DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: TENSIONS AND VIOLENCE BUILD AGAIN
A recent resurgence in the level of violence has ushered in a new period of tension in the Dominican Republic. The violence is potentially more serious than past cycles because of mounting pressure on President Balaguer from hardliners in the military to strike out against the left, including the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and especially its leader, Juan Bosch. Balaguer, a skillful juggler in the past, will be sorely tested to maintain order without yielding to extremists of the right or left.
Rising Level of Violence. Since June 26, seven persons have been killed including a policeman. In addition, one policeman and one soldier have been wounded. The interaction of the security forces and left-wing extremists as they try to settle their scores could well increase this casualty toll. Flyers have appeared in Santo Domingo the past few days blaming Juan Bosch for much of the violence and kidnappings and offering a reward for him dead or alive, preferably dead. The sheets are obviously part of a scare tactic campaign to intimidate but it is not yet clear whether the government is directing the effort or simply condoning it.[Page 2]
The government has announced that mixed military patrols will be placed on the streets in certain key areas of the capital. In the past the terrorists have shied away from direct confrontation with the security forces. But even if the extreme militants are cowed for a time, the violence will likely increase as the country approaches the August 16 date of President Balaguer’s inauguration.
Balaguer’s options. Balaguer has accommodated pressures somewhat from the right by increasing penalties for terrorist acts, and he has publicly taken Bosch to task for radio commentaries pushing his thesis of “dictatorship with popular support.” In a July 1 press conference the President stressed that from now on the most drastic measures would be taken against armed terrorists. At the same time, however, intelligence reports indicate that he is trying to open behind-the-scenes channels of communication with Bosch and the PRD. Balaguer might be able to develop this dialogue in such a manner as to encourage the PRD not to associate itself with forces fomenting public disorder. This would enable him to direct police action specifically at the extremist elements.
Prospects. Balaguer’s ability to contain the situation without appeasing the left or becoming indiscriminately repressive will be sorely tested over the next month or so. His power to influence the unpredictable Bosch is open to question. Nevertheless, Balaguer has proven that he can be a skillful juggler in tight situations in the past, and can probably handle the current situation.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–8 DOM REP. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. Note prepared in INR/American Republics by Misback, LaMazza, and Summ.↩
- The Bureau of Intelligence and Research reported increased left-wing violence, countered by extra-legal violence by the security forces, leading to fears of indiscriminate repression by the Dominican Government.↩