Politics in the Dominican Republic over the past half century have been dominated by one politician: Joaquín Balaguer, who died in July 2002 at age 95 and was president of the country for three nonconsecutive periods: 1960–1962, 1966–1978 (the “doce años”), and 1986–1996 (the “Return Years”). But even when not officially in power, he wielded an enormous influence in Dominican politics. As a politician who grew up under the long, sultanic Trujillo regime, he became the symbol of paternalist and personalist authoritarianism. In that sense, he represented a typical Latin American phenomenon. At the same time, he was an unlikely president, with his erudition, bad eyesight (at the end of his political career he was almost blind), and shy manners. In the tumultuous political situation after the assassination of Rafael Trujillo in 1961, he became the favorite politician of the United States...

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