“”He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.
|—Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Trujillo (Well, it was either him or Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza García. Or something that was actually never said at all.)|
Rafael Leonidas "El Jefe" Trujillo Molina (October 24, 1891 – May 30, 1961) was the dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961; his rule ended with his assassination. He officially served as president from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1952, ruling for the rest of his life as a Caudillo,[note 1] an unelected military strongman pulling the strings of figurehead presidents.
Nicknamed El Jefe (e.g. "The Boss"), Trujillo's rule was contemporaneous, in whole or in part, with *deep breath* Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Anastasio Somoza García (and his son Luis Somoza Debayle) in Nicaragua, Jorge Ubico and Carlos Castillo Armas in Guatemala, Hernández Martínez in El Salvador, Carías Andino in Honduras, Juan Vicente Gómez and Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela, Rojas Pinilla in Colombia, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay and François "Papa Doc" Duvalier in Haiti.
Among all those guys, Trujillo is seen as the worst. According to Wikipedia "His rule brought more stability and prosperity in the Dominican Republic than any living Dominican had known before, with a price. Civil liberties were nonexistent and human rights violations were routine... while much of the country's wealth wound up in the hands of his family or close associates."
Born to José Trujillo Valdez and Altagracia Julia Molina Chevalier, Trujillo was one of eleven children and third eldest. At 16, he became a member of "The 42", a small gang known for their "car of death", from which they performed drive-by shootings.
In 1916, the United States occupied the Dominican Republic as political instability threatened American holdings in the country. The Americans established a Dominican army constabulary, meant to impose its order as the occupying force. Trujillo joined the National Guard in 1918, two years after the occupation, and trained with the U.S. Marines. Trujillo was promoted from lieutenant to general and commander-in chief of the Army in only 9 years.
A rebellion against President Horacio Vásquez broke out in February 1930 in Santiago. Trujillo formed a pact 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. When Vásquez ordered Trujillo to suppress the rebels as they marched on Santiago, Trujillo kept his men in barracks, allowing Estrella's rebels to take the capital virtually unmolested.
On March 3, Estrella was proclaimed acting president with Trujillo confirmed as head of the police and the army. Predictably, Estrella was pushed to the sideline by Trujillo; the latter became the presidential nominee of the newly-formed Patriotic Coalition of Citizens (Spanish: Coalición patriotica de los ciudadanos), with the former as little more than a vice-presidential nominee. Army harassment forced the other candidates to withdraw.
When the election was finally held, the Trujillo-Estrella ticket was proclaimed victorious with an implausible 99 percent of the vote. According to the American ambassador, Trujillo received more votes than actual voters. He had been jailing opponents even before his swearing-in.
One of the more infamous traits of the man was that he was a serial rapist, forcing young women to sleep with him. In true Caligula style he would basically force his associates and other rich families in the area to hand over their daughters to him if he heard they were attractive. Trujillo's son, Ramfis Trujillo, is also known to have been a sadistic serial rapist. Rafael Trujillo was assassinated by a coup which may or may not be orchestrated by the CIA,[note 2] proving that even those assholes have standards (unless they didn't).
Trujillo also promoted anti-Haitian racism, viewing them as inferior to Dominicans, and encouraged by the incompetence of the Haitian government and the recent withdrawal of the US military, engaged in a massacre against Haitians in 1937. The event, known as the Parsley massacre , involved the Dominican military bludgeoning and bayonetting 15,000-20,000 Haitians to death, before throwing their bodies into the sea as shark food. It is named after the common misconception that the Dominican military used the pronunciation of the shibboleth perejil (Spanish for parsley) to identify whether the would be victims are French speaking Black Haitians, or Spanish speaking Black Dominicans. In reality, the killers weren't that discriminating in their killings.