Rafael Leonidas Trujillo rose to power in the Dominican Republic, ruled from 1930 to 1961, and practiced a dictatorial type of supremacy. Several factors contributed to the reign of Trujillo and the kind of political leadership he practiced in the Dominican Republic. This paper looks at the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, in relation to the factors that led to his assent to power, the development and main characteristics of his rule and the reasons that led to the annihilation of his rule. The paper also considers the social, political and economic characteristics in each stage of his ascendancy.
A number of factors facilitated Trujillo's rise to power, as the Dominican president. The first factor involves the occupation of the island by the United States of America, for a period of eight years, at the beginning of the nineteenth century contributed to the rise in power of Trujillo. The united sates had come to offer help to the Dominican Republic. The United States of American government sponsored reforms that would ensure that the Dominican Republic becomes independent. However, the effects of the actions of the United States of American government made it possible for Trujillo to rise in power. In the 1920s, the United States started retrieving its military from the Dominican Republic following the international opposition. This gradually transformed to good neighbor policy that Roosevelt practiced. This happened unintentionally, but it combined with Dominican domestic policies and the noninterventionist character of United States of America to offer a chance for Trujillo, the head of the established military in Dominican Republic to take power and consolidate his grip on it (Hartlyn 24).
At that time, the Dominican Republic had a neo-patrimonial pattern based on clientele and personality patterns of rule. President Vasquez tried to change the electoral laws to enable him become the president for two more years. He did this to ensure that the opposition could hardly win. Trujillo played a significant role to ensure that Vasquez could not win the elections again. This led to a war between Trujillo and another group. The group that Trujillo led formed one political party and the other group developed another political party. Trujillo used the army to repress the JSE. This made the JSE resign nine days to the elections. The other party had withdrawn from the elections one day before it happened. Trujillo received a victory of ninety nine percent.
The third factor involved the policy that the state department espoused about nonintervention. Trujillo knew that the United States of America would only accept his presidency, only if it occurred through elections. Therefore, he had to set up his strategy carefully. The rise to power of Trujillo and the consolidation occurred because of the connection in the above factors (Hartlyn 24).
The evolution of the regime that Trujillo led stirred beyond the Dominican Causilo regimes, to make its neo-sultanistic tendencies clear, when he completed his first term. Towards the end of his second term, the totalitarian features moved beyond Heureaux. Occasional liberations existed in response to the pressure leveled by international countries. The regime that Trujillo led had many characteristics. The first characteristic involved the deterioration of the financial stability of the country happened. This happened because Trujillo concentrated on establishing personal power and national consolidation. Trujillo got sweeping emergency powers after a cyclone hit the capital city. He used this to make his grip firm.
Trujillo concentrated on accumulating personal wealth to the extent of naming the Pico Duarte Mountain and the capital city, Santo Domingo, after his name. Trujillo introduced monopolies that made him the richest person, in the country (Gleijeses 46).
Trujillo abolished all other parties that existed in the Dominican Republic. Despite the fact that he stepped aside in 1938, he came back to power in the 1940s. He maintained control over the military forces even when he got out of the presidential office, in 1938. He used the armed forces to confront any challenge that he faced. For instance, he massacred Haitians using the military, in 1937 and led to almost twelve thousand deaths.
The regime did not function with repression only. Trujillo asserted a vision of work, discipline, order, progress and peace. Trujillo worked with economic nationalism. Despite the fact that the country depended on USA because of its troubles, Trujillo worked hard and paid all foreign debts, opened a central bank and introduced a currency that replaced the United States dollar. Economically, Trujillo abused power, offered threats and practiced co-optation.
Politically, Trujillo combined cynicism, ruthlessness, guile and co-optation. He manipulated constitutional norms and legal needs that people followed. His one party rule ensured that no person challenged his rule. He appraised local needs and potential threats to his rule. His political rule led to conspiracy and distrust. Trujillo ensured that he kept his opponents away by instilling fear on them.
The regime that Trujillo led ended because several factors contributed towards its dismantling. First, the economic stagnation contributed highly towards his failure. The economic instability that existed prior to his assassination required democratic evolution. The fact that Trujillo had accumulated seventy percent of wealth in the country to himself made his followers and former friends organize a coup against him and his regime. Trujillo faced assassination and his family members took over his regime and leadership, for instance, his brothers and son. However, due to international and internal pressure, they surrendered and the first free and fair elections happened, in 1962 (Skidmore, Et.al 111)
Rafael Trujillo practiced dictatorship throughout his rule. Trujillo had control over the military that helped him solve the challenges that he faced. He spent time accumulating wealth and safeguarding power rather than initiating development projects that would benefit the entire Dominican republic population. The economic downfall in the Dominican republic contributed to the failure of his regime, in a significant manner. His assassination marked the end of his regime.
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In 1930, a group of rebels under the leadership of Rafael Estrella Urena planned to overthrow Dominican President Horacio Vasquez for disregarding the constitution by extending his presidential term. General Trujillo, with whom Urena had previously made an arrangement, held his troops back as the revolution unfolded, maintaining his neutrality. With Vasquez in exile and the power of government up for grabs, Trujillo eliminated his political rivals through intimidation or force and won the next presidential election unchallenged, ushering in the “Era of Trujillo.”
Within months of taking over the presidency, the capital city of Santo Domingo was virtually destroyed and 2,000 people were killed by a hurricane that ripped through the Dominican Republic in early September. Trujillo responded by placing the country under martial law and quickly began to clear the debris and rebuild the city. Six years later he renamed the capital Cuidad Trujillo in his honor, along with thousands of other streets, monuments, and landmarks throughout the country.
During his oppressive dictatorship Trujillo was credited with improving sanitation, constructing new roads, schools and hospitals, and increasing the general standard of living for the Dominican people. But his practice of securing kickbacks on all public works contracts and monopolizing a vast array of lucrative industries ensured that the increased economic prosperity was disproportionately distributed to his family, supporters and military personnel.