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A puppet ruler is a person who has a title indicating possession of political power, but who, in reality, is controlled by outside individuals or forces. Such outside power can be exercised by a foreign government, in which case the puppet ruler's domain is called a puppet state. But the puppet ruler may also be controlled by internal forces, such as non-elected officials.
Governing through puppet presidents has long been a political tactic in Latin America. Many dictators and strongmen have formally handed over power to other officials for several reasons, often in order to follow constitutional provisions for elections and term limits, to provide a civilian façade for military rule, or to be able to go into semi-retirement away from the capital city. Strongmen who sometimes governed through figureheads included Diego Portales of Chile, Rafael Núñez of Colombia, Tomás Guardia Gutiérrez of Costa Rica, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, Ulises Heureaux and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Gabriel García Moreno of Ecuador, Raoul Cédras of Haiti, Porfirio Díaz and Plutarco Elías Calles of Mexico, the Somoza family of Nicaragua, José Antonio Remón Cantera, Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega of Panama, Dési Bouterse of Suriname, and Antonio Guzmán Blanco and Juan Vicente Gómez of Venezuela. While figureheads who decided to act autonomously were often dismissed, on rare occasions the "puppets" later became significant political figures in their own right. For example, Lázaro Cárdenas turned against and exiled Calles to the United States and Joaquín Balaguer was elected to the Dominican presidency six times after the assassination of Trujillo.
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