Dominican Republic

from the book

The CIAs Greatest Hits

by Mark Zepezauer


Rafael Trujillo took power in the Dominican Republic in a 1930 coup d'etat and received enthusiastic backing from Washington for most of the next 30 years. His methods for suppressing dissent were sickeningly familiar-torture and mass murder. The US raised no objections, and Trujillo returned the favor by becoming a totally reliable supporter of US policies in the UN.

As often happens with such tyrants, however, he got too greedy. His personal business holdings grew until he controlled some three-fifths of the Dominican economy, which threatened the "favorable investment climate" that client states are set up for in the first place.

Also, when it started to look like Castro's revolutionary army would take over Cuba, the US began to worry that Trujillo's excesses might inspire a similar revolution. For whatever reasons, the CIA began plotting Trujillo's assassination in 1958.

Trujillo's life came to an abrupt end in May 1961, and while proper deniability was maintained in Washington, this is one of the best-documented CIA assassination plots (according to the 1975 Church Committee). The US attempted to maintain the corrupt essence of the Trujillo regime without Trujillo, but the 1962 elections brought a physician named Juan Bosch to power.

Bosch was anti-Communist and pro-business but, foolish man, he was dedicated to establishing a "decent democratic regime" through land reform, low-rent housing and public works projects. He was deposed by a CIA-backed coup after only seven months in office. When a popular countercoup tried to restore Bosch to power in 1965, the US invaded the island and installed a series of murderous regimes which have maintained a favorable investment climate ever since.

While he never lived long enough to see it enshrined as the "JFK Doctrine," President Kennedy once offered a fairly clear-cut rationale for US interventions abroad. Referring to the Dominican Republic, he said, "there are three possibilities...a decent democratic regime, a continuation of the Trujillo regime, or a Castro regime [by which he meant Bosch]. We ought to aim at the first, but we really can't renounce the second until we are sure that we can avoid the third."

In practice, we've hardly ever used the first option. Virtually all of our client states are similar to the Trujillo regime-and to the regimes we replaced him with.

CIAs Greatest Hits

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