I'm talking here of when cacique gets used outside of its traditional indigenous referent. I've used strongman for both this and for caudillo before, but thanks to colleague Nancy Viviana Piñeiro for this great rendition. She also suggested political chief but political boss sounds much better to my gringo ear. Just chief I think could be easily misread as being indigenous, but then I suppose in Spanish some might also think that cacique meant an indigenous cacique.
I did notice that the wikipedia entry for political boss links to caudillo when you click for the English option on the lower left (always a good trick). I think cacique and caudillo both get used to mean this, in some contexts. I know they have different histories and etymologies, but I think they often get conflated in common use today. Or am I missing some subtle difference?