History, The Trujillo Era
Organization of American States, boundary dispute, charter member, harbors, pension plan
The outstanding political development of the subsequent period was the dictatorship established by General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. Elected to the presidency in 1930, Trujillo forcibly eliminated all opposition, thereby acquiring absolute control of the nation. For the next 31 years, although he personally occupied the presidency only half that time (from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1943 to 1952), Trujillo presided over one of the tightest dictatorships in the world. With the military as the basis of his power, he and his family directed practically every aspect of the nation’s life, from the courts down to the pettiest bureaucrat. The national economy, while greatly expanded and modernized, was run as the dictator’s personal corporation, and the political process was completely dominated by his Dominican Party. Backed at first by the United States, Trujillo used this support to his own advantage in shoring up his power. Discontent and criticism, widespread especially after World War II ended in 1945, were met with terror and self-serving propaganda.
During Trujillo’s rise to power, however, considerable material progress was made. Many new hospitals and housing projects were finished, a pension plan was established, and public health facilities, harbors, and roads were improved. A boundary dispute with neighboring Haiti, going back to 1844, was settled in 1935, and in 1941 the U.S. government terminated the administration of the Dominican customs. In December 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, the Dominican Republic also declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. It subsequently became a charter member of the United Nations. In 1948 the country also became a charter member of the Organization of American States (OAS), which in subsequent years frequently condemned the Trujillo regime both for interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and “flagrant and widespread violations of human rights.” OAS criticism culminated in 1960 in a resolution calling for severance of diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic; the United States did so shortly afterward. These external pressures were coupled with growing internal resistance to the regime. The Trujillo era ended with the dictator’s assassination on May 26, 1961.
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