Horacio Vázquez (1860-1936) was twice president of the Dominican Republic. His second period in office was probably the most democratic era in the history of the Dominican Republic.
Horacio Vázquez rose to national prominence during the dictatorship (1882-1899) of the part-Haitian president Ulises Heureaux, during which time he served in the armed forces. In the rough-and-tumble politics of that time Vázquez emerged a general and also acquired certain popularity among civilians. Although long serving the Heureaux regime, he joined with two other future presidents, Juan Isidro Jiménez and Ramón Cáceres, in ploting the overthrow of the dictatorship. In July 1899 Heureaux was slain by conspirators under the direction of these three men.
Although Vázquez and Jiménez had worked together against Heureaux, they immediately came into conflict once he was dead. For the next generation, politics was dominated by the struggle between two factions: Vázquez' followers, known generally as horacistas, and those of Jiménez, popularly referred to as the jimenistas. During this period Vázquez served as president for a year, in 1903-1904, but was overthrown by the Jiménez group. Vázquez was generally in opposition during the decade and a half following the murder of Heureaux.
The chaotic nature of Dominican politics during these years, and the growing burden and complexity of the national debt engendered by governmental instability, served as the excuses for United States armed intervention in the country in 1916. Effective power remained in the hands of the U.S. Marines until 1924. In preparation for departure of these armed forces from the Dominican Republic, Sumner Welles, a rising U.S. diplomat, was charged with arranging for the election of a new Dominican president. Vázquez won the election as candidate of the National party. He took office in October 1924.
Vázquez' second administration was one of the most peaceful and progressive periods in the turbulent history of the Dominican Republic. Government finances remained in order, although the government did add to the national debt by a $10 million loan. The President and most of his top officials were scrupulously honest. Modest progress was made in building roads and schools and other projects.
But most important of all, the government was characterized by a degree of democratic tolerance which was almost unheard of in the Dominican Republic. The opposition was allowed to function with relative freedom, and the press and other media of public expression enjoyed wide latitude to criticize the government.
However, one major violation of the generally democratic spirit of the Vázquez administration was its action in 1927 in having Congress extend the President's term of office from 4 to 6 years. This was later used as an excuse by apologists of Gen. Rafael Trujillo for his disloyalty to the Vázquez administration.
Trujillo was principally responsible for Vázquez' downfall. When, late in 1929, Vázquez indicated his willingness to run for another term, Trujillo, commandant of the National Army, began plotting with those opposed to Vázquez. When a revolt against Vázquez broke out in May 1930, Trujillo and the army remained "neutral." Vázquez was forced to negotiate with the rebels and, as a consequence, retired to private life.
Within a few months of Vázquez' resignation, the Trujillo dictatorship had been firmly established. Vázquez took no further part in politics and resisted all attempts of Trujillo to get him to endorse and support the new regime.
Although no study devoted entirely to Vázquez has appeared in English, Sumner Welles, Naboth's Vineyard: The Dominican Republic, 1844-1924 (2 vols., 1928), discusses his early career. For a fairly extensive treatment of Vázquez' downfall in 1930 see Robert D. Crassweller, Trujillo: The Life and Times of a Caribbean Dictator (1966). □