40 years since the suicide of President Antonio Guzmán

43 days before the end of his mandate, the 59th president of the Republic committed suicide in his office at the National Palace, an event that marked Dominican history.

Silvestre Antonio Guzman Fernandez, who had assumed power on August 16, 1978, died four decades ago, on a day like today, specifically in 1982.

The stories of the time narrate that Guzmán entered his private bathroom in the National Palace and closed the door from the inside, and then committed suicide with a shot to the head. That marked the threshold of a tragedy that would fill with pain to the presidential family, unease to an entire government and uncertainty to Dominican society.

The hypotheses about the reasons that led to his death they are varied. From alleged rumors of acts of corruption committed by his most trusted officials and relatives; Rumors of depression, sadness and loneliness, even threats that he would be subjected by the government that would replace him with legal proceedings for alleged irregular handling of his management.

Although relatives give greater weight to the fact that the then president was suffering from depression “overwhelmed by state problems”; historians, journalists and close friends have aired various versions of the reason that led him to take his 38-caliber revolver and end his life.

This successful businessman, dedicated to the export of national fruits and agricultural production, came to the State as Secretary of Agriculture in the ephemeral and overthrown government of Juan Bosch. After the fall of Bosch’s mandate, he joined the national executive committee and the political commission of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), which he had joined in 1961.

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Apparently his destiny was the presidency of the Republic, they had already proposed when during the April war he was offered to be the provisional head of state. This was called the “Guzman Formula”presented in 1965 and which made it more popular among citizens, suggested as a means of achieving an end to the hostilities of the socio-political moment in which the country was experiencing and reaching free elections.

However, due to their very struggle for democratic elections, rejected the proposal and took part in the Mediation Commission that culminated in the temporary swearing-in of Héctor García Godoy.


In 1977, the Ninth National Convention of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) chose him as a candidate for the presidency and, more than ten years after that proposal for a provisional mandate, he was elected in the general elections of May 1978.

He took office on August 16 of that same year, immediately starting a whole set of changes that marked his management as one in which the first winds of true democracy blew, with measures such as the release of political prisoners and the reception of all exiles and exiles from the country with the promulgation of the Amnesty Law.

Likewise, it made changes in the bureaucratic order, whose main objective was to put an end to the corruption with which the previous government was branded. In addition, he began a process of “depoliticization” of the Armed Forces and the National Police.

His life

Guzmán was born in La Vega on February 12, 1911, the son of Silvestre Guzmán Pérez and Jimena Fernández de Castro.

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He married Renée Klang in 1939 with whom he had two children: Ivan, who stood out as an agronomist and died in a traffic accident in 1970, and Sonia, who currently serves as the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United States. However, prior to this marriage she had conceived another daughter.



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