Báez, Buenaventura (1812–1884)

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Báez, Buenaventura (1812–1884)

Buenaventura Báez (b. 1812; d. 1884), five-time president of the Dominican Republic. Báez was born in Azua to a wealthy landowner and his African slave. During the Haitian occupation of Santo Domingo, Báez represented Azua in the Haitian Congress and Constituent Assembly. He distrusted the Dominican independence movement and refused to recognize its authority after the proclamation of independence on 27 February 1844. Throughout his political career, Báez sought to place his country under the protection of a major foreign power, believing that the Dominican Republic did not have the strength to maintain genuine independence. With the aid of his future archrival, General Pedro Santana, he assumed the presidency for the first time in 1849.

First Presidential Term (24 September 1849–15 February 1853) Báez negotiated with both France and England for their possible acquisition of the Dominican Republic. He became the champion of the interests of the upper and middle classes by promoting the development of industry and furthering the educational system through the opening of national colleges at Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros. Báez concluded a concordat with the Vatican by which the Roman Catholic church was permitted to provide religious instruction in Dominican public schools. During his first term, the country suffered frequent attacks by Haiti, all of which were repelled. In 1853 Báez was forced into exile by Santana.

Second Presidential Term (8 October 1856–12 June 1858) Báez began his second term by unleashing a fierce persecution of Santana and his followers. He issued paper currency, which led to a devaluation of the peso and the ruin of many landowners, particularly the tobacco cultivators of the Cibao. A revolt in that fertile agricultural region toppled Báez, who fled to Spain. While still in exile there, he advocated Spain's annexation of the Dominican Republic.

Third Presidential Term (8 December 1865–29 May 1866) During his third term, Báez established a truly despotic regime marked by his effort to crush all opposition. He antagonized Dominican patriots by negotiating a deal with U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, by which the Dominican Republic would allow the United States to acquire the Samaná Peninsula in return for economic aid. Once again, a revolt in the Cibao forced Báez to flee the country.

Fourth Presidential Term (2 May 1868–January 1874) Báez's fourth term was the bloodiest and the most anarchic of his five terms. It is known in Dominican history as the "Regime of the Six Years." After failing to sell Samaná to the United States for $2 million, Báez offered the entire country to Washington. This plan met with a positive response from U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, but the determined resistance of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts prevented the annexation. By 1874, revolutionary forces compelled Báez to flee to Curaçao.

Fifth Presidential Term (27 December 1876–2 March 1878) Báez began his final term by promising democratic, liberal reforms, but he was soon indulging in familiar repressive measures. He also renewed his efforts to incorporate his country into the United States. His final exile from Santo Domingo began in March 1878. He died in Puerto Rico.

See alsoDominican Republic .


Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi, Papeles de Buenaventura Báez (1969).

Ian Bell, The Dominican Republic (1981).

Additional Bibliography

Cruz Sánchez, Filiberto. La guerra de los seis años: La guerra contra los planes anexionistas de Buenaventura Báez, 1868–1874. Santo Domingo: Nuevo Diario, 2005

Sang, Mu-Kien A. Buenaventura Báez, el caudillo del Sur: 1844–1878. Santo Domingo: Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, 1991

                                Kai P. Schoenhals