Bosch & Balaguer: Dominican Roulette: The Politics of Rival Caudillos

Bosch & Balaguer: Dominican Roulette: The Politics of Rival Caudillos

A FIERCE STRUGGLE is being played out in the Dominican Republic, a struggle for power. It may be argued that this is a well-known game in Latin America, as indeed it is. But here the difference is that at least one of the players, Juan Bosch, leader of the PRD (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano), formerly one of a group of Latin-American democrats with socialist convictions and now a militant revolutionary, has a considerable basis of support among the urban and rural masses in his country. This alone lifts the Dominican struggle above the usual level of rival caudillos jousting for personal power. Furthermore, Bosch and his main antagonist, President Balaguer, are playing for keeps. At the end of the road lies prestige and power or arrest, exile, and, conceivably, assassination. Every night one can hear the rattle of small-arms fire in the poorer barrios of Santo Domingo. During the May 1970 elections, at least 45 persons were killed, and the PRD opposition calculates a political death list of close to 1,000 over the past five years. No wonder city streets are deserted once the sun goes down.

Accustomed as they are to living in a harsh and bitter world, Dominicans respond with remarkable sensitivity to each stage in the rise and fall of leaders. For them, the notion that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun is absorbed from childhood on. Right now, their political barometers record stormy weather ahead; hence, they take to the streets during the day, but warily desert them at night.

...

Lima