Dominican Republic: Ramfis in Power

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The Dominican Republic's new dictator, Rafael Leonidas ("Ramfis") Trujillo Jr., 32, was proving himself more adroit than anyone had expected. Judging—perhaps correctly—that a full-scale blood bath to avenge his assassinated father might bring the U.S. Marines pounding into Ciudad Trujillo, Ramfis was even willing to let the Organization of American States send in a team of investigators to see how well he was behaving.

As the four-nation team from Panama, Colombia, Uruguay and the U.S. arrived last week, the Dominican radio asked all citizens to "report arbitrary acts of excesses of officials or employees of the government." Juan Abbes Garcia, the dreaded boss of the secret police, SIM, was publicly dismissed and quietly sent off as embassy first secretary in Japan. Ramfis made peace with the Roman Catholic bishops his father harassed. He promised free elections for 1962, proclaimed amnesty for all political prisoners, asked exiles to come home.

Joaquin Balaguer, the puppet President whom Ramfis inherited from his father, went so far as to welcome the presence of a U.S. fleet cruising 60 miles off the Dominican coast. "It is just," he said. The U.S. "should be concerned that this vital area not become the theater of hatreds." Added Ramfis, who would very much like to resume diplomatic relations with the U.S., sell more sugar, and see more tourists: "I wish to emphasize that reports that I am anti-American are lies spread by reactionaries."

To be sure, the superefficient police-state apparatus was not yet dismantled. At military check points, troops stopped all passing cars; and Ramfis, increasingly suspicious that the assassination was part of a large-scale plot, replaced key commanders with trusted cronies from his air force. Most of the assassins of Old Man Trujillo were either in jail or dead. And there were widespread reports that the dragnet had swept up entire households, including the servants.

Ramfis Trujillo denied that his men were making mass arrests. "Those detained are only those closely involved in the plot," he said. But Dominicans, after 31 years of Trujillo tyranny, fear what is in store when the corps of foreign journalists and the OAS investigating team turn off the searchlight and depart.