Latin America continued to produce dictators through most of the twentieth century, most of whom differed little from the caudillos of the previous century. Juan Perón (1895–1974) of Argentina, Fulgencio Batista (1901–1973) of Cuba, François Duvalier (1907–1971) of Haiti, Anastasio Somoza (1896–1956) of Nicaragua, and Alfredo Stroessner (1912–2006) of Paraguay are modern examples of personal dictators.The region also produced military juntas, with power often rotating among senior military officers. Junta leaders included Jorge Rafael Videla (1925–2013) of Argentina, Humberto Castello Branco (1897–1967) of Brazil, Gabriel Paris Gordillo (1910–2008) of Colombia, Guillermo Rodríguez Lara (b. 1924) of Ecuador, and Juan Velasco Alvarado (1910–1977) of Peru.
One of Latin America’s cruelest dictators, Rafael Trujillo was a career officer in the army of the Dominican Republic. He ruled his country directly or indirectly from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. The brutality of his final days was dramatized in the novel La Fiesta del chivo (The Feast of the Goat, 2000) by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (b. 1936), a visiting lecturer at Princeton University whose papers are in the Manuscripts Division of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Although generally disliked in his homeland, Trujillo succeeded in building a functional public administration, an accomplishment that eluded his many predecessors. All of the Dominican Republic’s orders for merit were instituted and regulated by Trujillo, who served as grand master of all of them.
Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was a career army officer when he launched his coup d’état against the elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende (1908–1973), on September 11, 1973. Pinochet oversaw the arrest, torture, and execution of thousands of Chilean citizens in his early years in power. A year after his coup, Pinochet appointed himself President of the Republic, an office he held until a successor was elected in 1990. Pinochet relied on his personal relationship with the officer corps of the four branches of the Chilean armed forces to stay in power. Under his direction, the government reformed the Chilean economy into an open free market system. The country has prospered economically since he left office, and none of his successors has chosen to undo the free market system. Paul Sigmund, Princeton Professor of Politics Emeritus, has edited a definitive collection of studies of Pinochet’s coup and its effects on the development of Latin America.