40 years later, U.S. invasion still haunts Dominican Republic

t’s been 40 years since the United States invaded the Dominican Republic, and my native country is still suffering the effects of that misguided intervention.

On April 28, 1965, 42,000 American troops invaded the Dominican Republic. By the end of the invasion, more than 3,000 Dominicans and 31 American servicemen had lost their lives. And democracy suffered another setback.

The invasion was not an aberration since the United States had been interfering in the affairs of my homeland since the turn of the century.

The people of the Dominican Republic were trying to restore Juan Bosch to the presidency. Two years before, in 1963, Bosch, the head of the Dominican Revolutionary Party and a leading writer and intellectual, had won the first free presidential election in 30 years. But his pro-Castro sentiments and the uneasiness he inspired in business sectors fueled a military coup seven months later that installed a three-man military junta.

President Lyndon Johnson sent U.S. Marines to the island to support the junta and to place Joaquin Balaguer back in power. Balaguer had succeeded Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the brutal dictator who ruled the country with Washington’s blessing for 31 years.

Trujillo used the U.S.-trained National Guard to banish, torture or kill his opponents.

As President Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of state, Cordell Hull famously said of Trujillo: “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is our son-of-a-bitch.”

The United States has been meddling in my country for 90 years now. It started in 1916 when American Marines first arrived for an 8-year occupation.

It continued through the Trujillo dictatorship and Balaguer’s 28-year reign. And it continues today, with U.S. support for authoritarian and corrupt leaders who still rule on behalf of a privileged social class and foreign powers.

Forty years ago, the Marines deprived the people of the Dominican Republic of self-determination.

For many in my country, that invasion cast the United States not as liberator but as oppressor.

The 40th anniversary is no cause for celebration.

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