Intervention in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

In 1915, President Wilson reacted to mounting debt and persistent political instability in Haiti by sending in the marines. His prime motivation was to protect against a plausible threat of German intervention on the island.

Strategic concerns over protecting the Panama Canal rendered Wilson incapable of resisting use of armed intervention — a tactic of previous administrations he had roundly criticized. Haitian resistance was inspired and more than 2,000 natives were killed or wounded in the U.S. effort to subdue the island. For all intents and purposes, Haiti became an American protectorate.

In 1916, the same approach was used under similar circumstances in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Occupying Marine forces there set up a pro-American dictatorship to establish peace and assure the continuation of foreign investment interests.

Wilson counseled that he was only directing affairs toward stability. An involuntary trade-off was achieved — outside financial interests were protected, but the island residents received new hospitals, roads, schools, and other improvements. In spite of the latter gestures, distrust of the United States deepened among Caribbean residents, as well as elsewhere in Latin America.


To other Wilson foreign affairs activities.

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