Trujillo Assassinated - History

Trujillo Assassinated - History

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Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic, was assassinated by members of the Dominican armed forces. While the U.S. was not directly involved in the plot, it was known that the United States did have prior knowledge of the plan. Also, the Americans gave those carrying out the plot tacit support.

Omar Torrijos

Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera (February 13, 1929 – July 31, 1981) was the Commander of the Panamanian National Guard and the de facto head of Panama from 1968 to his death in 1981. Torrijos was never officially the president of Panama, but instead held titles including "Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution". Torrijos took power in a coup d'état and instituted a number of social reforms.

Torrijos is best known for negotiating the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties that eventually gave Panama full sovereignty over the Panama Canal. The two treaties guaranteed that Panama would gain control of the Panama Canal after 1999, ending the control of the canal that the U.S. had exercised since 1903. On December 31, 1999, the final phase of the treaty, the US relinquished control of the Panama Canal and all areas in what had been the Panama Canal Zone.

His son Martín Torrijos was elected president and served from 2004 to 2009.

The Dominican Republic, Trujillo Regime, and overthrow of Juan Bosh

Through the 1930s, ཤ's and ཮s, the Dominican Republic was ruled dictatorially by a former cattle rustler, Rafael Leonid as Trujillo Molina, better known in the United States as simply Trujillo. He owned twenty homes, numerous businesses and one-fifth of his nation's agricultural land. He surrounded himself with murderers who kept the public intimidated. He promoted himself to his subjects as the Son of God, Savior of Mankind, Generalissimo and Father of the Fatherland. He ignored the tourist industry, because he did not want a lot of Americans snooping around.

With his enormous wealth, Trujillo supported a lobby effort in Washington DC, and he had a friend as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Harold D. Coo le of North Carolina, who supported Trujillo's interests in the growing of sugarcane.

The Dominican Republic had never had a plantation economy. A plantation economy was on the western side of island, in Haiti. Most common folk in the Dominican Republic were subsistence farmers, and there had been mixing between the races. But Trujillo wanted his fellow Dominicans to think of themselves as white, in contrast to Haiti, which was predominately black. In 1937 Trujillo whipped up anti-Haitian fears and massacred thousands of blacks. Under his leadership history was rewritten, describing the Haitians as villains and the Dominicans as white. Mixed Dominicans were defined as Indians (the Indians, however, having been annihilated long before). And Trujillo purged the use of the African hand drum from merengue bands, and he banned voodoo ceremonies.

In 1959, Trujillo was blaming Fidel Castro for a rising tide of discontent within the Dominican Republic. In 1960, agents of Trujillo had tried to assassinate Venezuela's President Ramuli Bet an court. Bet an court had denounce Trujillo and Trujillo has been described as having "an obsessive personal hatred" of Bet an court. Venezuela appealed to the Organization of American States. An economic embargo was suggested, and Trujillo clamped down harder on opposition within his country.

It was Trujillo who was taken down, In May 1961 he was assassinated by young army officers in his own private army, acting on his own culture of assassination. They have been described as unhappy about delays in being promoted. note28 The assassins caught Trujillo in his car on a lonely road while on his way to meet one of his many mistresses. Nominal power shifted to Trujillo's vice president, Joaquin Beleaguer, while real power remained with military men and while Trujillo's sons maneuvered for position. Common people rallied and rioted, demanding democracy. Two of Trujillo's sons left the island

The Kennedy administration intervened. Here was an opportunity to stand up for democracy &ndash six months after the Bay of Pigs invasion and two months after the Berlin Wall had gone up. United States warships with 4000 Marines appeared just outside the three-mile limit. A jet fighter flew overhead, and all members of the Trujillo family fled the country, to live thereafter on savings from Swiss banks.

The Dom inc an Republic prepared itself for elections, and, in a new atmosphere of freedom, political parties sprouted like mushrooms. Only the republic's small Communist Party was outlawed, in deference to the United States. In the elections that year, the pro-Castro party did poorly. The winner, with 62 percent of the vote, was Juan Bosh, who belonged to the Dominican Revolutionary Party, or PRD &ndash described by some as Social Democratic. He had been a writer and an academic and had spent years in exile as an activist opposed to the Trujillo regime.

Juan Bosh was an anti-Communist reformer, as was common among Social Democrats. He began a land redistribution program and encouraged strengthening the labor movement. Business men did not much like Bosh. Nor did leading members of the Catholic Church. The republic's new constitution provided for the separation of church and state. Divorces were now legal, and religious schools were obliged to be open for state inspection. Landowners were displeased with Bosh's land program. And conservatives disliked the freedom of speech enjoyed by admirers of Castro and others. They were in panic. They believed that Bosh was about to turn their country into another Cuba. The US ambassador, Bart low Mar in, accused Bosh of being soft on "Castro Communists." Also, Bosch's reorganization of the military displeased high-ranking military officers, who believed that he was establishing his own rival military power.

Bosch did not bend with the pressures from conservatives, and on September 3, 1963, in a bloodless coup, the military overthrew the democracy, driving Juan Bosch into exile again &ndash to Puerto Rico. A civilian government was hastily created, while power remained with military men.

For two years the Dominican Republic was in economic and political turmoil. In April 1965, a group of military officers rebelled and led an attempt to restore Bosch to the presidency. The fighting spread to civilians, and, after four days, the rebels appeared to be gaining the upper hand. Alarmed by populist rhetoric, conservatives again saw a Castro-like revolution as imminent. The US president, Lyndon Johnson, did not want to be seen as failing to contain Castroism. He believed that he could not win a re-election if he permitted a second Cuba, and he was feeling threatened by developments in Vietnam. He wanted to send a message to Hanoi that the US was strong and willing to use its strength. Under the guise of defending US citizens, Johnson sent 42,000 Marines to the Domincan Republic, Johnson describing his move as an effort to stop a Communist rebellion. Latin members of the Organization of American States sided with Johnson and provided legitimacy of sorts for his move by creating an Inter-American Peace Force, of which the US force was a part. Bosch was denied his return to power, and in 1966 new elections were held in which 300 of Bosch's supporters were killed. The new president was the former vice-president under Trujillo, Joaquin Balaguer, who was believed to have become a moderate.

Latin America: the Development of its Civilization, Third Edition, by Helen Miller Bailey and Abraham P Nasatir, pp 681-3,1973

Joint efforts

However, attitudes marked by the past still haunt both countries.

It is estimated than more than a million illegal Haitian migrants live in the Dominican Republic, and in Dajabon, people-smuggling is rife.

"After 1937, the Dominican culture became exclusive. On a local level people could work together and could accept that we have a society that's mixed, of which Dominicans of Haitian descent are a part," said Dr Edward Paulino, a Dominican-American member of Border of Lights.

"But at the state level there's still this sense of rejection of dark-skinned Haitians."

Recently it was alleged that a Haitian worker in a town near the border, Loma de Cabrera, had killed a Dominican.

Local people told the Haitians to leave within 24 hours.

But many of those taking part in the events to mark the massacre spoke of the unity that exists between people on the border.

"We did a park clean-up on the Haitian side. One of the volunteers couldn't believe weɽ come to help his community and I realised that this was a first," said Sady Diaz, one of the organisers.

People in both towns will be coming together again later in the month to paint murals along the border, a lasting tribute to those who died.

Sic Semper Tyrannis – The Assassination of El Jefe, May 30, 1961

Rafael Trujillo, El Jefe, ruled the Dominican Republic as dictator from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Trujillo gained prominence after the U.S. occupation in 1916. He joined the National Guard in 1919, trained with U.S. Marines, and earned the rank of general only nine years later. In 1930, a rebellion broke out against President Horacio Vasquez. Trujillo made a secret deal with rebel leader Rafael Estrella Urena whereby Trujillo could run for president in new elections. Estrella’s rebels were allowed to capture the capital and Trujillo, the only candidate allowed to run, claimed victory with 95% of the vote and immediately assumed dictatorial powers. His reign was marked by bloody massacres, stringent laws, and an overbearing personality cult. His rule is considered one of the bloodiest in the Americas and responsible for more than 50,000 deaths.

On May 30, 1961, members of the underground opposition succeeded in assassinating the man Ambassador Joseph Farland deemed “a two-bit dictator.” (Read his account.) The efforts of the Trujillo family to keep control of the country ultimately failed. A military uprising in November and the threat of American intervention put an end to the Trujillo regime. President Balaguer allowed Trujillo’s son Ramfis to relocate his father’s body to Paris, and then later to a cemetery near Madrid. Henry Dearborn, originally Chief of Mission, then Consul General, talks about his communications with the opposition, the events of that fatal night, and his briefing with President Kennedy afterward.

Dearborn was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in 1991. You can also read about the Dominican Civil War, which followed soon after the assassination.

Reaching out to the Opposition

DEARBORN: Trujillo had already begun to sense that [Ambassador] Farland was talking to the opposition, which, of course, was a no-no. There wasn’t supposed to be any opposition, but every once in a while you could be caught talking to somebody he didn’t want you to talk to and you would hear about it. So relations were not too good….

The pressures from human rights and other groups on the Department and our government had been such that the U.S. government attitude was turning around by that time. While Farland was still Ambassador there was a plan drawn up for cooperation with the opposition and letting them know that if they succeeded in overthrowing Trujillo, we would favor them. We called them the pro-U.S. opposition…. This was a plan drawn up and approved back in Washington.

Farland was there until May 1960, when I became Chargé. In August we severed diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic as a result of a

meeting of Foreign Ministers in San Jose, Costa Rica. All the American Republics voted to sever diplomatic relations with Trujillo because of the pressure put on them by Venezuela because Trujillo was caught red-handed trying to assassinate President Betancourt of Venezuela.

It was indisputable. His agents were caught. The Venezuelans insisted that solidarity be shown on this. We were not averse to that because we were pretty much put out by him ourselves by that time. Then, I think it was August 21, when diplomatic relations were broken, we continued consular relations. So I switched to being Consul General….

I always said this was the only time that I chose my own ambassador. There weren’t many left once all the Republics of the hemisphere broke relations. But there were the British, Canadian, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italians — I think only about ten embassies left.

I recommended to the Department that they ask London if the British ambassador could represent us. He was one of the no-nonsense-about-it types. My judgment at that time was proved correct, because he was great….

On the day of the break he came over to the office, brought a stack of British stationery and said, “All you have to do is write notes to the Foreign Office just as you always do and send them over to me. I will sign them.” He said, “Of course, you are going to have to learn to write in English.”

A couple of weeks later a CIA message came from Washington (the CIA types had to leave with all the rest) asking me if I would be willing to carry on the CIA station chief job. Ambassador Farland had had contacts with the opposition and had brought me in on them….

They were very skittish, having had bad experiences with American embassy people in the past. Things had gotten back to Trujillo, so they really didn’t trust anybody. But they had gotten to trust Farland and me. So I carried on the contacts with the opposition, reporting to CIA. We were using all these weird means of communication because we didn’t want to be seen with each other. Things like notes in the bottom of the grocery bag, rolled up in cigars, etc….

They were asking us for advice at times. They were asking us for help at times. We didn’t always give them what they wanted, but they knew that if they got into power that we would be supporting them. They also kept being hopeful that we might help them in more ways than we might be willing to. For instance, they told us that they wanted to do this by themselves, but they wanted our help.

“We have all this trouble with Castro. Tell them to knock it off!”

As time went on and Trujillo didn’t collapse, they began to have more violent ideas as to what they might do to him. Eventually they developed a plot which, because of my close relationship with them, I was fully aware of. He was assassinated on May 30, 1961. I knew they were planning to do it, I knew how they were planning to do it, I knew, more or less, who was involved. Although I was always able to say that I personally did not know any of the assassins, I knew those who were pulling the strings. I knew everything except when. The only reason I didn’t know when was because they didn’t know either.

There had to be a certain set of circumstances when they could put their plan into action. The last few days were rather hairy because I had told the Department via CIA communications (I had a different typewriter on which I typed out my messages to the opposition, so that it wouldn’t be traced to embassy typewriters) all about the plan.

I recall a frantic message from the Department, I guess signed off on by President Kennedy, saying, in effect, “Look, we have all this trouble with Castro we don’t want any more trouble in the Caribbean. Tell these people to knock it off!”

So I communicated to the opposition people that Washington was very much against any attempt at assassination. The answer I got back from them was, “Just tell Washington it is none of their business. This is our business. We have planned it and we are going to do it and there is nothing you can do about it.”

The night of May 30, 1961, the Chinese ambassador was giving some kind of a money-raising thing at the country club for charity, to which I went. We started back around 11:00 and ran into a roadblock along the ocean highway. They were stopping all cars and making everybody get out. They looked in trunks, pulled up rugs, etc.

I had a CIA fellow in the car (along about January the CIA had sent a couple of people in to the consulate) and I said, “Bob, this is it. I am sure this is it.” They wouldn’t let us continue on that road they sent us back along another road into town. We got to the embassy, where I had been living for about a year, and the telephone rang and one of my main contacts of the opposition said, “It is over, he is dead.” I knew immediately what happened and went down to the office and sent off a message to Washington….

It wasn’t for another day or two that the general public knew that Trujillo had been assassinated. They didn’t give out the information right away.

What happened was Ramfis [Trujillo’s son] was in Europe. The minute he heard about it, he chartered a plane and flew back to the Dominican Republic. Balaguer was the civil leader, but Ramfis was still head of the air force. The family was definitely a group to be reckoned with. Balaguer wasn’t completely independent even now that Trujillo was dead.

The assassins picked the time they did it because the circumstances were right. They knew on some nights he went to visit his mother and after visiting her he would get into a nondescript car and drive along the coastal highway to see his mistress. He would do that completely unscheduled and didn’t worry too much about it because nobody knew in advance.

But the opposition had a spy in the garage who reported to them that this was the night. So they had two cars mobilized. One got in front of his car and one got in back and they forced him off the road. He had a gun but they overpowered him and killed him. That is how it happened.

Then they didn’t know if at the time of the funeral the family or the opposition might cause some problems. So I didn’t dare go to the funeral, because I was afraid I would have to call in the Navy, which was just over the horizon–the biggest naval force since World War II was sitting just over the horizon– and didn’t want to go away from my communications. I sent the number two man to the funeral. So there were all sorts of speculation as to why I hadn’t gone to the funeral.

A Quick and Efficient Exit

About a week later, I received a phone call one morning at 7:00 a.m. from Ted Achilles, who was with the Task Force in the Department. He said, “Henry, we want you, your wife, and the children out of there on the noon plane. We think you are in danger,” the concern being that Ramfis and his group had killed all the assassins except for two and was unpredictable.

So I said, “There is no noon plane, but there is a plane to Puerto Rico at 2:00 and I could get on that, I guess.” …My wife went through the house…. I went to the office, where we were pretty streamlined by that time. We even had our secret files in a burn barrel ready to burn up, because we didn’t know what was going to happen. About a month before that we had gone through everything and shipped back to Washington everything that we didn’t absolutely need, because…we didn’t have diplomatic immunity anymore. Trujillo was good at staging things and could have staged a raid on the Consulate General and disclaimed any knowledge of it.

The day before I got this phone call to leave, I went over to the Palace to talk with President [Joaquin] Balaguer on instructions from the Department. I said, “I am sure you know, because of your air force observers, that we have a very large naval force just over the horizon and we want you to know that if you feel you need help we will give it to you.”

His answer, in effect was, “I have had a talk with Ramfis and he has agreed to respect the civilian authority, and as long as I don’t have any reason to think he won’t, I don’t think I ought to do anything like you are suggesting.”

I also took the occasion to tell him that the way that some respectable citizens of his Dominican Republic were being treated was not making a very good impression abroad and was hurting his government. That was the last time that I saw him.

Advising JFK

I left the county on June 5…. On June 7 I attended a meeting in the White House with the President and the main subject was the DR…, certainly the most imposing [meeting] that I ever attended. In addition to the President there were Vice President Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, CIA Director Allen Dulles, J.C. King (also of the CIA), and Acting Assistant Secretary of State of Inter-American Affairs Wymberley Coerr.

The President asked to be informed on what was transpiring in the DR and then he asked for suggestions as to what was likely to happen next and what our position should be. His questions were directed to Dean Rusk, but Rusk deferred to me for response….

I reported on my meeting with Balaguer of June 4 in which he said that he did not require our assistance for the time being, as Ramfis had agreed to respect the civilian authority. As I recall, I said that I did not believe there would be a bloodbath, though there might be isolated vengeance killings.


WASHINGTON, June 12—The Central Intelligence Agency contributed “material support” to a group of Dominicans who assassinated the Dominican Republic's dictator, Gen. Rafael Trujillo Molina, on May 30, 1961, authoritative Government sources have said.

According to the sources, this is one of the “successful assassination attempts” mentioned today by Representative James V. Stanton, Democrat of Ohio, who is the chairman of a House subcommittee investigating the C.I.A.

The details of the assassination have also been supplied to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Several Government sources said that the Trujillo case was the successful attempt mentioned recently by the committee's chairman, Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho.

Information about the Dominicon assassination was given to President Fofd by William E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence, in January, authoritantive sources said. A C.I.A. spokesman had no comment on the report.

Possible Gain in Doubt

It is unclear what foreign policy objective of the United States would have been served in 1961 by the killing of General Trujillo. Several sources, however, said it was part of a “series of events” connected with the Bay. of Pigs invasion of Cuba the month before.

It is also unclear from either public or private reports at how high a level General Trujillo's death was authorized. Nor is it clear whether authorization occurred during the administration of President Kennedy, who took office in January, 1961, or that of President Eisenhower, Mr. Kennedy's predecessor.

General Trujillo was killed in a hail of gunfire as he drove from his home. in San Cristobal to Ciudad Trujillo, capital of the Dominican Republic. His death ended 31 years of what had been called an oppressive dictatorship.

The general was killed by seven Dominicans allegedly led by Gen. Juan Tomas Diaz, who was later killed in a gunfight with Dominican policemen.

According to authoritative sources, C.I.A. files indicate that the agency supplied “material support” to what one source called an “indiginous” group of Dominicans who plotted and killed General Trujillo.

The assassination touched off a massive roundup of opponents of the Trujillo regime following the attack. At one point some 60 persons had been taken into custody, news accounts said.

According to autharitative sources, one of the men involved in the attack cracked under an interrogation, which included torture, and told his captors that at least one of the guns used had been supplied by operatives of the C.I.A. An account of this is included in documents discovered in the growing investigation of the agency, the sources said.

During the early stages of the investigations of the agency, several of its former officials said that, though, there may have been plots to assassinate foreign leaders, there had been no “successful attempts.” Other intelligence sources said that that should be amended to “no attempts where Americans actually became involved directly in the killing.”

“When this is all said and done,” one source said, “I think it will be clear that no member of the C.I.A. or Americans were hired to assassinate Trujillo or Castro. What we are talking about in these cases is aid and comfort to indigenous elements.”

“The degree to which the Dorninican group got aid,” this source said, “may have been more than we now wish.”

These sources said the matter of plots against General Trujillo and Cuban Premier Fidel Castro was covered in the summary prepared by the Rockefeller Commission but not made public in its report.

The material from the commission has been forwarded to the Department of Justice for possible prosecutions. The White House also made public a memorandum to Attorney General Edward H. Levi in which it noted, “In addition to the materials [on assassinations] accumulated by the commission there are relevant materials on these subjects in the files of the National Security Council and certain State Department and Defense Department files of similar relevance.”

The memorandum, signed by President Ford, said, “I hereby request that you review all of these materials as soon as possible and take such action as you deep warranted as a result of your investigation.”

Sources within the Justice Department have said that it is unclear whether the alleged plots against Mr. Castro constitute a violation of United States law that is within the statute of limitations.

But, one key source said, there is a clear Federal prohibi tion against such a plot aimed at General Trujillo. According to this source the Dominican Republic was a “friendly nation” in 1961, while Cuba was the subject of diplomatic strictures by the United States.

Under the United States Criminal Code it is an illegal act for anyone within the United States if he “knowingly begins or sets foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district or people with whom the United States is at peace.”

The charge is a felony punishable by a $3,000 fine or imprisonment for not more, than three years or both. Though the statute of limitations may have run out on this charge, a conspiracy to commit the act may have continued well after General Trujillo's actual death.

Representative Stanton made his remarks today in answer to questions from The Cleveland Plain Dealer and during an interview on the CBS morning news.

Later in the day, Vice President Rockefeller, chairman of the eight man commission that reported on the C.I.A. activities this week, declined to comment on Mr. Stanton's. assertions about complicity by the agency in successful assassination attempts.

“I'm not familiar with his statement,” Mr. Rockefeller told newsmen in New York. He said the reason his commission bad made no formal report on assassinations was that “we had not completed work sufficiently to allow ourselves to formalize a judgment.” He met with newsmen after a luncheon for the New York Republican State Committee.

Antonio Imbert Barrera, Who Helped Assassinate Dominican Dictator Trujillo, Dies at 95

MEXICO CITY — Maj. Gen. Antonio Imbert Barrera, a former president of the Dominican Republic and the last surviving member of a group of plotters who in 1961 assassinated Rafael Trujillo, the long-reigning dictator of that nation, died on May 31 at his home in Santo Domingo. He was 95.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, his niece, Carmen Imbert Brugal, said.

President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic called for three days of national mourning in honor of the general, who was regarded as a national hero for his role in the Trujillo assassination. In a decree, the president hailed General Imbert’s “brave conduct in the death of the tyrant Rafael L. Trujillo Molina, on the glorious 30th of May, 1961, thereby opening the doors to liberty and democracy.”

General Imbert had been a businessman from a prominent family in Puerto Plata, a province on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, and held government posts under Mr. Trujillo, including governor of Puerto Plata Province. But in 1956 General Imbert’s brother, Segundo, was imprisoned during a roundup of the dictator’s presumed enemies, effectively turning General Imbert against Mr. Trujillo.

“The only way to get rid of him was to kill him,” General Imbert told the BBC in 2011.

General Imbert was brought into the assassination plot late in its planning, said Bernard Diederich, a journalist who in 1978 wrote a book about the killing, “Trujillo: The Death of the Goat.” The plan came to involve 14 co-conspirators, Mr. Imbert’s niece said.

On the night of May 30, 1961, Mr. Trujillo set off from the capital in his chauffeur-driven light-blue Chevrolet Bel Air, reportedly heading for a tryst with a mistress in nearby San Cristóbal.

Seven of the plotters, anticipating the dictator’s route, split up in three cars, which they stationed along the coastal road leading to San Cristóbal.

General Imbert was behind the wheel of one of the cars with three of his co-conspirators. When the dictator’s Bel Air passed them, General Imbert chased it. His accomplices opened fire with machine guns, shattering the car’s rear window and hitting Mr. Trujillo, the driver told Mr. Diederich in an interview two days later.

Mr. Trujillo ordered his driver to pull over and got out of the car, returning fire with his .38-caliber revolver, even though blood was “spurting from his back,” the driver, Capt. Zacarias de la Cruz, recalled. The driver also returned fire using various firearms in the limousine.

General Imbert and his passengers sprang from their car and took cover, according to The New York Times in 1965. “We four advanced, half crawling, half lying down,” he was quoted as saying. “Trujillo by now was standing in front of his car. He screamed something — terror, I suppose. He had been wounded in the left shoulder by a shotgun charge.

“I was lying 10 feet from him,” Mr. Imbert continued. “I aimed my .45 and shot twice. One bullet hit him in the chin. It knocked him sprawling on his back, and he must have died instantly. He never moved again.”

The attackers took Mr. Trujillo’s body away. The driver, who had also been hit seven times, was left for dead. When he regained consciousness, he was alone.

“I found the generalissimo’s bloody military cap lying near me in the grass,” the chauffeur told Mr. Diederich. “There was a moon and the night was clear.”

In the ensuing days, Mr. Trujillo’s son, Ramfis, assumed command of the country and all but two of the plotters were rounded up and eventually killed. Only Mr. Imbert and Luis Amiama Tió evaded capture. Mr. Imbert was given refuge in the Italian Embassy by Francisco Rainieri, the honorary consul of Italy and a close friend. He emerged from hiding in December 1961.

Mr. Imbert and Mr. Amiama were declared national heroes, and Mr. Imbert was given the title of general in gratitude for his role in Mr. Trujillo’s death.

A monument now stands at the spot in honor of the plot.

Antonio Cosme Imbert Barrera was born in Puerto Plata on Dec. 3, 1920. He was the third of four children born to Segundo Manuel Imbert Mesnier, an accountant and politician, and María Consuelo de la Barrera Steinkopf, a homemaker.

General Imbert, who grew up in Puerto Plata, became an avid pilot, his niece said. Never attending college, he held various jobs early on, she said, including administrator in a cement company and manager and partner in a citrus-products factory, before serving as governor for about a year and as a top official of the national lottery.

In January 1962, after emerging from hiding, he joined a seven-man council of state that ruled the country until February 1963. Later that year he participated in a coup against President Juan Bosch, and, after Mr. Bosch’s ouster, General Imbert was part of a military junta that ran the country. He was declared president in 1965, a post he held for five months.

In the years after the Trujillo assassination, General Imbert lived under constant threat from the dictator’s sympathizers and traveled with bodyguards. In 1967 Trujillo supporters shot him in a failed assassination attempt. He returned to high government office in 1986, when he was named defense minister in the administration of Joaquín Balaguer.

General Imbert’s first wife, Guarina Tessón Hurtado, died in a plane crash that also killed their daughter, Leslie Imbert Tessón, as well as General Imbert’s sister, Aida Imbert Barrera. A son, Manuel Imbert Sánchez, died of complications of diabetes, Ms. Imbert, the general’s niece, said.

General Imbert is survived by his wife, Giralda Busto Sánchez de Imbert his sons, Antonio Imbert Tessón, a former police commander, and Oscar Imbert Tessón a nephew he adopted, Eduardo Dominguez Imbert 31 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

For years, General Imbert commemorated his role in the Trujillo assassination with an annual ritual of his own. Every May 30, he would put on the brown shoes and the watch that he wore on the night he shot Mr. Trujillo.

TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe II / The Power of the Chief (General, Boss)

This documentary shows the important political and social events that occurred in the Dominican Republic between 1938-1952. Included: The invasions of Cayo Confites and Luperón, the PSP, the Juventud Democrática, the sugar industry strike of 1946, the different conspiracies, as well as Trujillo´s relations with the United States before the beginning of the “Cold War.”

The movie The Feast of the Goat / La Fiesta del Chivo was out in theaters as of 4/2006.


Germán E. Ornes, Trujillo: Little Caesar of the Caribbean (1958).

Robert D. Crassweller, Trujillo: The Life and Times of a Caribbean Dictator (1966).

Howard Wiarda, Dictatorship, Development, and Disintegration: Politics and Social Change in the Dominican Republic (1975).

Jacinto Gimbernard, Historia de Santo Domingo, 7th ed. (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Alvarez López, Luis. Estado y sociedad durante la dictadura de Trujillo. Santo Domingo, República Dominicana: Editora Cole, 2001.

Diederich, Bernard. Trujillo: The Death of a Dictator. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2000.

López-Calvo, Ignacio. God and Trujillo: Literary and Cultural Representations of the Dominican Dictator. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

Roorda, Eric. The Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930–1945. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

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Rafael Trujillo – One of the worst dictators who ruled the Dominican Republic for 31 years

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was the leader of the Dominican Republic for 31 years, until his death.

He was a politician and soldier trained by U.S. Marines.

In 1930, Trujillo became president of the country through political maneuvers and torture. He served as a president from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1952. In the meantime, he put in place puppet presidents, first his brother Héctor Trujillo and later, Joaquin Balaguer, neither of which had any power and Trujillo was always the ultimate leader and chief of the country.

Era de Trujillo sign: “In this household, Trujillo is a national symbol”

Stamp issued in 1933 on the occasion of Trujillo’s 42nd birthday

Born in 1891 in San Cristobal, in the Dominican Republic, Trujillo went on to become one of the worst dictators in the world. His foreign policy was inclined towards the United States and against communism.

His domestic policy was built on terror, fear, control, and total compliance with his will.

People called him “El Jefe” (The Chief or The Boss) and were utterly obedient towards him and his regime. Resistance was dealt with harshly and any rebel usually ended up “disappearing from the face of the Earth.”

Heraldic flag used by Trujillo as Generalissimo of the Armies. Photo credit

Thanks to the extraordinary talents of Johnny Abbes in organizing the murder of any dissenting Dominican citizen anywhere in the world and in making them look like an accident, Trujillo was able “peacefully” govern the country for three decades. Johnny Abbes was the “minister” for the Military Intelligence Service, Servicio Central de Inteligencia (SCI).He had “eyes and ears” all over the country and abroad, too.

Abbes didn’t need any hidden cameras, computers, or microphones. He did just fine with all the men that worked for him, all the while inventing new tortures for those who dared to even think negatively of the regime.

Postage stamps honoring family members

During the Trujillo Era ( El Trujillato ), the Chief had all the money and power in the Dominican Republic. Not even his ministers had the courage to launder money. Nobody wanted to fall into disgrace. Everyone obeyed Trujillo and feared Abbes. For the citizens, there were only “God and Trujillo.” And perhaps that’s not so surprising as Trujillo was indeed keeping many of the citizens ‘sweet’ with state money. He was giving them what they needed for a “decent” life. Not as decent as his own, of course. He also handed out money in the way of gifts a few times a year, and many people genuinely loved him. He was invited to be a godfather of newborns 100 times a week.

And the fact is, because he praised the US and always took their side in any vote in the UN, no matter for what, and he despised communism, he was able to initiate much development to the Dominican Republic – with US money. But as much as he spent on the country, he made sure he had an even larger amount in his Swiss bank accounts. The funniest thing is, that after his death, his wife, the Bountiful First Lady was the only one who knew the account numbers and she never told them to any of their children.

Trujillo with his second wife Bienvenida in 1934

Despite gaining much money for himself and his country, Trujillo was responsible for the deaths of more than 50,000 people. It hasn’t been confirmed with any certainty, but perhaps as many 30,000 Haitians were killed during the Parsley Massacre. The Chief hated Haitians. He killed every immigrant who was brave enough to speak negatively about the regime in the Dominican Republic outside of the country. Almost nobody was safe in their asylum. Johnny Abbes could reach anyone, anywhere.

There were writers and journalists who wrote about him in the US, Argentina, Mexico, and even Europe. But most of them died in an “accident.”

No Dominican citizen could leave the country without Trujillo’s permission. He simply knew everything about everyone. During the Trujillo era there were dictatorships all around – in Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Cuba, but Trujillo’s has been characterized as more accomplished, more brutal, and more explicit than those that rose and fell around it.

At the beginning of his rule, Trujillo managed to open up the country to development in every area, and it might appear that he established stability and prosperity in the country. But things, of course, aren’t quite so clear cut, especially when you consider he required unconditional dedication and love from the whole nation while at the same time siphoning off at least half of the state income into his Swiss account. And perhaps most of all when you know he forbade any expression of free thinking or open discussion. He wanted to rule forever and be seen by the people as important as God.

Trujillo–Vincent border meeting, 1933

Trujillo with President Magloire of Haiti. Hector and Ramfis Trujillo in attendance

Rafael Trujillo (right) and guest Anastasio Somoza at the inauguration of Héctor Trujillo as president in 1952

The incident that prompted many young Dominicans to conspire against Trujillo was his assassination attempt on Venezuela’s president of the time, Romulo Betancourt. He was an established and outspoken opponent of the Chief and was related to those who plotted against him. Trujillo developed an obsessive and personal hatred of Betancourt and supported numerous plots by Venezuelan exiles to overthrow him. The Venezuelan government took the case of Trujillo’s intervention to the Organization of American States (OAS).

This move resulted in Trujillo ordering his agents to place a bomb in the car of the Venezuela’s president.

The bomb failed to kill Betancourt, who was only injured. The OAS members were outraged and severed diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic and imposed economic sanctions on the country.

Another episode was the murder of the Mirabal sisters, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and Patria in 1960, who founded the group the Movement of the Fourteenth of June that actively plotted against Trujillo. After their deaths, many Dominicans, and particularly those who had been present at at least one meeting where the sisters spoke, were simply outraged. Many of them could wait no longer. There were hundreds of conspirators who were thirsty for personal revenge and just as many who wanted to avenge the Mirabal sisters.

On the 30th of May, 1961, Trujillo was shot and killed on the road to San Cristobal. The number of conspirators was huge, while the “executioners” were seven. Among them, the most involved were Amado Garcia Guerrero, Antonio de la Maza, General Juan Tomas Diaz, and General Antonio Imbert Barrera. After the murder of the Chief, the General of the armed forces, General José (“Pupo”) Román, was supposed to take control of the country and impose a military junta, but it so happened that he betrayed his co-conspirators because he got scared.

It was a bad decision because in less than twelve hours, Abbes had Pupo’s name along with the names of all the rest of the conspirators. And this time Abbes used the most innovative torture techniques on those he managed to capture. Trujillo’s son, Ramfis, returned from Paris to avenge his father. He was present at all the torture sessions and was offered a large reward for any information on Imbert and another conspirator Amaima, both of whom, by some miracle, managed to remain hidden for six months. Even though Ramfis was searching for them under a every stone, Imbert hid in the home of Italian diplomats while Amaima was hiding in the home of the Minister of Health.

“Memorial to the Heroes of the 30th of May”, a 1993 sculpture by Silvano Lora along Autopista 30 de Mayo where Trujillo was shot. Photo credit

Thanks to President Joaquin Balaguer, six months, the country towards democracy and Ramfis was forced to leave the country. After Ramfis’ departure, Imbert and Amaima returned from hiding and were welcomed as Dominican heroes, with Imbert becoming president in 1965.

Years after the regime had come to an end and the Chief long dead, many people felt conflicted in their desire to praise the past. But intellectuals and sober minds never forgot how much blood his dictatorship cost.

Watch the video: Rafael Trujillo Assassination Movie - Dominican Republic history documentary movies 1950s - 1960s