100 years ago – US Seeks To Control Dominican Republic
This week in August 1916, the administration of President Woodrow Wilson sought to blackmail the newly-elected government of the Dominican Republic into accepting the same type of financial protectorate that the United States had recently imposed on Haiti. The US government withheld recognition of the new Dominican president, Frederico H. Carvajal, pending his acquiescence in giving the American ruling elite control over the country’s internal revenue and government expenditure.
The move to direct intervention followed longstanding US economic and political intervention. The US government had taken control of customs collections for the Dominican Republic under the Convention of July 25, 1907, which established the American Customs Receivership.
The American General Receiver of Customs in the Dominican Republic, Clarence H. Baxter, advised the suspension of payments to Dominican officials under instructions from Washington, until an understanding was reached regarding certain articles of the 1907 Convention, or the recognition of the present government by the US. William Worthington Russell, the American minister to Santo Domingo, sought to extract the changes from the new regime.
The justification given for the financial stranglehold in Washington was that the collection of customs dues and internal revenue should be sufficient to make the Dominican Republic “self-supporting.”
Behind this, the apologists for US policy explained, was the desire to prevent, if possible, the need for the Dominicans to seek loans from foreign bankers and thus piling up a debt that would lead to complications.
In reality, the Wilson administration’s aggressive stance toward the Dominican Republic was one of a series of moves aimed at shoring up US dominance in the geo-strategically critical region of the Caribbean, particularly against Germany, as the Wilson administration prepared for the eventual entry of the United States into World War I on the side of Britain and France.
The recently concluded treaty with Haiti had provided for US control over the collection of internal and customs revenues and the regulation of Haitian disbursements. It also mandated a complete reorganization of the country’s military force, through the creation of a “native” constabulary commanded by American navy and marine officers.