Monday, January 4, 2010
Dominican Guerrillero: Francisco Caamaño Deno
Defining U.S. Imperialism: The Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary
Like most Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic's history has been documented mostly as a Political history, outlining the major political leaders, its structure, events, and ideas. Frank Moya Pon's classic work entitled "The Dominican Republic: A National History" is a political narrative that covers the time of the Native American population of the 1400s up until the time of tyrannical leader Balaguer in the 1990s. Most of the reasons why the historical documentation of Latin America, specifically the Dominican Republic, has been portrayed through its political process is because, like its sister continent: Africa, its peoples' history has always been intertwined with the formation of a particular nation vis-a-vis the industrialized countries of the North. From the time of colonization to modernity we are presented with a history that describes the development of Nations through their political movements. A time of most importance in the political history of Latin America comes with the introduction of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which was adopted during the Wars of Independence, when many of the countries were fighting for sovereignty from Spain, a country that has been unrightfully claimed as the motherland of the Spanish, Portuguese, French speaking Black Continent. The Monroe Doctrine was opportunistic in its claim that it would grant the United States intervention into any Latin American country that was facing political aggression from European powers. In 1904, an amendment was added to the Doctrine, called the Roosevelt Corollary by our "beloved" sickly Teddy Roosevelt . The Corollary allowed the United States to interfere with the economic/political affairs of countries in Latin American using its military as the means to do so. The excuse for entrance into these countries was to help specific countries were suffering from international debt. This became known as the U.S.'s "big stick" policy for its characteristic as being an international police. One can get a glimpse of the rationale behind this idea of diplomacy through the address given to Congress by President Theodore Roosevelt. At this gathering he said,
"All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power" (1).
One sees here how an international policy of "helping thy neighbor" from European aggressors becomes one where the idea "we will teach you how to be civilized if you loose your way" dominates. What guidelines of civilization was the United States using? Literally, and to reference our degrees & Elijah, the U.S. sought to be the best knowner. Clearly, one can tell that this was an excuse to invade countries who showed no economic advancement to use their lands and people at very cheap rates for production. It was a means to expand the ego of the white man's nature through the manifestation of a political-economic system of domination over original peoples. If at any moment the United States felt turmoil and chaos was plaguing its neighboring continent, it would be there to "fix" the problem. Simultaneously, its capitalist model would continue to influence and expand throughout the hemisphere. The Original people (modernly defined as "Indios" "Mestizos" "Negros" "Mulatos" and many other words) were to define their country's progress in relation to their "Northern helper". The political and economic infrastructures of Latin American countries would now be under the guised U.S. control. One country that was immediately affected through the Corollary was the Dominican Republic. By January 1905, under this corollary, the United States assumed administration of the Dominican Republic's customs. Under the terms of this agreement, a Receiver-General, appointed by the U.S. President, kept 55% of total revenues to pay off foreign claimants, while remitting 45% to the Dominican government. After two years, the nation's external debt was reduced from $40 million to $17 million (2). This agreement of aid lasted 50 years (3). Let's keep in mind that Puerto Rico had already been seized by the U.S. in 1898.
The international policy of the United States would shape the political climate of this area for more than 20 years and it would control the economic prosperity of most of Latin America. Favoring this external policy were the descendants of the "criollos" (1st generation European born in the New World) and "Peninsulares" (European settlers of the New World) whom during the Colonization of the Americas owned most of its resources. Close ties to the United States would guarantee benefits to their stability and status. During the mid-20th century we see a rise of military dictators all over Latin America and as history has uncover these "leaders" received their military training in the School of the Americas to guarantee sympathy towards the foreign policy of the United States. Such dictators were Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in Chile, Hugo Banzer in Bolivia, Anastasio Somoza García of Nicaragua, Jorge Ubico of Guatemala, Tiburcio Carías of Honduras, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, and Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. These men had all distinguished themselves with exceptional work in their military training and leadership. They were the instruments from which U.S. imperialism (disguised as the Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary described above) would be unleashed unto the Original people of these lands. As companies like the United Fruit Company took hold of Central America or the economic infrastructure weakened, as in the case of the Dominican Republic, it was reason enough for the "aid" of the United States in which actions of an imperialist nature took hold.
U.S. Invasions of 1916 & 1965
The Dominican Republic would experience two United States invasions in its political history. The first invasion occurred in 1916 when different leaders fought for President power and control of the republic. The turmoil created caused the United States to become involved and institute a U.S. Military leader by the name of Harry Shepard Knapp. This imposed American military government implemented many of the reforms that were carried out during the Progressive Era of the United States, which included an organized tax system, accounting, expanding primary education, creating a nation-wide police force, construction of roads, one being a highway which connected Santiago to Santo Domingo, the nation's capital. The country would now function under an Americanized socio-political system. This government displaced many "campesinos" from their lands, with the excuse that none had formal titles of ownership while falsefying ownership titles to American sugar companies. This caused massive upheaval and made it hard for counterintelligence to defeat to the unified campesinos. The opposition to American rule grew strong and it lead to the withdraw of American authorities in 1924. However, the Americans continued to plot how to remain their grasp on Dominican politics and economics. The placement of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, then head of the Dominican National Guard, as president, through instilling fear within the people, allowed for heavy U.S. influence to continue. This was the start of one of the most brutal dictatorships in Latin American History, which lasted about 40 years.
As with most puppet dictators, Trujillo began to get out of control for the American interests behind the curtains. "Trujillo and his family established a near-monopoly over the national economy. By the time of his death, he had accumulated a fortune of around $800 million; he and his family owned 50–60 percent of the arable land, some 700,000 acres , and Trujillo-owned businesses accounted for 80% of the commercial activity in the capital" (4). The dog no longer obeyed its master and sought to bite him. He governed the people with extreme fear, disseminated a false social-cultural history amongst the people, and murdered millions of Haitians. The CIA began to plan his assassination and it was achieved in 1961.
Once again, the American government sought to place a more docile leader in the Dominican presidency. Joaquin Balaguer, the master mind behind Trujillo's dictatorship, took the presidency, but was soon forced to resign after an attempted coup. Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly served as interim president while elections were held. In 1962, Juan Bosch a scholar and poet who had been living in exile in Puerto Rico and founder of the" Partido Revolucionario Dominicano", won the elections. During his 7 month regime, Bosch had what was seen as leftist policies. He sought to nationalize certain foreign companies, to redistribute the land, and put the national guard under civilian control. This immediately became a threat as Cuba had achieved its imperialist independence in 1959 and it served as the example for all of Latin America and Africa during that time period. Not wanting another Cuba, Bosch was taken out of power. The people demanded Bosch's restoration. A struggled ensued and the second U.S. invasion took hold when 23,000 troops were ordered into the republic. Lyndon B. Johnson's order became known as Operation Power Pack, with the pretext that the lives of Americans in the Dominican Republic needed to be protected.
The Guerrillero Caamaño
After the coup that took Bosch out of power took place, two governments were simultaneously struggling for power of the Dominican presidency. One was "the constitucionalistas" and the other "gobierno de construccion nacional (5). Francisco was one of the leaders of the constitutionalists who sought to restore Juan Bosch back into power. After many months of fighting, Caamaño consents to a treaty, which dissolved the constitutionalist government. Due to his participation as leader of the constitutionalists, Caamaño's life was in danger. He therefore accepted an offer by the U.S. to serve in the Dominican embassy of the United Kingdom. While here it is said that he left to Cuba and trained as a military guerrilla fighter with the aim of bringing a guerrilla war into the Dominican Republic, to rid his people of U.S. imperialism once and for all. In the winter of 1973, he returns with a small group of rebels to the Dominican Republic in an area known as Playa Caracoles. His purpose was to start a peasant revolution and overthrow Joaquin Balaguer who was once again in power. Due to the massive mental and physical oppression the Dominican people faced, and the power of the National Guard, within weeks Caamaño and his people were captured and murdered. His efforts were virtually forgotten by the Dominican people, but it is important to know that this heavily Americanized and indirect colony of the United States, did indeed, produce a guerrilla leader, who gave his life for a true independence in the Original Island of Quisqueya.
Peace to Brother Caamaño!
Dismantling the Struggle of 1965
As I furthered my research on the issue of Guerrilla Warfare in the Dominican Republic the inability of this struggle to produce results has a lot to do with the actions the U.S. Military Intelligence upon their arrival in the D.R. In an internet page written by what seems to be a Sergeant Major Herbert A. Friedman, an honored military figure of his group, there is revelatory information that has cleared up how exactly was the dismantling of this struggle achieved. In addition, there exists a Leavenworth paper, which means a single subject study of mostly primary research that contains a comprehensive analysis on the "treatment of a subject," with further information. In regards to the activities of the U.S. troops in the Dominican Republic, the synopsis states, "... U.S. forces became engaged in a variety of civic action, PSYWAR, civil affairs, and other noncombat activities, the principal purposes of which were to restore stability, "win hearts and minds," and provide the foundation for a negotiated settlement (7)." It would be a psychological warfare, called PSYWAR, that would plague the minds of the Dominican people, and doom the fight of Caamaño and the "rebels." If the civilizations were fed with wrong information through propaganda, they would eventually cooperate in turning in the rebels. The first PSY operation team set out at midnight on May 1st, with a military truck with radio broadcast. This truck was joined by an airlift that would also broadcast. The aim was, with a language interpreter, to take the U.S's message to the streets where the vastly illiterate people could hear them. Caamaño's people had taken the government radio station, but the broadcast of the U.S. Military proved successful. Litenant Moulis of this said,
"We were trying to let people know what was happening and that American troops had established a buffer zone between three warring factions. We also wanted to let them know that we were their friends. We saw both civilians and military listening to us on portable radios. Kids hung around our radio station and women brought us coffee in the morning. We seemed to be well liked. Of course, we were heavily armed and brought a sense of security to the area of Santo Domingo that we were in. At the time, it appeared that our messages helped to end the fighting. Reports in the years following the American 'intervention' contend that we were simply trying to stop the spread of Communism. That is true, but we also helped to end a civil war(8)."
Newspapers were being passed out to the Dominican people (for those who could read) that would continue to instill fear about the situation with the rebels. Eventually the U.S. Navy also became involved in the matter when, through Capt. George Dixon became Manager of Project Jenny, the U. S. Navy operation to use an additional aircraft to broadcast radio in support of psychological operations, was able to broadcast for 2 weeks straight right from an jet airplane. In addition to the the jet (this same jet was later used in Vietnam), there were jeeps with loudspeakers, leaflets filled with propaganda, that were passed out daily to the people. How could the rebels gain the minds of the people, if it was being distorted? Below is a description of what these papers contained.
"Leaflets bearing pictures of President Kennedy and LBJ and pamphlets extolling the virtues of the OAS and the evils of communism became standard, if innocuous fare. Some propaganda, however, was blatantly false, as USIS officials tried to convince the population that the intervention was a benevolent undertaking. One of the Battalion’s after-action reports listed among the USIS-imposed propaganda themes such fictions as 'the landing was made for peaceful and humanitarian ends,' and the 'U. S. government supports neither side nor has it given military aid to either faction' (9)."
About 70,000 of these type of leaflets were being produced daily. There was even an entire contingent responsible for creating graphics and posters to be disseminated to the people, with the aim of depicting U.S. involvement as positive and gaining a rejection of the rebels. Some of the statements on these paper read "Dominicans this is your peace. Do not permit the Communists to deceive you!" These tactics would lead to the destruction of subversive activity in the island. Eventually, the fighting would end on August 31st, 1965 with more than 3,000 Dominicans and 24 American servicemen dead. This is when Caamaño accepts the treaty and leaves to the UK. He comes back in 1973 to lead his guerrilla struggle that fails.
(1) Marks III, Frederick W. Velvet on Iron: The Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt (1979)
(2). Emilio Betances, State and Society in the Dominican Republic Pg. 53 (Westview Press: Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford, 1995)
(3) It is important to note here that this would characterize the Dominican Republic to what I refer to as "an indirect colony" of the United States. There really is not much difference between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic has been modeled heavily in its politics, economic structure by the United States since the early 1900s. It has similar architecture, political process, educational framework, etc as the United States. It is very much like Puerto Rico in this sense. Puerto Rico gets taken in 1898, the DR then gets taken in 1905. Both have experienced direct influence in the respective countries' infrastructure by the U.S. It's people have been embedded with an Americanized mentality, the 85%.
(4) Howard Wiarda The Dominican Republic: A Nation in Transition, Pg. 40-41
(5) Moya-Pons, Frank. The Dominican Republic: A National History, Pg. 389
(6) "Dominican Republic PSYOP: Operation Power Pack" Available at: http://www.psywarrior.com/DomRepublicPsyop.html 28 July 2004
(7) "Synopsis of Leavenworth paper" Available at: http://carl.army.mil/download/csipubs/powerpac/power_glossary.pdf 1994
(8) "Dominican Republic PSYOP: Operation Power Pack"