In early 1930, after Dominican President Horacio Vasquez faced revolts and a provisional government had been established, Trujillo named himself a candidate in the new presidential elections. During Trujillo's campaign, he organized a secret police force to torture and murder supporters of the opposing candidate. Not surprisingly, Trujillo won the election by a landslide.
Shortly into Trujillo's first term, Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, was devastated by a hurricane. Trujillo used the disaster as an excuse to impose martial law on all citizens. He also imposed "emergency taxes" and even seized the bank accounts of his opposition. Trujillo spent the next six years renovating the city and building several monuments in his own honor. Upon completing renovations, Trujillo renamed Santo Domingo "Ciudad Trujillo."
During his additional years in office, Trujillo continued to use his power for personal profit. He took total control of all major industries and financial institutions. The country saw some improvements to its economy, but those were mainly limited to the capital city. Meanwhile, in more rural areas, entire peasant communities were uprooted to clear the way for Trujillo’s new sugar plantation. Trujillo himself candidly defended his reign with the assertion that, "He who does not know how to deceive does not know how to rule."
Trujillo was known to treat the Dominican Republic's Haitian migrants with particularly severity and a deliberate disregard for their civil liberties. In 1937, he went so far as to orchestrate the massacre of thousands of Haitian immigrants.
Trujillo officially held the office of president until 1938, when he chose a puppet successor. He resumed his official position from 1942 until 1952 but subsequently continued to rule by force until his death in 1961. Toward the end of his life, he faced growing opposition from Dominican citizens as well as foreign pressure to relax his rule. He also started losing military support from the army, with the CIA maneuvering to have him removed from power.