Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, also known as “El Jefe” (the Chief), was the self appointed dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.
Trujillo entered the Dominican army in 1918 and was trained by the U.S. Marine during U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916-1924. After quickly rising through the ranks, Trujillo seized power in the military revolt against President Horacio Vasquez in 1930.
He officially served as president from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1952, although his means of ruling were far from being considered presidential. During the interim periods, Trujillo left certain ceremonial affairs of state to “puppet presidents” including his brother, Hector Trujillo Molina. Trujillo never tested his personal popularity in a free election.
From 1930 until his assassination, Trujillo remained in absolute control of the Dominican Republic through his command of the army. He employed the use of patronage, constant fear, and a frequent rotation of officer assignments in order to discourage personal followings for individuals other than himself.
Much of the country lived in fear of Trujillo’s unspeakable brutality, imprisonment without trial, and torture. Trujillo maintained a highly effective secret police force trained to monitor and “eliminate” anti-government groups and individuals when necessary.
Trujillo was able to secure a degree of peace and prosperity for the republic. That peace and prosperity however, were inequitably distributed in favor of Trujillo and his supporters. As a result, the country suffered a loss of civil and political liberties during his dictatorship.
The Mirabal sisters fervently opposed the dictatorship of Trujillo. On November 25, 1960, Trujillo sent men to intercept the women after they visited the prison where their husbands were being held. The sisters were led into a sugar cane field and executed.
Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961 in Santo Domingo. United States officials disagree to the extent to which the CIA knew about or helped to facilitate the ambush.
(Adapted from Elizabeth Shaffer’s Informational flyers)