Rafael Leonidas Trujillo came from a humble family in the Dominican Republic. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the National Army where he quickly rose through the military ranks. In 1930, Trujillo ran for the presidency of the Dominican Republic.
His political agenda at the time was to reform education, health care and the struggling Dominican economy. Surprisingly, he won with 95% of the popular vote, but some say that those numbers aren’t correct due to Trujillo’s level of corruption in the government.
Once he was elected President, many changes happened within the Dominican government. The rise of military presence within the country shocked many. Trujillo’s style of government was similar to Mussolini’s fascist Italy. Freedom of speech and opposition towards the government did not exist during his reign. Trujillo had secret camps in the countryside where he would take anti-Trujillo supporters and make them work long hours with little food or sleep. Although, most people who opposed his regime were either jailed or killed.
In October 1937, Trujillo ordered the massacre of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic in retaliation for the discovery and execution by the Haitian government of his most valued covert agents in that country. The Dominican army slaughtered as many as 20,000 largely unarmed men, women, and children.
In 1960 Trujillo tried to assassinate Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt. The OAS (organization of American States) found out about the coupe and held economic sanctions against the Dominican Republic. After the assassination attempt on the Venezuelan president the United States started to see Trujillo as a threat. Originally the United States saw Trujillo as a symbol of strength in the Caribbean, but after the fall of Fugencio Batista (dictator of Cuba) and the rise of communism in Cuba, the United States feared that Trujillo would be overthrown by Dominican Communists.
On May 30, 1961 Trujillo was assassinated and it is speculated that the CIA supplied the weapons. Many believe the orders for execution were sent out directly from Eisenhower. At the height of the Cold War, The United States could not tolerate another communist threat in the region, and nor could the Dominican people.
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