85th anniversary of the birth of José Francisco Peña Gómez

This March 6th will be another anniversary of the birth of Jose Francisco Pena Gomez late leader of Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) and presidential candidate three times. Regarding the date, this week the Retro Zone will be dedicated to him.

Peña Gómez was a Dominican lawyer, broadcaster and politician, three times he ran as a presidential candidate and, although he failed to come to power, he is considered one of the great political leaders in Dominican history.

The beginning

José Francisco Peña Gómez was born on March 6, 1937 in Mao, specifically on the hill of El Flaco, Cruce de Guayacanes, he was the son of Haitian immigrants who were forced to leave the country due to the strong anti-Haitian persecution that existed in that moment, leaving his son helpless.

Peña Gómez was adopted by a family of peasants from the area, they ended up raising him, educating him and giving him his last name. During his childhood and adolescence he did various jobs to support himself and pay for his studies, from shoe shiner to clerk in a grocery store.

Being a young man, he decides to look for other horizons, and he moves to the city of Santiago and then to Santo Domingo.
While in the capital, he decides to enroll in the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), from which he graduated with a Doctor of Legal Sciences. Shortly after, he traveled to Paris to continue specializing in that area. Peña Gómez, during his stay in Santo Domingo, also worked as an announcer on the radio station La Voz Dominicana.

Political life

José Francisco Peña Gómez empathized with the thoughts of Juan Bosch, founder and leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) at the time, so he decided to support Bosch.

After Juan Bosch went into exile in 1963 due to a military coup d’état, Peña Gómez was left in command of the PRD, becoming the main leader of that party. In April 1965, when the civil war broke out, Peña, through the station where he worked as an announcer, called for the popular insurrection against the military coup, asking for Bosch’s return.

Days after the civil war broke out, the president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, ordered a military intervention in the country for fear that a communist regime similar to that of Cuba would replicate itself in the Dominican Republic. The intervention ended in 1966 with the holding of elections in June and later the withdrawal of the first US troops in September of the same year.

Under the leadership of Peña Gómez, the PRD won the general elections of 1978 and 1982. For the 1978 elections, the party led businessman Silvestre Antonio Guzmán Fernández as its presidential candidate, while for the 1982 elections the candidate was lawyer Salvador Jorge Blanco, In that same year, Peña Gómez won the trusteeship of Santo Domingo, remaining in office until 1986.

1994 elections

In the general elections of 1994 José Francisco Peña Gómez accused Joaquín Balaguer of having committed fraud during the contest, this caused an electoral crisis in which international organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) had to mediate.

The crisis ended with the signing of the so-called “Pact for Democracy” which established, among other points, reforming the constitution with the purpose of establishing a new date for the holding of elections, prohibition of re-election in two consecutive periods and establishment of the system double-round if no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

Despite the agreement being fulfilled, the PRD leader lost the second round of the 1996 elections against the candidate of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), Leonel Antonio Fernández Reyna.

Last days

In his last years of life he kept battling against a cancerous tumor of the pancreas, but he always remained active in the political arena. Peña Gómez died at his residence in Cambita, San Cristóbal on May 10, 1998 due to edema and cardio-respiratory arrest.

Thousands of people attended the Olympic Stadium to say goodbye to the PRD leader, including the president at the time Leonel Fernández, former presidents Joaquín Balaguer and Salvador Jorge Blanco, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, among others. Historically it has been one of the funerals that more people have attended.

Days after his death, the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill by which Las Américas International Airport would be called “José Francisco Peña Gómez International Airport” as a posthumous tribute to the PRD leader.

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