Each week night, for half an hour beginning at 7, a torrent of abuse pours onto the Dominican airwaves as "The Voice of the Workers and Peasants . . . the Program of the Poor" takes the government to task.
The highlight of the show is an editorial, presented in tones that run from cynical disbelief to righteous indignation. "The image of this government as a defender of democracy and human rights," began a recent offering, "lasted less time than a cockroach in a henhouse."
At 71, writer Juan Bosch still can turn a scathing phrase. And while the targets of his nightly ire include the U.S. government, the Western economic system, and the rich and privileged, he reserves his harshest commentary for the political movement he founded four decades ago, the now ruling Dominican Revolutionary Party.
It is nearly 20 years since Bosch became a household word in the U.S. foreign policy vocabulary -- only to vanish just as suddenly after the U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic and after Americans turned attention to such bigger problems as the war in Southeast Asia. Today he occupies a unique place in the tangled thicket of Dominican politics.
Here, Bosch still makes the front pages. His radio broadcasts are widely listened to, his criticisms attended. There is little possibility that he will ever again assume national public office, but many Dominicans consider him the "conscience of the nation."
In 1963, Bosch became the first elected president after 31 years of tyranny under the Trujillo dictatorship. He wrote the island nation one of the most liberal constitutions in the hemisphere and rode on the crest of democracy -- embodied by his friends Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela and Jose Figueres in Cost Rica -- then sweeping Latin America.
Seven months later, he was overthrown and exiled by combined military and conservative political forces that Bosch now says were promoted by the United States. It was in Bosch's name that the 1965 constitutionalist revolt was launched.
U.S. fear that the revolt might put in power communist-backed elements brought more than 25,000 American troops here and shattered the Good Neighbor Policy of nonintervention in Latin America.
By the time he returned in 1970 from a second exile, it appeared that Boisch's moment in Dominican history had begun to pass. His political movement, the Dominican Revolutionary Party, had moved to the left while in opposition to the conservative government of the time. Despite the charges by American conservatives that he was a communist, Bosch spoke of a program of "national dignity" that would join forces of the right and left under Bosch-led populism.
"He thought the masses would come with him," said a Dominican political analyst, "but they didn't." His party, sensing the changing hemispheric priorities and possibilities, began to drift closer to the center, just as Bosch, around 1976, proclaimed himself a Marxist.
In elections two years ago, the now U.S.-backed Dominican Revolutionary Party reclaimed the presidency it had lost under Bosch 15 years before. However, the former party leader and guiding light was heading a marginal third force, the Dominican Liberation Party.
Today, Bosch says he no longer believes in representative democracy, or his old party, or the possibility that a Latin American country can be free as long as the United States dominates the hemisphere.
Over the past several years, he said in an interview, he has "dedicated myself to understanding the origins" of the failure of the "popular movement" here. His new party has "no political campaign" and is not interested in elections except as a forum for "organizing Dominicans . . . to create a force" that will rise up when "political circumstances require its presence."
White-haired and bespectacled, but with a vigor belying his years, Bosch lives in a modest second-floor walk-up apartment in Santo Domingo, barely a block from the U.S. Embassy.
Although he speaks little English, the walls of his office are lined with shelves of current U.S. policy analyses -- from Henry Kissinger's memoirs to "Sideshow," William Shawcross' condemnation of the Richard Nixon-Kissinger role in Cambodia -- which he painstakingly reads with the help of a thick Spanish-English dictionary.
Above his desk hangs a large photograph of Bosch and Fidel Castro, chatting informally on a sofa.
Here he prepares his radio broadcasts, scours government statements and budgets for points of attack, answers letters and receives the constant flow of visitors who seek his counsel, thinks about his past and gets angry.
The current government of his old party led by President Antonio Guzman, Bosch said, "has been a failure . . . It has spent more money than any government in history, but nobody knows what has been done with it."
Both the Dominican economy and Guzman's popularity currently are at low points, and many here agree with Bosch's analysis. But he said he is under no illusions that the masses know what to do about it.
"Everybody in this country wants something -- to be president, to be rich, to buy a new duty-free car. The masses vote for whomever they think can solve their problems. I don't know a single Marxist worker here. No one.
"I was a Democrat. I believed in democracy . . . but it doesn't function here. A country like this can never solve its problems while it does not make itself independent of U.S. power. Look at the example of Chile, that's enough to explain it. Look at [Jacobo] Arbenz in Guatemala," overthrown by CIA-backed military forces in 1954. "There was nothing communist about Arbenz."
President Carter, Bosch said, "has been the most advanced" of U.S. presidents, "not so much for political as moral reasons." But even Carter, he maintained, is a puppet of multinational companies and "the U.S. government is nothing more than a board of directors of big companies."
Contrary to most historical accounts of his overthrow, and at variance even with some of his own earlier analysis of events, Bosch now contends that the United States arranged his 1963 downfall because, as president, he had discovered the presence in the Dominican Republic of U.S. guerrilla training camps where Haitians were being organized to overthrow dictator Francois Duvalier in neighboring Haiti.
Although there is reason to believe that, following the failure of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the United States considered both Bosch and Duvalier to be unreliable allies for further action against Castro, most historians attribute the Dominican coup more to internal machinations.
"I was elected for four years as president of a republic," he said, "and I served for seven months. I was overthrown by a coup organized by the U.S. mission here. I was head of a popular movement that wanted to return the Dominican Republic to its constitution while U.S. troops occupied the country. The United States wanted to get rid of me."
While many in the Dominican Republic share his bitterness, for most, time and the demanding pragmatism of hemispheric Realpolitik appear to have healed old wounds, Still, Bosch chips away, and when he speaks, Dominicans listen, out of respect for what he was in their history and for the uncompromising and uncorrupt nationalism he symbolizes here.
They describe him as a "brilliant politician," but many among even his most ardent sympathizers considered him an "inept executive" who demanded too much from a nation just barely emerged from three decades of dictatorship. They consider his current vendetta against his old party to be counterproductive and a distraction from more deep-seated national problems.
But "he is given more honor than anyone in the country," said one local political analyst, "and in spite of all his errors, he remains respected. Nobody can charge a single death" against his presidency and "nobody can say he ever took a cent."