Dominican Juan Bosch dies
He influenced nation's politics for more than half a century
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN AND DON BOHNING
Former President Juan Bosch, whose tenure lasted only seven months
but whose influence on Dominican Republic politics spanned more than half
a century, died
Thursday. He was 92.
Bosch, widely known as "Professor Bosch,'' had been in and out of the hospital this year and most recently received treatment for neurological, respiratory and intestinal problems. He died of respiratory failure at his home about 3 a.m.
By sunrise, news of his death had spread across the country, prompting
a profound sense of grief for a man whom many saw as the embodiment of
hope, pride and
progress. Television and radio airwaves were filled with homages.
"The Dominican Republic lost one of its greatest thinkers and visionaries of all time,'' said Amy Coughenour Betancourt, deputy director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"Bosch's legacy of literature, political thought, and leadership
with regard to human rights, political rights and freedoms, and social
and economic development is
indelible,'' Coughenour added.
"He has left behind a vision for what the country can become, and has left his mark on generations of leaders now and yet to come.''
Often described as a "social-democrat,'' Bosch and his politics also attracted enemies. His rise came at a time when being a socialist of any degree was considered by some as a close variation of communism.
While no radical, Bosch called for land reform, nationalization of some businesses and an ambitious public works project. He also was serious about civil liberties, saying that communists in the Dominican Republic would not be prosecuted unless they broke the law.
That stance worried Washington, as well as Dominican industrialists and businessmen who ultimately supported the military coup that removed him from power in 1963.
President Kennedy is said to have privately expressed his fears about Bosch's political leanings to the Dominican ambassador.
"I'm wondering if the day might not come when he'd [Bosch] like to get rid of some of the left,'' Kennedy reportedly said.
In the Dominican Republic on Thursday, flags were set at half
mast, weeping mourners gathered at Bosch's house in the interior city of
La Vega and the government
declared three days of national mourning.
President Hipólito Mejía issued a statement expressing sorrow for the death of a leader whom he characterized as a ``teacher of politics to generations'' and a "model citizen who during decades participated in the front row of national public life.''
Beyond his mark on the political landscape, Bosch also left a prolific Hispanic literary legacy as a novelist, essayist, short-story writer, biographer and historian.
But it was his role as the Don Quixote of Dominican politics that gained him international prominence, dating to 1937, when he fled the dictatorship of the late Gen. Rafael Trujillo.
About a quarter-century later, in 1963, he was elected president following Trujillo's assassination, but served only seven months before he was ousted by military leaders who accused him of being pro-communist.
From exile in 1965, he became the central figure in a Dominican rebellion aimed at restoring him to the presidency. That led to a civil war and the first post-World War II U.S. military intervention in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1966, Bosch ran an unsuccessful campaign against Joaquín Balaguer, who was a functionary during much of the 30-year Trujillo dictatorship.
The 1966 vote was the first of six elections, through 1994, that both Bosch and Balaguer contested, none of which Bosch won.
Born June 30, 1909, Bosch was the son of a Catalán father and Puerto Rican mother. He gained early acclaim as a literary figure, with many of his writings reflecting the hardscrabble life of the Dominican peasant. His writings later became more politically oriented.
Among his best-known works: Cuentos escritos en el exilio (Stories
Written in Exile); El oro y la paz (Gold and Peace); La mañosa (The
Crafty One); Dictaduras
dominicanas (Dominican Dictatorships) and Social Classes in the Dominican Republic.
Bosch spent 24 years in exile, a large portion of that time in Cuba.
It was there that he founded the left-of-center Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) in 1939. Eight years later, he was among the organizers in Cuba of one of several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow Trujillo.
While in exile, Bosch spent a period teaching at the Institute
of Political Science in Costa Rica. He also served for a time as advisor
to Cuban President Carlos Prío
Socarrás, fleeing the island in 1952 when Prío was overthrown by Fulgencio Batista. He returned to Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro came to power, but left again a year later, disappointed in the turn the Cuban revolution was taking.
Bosch returned to his homeland in 1961, following Trujillo's assassination, and built the PRD into a potent political force with a strong worker-peasant base.
It carried him to the presidency in December 1962 with covert support from the Kennedy administration, despite domestic right-wing opposition including elements of the Roman Catholic Church.
Over the years, as his political fortunes rose and fell, his political direction oscillated wildly. At one point, he described himself as a ``non-Communist Marxist'' and a friend of Fidel Castro. But he told another interviewer in 1988 that ``we have never been Marxist.''
Bosch is to be buried in his hometown of La Vega today, following a public display of his body at the National Palace.
He is survived by his second wife, Carmen Quidiello, and four children.
Santo Domingo correspondent Alba María Reyes Rodríguez contributed to this report.