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Facts and Quotes on U.S. Involvement in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic suffered a period of instability throughout the 1800’s. By the late
1800’s, it had won its independence from Spain but was left in a state of lawlessness, confusion,
and disorder. This led to the rise of a dictator, Ulises Heureaux, who, although corrupt, made
many improvements in education, transportation, and roads. He also brought foreign investment
to the Dominican Republic. Americans and Europeans saw opportunities to sell equipment and
to help with the development of water and power supplies. They were also interested in buying
land to start producing export crops.
Unfortunately for the investors and for the Dominican Republic, Heureaux spent more money
than the country could afford on modernization and on his own pleasures. In 1899, he was
assassinated, leaving the country without a system of government and owing an enormous debt
to overseas companies.
When the new government could no pay its debts, Roosevelt agreed to assume responsibility for
the Republic’s debts on the condition that the United States is permitted to control the collection
of Dominican import duties. For the next two years, the United States acted as customs collector
until the foreign debts were paid off.
Roosevelt justified his action by his Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which gave the
United States the right to act as policeman in Latin American should nay European nation
“Threaten to intervene.” The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine can best be summed
up in Roosevelt’s own famous words: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
Latin American countries were thoroughly insulted by Roosevelt’s “big Stick” policy. The
United Sates had taken over the leadership of the Americas, and it became increasingly difficult
to escape U.S. pressure because of the rapid spread of American trading and business.
President Taft, who followed Roosevelt, encouraged the expansion of American activity in the
Caribbean without the threat of force implicit in the Roosevelt Corollary. Taft believed in
“dollar diplomacy,” whereby he gave subsidies to shipping, public works, and mining companies
that invested in the region. Taft declared that the United States was helping the economic
development of poorer neighbors, gaining United States influence in the Caribbean and Latin
America, and cutting down the interference of European powers—all without using force.
However, encouraging the growth of business in the Dominican Republic did not stabilize the
country. Although companies provided employment and sought to improve local living
conditions, their presence provoked resentment and led Dominicans to turn against the
imperialism they saw in the activity of foreign businesses. The Republic had several short-lived
dictatorships and years of civil war. The country feel deeper into debt and in 1916, when World
War I broke out, President Wilson sent the U.S. marines to the island to put an end to the civil
wars and to install an American military government that lasted for eight years.
Quote by U.S. newspaper editor: “When one of the great Christina countries finds a strip of
land it desires to posses, it is quickly seized with a commendable desire to spread the benign
influence of civilization over the natives, and what a remarkable small number of natives are left
after this process has been completed.” (Latwick and Jordan, 530).
Quote by President Woodrow Wilson: “My goal is to teach the Dominican Republic and other
Latin American republics to elect good men.” (Madgic, 354).
Quote by President Theodore Roosevelt: “Latin American and Caribbean countries need not
fear intervention if they know how to act with decency. But if they showed brutal wrong-doing
or weakness which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, they must expect
intervention by a civilized nation and America would not hesitate to step in.” (Claypole, 156).
Quote by Rufino Blanco-Fambona, a leading intellectual, of Venezuela: “Latin American
nations were physically unable to prevent United Sates intervention, and sought to find recourse
against Yankee imperialism by appealing to world opinion and international law.” (Burns, 147).
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