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Life and History of Dominican President Hector Trujillo

President Hector Trujillo

Héctor Bienvenido Trujillo Molina was the 40th president of the Dominican Republic. He had a very successful career in the military for 22 years. He was then elected president in 1952, succeeding his charismatic and brutal older brother, Rafael Trujillo, who was president from 1930-1938 and again from 1942-1952. Héctor held the presidency until 1960, but he was merely a “puppet” leader under his brother’s continued authority.

Life before Being President
Héctor was born on April 6, 1908, to José “Pepito” Trujillo Valdez and Altagracia Julia Molina Chevalier. He was raised in a lower-middle class family, and he was the youngest of 11 children. Héctor began his career in the army in 1930. Within 12 years he had reached the rank of Major General. In 1942 he was appointed Secretary of State for War and Navy. Two years later he was appointed to General of the Army, a position created specifically for him. Héctor accumulated a lot of money and property during this time. He was also a well-known playboy. He became engaged to Alma McLaughlin in 1937; however, he didn’t actually marry her until near the end of his presidency in 1957.

Life as President
Héctor became president on August 16, 1952. For the first 5 years of his presidency, he operated without a Vice President. However, when he was re-elected in 1957, he chose Joaquin Balaguer to fill the position. Meanwhile, his brother, Rafael, continued to exert power. Rafael’s 30-year reign brought stability and prosperity, but also gross human rights violations. Rafael authorized the secret police to torture and murder opposition to the government, he killed thousands of Haitians and he was in continual conflict with Cuba. By the late 1950s, the Dominicans started pushing for democratization. The new generation did not remember the poverty and insecurity the country had experienced prior to Rafael’s reign. In response, the government instituted greater repression. Other nations began to shun the Dominican Republic. Finally, under pressure from the Organization of American States (OAS), Rafael forced Héctor to resign on August 3, 1960.

Life after Being President
Rafael appointed Héctor’s vice president, Balaguer, to replace his brother as president, but he continued to control the presidency. Then, on Tuesday, May 30, 1961, Rafael was ambushed and assassinated by a group of men loosely associated with the CIA. The Trujillo family tried to escape by boat with his body, but they failed. Rafael’s son, Ramfis, immediately stepped into his father’s position as controller of the presidency. After Rafael’s funeral, the people of the Dominican Republic voted for the Trujillo family to leave the country. Meanwhile, Héctor attempted a military coup against Balaguer. It was not successful and, in October of that year, he and Ramfis fled the country. Héctor settled in Miami, Florida, where he lived to be 94 years old. He died of natural causes on October 19, 2002.