Francisco Javier Arana (December 5, 1905 – July 18, 1949) was one of the three leaders of the revolutionary junta that ruled Guatemala from 20 October 1944 to 15 March 1945.
Major Francisco Arana was the son of lower middle class parents of mixed Spanish and Indian blood. He lacked formal education, but he made up for it with an intellectually curious mind. He was well-read by the standards of the Guatemalan officers of his day and projected a charismatic image. Arana’s death was the pivotal event of the Guatemalan Revolution. His death opened the doors to the election of Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, who would later implement Guatemala’s first agrarian reform. Árbenz would then be overthrown by the United States in June 1954, thus ending the Revolution.
On 20 October 1944, the Guatemalan Revolution began with the overthrow of Federico Ponce. His rule was replaced by a three-man junta. The junta consisted of Major Arana, Captain Árbenz, and an upper-class civilian by the name of Jorge Toriello. However, Arana’s emergence as one of the leaders was termed as an “accident” for he joined the plot only in the later stages. The junta proposed free elections for a constituent assembly, a Congress, and a president.
In 1945, the Pacto del Barranco (Pact of the Ravine) was arranged between Arana and PAR, the most popular political party at the time. This pact was formed because of an accident that President Juan José Arévalo was involved in. He accidentally drove his car into a deep ravine which rendered him invalid for a long period of time. Afraid that Arana might take advantage of the situation, PAR promised to support his candidacy in the November 1950 presidential elections in exchange for his refrain from a military coup. This agreement was known to a very few people in Guatemala; not even the American Embassy knew about this. It explained Arana’s unwillingness to join any movement against Arévalo. The truth was that he did not have any desire for a military coup. He wanted to be known as the democratic hero of the uprising against Ponce and he believed that the Pacto del Barranco would guarantee his position as a president elected by an admiring populace, not a usurper ruling through force.