The Contest for Power, 1865-82
After a successful uprising that forced Báez to flee the country in May 1866, a triumvirate of Cibaeño military leaders, the most prominent of whom was Gregorio Luperón, assumed provisional power. General José María Cabral Luna, who had served briefly as president in 1865, was reelected to that post on September 29, 1866. The baecistas, however, were still a potent force in the republic; they forced Cabral out and reinstalled Báez on May 2, 1868. Once again, his rule was marked by peculation and efforts to sell or to lease portions of the country to foreign interests. These included an intermittent campaign to have the entire country annexed by the United States. He was once again overthrown by rebellious Blues in January 1874.
After a period of infighting among the Blues, backing from Luperón helped Ulises Francisco Espaillat Quiñones to win election as president on March 24, 1876. Espaillat, a political and economic liberal, apparently intended to broaden personal freedoms and to set the nation's economy on a firmer footing. He never had the opportunity to do either, however. Rebellions in the south and the east forced Espaillat to resign on December 20, 1876. Ever the opportunist, Báez returned once more to power. The most effective opposition to his rule came from guerrilla forces led by a politically active priest, Fernando Arturo de Meriño Ramírez. In February 1878, the unpopular Báez left his country for the last time; he died in exile in 1882.
Both Santana and Báez had now passed from the scene. They had helped to create a nation where violence prevailed in the quest for power, where economic growth and financial stability fell victim to a seemingly endless political contest, and where foreign interests still perceived parts of the national territory as available to the highest bidder. This divisive, chaotic situation invited the emergence of a Machiavellian figure who would "unite" the republic.
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