Life and History of Dominican President Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly

President Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly

Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly was president of the Dominican Republic from 1962-1963. He was famous for being the first to install free elections for the Dominican Republic after the over 30-year-long dictatorship under Juan Bosch. During Bonnelly’s presidency, the Dominican Republic passed some of the main laws, such as that of Housing, which are still in place at the present moment. There aren’t really very many records of Bonnelly’s actions as President personally but there are plenty of records of what was going on during his presidency, such as the revolt against General Trujillo.

Life Before Being President

Decades before being elected President himself, Bonnelly participated in the 1930 revolt with General Rafael Trujillo against President Horacio Vasquez who had risen to national power between 1882-1899 while serving in the armed forces. However, almost immediately after it was confirmed that Vasquez had passed on and Bonnelly became Deputy of National Congress, he and Trujillo had a major falling out and Trujillo due to Trujillo’s insistence on deporting Dr. Estrella Urena for voting against an Education bill made during the dictatorship. Bonnelly was later able to return as a Senator when Urena returned from exile in 1942. From then on, Bonnelly held several different national positions from Minister of Interior from 1944-1946 to Vice President from 1960-1962.

Life as President

Bonnelly was what was considered to be placeholding president since his goal was to hold office until free elections could be held. Since he held office for only one year, at this time, not very many records currently exist about the details of Bonnelly’s presidency. However, we do have many records about what was going on with the changes in law and other revolts in the Dominican Republic at that time. For example, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Historian has a telegram of various revolts and rumors of revolts of the GODR (Government of the Dominican Republic) against Venezuela and especially against Trujillo. The U.S. Government Historian holds records of telegrams warning of a hunt-down of and possible assasinate plot of Trujillo. It urged the U.S. military to take publicized action to investigate.

Life After Being President

Immediately after Joaquin Balaguer was ousted in 1966, Bonnelly made another run for president but that time, was unsuccessful. He had previously been promoted from Vice-President when Balaguer was ousted in 1961. The two had had a sense of comradeship when serving in several posts during the Trujillo dictatorship but became enemies after Balaguer’s ousting. Bonnelly and Balaguer went on a last public bout in 1978 when Balaguer’s party, the Partido Reformista cheated the country out of free elections by putting the voting count to a halt because they were losing favor. This led to much unrest and Bonnelly and Balaguer engaged in a two-week debate. In the summer of 1979, Bonnelly was awarded the Doctorate Honoris Causa before succumbing to cancer that December.