Dominican Guerrillero: Francisco Caamaño Deño
Written by: Earth Izayaa Allat
Defining U.S. Imperialism: The Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary
As with nearly all Latin American peoples’ history, Dominican Republic’s history is a political one, having been intertwined with that overseeing industrialized country of the North, the United States of America. 1823’s Monroe Doctrine signifies this with its warning to European nations that their own colonizing would provoke counter-colonizing by the United States. The Roosevelt Corollary allowing military intervention as the means to enforce the doctrine impacted DR definitively.
By January 1905, under this corollary, the United States assumed administration of the Dominican Republic’s customs. Under the terms of this agreement, that would last fifty years, 55% of total revenues were used to pay off foreign claimants, while remitting 45% to the Dominican government. (1). U.S. policy would shift to the discreet U.S. training and backing of dictators and imperialist companies as the United Fruit Company.
U.S. Invasions of 1916 & 1965
The Dominican Republic would experience the first of two invasions in 1916 when different leaders fought for presidential power and control of the republic. The United States intervened, instituting a military leader, Harry Shepard Knapp. They imposed an organized tax system, expanded primary education, a nation-wide police force and the construction of roads. The country would now function under an Americanized socio-political system. This government displaced many “campesinos” from their lands, under the guise that none had formal ownership titles while falsifying titles for American sugar companies. This caused massive upheaval and made it hard for counterintelligence to defeat to the unified campesinos. Eventually the Americans withdrew in 1924. However, they continued to plot another avenue of control. The placement of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, then head of the Dominican National Guard, as president, allowed U.S. influence to continue, with one of the most brutal dictatorships in history, lasting nearly 40 years.
As with most puppet dictators, Trujillo began to get too out of control for the American interests. “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” (2). He imposed fear in the people, disseminated a false social-cultural history and murdered thousands of Haitians. The CIA eventually funded his assassination in 1961.
The American government sought to place a more compliant leader with Joaquin Balaguer, the mastermind behind Trujillo’s dictatorship, but he soon resigned after an attempted coup. 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 seven month regime, Bosch instituted leftist reform nationalizing certain foreign companies, redistributing land and putting the National Guard under civilian control. This immediately became a threat as Cuba, achieving its imperialist independence in 1959, served as an example for Latin America and Africa. Not wanting another Cuba, Bosch was taken out of power despite the people’s demand for his return. Eventually, the second U.S. invasion took hold when 23,000 troops were ordered into the republic. Lyndon B. Johnson’s order, Operation Power Pack, was instilled under the pretext that the lives of Americans in the Dominican Republic needed to be protected. (3)
The Guerrillero Caamaño
After the coup, two governments were struggling for power. One was the “constitucionalistas” and the other the “gobierno de construccion nacional (4).” Francisco Caamaño Deño was one of the leaders of the constitutionalists who sought to restore Juan Bosch back into power. After many months of fighting, Caamaño consented 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 the U.S. offer to serve in the Dominican embassy of the United Kingdom. While there, it is said that he left to Cuba, 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 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 U.S. 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.
Dismantling the Struggle of 1965
Further research on Guerrilla Warfare in the Dominican Republic and the inability of this struggle to produce results has much to do with the actions the U.S. Military Intelligence engaged in 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 illustrating how the dismantling of this struggle was 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 (5).” 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 society is given wrong information through propaganda, they would eventually cooperate in turning in the rebels. The first PSYWAR 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.
Eventually the U.S. Navy became involved in the matter using jet aircraft to broadcast radio in support of psychological operations. In addition, there were jeeps with loudspeakers, newspapers and 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? The leaflets were said to contain ideas, “extolling the virtues of the OAS and the evils of communism…Some propaganda, however, was blatantly false…to convince the population that the intervention was a benevolent undertaking. (6).”
About 70,000 of these 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 papers 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 came back in 1973 to lead another guerrilla struggle that fails.
Caamaño’s efforts, like much of Dominican Republic’s revolutionary anti-imperialist history, is overshadowed and unknown. The psychological oppression via U.S. presence backed by corrupt government officials in the island created a climate of docility and a false sense of superiority by the Dominican lay people, which, for example, has translated into Dominicans didactic speaking patterns of politics. This has created a history of Dominicans striving to choose the right political party whilst hiding the revolutionary rhetoric of its history. To understand race, colonialism, imperialism, and globalization’s impact, there must be further research on D.R.’s specific history of struggle and fight against them.
(1) Emilio Betances, State and Society in the Dominican Republic Pg. 53 (Westview Press: Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford, 1995)
(2) Howard Wiarda The Dominican Republic: A Nation in Transition, Pg. 40-41
(3) “Dominican Republic PSYOP: Operation Power Pack” Available at: http://www.psywarrior.com/DomRepublicPsyop.html 28 July 2004
(4) “Synopsis of Leavenworth paper” Available at: http://carl.army.mil/download/csipubs/powerpac/power_glossary.pdf 1994
(5) “Dominican Republic PSYOP: Operation Power Pack”
Carmen J. Espinal known as Earth Izayaa Allat is a Writer, Secondary Education Educator and Birth & Postpartum Doula born in the Dominican Republic. After graduating from Brown University, her experience includes creating and designing curriculum whether for homeschool curriculum, formal instruction, program-based learning or gender-specific concepts related to Black, Latina, Native American and Asian women/girls. She currently serves as a Volunteer Doula while completing her certification. She also runs a Vegan foods take-out service off her apartment. In addition, she is a Staff Writer for the Mecca Mission, a newspaper of the Nation of Gods and Earths.
Thank you for this detailed account of our history…the true and revolutionary one. I had no idea. How can we continue to make space for these narratives that challenge the oppressive and US supported culture/society in the DR?
We have lost so much of our history and power!!