His Excellency, Generalissimo Dr. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, Honorable Chief of State, Benefactor of the Nation, President and Dictator of the Dominican Republic, is an example of a waning Latin American type—the caudillo (chieftain). As a blend of the Emperor Jones and the European authoritarians, Dictator Trujillo and his ilk always seem bizarre to North Americans. But the southern dictators must be understood if Latin America is to be understood by the big neighbor in the North.
Last week Dictator Trujillo was very much in the news. Within the fortnight, scathing criticism from far & wide had pointed up the anachronism: If In Caracas, Provisional President Romulo Betancourt announced that Venezuela would not recognize Trujillo and his "assassins of liberty." In London, the World Youth Conference expelled the two Dominican representatives because they did not represent a democratic country. In Washington, potent Cuban Senator Eduardo Chibas declared that the Dominican Government was an obstacle to democracy in the Americas.
The Glory Road. Trujillo is the end product of a U.S. military occupation. When the U.S. forces got out of the Dominican Republic in 1924, Trujillo was a Major in the Marine-trained Army. By 1930 he had fought his way into the presidency.
Today he puts on a show combining the outstanding features of a waterfront goon squad and Hollywood. Generalissimo Trujillo's car sports a five-starred, solid-gold license plate. Newspapers and radio hysterically shout his praise. Statues of him litter the land. An electric sign once glittered: "God and Trujillo."
The dictator's amorous capacity is notable, even in the tropic Caribbean. One of Trujillo's friends is bediamonded, aging, Isabel Mayer. Now in her sixties, Dona Isabel is still famed for her parties and cuisine ("Have some more sea food! It's good for men"). Trujillo was at one of her parties when the infamous massacre of the Haitians occurred in 1937. Rumor has it that Dona Isabel had complained that Haitian peasants, sneaking across the border, were stealing her cattle. The Trujillo soldiery was ordered out. They smashed babies' heads against rocks, ripped pregnant women with bayonets, slaughtered thousands of Haitians. Hogs gorged on the rotting corpses.
Big Business. Important visitors, including touring U.S. Congressmen, have found Trujillo the soul of affability. At home he can point to solid achievements: great advances in irrigation and sanitation, improved roads and schools, build ing projects. Trujillo's enterprises and taxes have helped drive living costs up. But his Government has been "orderly."
The dictator does not filch from the public treasury. That would be picking his own pocket. For Trujillo is the Dominican Republic. His personal monopolies include salt, tobacco, employe insurance, beer.
Trujillo has an equal passion for owning land and for buying it on his own terms. His annual income is estimated at $6,000,000.