Joaquín Balaguer

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Joaquín Antonio Balaguer Ricardo (September 1, 1906 – July 14, 2002) was the President of the Dominican Republic from 1960 to 1962, from 1966 to 1978, and again from 1986 to 1996.


Early life and introduction to politics

Balaguer was born in Villa Bisonó (also known as Navarrete), Santiago Province in the northwestern corner of the Dominican Republic. His father was Joaquín Balaguer Lespier, a Puerto Rican of Catalan ancestry, and his mother was Carmen Celia Ricardo, daughter of Manuel de Jesus Ricardo and Rosa Amelia Heureaux. He was the only son in a family of several daughters.

From a very early age, Balaguer felt an attraction to literature, composing verses that were published in local magazines even when he was very young. He became involved in politics due to the American military occupation (1916–24). After graduating from school, Balaguer earned a law degree from the University of Santo Domingo and studied for a brief period at the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne. As a youth, Balaguer wrote of the awe with which he was struck by his father's fellow countryman, the Harvard graduate and political leader from Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu. Despite the profound differences regarding their ethical and world visions, Albizu's fiery and charismatic rhetoric captured Balaguer's imagination and his recollection of this occasion was a harbinger of his passion for politics and intellectual debate.

Balaguer's political career began in 1930 (before Rafael Trujillo took control of the government) when he was appointed Attorney in the Court of Properties. In later years, he served as Secretary of the Dominican Legation in Madrid (1932-1935), Undersecretary of the Presidency (1936), Undersecretary of Foreign Relations (1937), Extraordinary Ambassador to Colombia and Ecuador (1940-43 and 1943-47), Ambassador to Mexico (1947-49), Secretary of Education (1949-55), and Secretary of State of Foreign Relations (1955-57).

There has been much discussion regarding Balaguer's role during the Era of Trujillo, especially the relationship between the diminutive soft-spoken scholar and the boisterous Generalissimo. Throughout the three decades working as a Trujillista politician, Balaguer was seen alternately both as a mere employee or as a distinguished close counselor of Trujillo. Despite the fact that Trujillo notoriously enjoyed humiliating and insulting his "servants" in public, the dictator never tried to degrade Balaguer nor to play practical jokes on him.

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