Monday, October 18

Sergio Ramírez: The generalissimo of the long arm | Opinion

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo (1891-1961).
Rafael Leónidas Trujillo (1891-1961).Life Magazine / Cordon Press / Hans Walker

In September 1956, a summit of the Americas was held in Panama, attended by General Dwight Eisenhower, president of the United States, who was surrounded by the most conspicuous of the fauna of Latin American dictators, all in their most showy military finery. and the chest left over with medals.

It was the time of the banana republics, when in the middle of the cold war the brothers John Foster and Allen Dulles, one head of the CIA, the other secretary of state, removed and installed presidents in the Caribbean, if the United Fruit Company so wanted. .

The photos taken on that occasion in the lounges of the recently inaugurated El Panamá hotel are memorable. In them, General Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas of Guatemala, General Marcos Pérez Jiménez of Venezuela, General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla of Colombia, and General Fulgencio appear, contending for the site closest to Eisenhower. Batista, from Cuba.

However, the most powerful and influential of all those satraps dressed in operetta costumes, Generalissimo Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, is missing. Owner of absolute power in the Dominican Republic, for protocol reasons he could not be present at the conclave, as he had given the presidency on temporary loan to his brother, General Héctor Bienvenido. Negro Trujillo, who takes his place in the family photo.

The Generalissimo, who had not been shy about calling the capital Ciudad Trujillo, in his own tribute, pretending modesty, had left the presidential sash in deposit to Héctor Bienvenido, the most docile and subdued of his brothers, while he preserved in his fist all powers, starting with life and death.

This peculiar fauna would not take long to disappear from the map. Somoza was shot dead, upon returning to Nicaragua, by an unknown poet; Rojas Pinilla was forced to resign by a national strike in May 1957; in July of the same year Castillo Armas fell under the bullets of a custodian of the presidential palace; Pérez Jiménez was overthrown in January 1958; and Batista fled Cuba on New Year’s Eve of that same year. And the great absentee, Generalissimo Trujillo, was ambushed and killed on May 31, 1961, now sixty years ago.

The Generalissimo considered himself a higher place than his other colleagues at the zoo. Somoza, after an official visit to Ciudad Trujillo in 1952, returned complaining that at official meetings, his host’s chair was always placed on top of a dais, forcing him to look up. Nor was Trujillo satisfied with reigning only on his island; and it was his ambitions for power beyond the borders, and his thirst for revenge, also carried beyond the borders, that ended up losing him. And, astute as he was, I couldn’t read the change of the times either.

He put the first nail in his coffin with the kidnapping, on Fifth Avenue in New York in 1956, of Professor Jesús Galíndez, a Basque exile who had lived in the Dominican Republic after the fall of the Spanish Republic. He was transferred on a clandestine flight to Ciudad Trujillo, and assassinated by the secret police in the ergástulas of the dictatorship, in revenge because Galíndez had revealed a bedroom secret in a book: Ramfis Trujillo, heir to the Generalissimo, was not his son.

In 1957 he extended his long arm to Guatemala to assassinate Castillo Armas, also out of revenge for wounded vanity: Trujillo had supported him with arms and money to overthrow Colonel Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, and hoped that he would invite him to witness the parade of the victory; or that, once in the presidency, he decorated him with the Order of the Quetzal. The task of directing the plot was entrusted to none other than the head of his secret services, Johnny Abes García, whom he accredited as a diplomat in the Dominican embassy in Guatemala.

And finally, the attack against President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela, in June 1960, which led him into deep, and fatal waters. Betancourt was a respected leader, democratically elected after the fall of Pérez Jiménez. He survived, with burns, the explosive charge that exploded as his caravan passed by on an avenue in Caracas; but Trujillo paid that bill, and many others, before the year was over.

Since the story is usually best told in novels, there are three to read about the Trujillo era: Galindez, formidable and little frequented book by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; The party of the goatby Mario Vargas Llosa; Y The Wonderful Short Life of Oscar Waoby Junot Díaz.

Three different approaches, but that concur to unveil the figure of the feathered bicorn dictator who proposed himself as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, and gave himself an infinite number of titles among which were those of Father of the New Homeland, Champion of Freedom, Undefeated of the Dominican Armies, First Dominican Farmer, First Teacher of the Homeland, Genius of Peace, Protector of All Workers, Hero of Labor, First Anti-Communist of America.

Sergio Ramirez He is a writer, Cervantes Prize 2017.

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