In the Miami Herald, Roland Alum compares the last 50 years for Cuba and the Dominican Republic:
50 years after Trujillo’s death, Dominican Republic thrives as Cuba languishes
For 31 years, Rafael Trujillo — Latin America’s bloodiest dictator — tormented the Dominican Republic until 1961. As the U.S. commemorates Memorial Day on May 30, Dominicans mark his assassination 50 years ago. This milestone offers an opportunity to reflect on historical developments there compared to neighboring Cuba.
The DR achieved independence earlier than Cuba, yet by the 1950s Cuba’s standard of living was superior. Both countries emerged from militaristic dictatorships about the same time, 1961 with Trujillo’s end, and 1959 for Cuba, after Fulgencio Batista’s flight out. Prior to Fidel and Raúl Castro’s totalitarianism, Trujillo’s despotism had no precedence in the Americas.
Cuba’s remarkable record was accomplished despite Batista’s dictatorship (1952-58) and the widespread corruption of the preceding republican epoch (1902-52). Conversely, conditions were miserable in Trujillo’s DR. The brief 1965 civil war ended with the joint OAS-U.S. military intervention that paved the way for stability and relative prosperity. While the DR moved toward an open society, Cuba went in the opposite direction with the Castro brothers’ tropical version of the Soviet mold.
Five decades after Trujillo, the DR is one of the region’s least militarized societies, with an enviable freedom of expression, religion and movement. There are no political exiles, prisoners or firing squads. Opposition — reflecting all ideologies — is tolerated, and the private business sector and the labor movement thrive. All this sharply contrasts with Cuba, a stagnant, closed society.
The 1966 Dominican constitution established a tripartite government with an executive, a congress and an independent judiciary. Since 1966, the DR has elected five presidents from three alternating political parties (two presidents won re-election repeatedly). But Cuba is still ruled by the same 1959 clique whose average age is now 80.
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