Dominican Republic 1971

‘La Banda’ Slays Five More in Santo Domingo

Written by: J.V. Hanley;
Published: October 25, 1971;
Source: Intercontinental Press, Vol. 9 No. 37, p.907;
Transcribed: Amaury Rodriguez, 2016.

Transcriber’s note: This article appeared in Intercontinental Press (IP), a weekly magazine published in New York on behalf on the Fourth International from 1963 to 1986. I thank Pathfinder Press for granting me permission to post this article. I corrected grammar for clarity.

The supposedly “dissolved” right-wing terrorist formation in the Dominican Republic known as “La Banda “has resumed its killings on an expanded scale, setting off a new political crisis for President Joaquin Balaguer. [1] Public opinion was shaken severely by the discovery October 9 of five new victims of the so-called Juventud Democratica Reformista Anti-Comunista (Democratic Reformist Anti-Communist Youth).

The five victims, whose bullet-ridden bodies were discovered in three separate parts of Santo Domingo, were identified by the press as Ruben Daria Sandoval, [2] sixteen years of age; Victor Fernando Checo and Gerardo Bautista Gomez, both eighteen; Reyes Florentino Santana, nineteen; and Rhadames Pelaez Tejada, twenty-one. They had all been threatened with death by La Banda members for having expressed satisfaction over the killing of La Banda leader Johnny Batista, also known as Johnny Vargas, on October 6.

The dead youths were identified by the Santo Domingo daily El Nacional de Ahora! of October 10 as members of the “Hector J. Diaz Club” of the “27 de Febrero” slum district. [3] Their group was not apparently affiliated with any political tendency, but its cultural activities had a strong element of nationalism.

The club issued a statement condemning the murders as aimed at “halting our work of community organizing and cultural development.” The group characterized its general goals as “struggling on behalf of the native culture, against Yankee cultural penetration, and for national sovereignty,” according to El Nacional de Ahora! Sandoval and Florentino Santana, both students, were also involved with left-wing political groups. Sandoval was reportedly active in the Revolutionary Student Union (Union de Estudiantes Revolucionarios) at Juan Pablo Duarte Night School. Florentino Santana was identified as a member of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD- Dominican Revolutionary party).

The other slain youths had no apparent political affiliation outside of the neighborhood cultural club. Checo was identified simply as a “student, “and Pelaez Tejada and Bautista Gomez as “workers."All of the victims, along with two fellow club-members who subsequently managed to escape, were seized by a group including known La Banda members at approximately 3:00 a.m., as they were leaving a wake for a club member who had been killed in a traffic accident. In full view of uniformed policemen, who were patrolling the neighborhood in unusual trength that evening, the kidnappers loaded the victims into two sedans and drove away. The police apparently had instructions not to interfere with the raid.

This latest atrocity was the largest multiple murder in a long series of killings perpetrated by La Banda. The furious repression against the left has caused increasing public fear and concern. [4].

The October 3 El Nacional de Ahora! published a list of questions it had submitted to the U. S. embassy in Santo Domingo on September 28 concerning North American complicity in the campaign of police repression against the left since 1966. ‘'We are still awaiting the answers, so that we can bring them to the attention of our readers,” the paper reported. The questionnaire began by pointing out that the Agency for International Development (AID) had been carrying out a police training program in the Dominican Republic since 1966, and that a total of 3,700 agents were to have completed their studies by the end of 1972. It challenged the ambassador, Francis Edward Meloy, to confirm or deny that his embassy helped direct the capture and torture of major left-wing political figures such as Andres Ramos Peguero,a Dominican Communist leader” whose whereabouts are still not known. AID was responsible for creating the “Special Operations” unit of the National Police, which on September 25 murdered two peasants in the vicinity of San Jose de Ocoa. The victims were apparently involved in a property dispute with local landlords.

Popular agitation against the terror campaign fostered by the Dominican and United States governments has spread to the most conservative circles. The Santo Domingo weekly Ahora! [4] reported October 11 that the Catholic Church and the Dominican Bar Association have recently joined in the general outcry against the wave of repression and terror. The Bar Association called on Balaguer early in October to send the National Congress a bill decreeing amnesty for all political prisoners. Following the October 9 murders, congressional representatives of Balaguer’s own Partido Reformista (Reformist party) called on the administration to take firm measures against La Banda.

On October 11, “the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Hugo Eduardo Polanco Brito, called for an end to what he termed the ‘river of blood running through our society,'” according to an Associated Press story in the October 12 issue of the New York daily El Diaria.[5]

The Balaguer government, which had proclaimed four weeks previously that it was launching a crackdown against La Banda,* moved quickly to head off the mounting protests. On October 14, Balaguer appointed Brigadier General Neit Rafael Nivar Seijas as the new head of the National Police. Nivar Seijas’s predecessor, Major General Enrique Perez y Perez, had been implicated as an organizer and key collaborator of La Banda. His hypocritical pronouncement on October 10 that the murderers would be punished “with all the force of the law” could be expected to carry little weight with the Dominican people especially among Santo Domingo’s slum dwellers, the most frequent targets of the vandalism and kidnappings perpetrated by La Banda. Perez y Perez and Nivar Seijas, both close associates of Balaguer, have clashed frequently over the tactics to be used in repressing the Dominican left. Nivar Seijas went so far as to have fourteen La Band a members arrested last July by an army unit under his command, only to have his action repudiated.

* See Intercontinental Press, September 13, p. 764; September 20, p. 787; and October 11, p. 852 for background material.


1. La Banda was also known as La Banda Colorá in reference to the red rooster used as a symbol of Balaguer’s party, the conservative Partido Reformista.

2. In the original text the name Ruben Dario Sandoval appears as Ruben Daria Sandoval.

3. The newspaper El Nacional de Ahora! appears as El Nacianal de Ahara! in the original text.

4. The newsweekly magazine Ahora! appears as Ahara! In the original text.

5. The newspaper El Diario appears as El Diaria in the original text.