Island nation in the West Indies, occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, SE of Cuba. In 1795 the area then known as Santo Domingo, a Spanish colony, was ceded to France by the Treaty of Basel. It was conquered in 1801 by Haitians under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, but in 1809 Spanish rule was reestablished with British aid. A revolt for independence from Spain in 1821 resulted in the expulsion of the Spanish governor, but in the following year Haiti again conquered the region. Haiti held it until 1844, when a revolution took place and Pedro Santana became the first president of the Dominican Republic. His dictatorial rule caused revolts, while the Haitians continued to try to reconquer the land . As a result, in 1861 Santana declared the nation a province of Spain, but the reaction to this move was so violent that Spain gave up the arrangement in 1865. In 1869 President Buenaventura Baez negotiated a treaty for annexation by the United States, but although the Dominican people approved, the U.S. Senate did not ratify it in spite of President Grant’s support of the proposal. Until the early 20th century the nation suffered political disorders, many changes of government, and growing financial troubles. As a result it was bankrupt by 1905 and threatened with the use of force by European nations to collect debts. U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt intervened, and the United States took over administration of customs receipts. This step improved the financial situation, but made the United States dominant in the country. Disorders continued until the U.S. Marines occupied the country in 1916. The occupation lasted until 1924 and customs administration until 1941. In 1930 Rafael Trujillo Molina overthrew the government and began a 31-year dictatorial rule, one of the cruelest in history. In 1937 Dominican troops, in a move to keep Haitians from entering the country, invaded Haiti and massacred thousand s of persons.
After Trujillo was assassinated in 1961, the first free election since 1924 was held in December 1962. Leftist Juan Bosch was elected president, but he was ousted by a right-wing military coup in September 1963. In April 1965 an attempt to restore him to office touched off a civil war, followed by the dispatch of U.S. troops to the country by U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson. The Organization of American States formed a peacekeeping force that gradually replaced the U.S. troops and in September both sides accepted Hector Garcia Godoy as provisional president. OAS forces were withdrawn, but the Dominicans continued to be plagued by political unrest and economic difficulties, despite the 1966 election of President Joaquin Balaguer and his 15-year development program. In May 1978 the army suspended voting when it seemed that Balaguer would lose a reelection bid. A strongly worded diplomatic note from U.S. president Carter, however, forced the army to accept the election of leftist president Antonio Guzman, whose term ended in August 1982.
Balaguer was elected again and served from 1986 through 1995. In the 1996, the Dominican Liberation Party cand idate, Leonel Fernand ez Reyna, was elected. While there was some economic growth under the DLP, it was mainly in the urban areas. In 2000 Hipolito Mejia Dominguez of the Dominican Revolutionary Party took power promising benefits of economic development to all Dominicans, but under his administration, economic conditions worsened, and Fernand ez was reelected in 2004. In 2004, the Dominican Republic agreed to join in a free-trade area with the United States and many Central American nations. Santo Domingo is the capital city.