new purpose – as the United States moved to rally the hemisphere against Cuba's Fidel Castro, Rafael Trujillo, the strongman caudillo that ran the Dominican Republic for 30 years had become expendable. [11] The United States needed to demonstrate that it opposed all dictators, not just those on the left. [12]

Bosch accurately perceived the process that had begun from those events and wrote a letter to Trujillo, dated February 27, 1961. He told Trujillo that his political role, in historical terms, had concluded in the Dominican Republic.

For over a year, the CIA had been in contact with dissidents inside the Dominican Republic who argued that assassination was the only certain way to remove Trujillo. [11]

According to Chester Bowles, the Undersecretary of State, internal Department of State discussions in 1961 on the topic were vigorous. [13] Richard N. Goodwin, Assistant Special Counsel to the President, who had direct contacts with the rebel alliance, argued for intervention against Trujillo. [13] Quoting Bowles directly: The next morning I learned that in spite of the clear decision against having the dissident group request our assistance Dick Goodwin following the meeting sent a cable to CIA people in the Dominican Republic without checking with State or CIA; indeed, with the protest of the Department of State. The cable directed the CIA people in the Dominican Republic to get this request at any cost. When Allen Dulles found this out the next morning, he withdrew the order. We later discovered it had already been carried out. [13]

Presidency and opposition

In May 1961, the ruler of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo was murdered. An internal CIA memorandum states that a 1973 Office of Inspector General investigation into the murder disclosed "quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters." The CIA described its role in "changing" the government of the Dominican Republic "as a 'success' in that it assisted in moving the Dominican Republic from a totalitarian dictatorship to a Western-style democracy." [14] [11]

After 23 years in exile, Juan Bosch returned to his homeland months after Trujillo was assassinated. His presence in the national political life, as the Dominican Revolutionary Party presidential candidate, was a fresh change for the Dominicans. His manner of speaking, direct and simple, especially when addressing the lowest classes, appealed to farmers as much as people from the cities. Immediately he was accused by the Church and by conservatives of being a communist. However, in the elections of December 20, 1962, Bosch and his running mate, Armando González Tamayo, won a sweeping victory over Viriato Fiallo of the National Civic Union in what is acknowledged to be the first free election in the country's history.

On February 27, 1963, Bosch was sworn in as president in a ceremony that was attended by important democratic leaders and personalities, like Luis Muñoz and José Figueres. Bosch immediately launched a deep restructuring of the country. On April 29, he promulgated a new liberal constitution. The new document granted the people freedoms they had never known. Among other things, it declared specific labour rights, and mentioned unions, pregnant women, homeless people, the family, rights for the child and the young, for the farmers, and for illegitimate children.

However, Bosch faced powerful enemies. He moved to break up latifundia, drawing the ire of landowners. The Church thought Bosch was trying to oversecularize the country. Industrialists did not like the new Constitution's guarantees for the working class. The military, who previously enjoyed free rein, felt Bosch put them on too short a leash. In addition, the United States was skeptical of even a hint of left-leaning politics in the Caribbean after Fidel Castro openly declared himself a Communist.

Coup d'état

On September 25, 1963, after only seven months in office, Bosch was overthrown in a coup led by Colonel Elías Wessin and replaced by a three-man military junta. Bosch went back to exile in Puerto Rico.

Less than two years later, growing dissatisfaction generated another military rebellion on April 24, 1965, that demanded Bosch's restoration. The insurgents, commanded by Colonel Francisco Caamaño, removed the junta from power on April 28. The United States dispatched 42,000 troops to the island during the ensuing civil war in support of the anti-Bosch forces.

An interim government was formed, and elections were fixed for July 1, 1966. Bosch returned to the country and ran as his party's presidential candidate. However, he ran a somewhat muted campaign, fearing for his safety and believing he'd be thrown out of office by the military again if he won. He was soundly defeated by Joaquín Balaguer, who garnered 57% of the vote.

During the last half of the 1960s, Bosch remained a very prolific writer of essays, both political and historical. He published some of his most important works during this time: "Dominican Social Composition", "Brief History of the Oligarchy in Santo Domingo", "From Christopher Columbus to Fidel Castro", and numerous articles of different sorts.

By 1970, Bosch had the intention of reorganizing the PRD and turning its members into active, studious militants of the historical and social reality of the country. His project was not accepted by most of the PRD, most of whose members were turning in a more mainstream social democratic direction. Also, given the military repression, and lack of political equality between the PRD and the official Reformist Party, Bosch abstained from the 1970 elections.

Bosch became studious of marxist ideology. He will describe himself as a "marxist- non leninist". The differences and contradictions between Bosch and an important sector of the PRD on ideology, as well as the corruption that had started to grow within the party, made him leave the organization in 1973, and thus he founded the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) on December 15 of that same year. The PLD originally was considerably to the left of Bosch's original party, the Dominican Revolutionary Party which continued to advocate for social democracy within the Socialist International organization.

Later he ran unsuccessfully for president as the PLD candidate in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, and 1994. He came closest to winning in 1990, but there were serious allegations of fraud against Balaguer.

After placing third in the 1994 election, Bosch retired from politics. He was already 83 years old and presumably suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In 1996 he was practically carried to the consolidation of the "Patriotic Front", an alliance between the PLD and his lifelong opponent Balaguer, as part of the latter's plan to defeat the PRD in the next presidential election.

Death and legacy

Juan Bosch died on November 1, 2001, in Santo Domingo. As a former President, he received the corresponding honors at the National Palace, and was buried in his hometown of La Vega.

To this day, he is remembered as a man of principles. Over the years, as his fortunes rose and fell, his political direction oscillated wildly. He described himself as a "non-Communist" and a friend of Fidel Castro, and he told an interviewer in 1988 that he had never been Marxist.[ citation needed ]

A metro station in Santo Domingo is named to honor Bosch.


Short stories



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  1. "25S: la política no es un negocio". El Caribe. September 25, 2013. Archived from the original on December 26, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  2. "Honradez de Bosch chocó con intereses". Listin Diario. December 25, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  3. "Sugiere exaltar Bosch al Panteón Nacional". Al Momento. May 9, 2013. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  4. "Natalicio de Juan Bosch, el escritor". Educando. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  5. "Juan Bosch Gaviño". Escritores dominicanos. Archived from the original on December 26, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  6. "¿Quién es Juan Bosch?". Literatura.us. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  7. Núñez Núñez, Milcíades Alberto (May 15, 2008). "Juan Bosch: Sus ancestros" (in Spanish). Santo Domingo: Instituto Dominicano de Genealogía. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  8. Lewis Paul, Juan Bosch, 92, Freely Elected Dominican President, Dies. The New York Times. November 2, 2001. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  9. 1 2 "The Kaplans of the CIA – Approved For Release 2001/03/06 CIA-RDP84-00499R001000100003-2" (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. November 24, 1972. pp. 3–6. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  10. Iber, Patrick (April 24, 2013). ""Who Will Impose Democracy?": Sacha Volman and the Contradictions of CIA Support for the Anticommunist Left in Latin America". Diplomatic History. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ameringer, Charles D. (January 1990). U.S. Foreign Intelligence: The Secret Side of American history (1990 ed.). Lexington Books. ISBN   978-0669217803.
  12. 1 2 3 Bowles, Chester (June 3, 1961). "FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1961–1963, VOLUME XII, AMERICAN REPUBLICS 310. Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Bowles) NOTES ON CRISIS INVOLVING THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC". United States Department of State.
  13. CIA "Family Jewels" Memo, 1973 (see page 434) Family Jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)
Political offices
Preceded by
Rafael Bonnelly
President of the Dominican Republic
February 1963 – September 1963
Succeeded by
(at first briefly led by Emilio de los Santos y Salcié and later led by Donald Reid Cabral)