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Ulises Heureaux

Ulises Heureaux
22nd President of the Dominican Republic
In office
September 1, 1882 – September 1, 1884
Preceded by Fernando Arturo de Meriño
Succeeded by Francisco Gregorio Billini
26th President of the Dominican Republic
In office
January 6, 1887 – February 27, 1889
Preceded by Alejandro Woss y Gil
Succeeded by Manuel María Gautier
27th President of the Dominican Republic
In office
April 30, 1889 – July 26, 1899
Preceded by Manuel María Gautier
Succeeded by Wenceslao Figuereo
Personal details
Born October 21, 1845
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Died July 26, 1899 (aged 53)
Moca, Dominican Republic
Political party Blue Party

Ulises Hilarión Heureaux Leibert (October 21, 1845 – July 26, 1899) was president of the Dominican Republic from 1 September 1882 to 1 September 1884, from 6 January to 27 February 1887 and again from 30 April 1889 until his assassination, maintaining power between his terms.


  • Early life 1
  • Rise to Power 2
  • Political demise 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5

Early life

Heureaux, affectionately known as Lilís, was born in Puerto Plata. His mother was Josefa Leibert from St. Thomas, and his father was D’Assas Heureaux. D’Assas, the mulatto son of Frenchman Pierre Alejandro Heureaux, and a Black woman, has been described as a Haitian[1][2][3] who chose to become Dominican after the Dominican declaration of independence in 1844. The cited references do not provide the date and place of D'Assas' birth, nor explain why they call him Haitian. In this regard, it is relevant that his French father must have left Western Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) before the 1804 Haiti Massacre (else he would have lost his life), while that area was still a French colony. This implies that D'Assas either arrived with his French father in Eastern Saint Domingue (present-day Dominican Republic) before Haiti came into existence, or was born in Eastern Saint Domingue.

Due to his cultural background, Ulises Heureaux was able to speak French and English in addition to Spanish fluently. 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.[4] In the period following this restoration of independence, when revolutions were an annual occurrence, Heureaux emerged as one of the principal leaders of the Partido Azul.[4] In 1876, he orchestrated an uprising that seized Puerto Plata and led to the election of Ulises Espaillat. When the nation’s leading caudillo Buenaventura Báez, 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 where he had established himself as a prosperous tobacco merchant, delegating authority in Santo Domingo 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, 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 caciques 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 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.” [5] He had his own secret telegraph code, publicly documented comparatively recently, that he used to control his troops and police.[6]

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. 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, the construction of a bridge over the Ozama River, and the initiation of inland rail service on a single-track line linking Santiago to Puerto Plata.[7]

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.[8] 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 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.[9] 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.[10] This helped trigger a new revolt among the Cibaeño tobacco planters and merchants, leading to his assassination in Moca 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 came largely under the control of the United States. 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.

Political offices
Preceded by
Fernando Arturo de Meriño
President of the Dominican Republic
September 1, 1882 – September 1, 1884
Succeeded by
Francisco Gregorio Billini
Preceded by
Alejandro Woss y Gil
President of the Dominican Republic
January 6, 1887 – February 27, 1889
Succeeded by
Manuel María Gautier
Preceded by
Manuel María Gautier
President of the Dominican Republic
April 30, 1889 – July 26, 1899
Succeeded by
Juan Wenceslao Figuereo


  • Martínez-Vergne, Teresita Nation and Citizenship in the Dominican Republic (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, N.C., 2005)
  • Moya-Pons, Frank Dominican Republic: A National History (Hispaniola Books: New Rochelle, NY, 1995)
  • Rodman, Selden Quisqueya: A History of the Dominican Republic (University of Washington Press: Seattle, 1964)


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Sang, Mu-Kien Adriana. "Ulises Heureaux: biography of a dictator". p. 9. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Manati (2001). "Peña Gómez in Haitian society". p. 40. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  4. ^ a b  
  5. ^ H. Hoetink, The Dominican Republic: 1859-1900, Pg. 80
  6. ^ C. Dobal, Habla Lilis (Un Documento Secreto), 1986
  7. ^ Teresita Martinez-Vergne, Nation & Citizen in the Dominican Republic Pg. 28
  8. ^ Eric Paul Roorda, The Dictator Next Door, Pg. 34
  9. ^ Ian Bell, The Dominican Republic, Pg. 59
  10. ^ Frank Moya Pons, The Dominican Republic: A National History, Pg. 271, 275
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