Ulises Heureaux
Overview
 
Ulises Heureaux Lebert was president of the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 from 1 September 1882 to 1 September 1883, from 6 January to 27 February 1887 and again from 30 April 1889 until his assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

, maintaining power between his terms.
Heureaux, affectionately known as Lilís, was born in Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, often referred to as simply Puerto Plata, is the capital of the Dominican province Puerto Plata.The city is famous for resorts such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located east of San Felipe de Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city.The only...

, the son of a Haitian father and a mother from St. Thomas, spoke French and English in addition to Spanish. Following the annexation of the Dominican Republic by Spain in 1861 he joined the rebellion to restore independence, becoming the principal lieutenant of Gen.
Encyclopedia
Ulises Heureaux Lebert was president of the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 from 1 September 1882 to 1 September 1883, from 6 January to 27 February 1887 and again from 30 April 1889 until his assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

, maintaining power between his terms.

Early life

Heureaux, affectionately known as Lilís, was born in Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, often referred to as simply Puerto Plata, is the capital of the Dominican province Puerto Plata.The city is famous for resorts such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located east of San Felipe de Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city.The only...

, the son of a Haitian father and a mother from St. Thomas, spoke French and English in addition to Spanish. Following the annexation of the Dominican Republic by Spain in 1861 he joined the rebellion to restore independence, becoming the principal lieutenant of Gen. Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón , is best known for being a Dominican military and state leader who was the main leader in the restoration of the Dominican Republic after the Spanish annexation in 1863....

. In the period following this second independence, when revolutions were an annual occurrence, Heureaux emerged as one of the principal leaders of the Partido Azul
Los Bolos
Los Bolos or , was an old Dominican political party from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century. Ulises Heureaux and Juan Isidro Jimenes Pereyra were the main leaders of this party, and were oppossed to Los Coludos or Red Party, led by Horacio VásquezThe name of the party came from the...

. In 1876, he orchestrated an uprising that seized Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, often referred to as simply Puerto Plata, is the capital of the Dominican province Puerto Plata.The city is famous for resorts such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located east of San Felipe de Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city.The only...

 and led to the election of Ulises Espaillat. When the nation's leading caudillo Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez Méndez was the President of the Dominican Republic for five nonconsecutive terms. He is known for attempting to annex the Dominican Republic to other countries on multiple occasions.-Early years:...

, returned to power for his fifth term and fell after less than a year, he helped overthrow the two subsequent regimes.

Rise to Power

When Luperón became President in 1879, he chose to remain in his hometown of Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, often referred to as simply Puerto Plata, is the capital of the Dominican province Puerto Plata.The city is famous for resorts such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located east of San Felipe de Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city.The only...

 where he had established himself as a prosperous tobacco merchant, delegating authority in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

 to Heureaux.

A Catholic priest named Fernando Meriño became President in September 1880, Heureaux served as his Interior Minister and his behind-the-scenes influence on the rest of the cabinet apparently exceeded that of the president. Although Meriño briefly suspended constitutional procedures in response to unrest fomented by some remaining supporters of Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez Méndez was the President of the Dominican Republic for five nonconsecutive terms. He is known for attempting to annex the Dominican Republic to other countries on multiple occasions.-Early years:...

, he abided by the two-year term established under Luperón, handing the reins of government over to Heureaux on September 1, 1882. The administrations of Luperón and Meriño succeeded in bringing relative economic stability to the republic, and in Heureaux's first two-year term he faced only one major uprising. By 1884, however, no single potential successor, among the various local cacique
Cacique
Cacique is a title derived from the Taíno word for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles...

s who constituted the republic's ruling group, enjoyed widespread support. Luperón, still the leader of the ruling Azul Party, backed General Segundo Imbert, while Heureaux supported the candidacy of General Francisco Gregorio Billini. Heureaux assured Luperón that he would support Imbert should he win the election, but he had ballot boxes in critical precincts stuffed in order to assure Billini's election.

After being inaugurated on September 1, 1884, Billini resisted Heureaux's efforts to manipulate him and Heureaux responded by spreading rumors to the effect that Billini had decreed a political amnesty so that he could conspire with ex-president Cesáreo Guillermo against Luperón's leadership of the Azules. This precipitated a governmental crisis that forced in Billini's resignation on May 16, 1885. He was succeeded by Vice President Alejandro Woss y Gil, and Heureaux assumed an expanded role under the new government, with a number of his adherents included in the cabinet and the general himself assuming command of the national army to stem a rebellion led by Guillermo, who committed suicide when faced with capture. This further endeared Heureaux to Luperón, a longtime enemy of Guillermo. Luperón
Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón , is best known for being a Dominican military and state leader who was the main leader in the restoration of the Dominican Republic after the Spanish annexation in 1863....

 accordingly supported Heureaux in the 1886 presidential elections. The blatancy of the electoral fraud committed by Heureaux led the supporters of his opponent, Casimiro de Moya, to attempt an armed rebellion in the Cibao Valley. Benefiting from Luperón's support in this struggle, he brutally suppressed this uprising, putting an end to the cycle of civil strife that had plagued the republic. Having again achieved power, Heureaux maintained his grip on it for the rest of his life. In 1888, he exiled Gregorio Luperón, and the following year forced Congress to pass constitutional amendments abolishing the barrier against Presidential re-election and eliminating direct elections. To expand his power base, he incorporated members of both of the rival political factions, the Rojos and Azules, into his government. He also developed an extensive network of secret police and informants to avert rebellions, assassinating or forcing into exile the politicians who he could not co-opt. Heureaux enriched himself and his followers through extensive private investments in the emerging export economy, in which “the separation between the president’s private means and state finances was vague, fluid and almost non-existent.” He had his own secret telegraph code, publicly documented comparatively recently, that he used to control his troops and police.

During the last two decades of the 19th century, sugar surpassed tobacco as the country's main export, as a result of an influx of Cuban sugar planters following the Ten Years' War
Ten Years' War
The Ten Years' War , also known as the Great War and the War of '68, began on October 10, 1868 when sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and his followers proclaimed Cuba's independence from Spain...

. Lilís granted them large tracts of land in the southeastern coastal plain, where they built the nation's first mechanized sugar mills. His dictatorship undertook many ambitious projects to modernize the country, including the electrification of Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

, the construction of a bridge over the Ozama River
Ozama River
The Ozama River in the Dominican Republic can trace its source to the Loma Siete Cabezas in the Sierra de Yamasá close to Villa Altagracia....

, and the initiation of inland rail service on a single-track line linking Santiago to Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, often referred to as simply Puerto Plata, is the capital of the Dominican province Puerto Plata.The city is famous for resorts such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located east of San Felipe de Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city.The only...

.

Political demise

In order to enrich himself and his supporters, strengthen the bribe system, pay for the army, help set up sugar mills and finance infrastructural development, Lilís borrowed heavily from European and American banks, even as sugar prices underwent a steep decline. In 1888, he took out a loan of three-quarters of a million pounds sterling from the Amsterdam banking house Westendorp. The Westendorp Company went bankrupt in 1892, after its agent revealed fraud in the Customs Service, where Heureaux arranged preferential tariff treatment for some of his domestic creditors. A consortium of New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 businessmen calling themselves the San Domingo Improvement Co. bought out Westendorp, taking over the claims of its European bondholders, in exchange for two loans, one of $1.2 million and the other of £2 million, to fund the countries external debt, to be secured with a lien over the nations customs fees. As the mounting public debt made it impossible to maintain his political machine, Heureaux increasingly relied on secret loans from the San Domingo Improvement Co., sugar planters and local merchants. In 1897, with the country on the brink of bankruptcy, Lilís was reduced to printing five million dollars worth of unsecured paper money, known as papaletas de Lilís, ruining many of the countries merchants. This helped trigger a new revolt among the Cibaeño tobacco planters and merchants, leading to his assassination in Moca
Moca, Dominican Republic
Moca is the capital of Espaillat province in the Dominican Republic.Moca is located 11 miles/18 kilometers away from the country’s second biggest city, Santiago De Los Caballeros. Moca is also known for its many great crops and friendly people....

 in July 1899. By the time of his death, the national debt exceeded $35 million, fifteen times the annual budget.

During his time in office, the country's economy
Economy of the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has the second largest economyin the Caribbean. It is an upper middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism....

 came largely under the control of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Upon his death, it was revealed that he had taken many secret loans from foreign banks for personal enrichment. The government declared bankruptcy, the economy crumbled and the American military intervened.

Trivia

  • There is a col
    Mountain pass
    A mountain pass is a route through a mountain range or over a ridge. If following the lowest possible route, a pass is locally the highest point on that route...

     between the summits of Pico Duarte
    Pico Duarte
    Pico Duarte is the highest peak in all the Caribbean islands. It lies in the Cordillera Central range, the greatest of the Dominican Republic's mountain chains. The Cordillera Central extends from the plains between San Cristóbal and Baní to the northwestern peninsula of Haiti, where it is known as...

     and La Pelona mountains, in the central mountain range of the Dominican Republic, which bears the name Valle de Lilís. There is an apocryphal story that claims that the reason for this name is because the dictator once had a mountain villa up there (2,950 meters above sea level), though no evidence of this has ever been found.
  • There is an anecdote in the Dominican Republic that Lilís went to a little village in El Cibao and someone shouted "Qué Nublao!" (What a cloudy black sky!), the instant he saw the dark-skinned Lilís and not knowing who he was. Lilís responded by saying, "No se preocupe, la lluvia viene por' atrá..." (Don't worry! The rain is right behind.) They said that the rain was the killing of all villagers. No evidence of this has ever been found either.
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