Peña Gómez, José Francisco (1937–1998)

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Peña Gómez, José Francisco (1937–1998)

José Francisco Peña Gómez (b. 6 March 1937; d. 10 May 1998), leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) from 1965. The son of Haitian victims of the 1937 massacre, Peña Gómez trained as a lawyer. He was recruited by the PRD and received political training in Venezuela and Peru. His rise to prominence in the party was due to his oratorical skills and charismatic presence. After Juan Bosch's overthrow in 1963, Peña Gómez was responsible for the reorganization of the party and for establishing advantageous contacts in the Dominican military. In 1966 he was elected secretary general of the party, a position he maintained despite pursuing advanced law studies in Paris from 1970 to 1973. His increasing popularity led to conflict with the aging Bosch and to Peña Gómez's resignation as secretary general in August 1973. Bosch, however, overestimated his own popularity and soon found himself resigning from the PRD in light of overwhelming support for Peña Gómez. Peña Gómez regained the position of secretary general and became the driving force behind the party.

Representing the democratic left, Peña Gómez led the PRD to membership in the Socialist International in 1976, and he became a vocal spokesman within the International. His popular base of support among the urban poor made him the bête noir of the Dominican armed forces. Because of his Afro-Haitian parentage, Peña Gómez has often been accused by the traditionally dominant white minority of being anti-Dominican. As illustrated in the 1994 federal elections, the issue of race has played a pivotal role in Dominican politics. Despite the populist and leftist tendencies of his party, Peña Gómez provided a moderating influence on its membership and encouraged a collegial style of leadership, allowing members to rise in the party. In 1978 he was elected mayor of Santo Domingo.

During the 1980s the PRD split in a bitter rivalry between Peña Gómez and Jacobo Majluta. Majluta served as vice president under the first PRD president, Antonio Guzmán (1978–1982). Peña Gómez withdrew from the PRD ticket in 1986 rather than run as Majluta's vice presidential candidate. The conflict between the two men resulted in Majluta splitting from the PRD to form the Independent Revolutionary Party (PRI). Peña Gómez, hoping to be the Dominican Republic's first black president, led the PRD into the 1990 and 1994 federal elections. His presidential aspirations were stymied by the continued domination of the presidency by the aging Joaquín Balaguer. In 1996 Peña won the first round of voting but did not win the majority. Ten days before the mayoral elections of Santo Domingo Peña died in his home from a pulmonary edema.

See alsoDominican Republic, Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) .


Selden Rodman, Quisqueya: A History of the Dominican Republic (1964).

Howard J. Wiarda, The Dominican Republic: Nation in Transition (1969).

Ian Bell, The Dominican Republic (1981).

Howard J. Wiarda and M. J. Kryzanek, The Dominican Republic: A Caribbean Crucible (1982).

James Ferguson, The Dominican Republic: Beyond the Lighthouse (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Isa Conde, Narciso. Comunismo vs. Socialdemocracia: Las ideas de Peña Gómez y el ensayo socialdemócrata dominicano. Santo Domingo, D.N., República Dominicana, 1981.

Remigio, Diómedes. Peña Gómez, y su pensamiento político. Santo Domingo: Editora Victorama, 1994.

                              Heather K. Thiessen