Post Trujillo Dominican Republic

By: Shreya Chandrasekar

Ending of Trujillo's Reign

During Reign

  • Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, was devastated by a hurricane; Trujillo used the disaster as an excuse to impose martial law on all citizens.
  • Imposed "emergency taxes" and even seized the bank accounts of his opposition.
  • Built several monuments in his own honor.
  • Renamed Santo Domingo "Ciudad Trujillo."
  • Trujillo continued to use his power for personal profit. He took total control of all major industries and financial institutions.

During Campaign

  • Organized a secret police force to torture and murder supporters of the opposing candidate. Not surprisingly, Trujillo won the election by a landslide.


  • Wasted no time in setting up a repressive dictatorship with the army as an enforcer and organized a vast network of spies to eliminate any potential opponents.
  • His henchmen did not hesitate to use intimidation, torture, or assassination of political foes to terrify and oppress the population to ensure his rule and amass his fortune.
  • Began to treat the Dominican Republic as his own personal kingdom.
  • Attempted to "whiten" population
  • Great slaughter of the Haitians in the Dominican Republic
  • Number massacred was said to be from 12,000 to 25,000 Haitians

(Poster of Trujillo representing the Dominican Party)

Assassination and Transition


  • Trujillo remained in power for more than 30 years, but toward the end of his reign he succeeded in alienating even his most avid former supporters, including the U.S.
  • The final straw came when he was linked with an abortive assassination attempt against Venezuelan President.
  • A year later, on May 30, 1961, Trujillo 's personal automobile was ambushed by Dominican dissidents from a rendezvous with his mistress, and the dictator and his chauffeur met a violent end.
  • When he died, he was one of the richest men in the world, having amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of $500 million U.S. dollars, including ownership of most of the large industries in the country and a major sector of productive agricultural land.
  • The anniversary date of his assassination, May 30th, is celebrated as a national holiday in the Dominican Republic.


  • Left no designated successor as Puppet President Balaguer remained in office, allowing the late dictator's son, Rafael Trujillo Lovatón (also called Rafael, Jr., or Ramfis), to return from Paris and assume de facto control for 5 months. Ramfis lacked the dynamism of his father, however, and he eventually fell into a dispute with his two uncles over potential liberalization of the regime.
  • The U.S. was putting pressure on him, and on Joaquín Balaguer (who periodically served as president under Trujillo), to democratize. Balaguer allowed the return of exile groups and the formation of opposition parties.

  • Balaguer retained the presidency. As a protégé of the fallen dictator, however, he had neither a power base nor a popular following.

Council of State
  • Popular unrest, punctuated by a general strike, forced Balaguer to share power with a seven-member Council of State, established on January 1, 1962.
  • The council included Balaguer and the two surviving assassins of Trujillo, Antonio Imbert Barrera and Luis Amiama Tío (the others having been slain by Trujillo's security service).
  • The council lasted only sixteen days, however, before air force general Pedro Rodríguez Echavarría overthrew it in a coup d'état.
  • Rodríguez's attempt at rule also foundered on the rocks of popular protest and opposition from the United States.
  • Less senior officers seized the general, deported him, and restored the council minus Balaguer, who had also been exiled.
  • The restored Council of State guided the country until elections could be organized. The leading candidates were Juan Bosch Gaviño of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, and Viriato Fiallo of the National Civic Union
  • Bosch won the election with 64 percent of the vote.

The Bosch administration
  • Was very much an oddity in Dominican history up to that point:
  • A freely elected, liberal, democratic government that expressed concern for the welfare of all Dominicans,
  • The 1963 constitution separated church and state, guaranteed civil and individual rights, and endorsed civilian control of the military.

Legacy of Trujillo

  • Trujillo's rule brought the country more stability and prosperity than any living Dominican had previously known, although civil liberties were nonexistent.
  • Supporters of Trujillo claim that he reorganized both the state and the economy, and left vast infrastructure to the country.
  • Opponents 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.
  • Known for his deep egocentrism:

1) For 25 years, Santo Domingo – the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas – was officially named “Ciudad Trujillo”

2) Under Trujillo, the highest peak in the Dominican Republic (and the Caribbean) was renamed from Pico Duarte to “Pico Trujillo”

3) Trujillo erected hundreds of monuments across the country in his honor, and named numerous cities and public works after himself

  • Despite the atrocities committed by Trujillo, many older Dominicans feel nostalgia for his legacy because of the slowdown of the economy since the 1960s.
  • After his demise, the country has still found it hard to achieve both economic prosperity and firm democratic institutions at the same time.
  • The military still holds a lot of power, as evident by many coup d’etats over the years.