1954 Guatemalan coup d'état

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1954 Guatemalan coup d'état
Date 18–27 June 1954
Location Guatemala
Result Jacobo Árbenz overthrown; Guatemalan Revolution ended; Military Junta assumes power.
Belligerents
Guatemala Guatemalan Government

Guatemala Military of Guatemala

Supported by:
 United States

Commanders and leaders
Jacobo Árbenz
Carlos Enrique Díaz de León
Elfego Hernán Monzón Aguirre
Carlos Castillo Armas
José Luis Cruz Salazar
Mauricio Dubois
Operation PBSUCCESS: US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the executor and the advocate of the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état that installed the right-wing dictatorship

The 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état (18–27 June 1954) was a covert operation carried out by the United States Central Intelligence Agency that deposed the democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz and ended the Guatemalan Revolution. Codenamed Operation PBSUCCESS, it installed the military regime of Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a series of military dictators that ruled Guatemala.

Guatemala had been ruled since 1930 by the dictator General Jorge Ubico, supported by the United States government. His regime was one of the most brutally repressive military juntas in the history of Central America. In return for US support he gave hundreds of thousands of hectares of highly fertile land to the American United Fruit Company (UFCO), as well as allowing the US military to establish bases in Guatemala.[1][2][3][4][5] In 1944, Ubico's repressive policies resulted in a large popular revolt against him, led by students, intellectuals, and a progressive faction of the military. In what was later called the "October Revolution", Ubico was overthrown, resulting in Guatemala's first democratic election.[6]

The elections were won by Juan José Arévalo who was leading a coalition of leftist parties known as the Revolutionary Action Party. He implemented a series of social reforms including a minimum wage law, increased educational funding and near-universal suffrage. Despite his policies being relatively moderate he was widely disliked by the United States government and the United Fruit Company, whose hugely profitable business had been affected by the end to brutal labor practices. Arévalo appointed Jacobo Árbenz as his defense minister, and he played a crucial role in foiling many of the 25 coup attempts that took place during Arévalo's presidency.[7][8]

Fresh elections were held in 1950. Arévalo did not contest, and Árbenz won in a landslide, receiving three times as many votes as Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, his nearest challenger, in elections that were generally fair.[9] Árbenz continued the social reform policies of his predecessor and also began an ambitious program of land reform, which attempted to grant small land-holdings to peasants who had been victims of debt slavery prior to Arévalo. This policy expropriated large tracts of un-farmed private land, and redistributed it to landless laborers. Árbenz himself gave up a large portion of his land-holdings. This policy was greatly resented by the UFCO, who had benefited until then from Ubico's largesse. The company lobbied the US government to topple Árbenz.[10] A paramilitary invasion by the CIA overthrew Árbenz in 1954, and installed the military dictator Carlos Castillo Armas.[10]

Following the coup Guatemala was ruled by a series of US-backed military regimes until 1996. The coup sparked off the Guatemalan Civil War against leftist guerrillas, during which the military committed massive human rights violations against the civilian population, including a genocidal campaign against the Maya peoples.[11]

Historical background[edit]

The Monroe Doctrine placed the Republic of Guatemala under the US hegemony of the Western Hemisphere

The Monroe Doctrine[edit]

Further information: Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was a philosophy of foreign policy articulated by US President James Monroe in 1823. It warned the European powers not to indulge in further colonization in Latin America.[12][13] The stated aim of the doctrine was to maintain order and stability, and to make certain that access to resources and markets was not limited.[13] Historian Mark Gilderhus states that the doctrine also contained racially condescending language, which likened Latin American countries to fighting children.[13]

The US did not initially have the power to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Over the course of the 19th century many European powers withdrew from Latin America, and the US expanded its sphere of influence.[12] In 1895, Grover Cleveland laid out a more militant version of the doctrine, stating that the US was "practically sovereign" on the continent.[13] Following the Spanish–American War in 1898, this aggressive interpretation was used to create a US economic empire across the Caribbean, such as with the 1903 treaty with Cuba that was heavily tilted in the US favor.[13] US President Theodore Roosevelt believed that the US should be the main beneficiary of production in central America.[14] The US enforced this hegemony with armed interventions in Nicaragua (1912–33), and Haiti (1915–34).[15] The US did not need to use its military might in Guatemala, where a series of dictators were willing to accommodate US economic interests in return for US support.[15] From 1890 to 1920, economic control of Guatemalan resources and economy shifted away from Britain and Germany to the United States, which became the dominant Guatemalan trade partner.[15] However, the Monroe Doctrine continued to be applied to the country, and was used to justify the coup in 1954.[16]

Authoritarian governments[edit]

Further information: Manuel Estrada Cabrera and Jorge Ubico
Manuel Estrada Cabrera, Dictator of Guatemala from 1898 to 1920. Cabrera granted large concessions to the American United Fruit Company
Jorge Ubico, the dictator of Guatemala from 1931 to 1944. He passed laws allowing landowners to use lethal force to defend their property

The surge in global coffee demand in the late 19th century led to the Guatemalan government making numerous concessions to plantation owners, such as by passing legislation that dispossessed the communal landholdings of the indigenous population and allowed coffee growers to purchase it.[17][18] Manuel Estrada Cabrera, president of Guatemala from 1898 to 1920, was one of several rulers who made huge concessions to foreign companies, including the United States-based United Fruit Company (UFC), which purchased large areas of land at favorable prices.[19] The company had a monopoly over the highly lucrative banana trade, and due to its close relationships with the Guatemalan dictators, also controlled the docks, the railroad, and the communications in the country.[20] The US government was also closely involved with the Guatemalan state, frequently dictating financial policies, and ensuring that US companies were granted several exclusive rights.[21] When Cabrera was overthrown in 1920, the US sent an armed force to make certain that the new president remained friendly to the United States.[22]

Fearing a popular revolt following the unrest created by the Great Depression of 1929, wealthy Guatemalan landowners lent their support to Jorge Ubico, who had become known for his efficiency and ruthlessness as a provincial governor. Ubico won an uncontested election in 1931,[17][18] with the United States also lending him heavy political support.[22] Ubico's regime quickly became one of the most repressive in the region. He abolished debt peonage, replacing it with a vagrancy law, which stipulated that all landless men of working age needed to perform a minimum of 100 days of forced labor annually.[23] He authorized landowners to take any actions against their workers, including executions.[23][24][1] Ubico was a big admirer of European fascists like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, but was driven to ally with the United States for geopolitical reasons.[25] Following the American lead he declared war against Germany and Japan in 1941, and arrested all people of German descent in the country.[26] He continued to make massive concessions to the United Fruit Company, such as giving it 200,000 hectares (490,000 acres) hectares of public land,[27] and exempting it from all taxes.[28]

Ubico amassed a large personal wealth, claiming an annual salary of $215,000.[28] He was strongly anti–communist, reacting to several peasant rebellions with incarcerations and massacres.[28][1][29][3][5] He held the indigenous Mayan people in high contempt, likening them to donkeys.[1] Ubico continued to receive support from the US right through his period in power.[1]

Guatemalan Revolution and Presidency of Arévalo[edit]

Main article: Guatemalan Revolution

The repressive policies of the Ubico government resulted in a popular uprising led by university students and middle-class citizens in 1944.[30] Ubico fled, handing over power to a three-person junta led by Federico Ponce Vaides. The junta continued Ubico's policies until it was toppled by the October Revolution. The movement had the aim of transforming Guatemala into a liberal capitalist society.[30] The largely free election that followed installed a philosophically conservative university professor, Juan José Arévalo, as the President of Guatemala. Arévalo's administration drafted a more liberal labor code, built health centers, and increased funding to education. It stopped short of drastically changing labor relations in the countryside.[31] Arévalo enacted a minimum wage, and created state-run farms to employ landless laborers. However, he cracked down upon the communist party, and in 1945 criminalized all unions in workplaces with less than 500 workers.[32] By 1947, the remaining unions had grown strong enough to pressure him into drafting a new labor code, which made workplace discrimination illegal and created health and safety standards,[33] but Arévalo nonetheless refused to advocate land-reform of any kind.[31] Despite Arévalo's anti-communism, the United States was suspicious of him, and worried that he was under Soviet influence.[7] Another cause for U.S. worry was Arévalo's support of the Caribbean Legion, a group of progressive exiles, and revolutionaries who aimed to overthrow U.S. backed dictatorships across Central America.[34]

The government also faced opposition from within the country. Although popular among Guatemalan nationalists, Arévalo was disliked by the church and the military, and faced at least 25 unsuccessful coup attempts during his presidency.[35] Arévalo was prevented from contesting the 1950 elections by the constitution. The largely free elections were won by the popular Jacobo Árbenz, who had been one of the leaders of the October 1944 coup, and had served as defense minister to Arévalo.[36] Árbenz promised to continue and expand the reforms begun under Arévalo.[37] Despite having personal ties to some members of the communist Guatemalan Party of Labour which was legalized during his government,[36] Árbenz did not try to turn Guatemala into a communist country, instead choosing a moderate capitalist approach.[38]

Presidency of Árbenz and land reform[edit]

Further information: Decree 900

The biggest component of Árbenz' policy was his agrarian reform bill.[39] Árbenz drafted the bill himself,[40] while also seeking advice from numerous economists from across Latin America.[39] The focus of the program was on transferring uncultivated land from large landowners to their poverty stricken laborers, who would then be able to begin a viable farm of their own.[39] Árbenz was also motivated to pass the bill because he needed to generate capital for his public infrastructure projects within the country. At the behest of the United States, the World Bank had refused to grant Guatemala a loan in 1951, which made the shortage of capital more acute.[41]

Farmland in the Quetzaltenango Department, in western Guatemala.

The official title of the agrarian reform bill was Decree 900. It expropriated all uncultivated land from landholdings that were larger than 673 acres (272 ha). If the estates were between 672 acres (272 ha) and 224 acres (91 ha) in size, uncultivated land was expropriated only if less than two-thirds of it was in use.[41] The owners were compensated with government bonds, the value of which was equal to that of the land expropriated. The value of the land itself was the value that the owners had declared in their tax returns in 1952.[41] Of the nearly 350,000 private land-holdings, only 1710 were affected by expropriation. The law itself was cast in a moderate capitalist framework; however, it was implemented with great speed, which resulted in occasional arbitrary land seizures. There was also some violence, directed at land-owners, as well as at peasants that had minor landholdings of their own.[41]

By June 1954, 1.4 million acres of land had been expropriated and distributed. Approximately 500,000 individuals, or one-sixth of the population, had received land by this point.[41] The decree also included provision of financial credit to the people who received the land. The National Agrarian Bank (Banco Nacional Agrario, or BNA) was created on 7 July 1953.[41] The BNA developed a reputation for being a highly efficient government bureaucracy.[41] The loans had a high repayment rate; of the $3,371,185 paid out between March and November 1953, $3,049,092 had been repaid by June 1954.[41] The law also nationalized roads that passed through redistributed land, which greatly increased the connectivity of rural communities.[41]

Contrary to the predictions made by detractors of the government, the law resulted in a slight increase in Guatemalan agricultural productivity, and to an increase in cultivated area. Purchases of farm machinery also increased.[41] Overall, the law resulted in a significant improvement in living standards for many thousands of peasant families, the majority of whom were indigenous people. [41] Historian Piero Gleijeses stated that the injustices corrected by the law were far greater than the injustice of the relatively few arbitrary land seizures.[41] Historian Greg Grandin stated that the law was flawed in many respects; among other things, it was too cautious and deferential to the planters, and it created communal divisions among peasants. Nonetheless, it represented a fundamental power shift in favor of those that had been marginalized before then.[42]

Role of the United Fruit Company[edit]

The former headquarters of the United Fruit Company, which had a large role to play in instigating the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état
Main article: United Fruit Company

History[edit]

The United Fruit Company (UFC) had been formed in 1899 by the merger of two large American corporations.[43] The new corporation held large tracts of land across Central America, and also controlled the railroads in the region, which it used to support its business of exporting bananas.[44] By 1900 it had become the largest exporter of bananas in the world.[45] By 1930 it had an operating capital of 215 million U.S. dollars, and had been the largest landowner and employer in Guatemala for several years.[46] Under the dictatorships of Manuel Estrada Cabrera and Jorge Ubico, the company had been granted a large number of economic and legal concessions in Guatemala that allowed it to massively expand its business. These concessions frequently came at the cost of tax revenue for the Guatemalan government.[45] The company supported Jorge Ubico in the leadership struggle that occurred from 1930 to 1932, and upon assuming power, Ubico expressed willingness to create a new contract with it. This new contract was immensely favorable to the company. It included a 99-year lease to massive tracts of land, exemptions from virtually all taxes, and a guarantee that no other company would receive any competing contract. Under Ubico, the company paid virtually no taxes, which greatly hindered the Guatemalan government's ability to deal with the Great Depression of 1929-32.[45] Ubico requested the UFC to cap the salary of its workers at only 50 cents a day, so that workers in other companies would be less able to demand higher wages.[46] The company also virtually owned Puerto Barrios, Guatemala's only port to the Atlantic ocean, allowing the company to make profits from the flow of goods through the port.[46] By 1950, the company's annual profits were 65 million U.S. dollars, twice as large as the revenue of the government of Guatemala.[47]

Effects of the October revolution[edit]

Due to its long association with Ubico's government, the United Fruit Company (UFC) was seen as an impediment to progress by Guatemalan revolutionaries after 1944. This image was worsened by the company's discriminatory policies towards its colored workers.[47][48] Thanks to its position as the country's largest landowner and employer, the reforms of Arévalo's government affected the UFC more than other companies. Among other things, the labor code passed by the government allowed its workers to strike when their demands for higher wages and job security were not met. The company saw itself as being specifically targeted by the reforms, and refused to negotiate with the numerous sets of strikers, despite frequently being in violation of the new laws.[49] The company's labor troubles were compounded in 1952 when Jacobo Árbenz passed Decree 900, the agrarian reform law. Of the 550,000 acres (220,000 ha) that the company owned, 15% were being cultivated; the rest of the land, which was idle, came under the scope of the agrarian reform law.[49]

Lobbying the United States[edit]

The United Fruit Company responded with intensive lobbying of members of the United States government, leading many U.S. congressmen and senators to criticize the Guatemalan government for not protecting the interests of the company.[50] The Guatemalan government responded by saying that the company was the main obstacle to progress in the country. American historians observed that "To the Guatemalans it appeared that their country was being mercilessly exploited by foreign interests which took huge profits without making any contributions to the nation's welfare."[50] In 1953, 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) of uncultivated land was expropriated by the government, which offered the company compensation at the rate of 2.99 U.S. dollars to the acre, twice what the company had paid when it bought the property.[50] More expropriation occurred soon after, bringing the total to over 400,000 acres (160,000 ha); the government offered compensation to the company at the rate at which the UFC had valued its own property for tax purposes.[49] This resulted in further lobbying in Washington, particularly through Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who had close ties to the company.[50] The company had begun a public relations campaign to discredit the Guatemalan government; it hired public relations expert Edward Bernays, who ran a concerted campaign of misinformation to portray the company as the victim of the Guatemalan government for several years.[51] The company stepped up its efforts after Dwight Eisenhower had been elected in 1952. These included commissioning a research study on Guatemala from a firm known to be hawkish, which produced a 235-page report that was highly critical of the Guatemalan government.[52] Historians have stated that the report was full of "exaggerations, scurrilous descriptions and bizarre historical theories."[52] The report nonetheless had a significant impact on the members of Congress that it was sent to. Overall, the company spent over a half-million dollars to influence both lawmakers and members of the public in the U.S. that the Guatemalan government needed to be overthrown.[52]

Operation PBFORTUNE[edit]

Man in gray suit and glasses signing a document
United States President Harry Truman authorized the CIA to effect a Guatemalan coup d’état in 1951
Main article: Operation PBFORTUNE

The U.S. government had become more hostile to the new Guatemalan government over the years of Arevalo's presidency. This was due partly to the intensification of the cold war, as well as a reduction in the massive concessions that the United Fruit Company had enjoyed under Ubico.[53] In addition, the company carried out an intensive lobbying campaign within the U.S. to discredit the Guatemalan government.[54] The worries of the U.S. increased after the election of Jacobo Árbenz in 1951 and his enactment of Decree 900, the agrarian reform law, in 1952.[53][55] The new law benefited approximately half a million people;[41] however, several hundred thousand acres of uncultivated land belonging to the United Fruit Company were expropriated. The compensation it was granted was based on the valuation the company had used for its tax payments. Since this was a major undervaluation, the company was unhappy with its compensation,[50] and intensified its lobbying against the Guatemalan government in Washington.[50]

In April 1952 Anastasio Somoza García, the U.S.-backed dictator of Nicaragua, made his first state visit to the U.S.[56] Somoza made several public speeches praising the United States, and was awarded a medal by New York City.[57] During a meeting with Truman and his senior staff, Somoza said that if the U.S. gave him the arms, he would "clean up Guatemala."[57] The proposal did not receive much immediate support; however, Truman instructed the CIA to follow up on it. The CIA contacted Carlos Castillo Armas, the Guatemalan army officer who had been exiled from the country in 1949 following a failed coup attempt against the president.[58] In the belief that Armas would lead a coup with or without CIA assistance, the CIA created a plan to supply him with weapons and $225,000.[56]

The coup was planned in detail over the next few weeks by the CIA, the United Fruit Company, and Somoza. The CIA contacted Marcos Pérez Jiménez and Rafael Trujillo the U.S.-supported right-wing dictators of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, respectively. The two dictators were supportive of the plan, and agreed to contribute some funding.[59] Although PBFORTUNE was officially approved on September 9, 1952, various planning steps had been taken earlier in the year. In January 1952, officers in the CIA's Directorate of Plans compiled a list of "top flight Communists whom the new government would desire to eliminate immediately in the event of a successful anti-Communist coup."[60] The CIA plan called for the assassination of over 58 Guatemalans, as well as the arrest of many others.[60]

The CIA put the plan into motion during the autumn of 1952. A freighter that had been borrowed from the United Fruit Company was specially refitted and loaded with weapons in New Orleans under the guise of agricultural machinery, and set sail for Nicaragua.[61] However, the state department became aware that many details of the plan had already become public knowledge, thanks to Somoza discussing it openly with his government officials.[56] This came to the attention of Dean Acheson, the secretary of state, who called off the plot.[56] The freighter was redirected to Panama, where the arms were unloaded.[59] However, the CIA continued to support Castillo Armas; it granted him a retainer of $3000 a month, and gave him the resources to maintain his rebel force.[56]

Operation PBSUCCESS[edit]

Genesis[edit]

Redacted official document
The memorandum which describes the CIA’s organisation of the paramilitary deposition of President Jacobo Árbenz in June 1954
Man in a gray suit and man in a black suit seated at a desk
John Foster Dulles and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower

In addition to the lobbying of the United Fruit Company, several other factors also led the United States to launch the coup that toppled Árbenz in 1954. The U.S. government had also grown more suspicious of the Guatemalan Revolution as the Cold War developed and the Guatemalan government clashed with U.S. corporations on an increasing number of issues.[62] The Cold War predisposed the Truman administration to see the Guatemalan government as communist.[62] Arévalo's support for the Caribbean Legion also worried the Truman administration, which saw it as a vehicle for communism, rather than as the anti-dictatorial force it was conceived as.[63] Until the end of its term, the Truman administration relied on purely diplomatic and economic means to try and reduce the communist influence.[64] The United States had refused to sell arms to the Guatemalan government after 1944; in 1951 it began to block weapons purchases by Guatemala from other countries.[65] The enactment of the agrarian reform law in 1952 provoked Truman to authorize Operation PBFORTUNE. Although this was quickly aborted, tension between the U.S. and Guatemala continued to rise, especially with the legalization of the communist Guatemalan Party of Labour and its inclusion in the government coalition for the elections of January 1953.[66] Articles published in the U.S. press often reflected this predisposition to see communist influence; for example, a New York Times article about the visit to Guatemala of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda highlighted Neruda's communist beliefs while neglecting to mention his reputation as the greatest living poet from Latin America.[67]

In November 1952, Dwight Eisenhower was elected president of the U.S. Eisenhower's campaign had included a pledge for a more active anti-communist policy, promising to rollback, rather than contain, communism. The campaign had been influenced by the rise of McCarthyism in the U.S. government, and so Eisenhower was more willing to use the CIA to remove governments the U.S. disliked.[68][69] Several figures in his administration, including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother and CIA director Allen Dulles had close ties to the United Fruit Company. The Dulles brothers had worked for the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, and in that capacity had arranged several deals for the UFC. Undersecretary of state Bedell Smith later became a director of the UFC, while the wife of the UFC public relations director was Eisenhower's personal assistant. These personal connections meant that the Eisenhower administration tended to conflate the interests of the UFC with U.S. national security interests, and made it more willing to overthrow the Guatemalan government.[70][71] The successful CIA operation to overthrow the democratic Iranian government also strengthened Eisenhower's belief in using the CIA to effect political change.[68]

Planning[edit]

The CIA operation to overthrow Jacobo Árbenz, code-named Operation PBSUCCESS, was authorized by Eisenhower in August 1953.[72] The operation was granted a budget of 2.7 million dollars for "pychological warfare and political action."[72] The total budget has been estimated at between 5 and 7 million dollars, and the planning employed over 100 CIA agents.[73] The CIA planning included drawing up lists of people within Árbenz' government to be assassinated if the coup were to be carried out. Manuals of assassination techniques were compiled, and lists were also made of people whom the junta would dispose of.[72] The U.S. State department created a team of diplomats who would support PBSUCCESS. The leader of this team was John Peurifoy, who took over as the U.S. ambassador in Guatemala in October 1953,[74] an appointment which signaled the solidifying U.S. plot.[75]

The CIA operation was complicated by the launch of a premature coup on 29 March 1953, when a futile raid against the Army garrison at Salamá, in central Guatemala. The rebellion was swiftly crushed, and a number of participants arrested. This incident resulted in a number of CIA agents and allies being imprisoned, weakening the coup effort. Thus the CIA came to rely more heavily on the Guatemalan exile-groups and their anti-democratic allies in Guatemala.[76] The CIA considered several candidates to lead the coup. Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, the conservative candidate who had lost the 1950 election to Árbenz, held favor with the Guatemalan opposition but was rejected for his role in the Ubico regime, as well as his resemblance to a Spanish nobleman, which would have cost him support among the indigenous peasants.[77] Another popular candidate was the coffee planter Juan Córdova Cerna, who had briefly served in Arévalo's cabinet before becoming the legal adviser to the UFC. The death of his son in an anti-government uprising in 1950 turned him against the government, and he had planned the small unsuccessful coup in Salamá in 1953 before fleeing to join Castillo Armas in exile. Although his status as a civilian gave him an advantage over Castillo Armas, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1954, taking him out of the reckoning.[78] This led to the selection of Carlos Castillo Armas, the lieutenant of Francisco Javier Arana and had been exiled following the failed coup in 1949.[79] Armas had been on the CIA payroll since the aborted Operation PBFORTUNE in 1951.[80]

The U.S. state department also embarked on a campaign to ensure that other countries would not sympathize with the Guatemalan government, by linking it to communism and the Soviet Union.[81] The U.S. had stopped selling arms to Guatemala in 1951 while signing bilateral defense agreements and increasing arms shipments to Honduras and Nicaragua, and promising the Guatemalan military that they too could obtain arms if Árbenz were deposed. In 1953, the State Department aggravated the American arms embargo by thwarting Árbenz Government arms purchases from Canada, Germany, and Rhodesia.[82] By 1954 Árbenz had become desperate for weapons, and decided to acquire them secretly from Czechoslovakia, which would have been the first time that a Soviet bloc country shipped weapons to the Americas.[83][84] The weapons were delivered to Guatemala at the Atlantic Ocean port of Puerto Barrios, by the Swedish freight ship MS Alfhem, which sailed from the port of Szczecin in the People's Republic of Poland. The CIA tried and failed to intercept the shipment, at one point mistakenly seizing the freighter MS Wulfsbrook. The shipment of these weapons was portrayed by the CIA as Soviet interference in the Unites States' backyard, and acted as the final spur for the CIA to launch its coup.[84]

Castillo Armas' invasion[edit]

At 8:00 p.m. on 18 June 1954, Col. Castillo's Ejército de liberación invaded Guatemala; in four groups, the 480 soldiers entered the country at five key points of the Honduras–Guatemala border and of the Guatemala–El Salvador border. Multiple attacks, along a wide front, were meant to impress the populace that the Republic of Guatemala was being invaded by a military force superior to and of greater size than the Guatemalan Army. The four-group dispersal of the CIA mercenary army meant to minimize the possibility of a militarily decisive rout, and of the coup d’état being thwarted, with a single, unfavorable battle. Ten saboteurs, tasked to destroy key bridges and telegraph communications, would hinder the Guatemalan national defense, preceded the main attack force of the liberationist army. Nonetheless, the CIA ordered Col. Castillo to avoid fighting the Guatemalan Army — lest the defenders co-ordinate tactics, and either kill or capture the CIA invaders. As psychological warfare, the course of the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état invasion was meant to provoke popular panic, by giving the populace the impression of strategically insurmountable odds against successfully defending Guatemala, which, the CIA believed, would compel the national populace and the Guatemalan Army to side with, rather than repel and defeat, the invaders led by Col. Castillo. Throughout the invasion, the Voice of Liberation broadcast false news of a popular, right-wing counter-revolution spontaneously occurring throughout Guatemala; of great military forces being welcomed, and joined by the local populace, to overthrow the Communist Árbenz Government.

Almost immediately, the forces of Col. Castillo met with decisive failure. Invading on foot and hampered by heavy equipment, in some cases, the invaders took days to reach their strategic objectives. The weakened psychological impact of the initial invasion allowed local Guatemalans to understand that they were not endangered. One of the first liberationist units to reach their strategic objective was a group of 122 mercenaries tasked to capture the city of Zacapa; despite their superior number, they were defeated by a 30-man platoon of the Guatemalan Army; only 28 mercenaries survived the battle. Elsewhere, in northern Guatemala, a 170-mercenary unit was defeated when they attempted to capture the guarded port city of Puerto Barrios. When the chief of police saw the mercenary invaders, he armed the local longshoremen and assigned them defensive positions. Hours later, after the defensive battle, most of the 170 mercenaries had been killed or captured; some escaped, and fled to Honduras. Within three days, the Guatemalan Army had rendered combat-ineffective two of the four units of Col. Castillo's liberation army. To recover the initiative, the Colonel ordered an air attack upon Guatemala City; the desultory attack upon the national capital failed — a slow aeroplane only managed to bomb a small oil tank, which fire the defenders quickly extinguished.[85]

Guatemalan response[edit]

The Árbenz Government originally meant to repel the invasion by arming the military-age populace, the workers’ militia, and the Guatemalan Army. However, resistance from the armed forces, as well as public knowledge of the secret arms purchase, compelled the President to supply arms only to the Army.[86] Although the purchase of surplus Wehrmacht arms had been from Czechoslovakia, not from the USSR, the Operation PBSUCCESS propaganda misrepresented the business transaction as proof of direct Soviet interference in the Western Hemisphere — a geopolitical impingement upon the U.S. hegemony established in the Monroe Doctrine (1823). To the American public, the U.S. press reported that the Republic of Guatemala was suffering an externally instigated, vanguard party Communist revolution, like the Communist revolutions occurred in the Eastern European countries at the borders of the USSR. The disinformation and propaganda planted in the U.S. news media, about the Guatemalan–Czech arms purchase, and the arrival of the weapons to Guatemala, provoked much popular support for U.S. military intervention. The resultant domestic support allowed the Eisenhower Administration to increase the intensity of its open and secret intervention against the Republic of Guatemala.

The CIA trained and funded army of Carlos Castillo Armas invaded the Republic of Guatemala from Honduras and from El Salvador

On 20 May 1954, the U.S. Navy began air and sea patrols of Guatemala, under the pretexts of intercepting secret shipments of weapons, and the protection of Honduras from Guatemalan aggression and invasion. On 24 May 1954, the US Navy launched Operation HARDROCK BAKER, a blockade of Guatemala, wherein submarines and surface ships intercepted and boarded every ship in Guatemalan waters, and forcefully searched it for Guatemala-bound weapons that might support the “Communist Árbenz Government”. The blockade included British and French ships, which violations of maritime national sovereignty neither Britain nor France protested, because they wished to avoid US intervention to their colonial matters in the Middle East; additionally, the blockade facilitated further psychological warfare against the Guatemalan Army. To disseminate propaganda, the military aeroplanes of Col. Castillo flew over Guatemala City, dropping leaflets that exhorted the people of Guatemala to "Struggle against Communist atheism, Communist intervention, Communist oppression . . . Struggle with your patriotic brothers! Struggle with Castillo Armas!"

The messages were meant to turn the Guatemalan Army against President Árbenz, personally, and against Communism, as economic policy. Moreover, the rebel aeroplanes flying over the cities were perceived as practicing bombing runs, which Guatemalans perceived as indicative of an imminent invasion. On 7 June 1954, a contingency evacuation-force of five amphibious assault ships, a US Marines helicopter-assault Battalion Landing Team, and an anti-submarine aircraft carrier, were despatched to blockade the Guatemalan sea lanes.

Propaganda and disinformation[edit]

The Guatemalan coup d’état much depended upon psychological warfare, because the 480-soldier Guatemalan army of liberation was over-matched by the Guatemalan Army; thus, deception by feint was most important.[72] The CIA used propaganda in the forms of political rumour, air-dropped pamphlets, poster campaigns, and radio (the mass communications medium that successfully deceived most of the Iranian populace to accept the foreign deposition of the elected PM Mohammad Mosaddegh). In third-world Guatemala, few people owned radio receivers; nonetheless, Guatemalans considered the medium of radio as an authoritative source of information. As directed by CIA case officers, from Florida, right-wing student groups successfully conducted internal propaganda, such as publishing El combate (The Combat), a weekly political pamphlet, covering walls and buses with the number 32 — referring to Article 32 of the Guatemalan Constitution, which forbade foreign-financed political parties; the propaganda claims received much attention from the local and the national press. Other psychological warfare techniques included character assassination with signs that read: A Communist Lives Here affixed to the houses of Árbenz supporters; and the month-long daily delivery of false death-notices to President Árbenz, his Cabinet of Advisors, and known Communists.

In due course, the disinformation-propaganda campaign provoked the Árbenz Government to politically repress the Guatemalan right wing, by arresting rightist students, limiting freedom of assembly, and intimidating newspapers. Furthermore, the CIA expected gossip (word-of-mouth) to assist in propagating anti-Communist claims against the elected Árbenz Government. From Florida, The Voice of Liberation radio station, which claimed to be broadcasting from the Guatemalan jungle, transmitted music, “news”, disinformation, and anti–Árbenz propaganda. Most of the radio programming was for the general populace, yet some propaganda specifically was a seditious call-to-arms meant to appeal to the right-wing men of action in the officer corps of the Guatemalan military, whose treasonous complicity was essential to the success of the deposition of the elected Árbenz Government. The collaboration of the Guatemalan army (ca. 5,000 soldiers) was most important, because, as a professional military force, they could readily out-fight and defeat the CIA mercenary army of liberation led by Col. Castillo. The CIA knew that the Castillo army could not conquer Guatemala with 480 mercenary soldiers. Hence, the importance of propaganda, of the co-optation of the Guatemalan military-officer corps to the usurpation of Guatemalan representative democracy, by overthrowing the “Communist government” of President Árbenz.

Árbenz' resignation[edit]

Despite his tactical and strategic successes in defending the Guatemalan republic, President Árbenz ordered his military commander to allow the liberation army of Col. Castillo Armas to advance deep into Guatemala. Although the mercenary army of the CIA were not a significant military threat, the President and the military commander did fear US military intervention if the Guatemalan military decisively defeated the CIA invasion. In the event, such geopolitical fear—US military occupation—soon panicked the Guatemalan officer corps; no tactical commander wished to provoke the intervention of the US military forces who were then blockading Guatemala. Psychologically, the presence of the US Navy’s amphibious assault force prompted rumours, nation-wide, that the US Marines already had established a beachhead in Honduras, and were en route to invading Guatemala. President Árbenz feared that the military officers would be intimidated to side with Col. Castillo Armas; days later, the Army garrison at Chiquimula surrendered to the CIA's liberacionista army.

The CIA exerted air power against the Árbenz Government with a "Liberation Air Force" of US military and mercenary personnel who conducted air raids against Guatemalan military targets and cities.[86] Early in the morning of 27 June 1954, a CIA Lockheed P-38M Lightning attacked Puerto San José and dropped napalm bombs on the British cargo ship, SS Springfjord, on charter to the US company W.R. Grace and Company Line, which was being loaded with Guatemalan cotton and coffee.

At 08.00 hrs. President Árbenz was told of the air attack and responded with consternation that Col. Castillo Armas and his American mercenary invaders had targeted a foreign merchant ship, in violation of international law regarding the distinctions between combatants and non-combatants in warfare. In the event, the CIA psychological warfare succeeded, and provoked an officers' revolt; which crisis of confidence, the President explained to his Cabinet of Advisors, made his presidency untenable, and, at 21.15 hrs., on 27 June 1954, Jacobo Árbenz resigned the Presidency of Guatemala, for exile in Mexico.

In the aftermath of the Guatemalan coup d’état that deposed President Árbenz, the usurper government of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, had difficulty persuading the officer corps of the Guatemalan Army to abandon their Constitutional allegiance to the head-of-state President, and become the Guatemalan Army commanded by Col. Castillo Armas. In the event, most of the officer corps abandoned the elected President of Guatemala, because, as political conservatives, they disliked Decree 900 and the socio-economic changes promulgated, yet neither did they prefer the reactionary régime of Col. Castillo Armas, that soon reversed the progressive changes effected by the deposed Árbenz Government and Decree 900.

In the eleven days after the resignation of President Árbenz, five successive military junta governments occupied the Guatemalan presidential palace; each junta was successively more amenable to the political demands of the U.S., after which Col. Castillo Armas assumed the Presidency of Guatemala. As the Guatemalan head-of-state, the Colonel began the policy of violent repression against the peasantry that was maintained by successive administrations after him.

Operation PBHISTORY[edit]

Main article: Operation PBHISTORY
«Gloriosa victoria», by Mexican painter Diego Rivera. At the center of the painting, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles shaking hands with Carlos Castillo Armas. CIA director, Allen Dulles, and the American Ambassador to Guatemala, John Peurifoy are giving away money among Guatemalan Army officers, while natives work as slaves filling up UFCO ships with bananas. At the Ambassador's feet lies an anthropomorfed bomb with a smiling Eisenhower's face. In the background archbishop Rossell y Arellano gives mass over the dead bodies of massacred workers.

Operation PBHISTORY was an effort by the CIA to analyze documents from the Árbenz government to justify the 1954 coup after the fact.[87] Due to the quick overthrow of the Árbenz government, the CIA believed that the government would not have been able to destroy any incriminating documents, and that these could be analyzed to demonstrate Árbenz' supposed ties to the Soviet Union.[88] The CIA also believed that it could better understand the workings of Latin American communist parties, on which subject the CIA had very little real information.[88] A final motivation was that international responses to the coup had been very negative, even among allies of the U.S., and the CIA wished to counteract the anti-U.S. sentiment.[89] The operation began on 4 July 1954 with the arrival of four CIA agents in Guatemala city led by a specialist in the structure of communist parties. Targets included Árbenz' personal belongings, police documents, and the headquarters of the Guatemalan Party of Labour.[90] Although the initial search failed to find any links to the Soviet Union, the CIA decided to extend the operation and on 4 August a much larger team was deployed, with members from many government departments, including the state department and the U.S. information agency. The task force was given the cover name "Social Research Group."[91] In order to avoid confrontation with Guatemalan nationalists, the CIA opted to leave the documents in Guatemalan possession, instead funding the creation of a Guatemalan intelligence agency that would try to dismantle the communist organizations. The Comite´ de Defensa Nacional Contra el Comunismo (National Committee for Defense against Communism) was created on 20 July, and granted a great deal of power over military and police functions.[92] The personnel of the new agency were also put to work analyzing the same documents.[93]

The document processing phase of the operation was terminated on 28 September 1954, having examined 500,000 documents.[93] There was tension between the different U.S. government agencies about the uses of the information; the CIA wished to use it to subvert communists, whereas USIA wished to use it for propaganda. The CIA's leadership of the operation allowed it to retain control over any documents deemed necessary for clandestine operations.[94] A consequence of PBHISTORY was the opening of a CIA file on Ernesto Che Guevara.[95] In the subsequent decade, the documents gathered were used by the authors of several books, most frequently with covert CIA assistance, which described the Guatemalan Revolution and the 1954 coup in terms favorable to the CIA.[96] Despite the efforts of the CIA, both international and academic reaction to U.S. policy remained highly negative. Even books partially funded by the CIA were somewhat critical of the role played by the CIA. PBHISTORY failed in its chief objective; finding convincing evidence that Guatemalan communists had been instruments of the Soviet Union.[97] The Soviet description of the coup, that the U.S.A. had crushed a democratic revolution to protect the United Fruit Company's control over the Guatemalan economy, became much more widely accepted.[98]

Aftermath[edit]

Further information: Guatemalan Civil War

Military government reinstated[edit]

The response of the Guatemalan nation, to having had their elected government usurped, by right-wing counter-revolution, varied by social class. The upper-class landowners welcomed the end of Decree 900, and expected the U.S. to reinstate their monopoly ownership of expropriated agricultural lands. Likewise, the native Maya had political opinions about the counter-revolution, those who benefited from Decree 900 were unhappy, whilst those who lost lands to Decree 900 were happy, especially those Maya whose autonomous communities had lost political power to the Árbenz Government;[citation needed] other Maya Guatemalans favored President Árbenz, like most Guatemalans, because they understood the socio-political importance of Decree 900 for eliminating the feudalism that for centuries had retarded the social, economic, and cultural progress of Guatemalan society.

In the cities of Antigua Guatemala, San Martín Jilotepeque, and San Juan Sacatepéquez pro–Árbenz armed groups fought the Castillo Armas Government, because of the forced presidential resignation, and because they had benefited from Decree 900. In the event, the US-installed military government of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas proved reactionary, and reversed the land-reform expropriations, returned the farmlands to private owners, for which reason some Guatemalan farmers burned their crops as economic protest.

International opinion reviled the Guatemalan coup d’état, the French and British press, Le Monde and The Times, attacked the United States’ coup as a “modern form of economic colonialism”. In Latin America, public and official opinions expressed much political criticism of the U.S., and Guatemala became symbolic to many of armed resistance to the perceived U.S. hegemony over Latin America. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld (1953–61), said that the paramilitary invasion with which the U.S. deposed the elected government of Guatemala was a geopolitical action that violated the human-rights stipulations of the UN Charter; moreover, the usually pro–U.S. newspapers of West Germany condemned the Guatemalan coup d’état. Historically, the Director of the Mexico Project of National Security Archives, Kate Doyle, said that the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état was the definitive deathblow to democracy in the Republic of Guatemala.

Civil War in Guatemala[edit]

Democracy restored: Vinicio Cerezo, President of Guatemala (1986–1991)

In the aftermath of the coup and the rolling-back of the progressive policies of the civilian governments, a series of leftist insurgencies began in the countryside.[99] This triggered the thirty-six-year Guatemalan Civil War, between the U.S.-backed military government of Guatemala and the leftist insurgencies, which frequently had a large degree of popular support.[99] The largest of these movements was led by the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, which at its largest point had 270,000 members.[99] The civil war ran from 1960 to 1996. By the end of it 200,000 civilians were dead.[99] During the civil war, atrocities against civilians were committed by both sides; however, 93% of these violations were committed by the United States-backed military,[99] which included a genocidal scorched-earth campaign against the indigenous Maya population in the 1980s.[99] The violence was particularly brutal during the presidencies of Ríos Montt and Lucas García.[100] Numerous other human rights violation were committed, including massacres of civilian populations, rape, aerial bombardment, and forced disappearances.[99] These violations were partially the result of a particularly brutal counter-insurgency strategy adopted by the government.[100][99] The civil war came to an end in 1996, with a peace accord between the guerrillas and the government of Guatemala, which included an amnesty for all the fighters, both among the military and the guerrillas.[100]

Apology to Árbenz[edit]

In October 2011, the government of Guatemala formally apologized to Juan Jacobo Árbenz, the son of the deposed President, Jacobo Árbenz. At the same time, the textbooks used in the public school system were revised to portray Árbenz in a positive light, depicting him as a Guatemalan patriot. A highway was also renamed in his honor. The Árbenz family continue to request an apology from the government of the United States for having overthrown the government of Guatemala in 1954.[101]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Streeter 2000, pp. 11-12.
  2. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 34-37.
  3. ^ a b Cullather 2006, pp. 9-10.
  4. ^ Rabe 1988, p. 43.
  5. ^ a b McCreery 1994, pp. 316-317.
  6. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 41-43.
  7. ^ a b Streeter 2000, pp. 15-16.
  8. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 48-50.
  9. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 84.
  10. ^ a b Paterson 2009, p. 304.
  11. ^ May 1999, pp. 58-91.
  12. ^ a b Streeter 2000, p. 8.
  13. ^ a b c d e Gilderhus 2006.
  14. ^ LaFeber 1993, p. 34.
  15. ^ a b c Streeter 2000, pp. 8-10.
  16. ^ Smith 1995, p. 6.
  17. ^ a b Forster 2001, pp. 12–15.
  18. ^ a b Gleijeses 1991, pp. 10–11.
  19. ^ Chapman 2007, p. 83.
  20. ^ LaFeber 1993, pp. 76-77.
  21. ^ LaFeber 1993, p. 77.
  22. ^ a b Streeter 2000, pp. 10-11.
  23. ^ a b Forster 2001, p. 29.
  24. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 13.
  25. ^ LaFeber 1993, p. 79.
  26. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 20.
  27. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 22.
  28. ^ a b c Streeter 2000, p. 12.
  29. ^ Immerman 34-37.
  30. ^ a b Streeter 2000, pp. 12-13.
  31. ^ a b Streeter 2000, pp. 14-15.
  32. ^ Forster 2001, pp. 98–99.
  33. ^ Forster 2001, pp. 99–101.
  34. ^ Streeter 2000, pp. 13-14.
  35. ^ Streeter 2000, pp. 16-17.
  36. ^ a b Gleijeses 1991, pp. 73–84.
  37. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 60–61.
  38. ^ Streeter 2000, pp. 18-19.
  39. ^ a b c Immerman 1982, pp. 64–67.
  40. ^ Gleijeses 1991, pp. 144–146.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Gleijeses 1991, pp. 149–164.
  42. ^ Grandin 2000, pp. 200–201.
  43. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 68-70.
  44. ^ Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, pp. 65-68.
  45. ^ a b c Immerman 1982, pp. 68-72.
  46. ^ a b c Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, pp. 67-71.
  47. ^ a b Immerman 1982, p. 73-76.
  48. ^ Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, p. 71.
  49. ^ a b c Immerman & 1982 75-82.
  50. ^ a b c d e f Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, p. 72-77.
  51. ^ Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, pp. 78-90.
  52. ^ a b c Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, pp. 90-97.
  53. ^ a b Cullather 2006, pp. 14-28.
  54. ^ Cullather 2006, p. 18-19.
  55. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 228.
  56. ^ a b c d e Cullather 2006, pp. 28-35.
  57. ^ a b Gleijeses 1991, pp. 228-229.
  58. ^ Gleijeses 1991, pp. 59-69.
  59. ^ a b Gleijeses 1991, pp. 229-230.
  60. ^ a b Haines 1995.
  61. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 230.
  62. ^ a b Immerman 1982, pp. 82–100.
  63. ^ Immerman 1982, p. 95.
  64. ^ Immmerman 1982, pp. 109–110.
  65. ^ Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, p. 102.
  66. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 231.
  67. ^ Immerman 1982, p. 96.
  68. ^ a b Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, pp. 100-101.
  69. ^ Gleijeses 1991, p. 234.
  70. ^ Schlesinger & Kinzer 1999, pp. 106-107.
  71. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 122–127.
  72. ^ a b c d Kornbluh 1997.
  73. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 138–143.
  74. ^ Cullather 2006, p. 45.
  75. ^ Immerman 1982, p. 137.
  76. ^ Cullather 1994, p. 21.
  77. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 141-142.
  78. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 141-143.
  79. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 141–143.
  80. ^ Cullater 2006, pp. 28-35.
  81. ^ Immerman 1982, pp. 144–150.
  82. ^ Cullather 1994, p. 36.
  83. ^ Gleijeses 1991, pp. 280–285.
  84. ^ a b Immerman 1982, pp. 155–160.
  85. ^ Cullather 2006, p. 90.
  86. ^ a b Gordon 1971.
  87. ^ Holland 2004, p. 300.
  88. ^ a b Holland 2004, pp. 301-302.
  89. ^ Holland 2004, pp. 302-303.
  90. ^ Holland 2004, pp. 302-305.
  91. ^ Holland 2004, p. 305.
  92. ^ Holland 2004, p. 306.
  93. ^ a b Holland 2004, p. 307.
  94. ^ Holland 2004, p. 308.
  95. ^ Holland 2004, p. 309.
  96. ^ Holland 2004, pp. 318-320.
  97. ^ Holland 2004, pp. 321-324.
  98. ^ Holland 2004, p. 322.
  99. ^ a b c d e f g h McAllister 2010.
  100. ^ a b c May 1999, pp. 68-91.
  101. ^ Malkin 2011.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]