The Dominican Republic was explored by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. He named it La Española,
and his son, Diego, was its first viceroy. The capital, Santo Domingo, founded in 1496, is the oldest European
settlement in the Western Hemisphere.

Spain ceded the colony to France in 1795, and Haitian blacks under Toussaint L'Ouverture conquered it in
1801. In 1808 the people revolted and captured Santo Domingo the next year, setting up the first republic.
Spain regained title to the colony in 1814. In 1821 Spanish rule was overthrown, but in 1822 the colony was
reconquered by the Haitians. In 1844 the Haitians were thrown out, and the Dominican Republic was
established, headed by Pedro Santana. Uprisings and Haitian attacks led Santana to make the country a
province of Spain from 1861 to 1865.

President Buenaventura Báez, faced with an economy in shambles, attempted to have the country annexed to
the U.S. in 1870, but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify a treaty of annexation. Disorder continued until the
dictatorship of Ulíses Heureaux; in 1916, when chaos broke out again, the U.S. sent in a contingent of
marines, who remained until 1924.

A sergeant in the Dominican army trained by the marines, Rafaél Leonides Trujillo Molina, overthrew Horacio
Vásquez in 1930 and established a dictatorship that lasted until his assassination in 1961, 31 years later. In
1962, Juan Bosch of the leftist Dominican Revolutionary Party, became the first democratically elected
president in four decades.

In 1963, a military coup ousted Bosch and installed a civilian triumvirate. Leftists rebelled against the new
regime in April 1965, and U.S. president Lyndon Johnson sent in marines and troops. After a cease-fire in
May, a compromise installed Hector Garcia-Godoy as provisional president. In 1966, right-wing candidate
Joaquin Balaguer won in free elections against Bosch, and U.S. and other foreign troops withdrew.

In 1978 the army suspended the counting of ballots when Balaguer trailed in a fourth-term bid. After a warning
from President Jimmy Carter, however, Balaguer accepted the victory of Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican
Revolutionary Party. In 1982 elections, Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party defeated
Balaguer and Bosch. Balaguer was again elected president in May 1986 and remained in office for the next
ten years.

In 1996, U.S.-raised Leonel Fernández secured more than 51% of the vote through an alliance with Balaguer.
The first item on the president's agenda was the partial sale of some state-owned enterprises. Fernández
was praised for ending decades of isolationism and improving ties with other Caribbean countries, but he
was criticized for not fighting corruption or alleviating the poverty that affects 60% of the population.

In Aug. 2000 the center-left Hipólito Mejía was elected president amid popular discontent over power outages
in the recently privatized electric industry. In 2001 the army was deployed in major cities to fight rising crime. In
May 2004 presidential elections, the previous president, Leonel Fernández (1996–2000), won 57% of the vote,
defeating incumbent Mejía. He vowed to institute austerity measures to rescue the country from its current
economic crisis.