- Category : Politics-Heads-of-state
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Wishes 2
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina October 24, 1891 – May 30, 1961), nicknamed El Jefe, The Chief or The Boss), ruled as a dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. He officially served as president from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1952, otherwise as a military strongman remaining the de facto ruler of the country under figurehead presidents.
His 30 years in power, to Dominicans known as the Trujillo Era (Spanish: La Era de Trujillo), is considered one of the bloodiest ever in the Americas, as well as a time of a classic personality cult, when monuments to Trujillo were in abundance. It has been estimated that Trujillo's tyranical rule was responsible for the death of more than 50,000 people, including 20,000 to 30,000 in the infamous Parsley Massacre.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was born in San Cristóbal to José Trujillo Valdez, a small retailer possibly of Canarian origin, and Altagracia Julia Molina Chevalier, later known as Mamá Julia, who was of Afro-Dominican ancestry. Trujillo later suppressed knowledge of his mother's ancestry due to his policy of ethnic cleansing of Afro-Dominican and Haitian immigrants. He was born the third of eleven children. His siblings were Rosa María Julieta, Virgilio, José "Petan" Arismendy, Amable "Pipi" Romero, Aníbal Julio, Nieves.
Trujillo's childhood was uneventful. At six he was registered in the school of Juan Hilario Meriño. One year later he transferred to the school of Broughton, where he was a pupil of Eugenio María de Hostos, and remained there for the rest of his primary school.
At sixteen Trujillo got a job as a telegraph operator. He became a member of "The 42", a small gang.
Trujillo worked for two years in the paper industry, eventually as a guarda campestre.
On August 13, 1913 Trujillo married Aminta Ledesma, a reputable young girl from his hometown of San Cristóbal. They had two daughters: Genoveva, who was born and died in 1914, and Flor de Oro Trujillo Ledesma, born in 1915 and who later married Porfirio Rubirosa. The marriage between Trujillo and Aminta Ledesma, not mentioned in later official biographies, ended in a divorce in 1925.
On March 30, 1927, Trujillo married Bienvenida Ricardo, a girl from Montecristi and the daughter of Buenaventura Ricardo Heureaux. A year later he met María de los Angeles Martínez Alba "la españolita", and had an affair with her. He divorced Bienvenida in 1935 and married Martínez. A year later he had a daughter with Bienvenida, named Odette Trujillo Ricardo.
Trujillo's three children with María Martínez were Rafael Leonidas Ramfis born on June 5, 1929, María de los Angeles del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus (Angelita), born in Paris on June 10, 1939, and Leonidas Rhadamés, born on December 1, 1942. Ramfis and Rhadamés were named after characters in Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida.
In 1937, Trujillo met Lina Lovatón Pittaluga, an upper-class debutante with whom he had two children, Yolanda in 1939, and Rafael, born on June 20, 1943.
Two of Trujillo's brothers, Héctor and José Arismendy, held positions in his government. José Arismendy Trujillo oversaw the creation of "La Voz Dominicana", the main radio station and later, the television station which became the fourth in the continent.
Rise to power
In the year 1916, the U.S. occupied the island due to threats of defaulting on foreign debts. The occupying force soon established a Dominican army constabulary to restore order. Trujillo joined the National Guard in 1919 and trained with the U.S. Marines. Seeing opportunity, Trujillo impressed the recruiters and was promoted from lieutenant to general in only 9 years.
A rebellion against President Horacio Vásquez broke out in 1930 in Santiago. Trujillo secretly cut a deal with rebel leader Rafael Estrella Ureña; in return for allowing Estrella to take power, Trujillo would be allowed to run for president in new elections. As the rebels marched toward Santo Domingo, Vásquez ordered Trujillo to suppress them. However, Trujillo, feigning "neutrality," kept his men in barracks, allowing Estrella's rebels to take the capital virtually unmolested. Estrella was proclaimed as acting president. Trujillo then became the nominee of the newly-formed Dominican Party in the 1930 presidential election. However, he was the only candidate allowed to actually campaign. Army harassment forced the other candidates to withdraw. When the election was finally held on May 16, Trujillo proclaimed victory with an implausible 95 percent of the vote. A judge actually declared the election fraudulent, but was forced to flee. It later surfaced that Trujillo received thousands more votes than there were actual voters.
On August 16, the then 38-year-old general took office, wearing a sash with the motto, "Dios y Trujillo" (God & Trujillo). He immediately assumed dictatorial powers.
Three weeks after Trujillo's ascension to the Presidency the destructive Hurricane San Zenon hit Santo Domingo and left more than 3,000 dead. With relief money from the American Red Cross, he rebuilt the city. On August 16, 1931, the first anniversary of his inauguration, Trujillo made the Dominican Party the nation's sole legal political party; however, the country had effectively been a one-party state since Trujillo's swearing in. Government employees were required to "donate" 10 percent of their salary to the national treasury, and there was strong pressure on adult citizens to join the party. Party members were required to carry a membership card, the "palmita", and a person could be arrested for vagrancy without one. Those who did not contribute, or join the party, did so at their own risk. Opponents of the regime were mysteriously killed. In 1934, Trujillo, who had promoted himself to generalissimo of the army, was up for re-election. By this time, there was no organized opposition left in the country, and he was elected as the sole candidate on the ballot. In extension to the widely rigged (and regularly uncontested) elections, which never saw a functioning opposition, he instated "civic reviews", with large crowds shouting their loyalty to the government.
In 1936, at the suggestion of Mario Fermín Cabral, Congress voted overwhelmingly to change the name of the capital from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo. The province of San Cristobal was changed to "Trujillo", and the nation's highest peak, Pico Duarte, was renamed Pico Trujillo. Statues of "El Jefe" were mass-produced and erected across the Republic, and bridges and public buildings were named in his honor. The nation's newspapers had praise for Trujillo as part of the front page, and license plates included slogans such as "¡Viva Trujillo!" and "Año Del Benefactor De La Patria" (Year of the Benefactor of the Nation.) An electric sign was erected in Ciudad Trujillo so that "Dios y Trujillo" could be seen at night as well as in the day. Eventually, even churches were required to post the slogan "Dios en cielo, Trujillo en tierra" (God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth). As time went on, the order of the phrases was reversed (Trujillo on Earth, God in Heaven). Trujillo was recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize by his admirers, but the committee declined the suggestion.
Trujillo was eligible to run again in 1938, but, citing the U.S. example of two presidential terms, he stated: "I voluntarily, and against the wishes of my people, refuse re-election to the high office." In fact, a vigorous reelection campaign had been launched in the middle of 1937 but the international uproar that followed the Haitian massacre later that year forced Trujillo to announce his "return to private life". Consequently, the Dominican Party nominated Trujillo's handpicked successor, 71 year old vice-president Jacinto Peynado, with Manuel de Jesús Troncoso as his running mate. They appeared alone on the ballot in the 1938 election. Retaining his positions as "Generalissimo" and leader of the Dominican Party, Trujillo only nominally ceded control to President Peynado. Peynado increased the size of the electric "Dios y Trujillo" sign and died on March 7, 1940, with Troncoso serving out the rest of the term. However, in 1942, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt having run for a third term in the United States, Trujillo ran for president again and was elected unopposed. He served for two terms, which he had lengthened to five years each. In 1952, he ceded the presidency to his brother, Héctor.
Brutal oppression of actual or perceived members of any opposition was the key feature of Trujillo's rule right from the beginning in 1930 when his gang, "The 42", under its leader Miguel Angel Paulino, drove through the streets in their red Packard “carro de la muerte” (“car of death”). Imprisonments and killings were later handled by the SIM, the Servicio de Inteligencia Militar, efficiently organized by Johnny Abbes. Some cases reached international notoriety such as the Galindez case and the murder of the Mirabal sisters further eroding Trujillo's critical support by the US government and the Catholic Church.
Trujillo was known for his open-door policy, accepting Jewish refugees from Europe, Japanese migration during the 1930s, and exiles from Spain following its civil war. He developed a uniquely Dominican policy of racial discrimination, Antihaitianismo ("anti-Haitianism"), targeting the mostly-black inhabitants of his neighboring country and those within the Platano Curtain, including many darker Dominican citizens. At the 1938 Evian Conference the Dominican Republic was the only country willing to accept many Jews and offered to accept up to 100,000 refugees on generous terms. In 1940 an agreement was signed and Trujillo donated 26,000 acres (110 km2) of his properties for settlements. The first settlers arrived in May 1940; eventually some 800 settlers came to Sosua and most moved later on to the United States.
Refugees from Europe broadened the Dominican Republic's tax base and added more whites to the predominately mixed-race nation. The government favored white refugees over others while Dominican troops expelled illegal aliens, resulting in the 1937 Parsley Massacre of Haitian immigrants.
The Trujillo regime greatly expanded the Vedado del Yaque, a nature reserve around the Yaque del Sur River. In 1934 he created the nation's first national park, banned the slash and burn method of clearing land for agriculture, set up a forest warden agency to protect the park system, and banned the logging of pine trees without his permission. In the 1950s the Trujillo regime commissioned a study on the hydroelectric potential of damming the Dominican Republic's waterways. The commission concluded that only forested waterways could support hydroelectric dams, so Trujillo banned logging in potential river watersheds. After his assassination in 1961, logging resumed in the Dominican Republic. Squatters burned down the forests for agriculture, and logging companies clear-cut parks. In 1967, President Joaquín Balaguer launched military strikes against illegal logging.
Trujillo's tended toward a peaceful coexistence with the United States government. During World War II Trujillo sided with the Allies and declared war on Germany and Japan on December 11, 1941. While there was no military participation, the Dominican Republic thus became a founding member of the United Nations. Trujillo encouraged diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S., but his policies often caused friction with other nations of Latin America, especially Costa Rica and Venezuela. He maintained friendly relations with Franco of Spain, Perón of Argentina, and Somoza of Nicaragua. Towards the end of his rule, his relationship with the United States deteriorated.
Trujillo paid special attention to improving the armed forces. Military personnel received generous pay and perks under his rule, and their ranks as well as equipment inventories expanded. Trujillo maintained control over the officer corps through fear, patronage, and the frequent rotation of assignments, which inhibited the development of strong personal followings. The establishment of state monopolies over all major enterprises in the country brought riches to the Trujillos through price manipulation and embezzlement.
Early on, Trujillo determined that the financial affairs of the Dominican Republic needed to be put in order, and that included the termination of the role of the United States as the administrator of Dominican customs- a situation which had existed since 1905- and finances — a situation that had existed since 1924. Negotiations started in 1936 and lasted four years. On September 24, 1940, Trujillo and Cordell Hull signed the Hull-Trujillo Treaty whereby the United States relinquished its control of customs and finances and the Dominican Republic made arrangements to repay its debts. The treaty went to effect, after the Dominican government paid off its debts to the United States, on February 15, 1941.
Haiti, the smaller but more densely populated country of the island, had invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic from 1822-44. Encroachment by Haiti was an ongoing process, and when Trujillo took over, specifically the northwest border region became more and more "Haitianized". The actual border itself was poorly defined. In 1933 Trujillo met the Haitian President Stenio Vincent to settle the border issue. By 1936 a settlement was reached and signed. At the same time, Trujillo tried to plot against the Haitian government by linking up with General Calixte, Commander of the Garde d'Haiti, and Elie Lescot, at that time the Haitian ambassador in Ciudad Trujillo (Santo Domingo). After the settlement, when further border incursions occurred, the Parsley Massacre was initiated by Trujillo.
Main article: Parsley Massacre
In 1937, claiming that Haiti was harboring his former Dominican opponents, Trujillo ordered an attack on the border, slaughtering tens of thousands of Haitians as they tried to escape. The number of the dead is still unknown, though it is now calculated between 20,000 and 30,000.
The Haitian response was muted, but eventually called for an international investigation. Under pressure from Washington, Trujillo agreed to a reparation settlement in January 1938 that involved the payment of US$750,000. By the next year the amount had been reduced to US$525,000 (US$ 8,487,500 in 2013); 30 dollars per victim, of which only 2 cents were given to survivors, due to corruption in the Haitian bureaucracy.
In 1941, Lescot, who had received financial support from Trujillo, succeeded Vincent as President of Haiti. Trujillo expected Lescot to be a puppet, but Lescot turned against him. Trujillo unsuccessfully tried to assassinate him in a 1944 plot, and then published their correspondence and discredited him. Lescot was exiled after a 1946 palace coup.
In 1947 Dominican exiles, including Juan Bosch, had concentrated in Cuba. With the approval and support of the Grau government, an expeditionary force was trained with the intention of invading the Dominican Republic and overthrowing Trujillo; however, international pressure, including from the United States, led to the abortion of the expedition. In turn, when Fulgencio Batista was in power, Trujillo initially supported anti-Batista supporters of Prio in Oriente in 1955, however weapons Trujillo sent were soon inherited by Castro's insurgents when Prio allied with Castro. After 1956, when Trujillo saw that Castro was gaining ground, he started to support Batista with money, planes, equipment, and men. Trujillo, convinced that Batista would prevail, was very surprised when he showed up as a fugitive after being ousted. Trujillo kept Batista until August 1959 as a "virtual prisoner". Only after paying between three to four million dollars could Batista leave for Portugal, which had granted him a visa.
Castro made threats to overthrow Trujillo, and Trujillo responded by increasing the budget for national defense. A foreign legion was formed to defend Haiti, as it was expected that Castro might invade the Haitian part of the island first and remove Duvalier as well. A Cuban plane with 56 fighting men landed near Constanza on Sunday, June 14, 1959, and six days later more invaders brought by two yachts landed at the north coast. However, the Dominican Army prevailed.
In turn, in August 1959, Johnny Abbes attempted to support an anti-Castro group led by Escambray near Trinidad, Cuba. The attempt, however, was thwarted when Cuban troops surprised a plane he had sent when it was unloading its cargo.
By the late 1950s, opposition to Trujillo's regime was starting to build to a fever pitch. A younger generation of Dominicans had been born who had no memory of the instability and poverty that had preceded him. Many clamored for democratization. The Trujillo regime responded with greater repression. The Military Intelligence Service (SIM) secret police, led by Johnny Abbes, remained as ubiquitous as before. Other nations ostracized the Dominican Republic, compounding the dictator's paranoia.
Trujillo began to interfere more and more in the domestic affairs of neighboring countries. He expressed great contempt for Venezuela's president Rómulo Betancourt; an established and outspoken opponent of Trujillo, Betancourt associated with Dominicans who had plotted against the dictator. Trujillo developed an obsessive personal hatred of Betancourt and supported numerous plots by Venezuelan exiles to overthrow him. This pattern of intervention led the Venezuelan government to take its case against Trujillo to the Organization of American States (OAS), a move which infuriated Trujillo, who ordered his agents to plant a bomb in Betancourt's car. The assassination attempt, carried out on Friday, June 24, 1960, injured but did not kill the Venezuelan president.
The Betancourt incident inflamed world opinion against Trujillo. Outraged OAS members voted unanimously to sever diplomatic relations with his government and impose economic sanctions on the Dominican Republic. The brutal murder on Friday, November 25, 1960, of the three Mirabal sisters, Patria, María Teresa and Minerva, who opposed Trujillo's dictatorship, further increased discontent with his repressive rule. The dictator had become an embarrassment to the United States, and relations became especially strained after the Betancourt incident.
Trujillo's "central arch" was his instinct for power. This was coupled with an intense desire for money, which he recognized as a source of and support for power. Up at four in the morning, he exercised, studied the newspaper, read many reports, and completed papers prior to breakfast; at the office by nine, he continued his work, and took lunch by noon. After a walk, he continued to work until 7:30 PM. After dinner, he attended functions, held discussions, or was driven around incognito in the city "observing and remembering." Until Santo Domingo's National Palace was built in 1947 he worked out of the Casas Reales, the colonial-era Viceregal center of administration. Today the building is a museum; on display are his desk and chair, along with a massive collection of arms and armor that he bought. He was methodical, punctual, secretive, and guarded; he had no true friends, only associates and acquaintances. For his associates, his actions towards them were unpredictable.
Trujillo and his family amassed enormous wealth. He acquired cattle lands on a grand scale, and went into meat and milk production, operations that soon evolved into monopolies. Salt, sugar, tobacco, lumber, and the lottery were other industries dominated by him or members of his family. By 1937 Trujillo's annual income was about $1.5 million.; at the time of his death the state took over 111 Trujillo-owned companies. His love of fine and ostentatious clothing was displayed in elaborate uniforms and suits, of which he collected almost two thousand. Known to be fond of neckties, he amassed a collection of over ten thousand of them. Trujillo doused himself with perfume and liked gossip. His sexual appetite was enormous, and he preferred mulatto women with full bodies, later tending more to "very young" women. Women were supplied and procured by many who sought his favors, and later he had an official on his Palace staff to organize the sessions. Typically encounters lasted once or twice, but favorites were kept for longer terms. If women were unwilling to submit, Trujillo would know how to apply pressure on the family to get his way.
Trujillo was a baseball lover who invited many black American players to the Dominican Republic, where, though carefully minded by armed guards, they received good pay for playing on first-class, un-segregated teams. The great Negro League star Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige pitched for Los Dragones of Ciudad Trujillo, a team organized by Trujillo. Paige would later claim, jokingly, that his guards positioned themselves "like a firing squad" to encourage him to pitch well. After winning the 1937 Dominican championship at Estadia Trujillo in Ciudad Trujillo, Paige and his American teammates left the country without delay.
Trujillo was energetic and fit. He was generally quite healthy, but suffered from chronic lower urinary infections and, later, prostate problems. In 1934, Dr. Georges Marion was called from Paris to perform three urologic procedures on Trujillo.
Over time Trujillo acquired numerous homes. His favorite was Casa Caobas, on Estancia Fundacion near San Cristóbal. He also used Estancia Ramfis (which, after 1953, became the Foreign Office), Estancia Rhadames, and a home at Playa de Najayo. Less frequently he stayed at places he owned in Santiago, Constanza, La Cumbre, San Jose de las Matas, and elsewhere. He maintained a penthouse at the Embajador Hotel in the capital.
While Trujillo was nominally a Roman Catholic, his devotion was limited to a perfunctory role in public affairs; he placed faith in local folk religion.
He was popularly known as "El Jefe" ("The Chief") or "El Benefactor" ("The Benefactor"), but was privately referred to as Chapitas ("Bottlecaps") because of his indiscriminate wearing of medals. Dominican children emulated El Jefe by constructing toy medals from bottle caps. He was also known as "el chivo" ("the goat").
On Tuesday, May 30, 1961 Trujillo was shot and killed when his blue Chevrolet Bel Air was ambushed on a road outside the Dominican capital. He was the victim of an ambush plotted by a number of men among them General Juan Tomás Díaz, Antonio de la Maza, Amado García Guerrero, and General Antonio Imbert Barrera. The plotters, however, failed to take control as the later-to-be-executed General José ("Pupo") Román betrayed his co-conspirators by his inactivity, and contingency plans had not been made. On the other side, Johnny Abbes, Roberto Figueroa Carrión, and the Trujillo family put the SIM to work to hunt down the members of the plot and brought back Ramfis Trujillo from Paris to step into his father's shoes. The response by SIM was swift and brutal. Hundreds of suspects were detained, many tortured. On November 18 the last executions took place when six of the conspirators were executed at the "Hacienda Maria Massacre". Imbert was the only one of the seven assassins who survived the manhunt.
Trujillo's funeral was that of a statesman with the long procession ending in his hometown of San Cristóbal, where his body was first buried. President Joaquín Balaguer gave the eulogy. The efforts of the Trujillo family to keep control of the country ultimately failed. A military uprising in November and the threat of American intervention set the final stage and ended the Trujillo regime. Ramfis tried to flee with his father's body upon his boat Angelita, but was turned back. Balaguer allowed Ramfis to leave the country and to relocate his father's body to Paris. There the remains were interred in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise on August 14, 1964, and six years later moved to the El Pardo cemetery near Madrid, Spain.
The role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the killing has been debated. Imbert insists that the plotters acted on their own. In a report to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, CIA officials described the agency as having "no active part" in the assassination and only a "faint connection" with the groups that planned the killing. Another internal CIA memorandum states that an Office of Inspector General investigation into Trujillo's murder disclosed "quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters." The weapons of the assassins included three M1 carbines that had been supplied by the CIA.
Trujillo's rule brought the country more stability and prosperity than any living Dominican had previously known. The price, however, was high—civil liberties were nonexistent. Supporters of Trujillo claim that he reorganized both the state and the economy, and left vast infrastructure to the country. His detractors point to the brutality of his rule, and also claim that much of the country's wealth wound up in the hands of his family or close associates.