Life and History of Dominican President Antonio Guzman Fernandez

Antonio Guzman Fernandez

Born and bred in the Dominican Republic, Antonio Guzman Fernandez was always a man who strived for more. From his humble beginnings in the family textile store to his successful cattle ranching endeavours and finally to his position as the country’s head of state, Fernandez was a man who knew how to get things done.

Life as President

Fernandez was born in 1911 within the metropolis of La Vega. The heart of the Dominican Republic, La Vega is an agricultural powerhouse in the country. Fernandez attended both primary and secondary school within the city, but was soon following his path of hard work and success. He started working in his family’s textile store at the age of 15. Two years later, the teenager was already managing stores for the Curaçao Trading Company. Still he kept striving for more, investing in land and beginning a rice growing operation. Expanding into fruit export, he became active in many aspects of export. By the age of 29, he was a wealthy cattle rancher. He briefly became secretary of agriculture. Following that he was a vice presidential, then presidential, candidate. In 1978 he ran for the second time as a PRD (Dominican Revolutionary Party) candidate against Joaquín Balaguer.

His campaign promises to cut the extravagant urban public works spending of the incumbent President resonated with the citizenry. As the votes were counted, he was shown to be in the lead. The military halted the counting when it became clear he was winning the election. Protests erupted on the home front, as heavy diplomatic pressure came from abroad. Jimmy Carter made clear that the US would not ignore malfeasance in the matter. The count was resumed and Fernandez was the new President of the Dominican Republic. After his inauguration, Fernandez jumped headfirst into dealing with the economic crisis the country was dealing with. He and his cabinet adopted an aggressive policy when it came to agriculture and within two years the country became self-sufficient in rice and beans for the first time in its history. He kept his promises, building rural schools and health centers. He also would begin the process of repairing the country’s crumbling road system.

Life After being President

Fernandez enacted another first during his Presidency, becoming first elected president since the country’s founding to decline to run for re-election. His party’s candidate won the election but Fernandez was found shot before the inauguration. While many believed it to be suicide, the death was ruled accidental. Even though he faced constant interference from the opposition party, Fernandez persisted throughout his Presidency in doing his best for his country and its people. He may not have succeeded in all his endeavors but he was still an instrument of change. His administration marked the transition from oppressive governance and military interference to democracy.