3 FULGENCIO BATISTA
President of Cuba
Cuban Army Sergeant Fulgencio Batiste, first seized power in a 1932 coup. He was FDR's handpicked dictator to counteract leftists who had overthrown strongman Gerardo Machado, "the Butcher". Batista ruled for several years, then left for Miami, returning in 1952 just in time for another coup, against elected president Carlos Prio Socorras. His new regime was recognized in a flash by President Eisenhower.
Under Batista, U.S. interests flourished and little was said about democracy. With the loyal support of Batista, Mafioso boss Meyer Lansky developed Havana into an international drug port. Cabinet offices were bought and sold and military officials made huge sums on smuggling and vice rackets. Havana became a fashionable hot spot where America's rich and famous clinked cocktails with mobsters.
As the gap between the rich and poor grew wider, the poor grew impatient. In 1953, Fidel Castro led an armed group of rebels in a failed uprising on the Moncada army barracks. Fidel temporarily fled the country and Batista struck back with a vengeance. Freedom of speech was curtailed and "subversive" teachers, lawyers and public officials were fired from their jobs. Death squads tortured and killed thousands of "communists." Batista was assisted in his crackdown by Lansky and other members of organized crime who believed Castro would jeopardize their gambling and drug trade. Despite this, Batista remained a friend to Eisenhower and the U.S. until he was finally overthrown by Castro in 1959.
4 RAFAEL LEONIDAS TRUJILLO
President of the Dominican Republic
The U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic in 1916 and created the National Guardto put Rafael Leonidas "The Chief" Trujillo into power. The fact that Trujillo was court-martialed for kidnapping and rape in 1920 did not impede his rise to power or taint his relationship with the U.S. As dictator of the Dominican Republic for 30 years, Trujillo had a penchant for self-adulation, naming the country's capital "Ciudad Trujillo" and likening himself to Jesus Christ. He also put his personal stamp on everything. On village water pumps: "Trujillo alone gives us water to drink." On a home for the aged: "Trujillo is the only one who gives us shelter."
Trujillo won the 1930 presidential election with more votes than there were registered voters, but as long as he was anti-communist, Washington was happy, so he invoked anti-communism to justify mass deportations, torture and summary execution. Workers who asked for wage increases were labelled "communists" and shot on the spot, as were farmers who tried to stop Trujillo from confiscating their land. He eventually controlled over 80% of the country's sugar plantations, using slave labor provided by neighboring Haiti to keep profits high, but in 1937 he decided to blame depressed sugar prices on the Haitian workers and massacred 20,000 of them. Trujillo was finally assassinated by the CIA in 1961, after he attempted to have President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela murdered because of his criticism of Trujillo's brutal regime. It was only then that the Marine Corps made public the fact that our "ally" Trujillo was a convicted rapist!
11 FRANÇOIS & JEAN CLAUDE DUVALIER
Presidents-for-Life of Haiti
In 1957 François "Papa Doc" Duvalier became Haiti's President-for-Life, establishing a strategic relationship with the U.S. that lasted into the 1970s, when he was succeeded by his son Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. During their 30 year rule, 60,000 Haitians were killed and countless more were tortured by the Duvaliers' Tonton Macoutes death squads, but in 1969, after 13 years of murderous rule by Papa Doc, U.S. Ambassador Clinton Knox shook hands with the dictator and called for increased aid to Haiti. PapaDoc made him an honorary Tonton Macoute. While Haiti became the poorest country in the Westem hemisphere, the Duvaliers enriched themselves by stealing foreign aid money. In 1980, for instance, the International Monetary Fund granted Haiti a $22 million budget supplement. Within weeks, $16 million was "unaccounted for," presumably in Baby Doc's bank account.
Papa Doc liked to compare himself to Christ and adapted the Lord's Prayer to read "Our Doc who art in the National Palace for life, hallowed be Thy name by present and future generations." Baby Doc, on the other hand, made Haiti into a trans-shipment point for Colombian cocaine. He allegedly let his father-in-law use Haiti's national airline to ship drugs to the U.S., and his brother-in-law was convicted of cocaine trafficking by a Puerto Rican court. Nevertheless, as long as Papa and Baby Doc were anti-communists, they could do no wrong in the U.S. government's eyes. Their regime finally ended in 1986, when Baby Doc fled angry mobs of Haitians for the comfort of a Parisian villa, where he now resides.