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Guatemala, Cuba and the JFK Assassination


John Simkin
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Several researchers have pointed out that there could be a connection with the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 and the assassination of JFK. It is true that many of the CIA suspects in the death of JFK were also involved in the overthrow of Arbenz: David Atlee Philips, E. Howard Hunt, David Morales, Rip Robertson, Richard Bissell, Tracy Barnes, Allen Dulles and Henry Hecksher. There is also another connection. The operation was organized by Tommy Corcoran, William Pawley and Whiting Willauer on behalf of the United Fruit Company.

The same company was also very keen to overthrow Castro in Cuba. It is therefore not surprising that the same CIA operatives were called in to remove Castro. Is it possible that when the CIA failed to come up with the goods, the United Fruit Company and others suffering from Castro’s new regime, came up with another plan to solve their problems?

In 1949 Sam Zemurray asked Corcoran to join the United Fruit Company as a lobbyist and special counsel. (1) Zemurray had problems with his business in Guatemala. In the 1930s Zemurray aligned United Fruit closely with the government of President Jorge Ubico. The company received import duty and real estate tax exemptions from Ubico. He also gave them hundreds of square miles of land. United Fruit controlled more land than any other individual or group. It also owned the railway, the electric utilities, telegraph, and the country's only port at Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic coast.

Ubico was overthrown in 1944 and following democratic elections, Juan Jose Arevalo became the new president. Arevalo, a university professor who had been living in exile, described himself as a "spiritual socialist". He implemented sweeping reforms by passing new laws that gave workers the right to form unions. This included the 40,000 Guatemalans who worked for United Fruit.

Zemurray feared that Arevalo would also nationalize the land owned by United Fruit in Guatemala. He asked Corcoran to express his fears to senior political figures in Washington. Corcoran began talks with key people in the government agencies and departments that shaped U.S. policy in Central America. He argued that the U.S. should use United Fruit as an American beachhead against communism in the region.

In 1950 a committee headed by Frank M. Buchanan, began investigating lobbying activities. Buchanan reported that “In the 1870’s and 1880’s, lobbying meant direct, individual solicitation of legislators, with a strong presumption of corruption attached.” (2) According to Buchanan, the “business of influencing legislation is a billion dollar business.” However, he added that lobbying had undergone a transformation that made it very difficult to show that corruption had taken place. (3)

Tommy Corcoran also remained a paid lobbyist for Sam Zemurray and the United Fruit Company. Zemurray became concerned that Captain Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, one of the heroes of the 1944 revolution, would be elected as the new president of Guatemala. In the spring of 1950, Tommy Corcoran went to see Thomas C. Mann, the director of the State Department’s Office of Inter-American Affairs. Corcoran asked Mann if he had any plans to prevent Arbenz from being elected. Mann replied: “That is for the people of that country to decide.”

Unhappy with this reply, Corcoran paid a call on the Allen Dulles, the deputy director of the CIA. Dulles, who represented United Fruit in the 1930s, was far more interested in Corcoran’s ideas. “During their meeting Dulles explained to Corcoran that while the CIA was sympathetic to United Fruit, he could not authorize any assistance without the support of the State Department. Dulles assured Corcoran, however, that whoever was elected as the next president of Guatemala would not be allowed to nationalize the operations of United Fruit.” (4)

In November, 1950, Arbenz received more than 60 per cent of the popular vote. Corcoran then recruited Robert La Follette to work for United Fruit. Corcoran arranged for La Follette to lobby liberal members of Congress. The message was that Arbenz was not a liberal but a dangerous left-wing radical. (5)

This strategy was successful and Congress was duly alarmed when on 17th June, 1952, Arbenz announced a new Agrarian Reform program. This included expropriating idle land on government and private estates and redistributed to peasants in lots of 8 to 33 acres. The Agrarian Reform program managed to give 1.5 million acres to around 100,000 families for which the government paid $8,345,545 in bonds. Among the expropriated landowners was Arbenz himself, who had become into a landowner with the dowry of his wealthy wife. Around 46 farms were given to groups of peasants who organized themselves in cooperatives. (6)

Corcoran contacted President Anastasio Somoza and warned him that the Guatemalan revolution might spread to Nicaragua. (7) Somoza now made representations to Harry S. Truman about what was happening in Guatemala. After discussions with Walter Bedell Smith, director of the CIA, a secret plan to overthrow Arbenz (Operation Fortune) was developed. (8) Part of this plan involved Tommy Corcoran arranging for small arms and ammunition to be loaded on a United Fruit freighter and shipped to Guatemala, where the weapons would be distributed to dissidents. When the Secretary of State Dean Acheson discovered details of Operation Fortune, he had a meeting with Truman where he vigorously protested about the involvement of United Fruit and the CIA in the attempted overthrow of the democratically elected President Arbenz. As a result of Acheson’s protests, Truman ordered the postponement of Operation Fortune.

In February 1953, 209,842 acres of United Fruit Company's uncultivated land was taken by the government which offered compensation of $525,000. Later the figure was increased to over a million dollars. As David McKean has pointed out: This figure was “in line with the company’s own valuation of the property, at least for tax purposes” (9). However, the company wanted $16 million for the land. While the Guatemalan government valued it at $2.99 per acre, the company now valued it at $75 per acre.

Samuel Zemurray, United Fruit Company's largest shareholder, ordered Corcoran to organize an anti-Arbenz campaign in the American media. This included the claim that Guatemala was the beginning of "Soviet expansion in the Americas".

Tommy Corcoran’s work was made easier by the election of Dwight Eisenhower in November, 1952. Eisenhower’s personal secretary was Anne Whitman, the wife of Edmund Whitman, United Fruit’s public relations director. (10) Eisenhower appointed John Peurifoy as ambassador to Guatemala. He soon made it clear that he believed that the Arbenz government posed a threat to the America’s campaign against communism.

Corcoran also arranged for Whiting Willauer, his friend and partner in Civil Air Transport, to become U. S. ambassador to Honduras. As Willauer pointed out in a letter to Claire Chennault, he worked day and night to arrange training sites and instructors plus air crews for the rebel air force, and to keep the Honduran government “in line so they would allow the revolutionary activity to continue.” (11)

Eisenhower also replaced Dean Acheson with John Foster Dulles. His brother, Allen Dulles became director of the CIA. The Dulles brothers “had sat on the board of United Fruit’s partner in the banana monopoly, the Schroder Banking Corporation” whereas “U.N. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge was a stockholder and had been a strong defender of United Fruit while a U.S. senator.” (12)

Walter Bedell Smith was moved to the State Department. Smith told Corcoran he would do all he could to help in the overthrow of Arbenz. He added that he would like to work for United Fruit once he retired from government office. (13) This request was granted and Bedell Smith was later to become a director of United Fruit. According to John Prados, Corcoran’s meeting with “Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith that summer and that conversation is recalled by CIA officers as the clear starting point of that plan.” (14) Evan Thomas has added that: “With his usual energy and skill, Corcoran beseeched the U. S. government to overthrow Arbenz”. (15)

The new CIA plan to overthrow Arbenz was called “Operation Success”. Allen Dulles became the executive agent and arranged for Tracey Barnes and Richard Bissell to plan and execute the operation. Bissell later claimed that he had been aware of the problem since reading a document published by the State Department that claimed: “The communists already exercise in Guatemala a political influence far out of proportion to their small numerical strength. This influence will probably continue to grow during 1952. The political situation in Guatemala adversely effects U. S. interests and constitutes a potential threat to U.S. security.” (16) Bissell does not point out that the source of this information was Tommy Corcoran and the United Fruit Company.

John Prados argues that it was Barnes and Bissell who “coordinated the Washington end of the planning and logistics for the Guatemala operation.” As Deputy Director for Plans, it was Frank Wisner’s responsibility to select the field commander for Operation Success. Kim Roosevelt was first choice but he turned it down and instead the job went to Albert Hanley, the CIA station Chief in Korea. (17)

Hanley was told to report to Joseph Caldwell King, director of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division. King had previously worked for the FBI where he had responsibility for all intelligence operations in Latin America. King suggested Hanley meet Tommy Corcoran. Hanley did not like the idea. King replied: “If you think you can run this operation without United Fruit you’re crazy.” (18) Although Hanley refused to work with Corcoran, Allen Dulles kept him fully informed of the latest developments in planning the overthrow of Arbenz.

Tracey Barnes brought in David Attlee Phillips to run a “black” propaganda radio station. According to Phillips, he was reluctant to take part in the overthrow of a democratically elected president. Barnes replied: “It’s not a question of Arbenz. Nor of Guatemala. We have solid intelligence that the Soviets intended to throw substantial support to Arbenz… Guatemala is bordered by Honduras, British Honduras, Salvador and Mexico. It’s unacceptable to have a Commie running Guatemala.” (19)

Barnes also appointed E. Howard Hunt as chief of political action. In his autobiography, Undercover, Hunt claims that “Barnes swore me to special secrecy and revealed that the National Security Council under Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon had ordered the overthrow of Guatemala’s Communist regime.” Hunt was not convinced by this explanation. He pointed out that 18 months previously he had suggested to the director of the CIA that Arbenz needed to be dealt with. However, the idea had been rejected. Hunt was now told that: “Washington lawyer Thomas G. Corcoran had, among his clients, the United Fruit Company. United Fruit, like many American corporations in Guatemala had watched with growing dismay nationalization, confiscation and other strong measures affecting their foreign holdings. Finally a land-reform edict issued by Arbenz proved the final straw, and Tommy the Cork had begun lobbying in behalf of United Fruit and against Arbenz. Following this special impetus our project had been approved by the National Security Council and was already under way.” (20)

Albert Hanley brought in William (Rip) Robertson to take charge of the paramilitary side of the operation. Robertson had been Hanley’s deputy in Korea and had “enjoyed going along on the behind-the-lines missions with the CIA guerrillas, in violation of standing orders from Washington.” (21) One of those who worked with Robertson in Operation Success was David Morales. (22) Also in the team was Henry Hecksher, who operated under cover in Guatemala to supply front-line reports.

John Foster Dulles decided that he “needed a civilian adviser to the State Department team to help expediate Operation Success. Dulles chose a friend of Corcoran’s, William Pawley, a Miami-based millionaire”. David McKean goes on to point out that Pawley had worked with Corcoran, Chennault and Willauer in helping to set up the Flying Tigers and in transforming Civil Air Transport into a CIA airline. McKean adds that his most important qualification for the job was his “long association with right-wing Latin America dictators.” (23)

The rebel “liberation army” was formed and trained in Nicaragua. This was not a problem as President Anastasio Somoza and been warning the United States government since 1952 that that the Guatemalan revolution might spread to Nicaragua. The rebel army of 150 men were trained by Rip Robertson. Their commander was a disaffected Guatemalan army officer, Carlos Castillo Armas.

It was clear that a 150 man army was unlikely to be able to overthrow the Guatemalan government. Tracy Barnes believed that if the rebels could gain control of the skies and bomb Guatemala City, they could create panic and Arbenz might be fooled into accepting defeat. (24)

According to Richard Bissell, Somoza was willing to provide cover for this covert operation. However, this was on the understanding that these aircraft would be provided by the United States. (25) Eisenhower agreed to supply Somoza with a “small pirate air force to bomb Arbenz into submission”. To fly these planes, the CIA recruited American mercenaries like Jerry DeLarm. (26)

Before the bombing of Guatemala City, the rebel army was moved to Honduras where Tommy Corcoran’s business partner, Whiting Willauer, was ambassador. The plan was for them to pretend to be the “vanguard of a much larger army seeking to liberate their homeland from the Marxists”. (27)

Arbenz became aware of this CIA plot to overthrow him. Guatemalan police made several arrests. In his memoirs, Eisenhower described these arrests as a “reign of terror” and falsely claimed that “agents of international Communism in Guatemala continued their efforts to penetrate and subvert their neighboring Central American states, using consular agents for their political purposes and fomenting political assassinations and strikes.” (28)

Sydney Gruson of the New York Times began to investigate this story. Journalists working for Time Magazine also tried to write about these attempts to destabilize Arbenz’s government. Frank Wisner, head of Operation Mockingbird, asked Allen Dulles to make sure that the American public never discovered the plot to overthrow Arbenz. Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, agreed to stop Gruson from writing the story. Henry Luce was also willing to arrange for the Time Magazine reports to be rewritten at the editorial offices in New York. (29)

The CIA propaganda campaign included the distribution of 100,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled Chronology of Communism in Guatemala. They also produced three films on Guatemala for showing free in cinemas. Faked photographs were distributed that claimed to show the mutilated bodies of opponents of Arbenz.

David Atlee Phillips and E. Howard Hunt were responsible for running the CIA's Voice of Liberation radio station. Broadcasts began on 1st May, 1954. They also arranged for the distribution of posters and pamphlets. Over 200 articles based on information provided by the CIA were placed in newspapers and magazines by the United States Information Agency. (30)

The Voice of Liberation reported massive defections from Arbenz’s army. According to David Atlee Phillips the radio station “broadcast that two columns of rebel soldiers were converging on Guatemala City. In fact, Castillo Armas and his makeshift army were still encamped six miles inside the border, far from the capital.” As Phillips later admitted, the “highways were crowded, but with frightened citizens fleeing Guatemala City and not with soldiers approaching it.” (31) As E. Howard Hunt pointed out, “our powerful transmitter overrode the Guatemalan national radio, broadcasting messages to confuse and divide the population from its military overlords.” (32)

There was no popular uprising. On 20th June, the CIA reported to Eisenhower that Castillo Armas had not been able to take his assigned objective, Zacapa. His seaborne force had also failed to capture Puerto Barrios.

According to John Prados, it all now depended on “Whiting Willauer’s rebel air force”. (33) However, that was not going to plan and on 27th June, Winston Churchill, the British prime minister berated Eisenhower when a CIA plane sank a British merchant vessel heading for Guatemala. The bombing had been ordered by Rip Robertson without first gaining permission from the CIA or Eisenhower. Robertson had been convinced that the Springfjord was a “Czech arms carrying freighter” (34). In reality it had been carrying only coffee and cotton. Frank Wisner had to make a personal apology for the incident and the CIA later quietly reimbursed Lloyd’s of London, insurers of the Springfjord, the $1.5 million they had paid out on the ship. (35)

Arbenz had been convinced by the Voice of Liberation reports that his army was deserting. Richard Bissell believes that this is when Arbenz made his main mistake. Arbenz decided to distribute weapons to the “people’s organizations and the political parties”. As Bissell later explained: “The conservative men who constituted the leadership of Guatemala’s army viewed this action as the final unacceptable leftward lurch, and they told Arbenz they would no longer support him. He resigned and fled to Mexico.” (36)

The American media continued to provide cover for its role in overthrowing Arbenz. Newsweek claimed: “The United States, aside from whatever gumshoe work the Central Intelligence Agency may or may not have been busy with, had kept strictly hands off.” The New York Times reported that the United States had only supplied “moral support” to Armas just as the Soviet Union had provided “moral support” to Arbenz. (37)

However, one story did get out. The New York Journal-American reported that "one of the most hush, hush stories of the year has finally leaked. Tommy the Cork... has for some time been employed on a huge retainer by the United Fruit Company to look after their interests." (38)

Once in power, Castillo Armas cancelled Arbenz’s land and tax reforms, gave United Fruit back its holdings, restored the secret police, introduced rigid censorship, tortured political opponents and imposed a military dictatorship. In later years, Tracy Barnes, Frank Wisner and Richard Bissell would regret the outcome of the Guatemala coup. Bissell pointed out that using covert action to overthrow a government was only half the story: “ultimate success depends on how your people (in this case, Castillo Armas and his successors) run the country and how to make it a productive society.” (39)

David Atlee Phillips claimed that after the removal of Arbenz he was invited along to a meeting with Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon at the White House. Allen Dulles, Albert Hanley and Rip Robertson also attended the de-briefing. According to Phillips, at the end of the meeting Eisenhower said: “Thanks Allen, and thanks to you all. You’ve averted a Soviet beachhead in our hemisphere.” (40)

Joseph Trento argues in The Secret History of the CIA, that the overthrow of Arbenz was so successful that it became the “template for future covert operations”. (41)

The operation was to have some undesirable long-term effects. As I. F. Stone pointed out in an article written several years later: “We helped overthrow the Arbenz government in 1954 and then looked on complacently as its successors undid the Arbenz reforms, reforms we claim to favour. Arbenz enacted a moderate income tax in 1954, it was soon afterwards abolished by Castillo Armas, the Agrarian reform was halted and most of the land expropriated under the Arbenz regime was returned to the land-owners. Is it any wonder that Castro is a hero in Latin America, and that we appear to be the main obstacle to aspirations for a more decent life below the border? Yankee imperialism, to our shame, is not just a propaganda slogan in Central America.” (42)

Notes

1. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 214)

2. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 209)

3. A full account of the history of lobbying since 1870 can be found in Jeffrey H. Birnbaum’s book, The Lobbyists, 1992.

4. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 220)

5. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 221)

6. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 98)

7. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 221)

8. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 99)

9. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 221)

10. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 110)

11. Stephen Schlesinger & Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit, 1982 (page 140)

12. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 110)

13. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 222)

14. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 99)

15. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 110)

16. Richard M. Bissell, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior, 1996 (page 81)

17. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (pages 99-100)

18. Stephen Schlesinger & Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit, 1982 (page 110)

19. David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch, 1977 (pages 42-43)

20. E. Howard Hunt, Undercover, 1974 (pages 96-97)

21. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 101)

22. Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked, 2003 (page 5)

23. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 223)

24. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 113)

25. Richard M. Bissell, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior, 1996 (page 87)

26. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 113)

27. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 101)

28. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change: The White House Years, 1965 (page 493)

29. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 117)

30. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 104)

31. David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch, 1977 (page 60)

32. E. Howard Hunt, Undercover, 1974 (page 100)

33. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 88)

34. E. Howard Hunt, Undercover, 1974 (page 100)

35. John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations, 1986 (page 88)

36. Richard M. Bissell, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior, 1996 (page 88)

37. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA, 1995 (page 123)

38. David McKean, Peddling Influence, 2004 (page 227)

39. Richard M. Bissell, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior, 1996 (page 90)

40. David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch, 1977 (pages 63-64)

41. Joseph Trento, The Secret History of the CIA, 2001 (page 168)

42. I. F. Stone, I. F. Stone Weekly, 21st November, 1960

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Yes John,

When they put the original Bay of Pigs plan together, they called it a "Guatamala type Operation," and just like a bunch of old con artists who got together for another hustle, the Bay of Pigs failed, or was set up to fail, while Guatamala and Dealey Plaza were successful.

BK

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One of the many reasons the BOP failed was because Castro had studied the Guatamela operation.

But the "CIA suspects" in the JFK assassination? Ridiculous! No evidence whatsoever. I've been on the Forum for eighteen months and yet to see anyone offer any real evidence of CIA complicity.

Did the CIA's dirty deeds lead, however, to JFK's murder? The answer to that is yes.

John, it is my recollection that Arbenz had an opponent in the 1951 election named Aranz, who probably would have defeated Arbenz. Do you know what happened to him? You might want to add that to your little chronology to give the members all of the facts.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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More facts for John:

A book on the United Fruit Company authored by Stacy May and Galo Plaza published by the National Planning Association in 1958, says that United Froit owned less than 2 percent of Guatemala's arable land. The value of its prodfiction was $20 million in 1955, equal to 10 percent of the country's total agricultural output. The company owned 42 percent of the stock in the railroad, having acquired most of those shares in 1933 when it stepped in to save the railroad from bankruptcy. A distinguished Guatemalan economist and president of Francisco Marroquin University, Manuel Ayau, gave CBS an interview in which he described the great contribution United Fruit had made to Guatemala. He said. "They came down here and cleared land that was uninhabited. How could they get people to go to work there? They provided them with hospitals, stores selling goods at cost, higher wages, sanitary conditions, and education for their children...

Daniel James in his book on the Arbenz era, Red Design for .America: Guatemalan Prelude, published in 1954, said: "No modern parallel exists in the Americas for the reign of terror visited upon Guatemala's anti- communists by Arbenz and his Red strategists. For a suitable analogy one must look behind the Iron Curtain. Arbenz's government did not content itself with the usual reprisals which Latin American rulers traditionally wreak upon their opponents, but employed weapons borrowed from the Soviet secret police...Midnight raids, kidnappings, beatings, torture, deportations, extorted confessions, economic reprisals, suppression of freedom and suspemion of habeas corpus--these were the methods used. And they were used not only against single individuals but whole groups and classes, for Arbenz, remember, was not a conventional Latin absolutist, but a totalitarian who believed in the literal annihilation of the bourgeois class."

. . .

The Archbishop of Guatemala issued a pastoral letter in April 1954 in which he said: "We raise our voice to alert Catholics at this moment when the worst atheistic doctrine of all time--anti-Christian communism-- continues its brazen inroads in our country, masquerading as a movement of social reform for the needy classes... Our frontiers are opened wide to a rabble of foreign adventurers trained in the tactics of international communism. In violation of the laws of the land, ample freedom is given them. From the official radio stations are heard the incessant preaching of social disruption and the broadcasting of the teachings of the Soviet Politburo. Newsstands are flooded with communist literature. The people of Guatemala must rise as one man against this enemy." [although not a Catholic myself, I will trust this report by the Catholic archbishop.]

.

John and others will, however, read with interest this CNN interview with E. Howard Hunt. John, you may want to post it in your Corcoran thread:

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episo...nterviews/hunt/

Here is another interview with Mr. Hunt:

http://karws.gso.uri.edu/Marsh/Scans/hunt3.html

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Tim, you have really been drinking some Kool-Aid. The country is Guatemala, not Guyana. Are you now trying to deny that United Fruit had anything to do with the overthrow of Arbenz? Are you now trying to say that the CIA did not prepare assassination lists for Castillo-Armas? Are you now trying to say that Arbenz was some horrible abuser of human rights who we needed to overthrow for the good of mankind? I've read the CIA history of the Guatemalan Operation and it says NOTHING about these charges. NOTHING. Arbenz was no saint, but even in the official records, he was NEVER a communist or an exporter of communism. The fear was that his wife and top adviser had commie sympathies. We had a fear, that was all. This fear was exacerbated when Arbenz used eminent domain to reclaim much of the country from United Fruit, which was the biggest land-owner in his country. (Due to the negative publicity created by their role in the over-throw of Arbenz, they were subsequently pressured by the U.S. State department to return some of the land. I believe they sold the rest of their holdings to Dole in the sixties.) Anyhow, Arbenz decided to re-claim some of their land and pay United Fruit the land value claimed in their tax returns, which, of course, was far less than its actual worth. Trapped in their own lies, they relied upon the sympathies of men like J.C. King to take out Arbenz. Ugly, but the historical truth. Whatever you've been reading is some revisionist nonsense designed to make the U.S. look like the good guys... While Arbenz was no saint--I believe he did arrange for a number of the rebels to disappear--it is beyond dispute that Guatemala, both before Arbenz and after, has been covered in blood by one right wing murderer after another. There is no way an honest student of history can possibly say that the country was better off after Arbenz than with him.

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Pat, I assume you know what happened to Aranz. Do you know who he was?

I know you are not a big fan of Richard Nixon. What would be your opinion of Nixon if it was demonstrated that he had orchestrated the murder of RFK?

Was Arbenz "democratically elected"?

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This article merits the review of anyone interested in this thread:

http://www.historycooperative.org/journals...1/streeter.html

Things are clearly not as matter of fact as John puts them.

From the article:

In 1991 Piero Gleijeses published a path-breaking account of the Guatemalan episode that overcame many of these weaknesses. Shattered Hope uncovered many new sources and clarified three major interpretive issues. First, Gleijeses presented a much clearer picture of the Communist threat in Guatemala. Interviews with Arbenz's widow and high-ranking members of the Guatemalan Communist Party revealed that although Arbenz himself never joined the Communists officially he became highly influenced by their ideas. It was precisely because Arbenz sympathized with the Communist vision that he enacted the land reform. According to the crude Marxist theory endorsed by the party, Guatemala was still in its feudal stage and had to pass through capitalism before it could make the transition to socialism. At the same time, Gleijeses also emphasizes that Moscow clearly did not control the Guatemalan communists. To the contrary, although Guatemalan Communist party members desperately sought Soviet advice and aid, Moscow wasn't interested. 14

Second, Shattered Hope verified the claim of postrevisionist studies that Eisenhower administration officials had viewed the Fruit company's plight as a "subsidiary" problem, secondary to the issue of communism. In the 1940s the United Fruit Company had been able to influence Washington because U.S. diplomats knew almost nothing about the region. According to Gleijeses, U.S. reporting on Guatemala during the Truman administration reflected arrogance, ethnocentrism, and immense ignorance. As the embassy became more sophisticated in its understanding of Guatemala, however, the company's influence dwindled. José Manuel Fortuny, the former leader of the Guatemalan Communist party, summed up well the insignificance of United Fruit to the U.S. intervention in Guatemala: "They would have overthrown us even if we had grown no bananas."33 15

Third, Eisenhower administration officials worried less about the impact of Arbenz's land reform on United Fruit than they did about its impact on the countryside. One intelligence estimate warned that the agrarian reform would "mobilize the hitherto inert peasantry in support of the Administration" and "afford the Communists an opportunity to extend their influence by organizing the peasants as they have organized other workers."34 Gleijeses's interviews reveal that U.S. intelligence had accurately depicted the Communists' intentions. According to Fortuny, the party believed that by administering Decree 900 through local committees, it would be laying "the groundwork for the eventual radicalization of the peasantry." The PGT elicited the support of Arbenz, who agreed to help "foster the control of the reform from below," and sow "the seeds of a more collective society."35 U.S. officials understood that Guatemala's nationalist revolution was far more likely to spread by example than by force. One State Department official warned in late 1953 that Guatemala threatened the stability of Honduras and El Salvador because "its agrarian reform is a powerful propaganda weapon; [and] its broad social program of aiding the workers and peasants in a victorious struggle against the upper classes and large foreign enterprises has a strong appeal to the populations of Central American neighbors where similar conditions prevail."36

So we have a man who declared his sympathy with Communists, who obtained office by murdering his opponent, who was going to co-operate with a Communist program. Things are no way nearly as clear as the "history" set forth by John (called the "revisionist" history in the article by Professor Streeter.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Tim, I believe Arbenz was responsible for the deaths of a number of men. There were some that were rounded up and executed after Phillips began his radio broadcasts. My annoyance with your series of posts is that you seem to be implying two things which are not supported by history, as far as I can see. They are 1) that the U.S. had Guatemala's best interests in mind when they overthrew Arbenz, and 2) that the Guatemalan people were better off after Arbenz than with Arbenz. The CNN interview with Hunt disputes this as well.

Speaking of Hunt, I wouldn't be surprised if those publications you quoted were all part of his propaganda campaign. Perhaps Buckley had something to do with this as well. They were both good Catholics who believed the murder of communists was justified. Speaking of using Catholicism to over-throw communism...within the papers released in the nineties on the Guatemalan operation are some "Northwoods-type" proposals, presumably written by Albert Haney. They called for the destruction of a number of Catholic shrines, with the words "religion is the opiate of the masses" to be written on their doors. This would cause a backlash against communists, and presumably Arbenz.

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So Pat if Arbenz achieved office by murdering his opponent, did he deserve to stay in office?

Is the Simkin Forum now dedicated to the support of the assassination of right-wing politicians?

I thought political assassination was abhorrent regardless of who practiced it.

By the way, one of the articles I recently posted stated that before PBSUCCESS started the CIA had terminated the thought of political assassinations in Guatemala. Do you agree that there were no CIA assassinations of political leaders in Guatamela?

I detest assassinations whether ordered by Arbenz or Hunt, Bissell and their cronies at the CIA. What we should have done was arrest Arbenz and have a Guatemala court try him for the murder of Aranz and if convicted he should have been appropriately punished. Ditto every US politician and bureaucrat who plotted the murder of Castro. Conspiring to commit murder in this country is a crime even if the murder is to occur on foreign soil.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with the CIA acting (appropriately) to protect the interests of the citizens of this country. That is its purpose. (But of course I condemn the CIA plan you cite to destroy Catholic shrines and blame it on the Commies; that is more than inappropriate--it is in fact a crime.)

Parenthetically, I want to know why John so conveniently ignored telling members of the Arbenz murder of Arana.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Speaking of Hunt, I wouldn't be surprised if those publications you quoted were all part of his propaganda campaign. Perhaps Buckley had something to do with this as well. They were both good Catholics who believed the murder of communists was justified.

That is exactly what Tim Gratz is quoting. Anybody who wants to find out the full story about the CIA/United Fruit overthrow of the democratically elected Guatamalan government in 1954 should read Bitter Fruit by Stephen Schlesinger & Stephen Kinzer. It has been constantly updated over the years as new CIA documents have been declassified.

The other book Tim should read is Operation PBSuccess: The United States and Guatemala, 1952-54. The CIA commissioned the historian, Nicholas Cullather, to write an account of what the CIA was up to in Guatemala. They gave him full access to CIA files. Finished in 1994, it immediately became a classified document. However, Cullather, began to leak what he discovered and in 1999 it was decided to declassify the document and it was published as a book. Tim will of course not read this book or any other book I suggest. Instead he will rely on outdated CIA disinformation campaigns.

It seems strange that Tim is willing to defend this imposition of a military dictatorship in Guatemala in 1954. Most of the CIA operatives involved in this were suitably ashamed after they realized what they had done. They also admitted that they had carried out this conspiracy on behalf of a multinational company. It had nothing to do with the “interests” of the American public. For a full account of this guilt see Evan Thomas’s The Very Best Men.

It never ceases to amaze me how Tim defends the dirty tricks carried out by the CIA on behalf of multinational corporations. Even the CIA are unwilling to defend this part of their past. Sometimes I wonder if Tim is not really a Marxist posing as a right-wing extremist in an effort to discredit the neo-fascists.

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Shucks, John caught me!!

But John you have not responded to my question why the murder of Arbenz's primary political opponent is not a salient part of the history that should be thrown into the equation.

I stated that I thought Arbenz should have been removed from office for that murder. I do not think you saw me defending CIA "skullduggery".

Do you or do you not oppose political assassinations?

If Arbenz achieved power through the murder of a political opponent, what should the United States have done?

By the way, here is the opinion of the historian (Professor Streeter, who has read all of the books regarding the Guatemela operation) about "Bitter Fruit" (the book upon which you base your theory that the operation was only to protect US corporate interests: "In truth, Schlesinger and Kinzer's study relied on selective and circumstantial evidence, some of it highly disputable." Even the former leader of the Guatemala Communist Party remarked that the US would have opposed it even if Guatemala produced no bananas. That same man confirmed the CP was going to use Arbenz to achieve control over the county.

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So Pat if Arbenz achieved office by murdering his opponent, did he deserve to stay in office?

Is the Simkin Forum now dedicated to the support of the assassination of right-wing politicians?

I thought political assassination was abhorrent regardless of who practiced it.

By the way, one of the articles I recently posted stated that before PBSUCCESS started the CIA had terminated the thought of political assassinations in Guatemala. Do you agree that there were no CIA assassinations of political leaders in Guatamela?

I detest assassinations whether ordered by Arbenz or Hunt, Bissell and their cronies at the CIA. What we should have done was arrest Arbenz and have a Guatemala court try him for the murder of Aranz and if convicted he should have been appropriately punished. Ditto every US politician and bureaucrat who plotted the murder of Castro. Conspiring to commit murder in this country is a crime even if the murder is to occur on foreign soil.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with the CIA acting (appropriately) to protect the interests of the citizens of this country. That is its purpose. (But of course I condemn the CIA plan you cite to destroy Catholic shrines and blame it on the Commies; that is more than inappropriate--it is in fact a crime.)

Parenthetically, I want to know why John so conveniently ignored telling members of the Arbenz murder of Arana.

How was it our place to arrest Arbenz, even if he did kill Arana or Aranz, or whomever you think he killed? Where does our right to protect our interests become our right to act against the interest of others, on their own soil? Not exactly the attitude of a traditional conservative, I must say. As far as the assassinations, the CIA created a hit list of communist sympathizers, which was given to Armas by Rip Robertson. Yes, Rip Robertson. The official CIA history says that Armas never acted on this list, but since all the names have been redacted from the released list, there is no way of double-checking. Most histories of Latin America mention that Armas killed quite a few of Arbenz' followers after he gained power. It's difficult to believe none of these people had been on the list.

Of course, you are probably aware that Castillo-Armas was soon assassinated and replaced by the more agreeable Ydigoras-Fuentes. And you are probably aware that the man who killed Armas was killed almost immediately, and that they determined he'd been an avowed Marxist. I think he was even a card-carrying communist. But what you probably don't know is that Allen Dulles, in a meeting with the State Department, expressed his skepticism that this is what really happened. He didn't believe it for a second. And neither should we.

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