To mark the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, Esendom looks at the machinery of terror built by Trujillo
Trujillo’s Machinery of Terror
By Maria Encarnación
June 2, 2010
From the 1930s onward, the Dominican people and their allies abroad organized a resistance movement against the bloody Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) that challenged the regime until the final day. Trujillo created a machinery of terror to keep the population in check, and silence any opposition to his rule by relaying on a vast network of well paid informers and thugs known as “calieses.” Another group of informers hailed from Cuba where they had served as torturers for General Machado’s dictatorial reign. However, the Machado torturers fell out of luck when General Machado was ousted by a general strike led by sugar workers in 1933. The revolution against Machado instilled fears in Trujillo and the small elite that backed him. From then on, the use of physical and psychological repression to crack down on political dissidents and the small labor movement became more systematic.
Trujillo’s machinery of terror also included members of the powerful National Guard, the army built by the United States marines during the military occupation. In fact, General Trujillo was trained by the U.S. occupying forces, and ascended to the rank of general after he helped the U.S. soldiers repress peasants whose lands had been appropriated by U.S. investors in the Sugar industry.
But Trujillo was not alone.
Actually, Trujillo’s reign of terror was possible with the aid of General Ludovino Fernández, a close ally who murdered and maimed many opponents of the regime. But those inside the army who opposed Trujillo’s violent crackdown on the opposition were singled out as traitors and given prison sentences. Others were banished to neighboring Haiti or forced to seek exile in other countries.
In 1937, Trujillo’s reign of terror spread to Haiti as tens of thousands of Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent were murdered by his regime in the border regions. The 1937 massacre was not well known in the country until a few years later, and in fact the little knowledge the people had about the matter they learned through political exiles that spread news about the Haitian massacre in the hopes that the world would express condemnation for the horrendous genocide as well as the many crimes of the Trujillo regime against native Dominicans and Haitian immigrants.