John Simkin Posted February 27, 2006 Author Share Posted February 27, 2006 John, lest you forget we were in a Cold War with the Communists and the Communists made no secret of their attempting to subvert democratic governments throughout the world.Arbenz if not a Communist himself was at least friendly with the Communists. His election was made possible by the convenient violent death of his primary anti-Communist opponent. So the United States effected the removal of a man who came into office on the shed blood of his opponent, blood shed by men named by Arbenz. We won the cold war. What more can I say? As Nick Cullather points out in “Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of its Operations in Guatemala 1952-54”, CIA agents on the ground in Guatemala (1949-51) considered Arbenz to be “brilliant” and “cultured” (page 20). It was also believed that Arbenz was a “conservative” and an “opportunist” who could be manipulated to “steer a middle course” (page 17). They actually thought he would be an improvement on Arevalo. This is why Thomas Mann, head of the State Department’s office of Central America, rejected Tommy Corcoran’s calls for the CIA to overthrow Arbenz. It was of course the policy of the Truman administration to encourage social reform in “friendly” third world countries. It was believed that this would create long-term, pro-American allies. It is ridiculous to claim that Arbenz was under the control of the Communists. In the 1950 elections, Communists only won four seats in a 61-member congress. CIA reports show that the Communist Party had less than 200 active members. Nor did Arbenz appoint any communists to his Cabinet. He did share the Communist Party’s views on land reform. But then again, so did the Truman administration. When Arbenz published Decree 900 on 17th June 1952 the Truman administration did not complain. In fact, US aid officials considered it moderate, “constructive and democratic in its aims”. It was in fact similar to agrarian programs the United States was sponsoring in Japan and Formosa (page 22). The idea being that the best protection against communism was to redistribute land to the poor. After all, it was the desire by peasants for land that brought about the revolution in Russia in 1917 and was also a factor in the Chinese Revolution in 1949. As Nick Cullather points out: “The CIA also supported the objectives of the Guatemalan reform – the breakup of large estates into small freeholds – in some of its own programs. The Agency, worried that feudal agriculture would allow Communists in the Third World to ride to power on a wave of reform, had tried for some years to change traditional rural social structures that it considered vulnerable to subversion” (page 26). However, on the urging of Tommy Corcoran and the United Fruit Company, Eisenhower ordered a change of policy when he replaced Truman as president. On 9th December, 1953, Allen Dulles authorized $3 million for the PBSUCCESS project (page 44) According to Cullather, the State Department “assembled a team of diplomats to assist PBSUCCESS from Central American embassies. The group’s leader, John Peurifoy, took over as Ambassador in Guatemala City in October 1953 (pages 44-45). Kermit Roosevelt, who had organized the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq of Iran on 19th August, 1953 (TPAJAX) was approached to run PBSUCCESS. However, he was already disillusioned by the events that had followed the removal of Mossadeq. He warned his superiors at the CIA that it was “ever going to try something like this again, we must be absolutely sure that people and army want what we want.” (Kermit Roosevelt, Countercoup, 1979 - page 210) It is also necessary to take into account Arbenz’s rival in the election: Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes. The CIA was opposed to him becoming president because of his past. As a general in President Ubico’s army, “Ydigoras gained a reputation as a ruthless enforcer of the vagrancy laws, on at least one occasion ordering his troops to rape Indian women and imprison their children” (page 51 – information based on Ydigoras’s CIA file: 79-01025A, Box 81) The attack in the media on Arbenz was orchestrated by Operation Mockingbird. Not surprisingly, the first report came from Phil Graham’s Washington Post. It was based round the story of Arbenz’s importing Czech arms to Guatemala. What happened was that Eisenhower imposed an arms blockade on Arbenz. He knew that this was the beginning of a CIA plot to overthrow him. Arbenz also realized that the only way he could arm himself was now via countries that were not under the control of the United States. He was therefore forced to do a deal with a communist country. In January, 1954, Arbenz sent his agricultural minister, Alfonso Martinez, to Prague to negotiate a deal. The CIA followed Martinez to Prague and knew all about the arms deal with Czechoslovakia. The weapons sold to Arbenz were weapons captured from the German Army during the Second World War. The plan was to distribute them to worker’ militias (Arbenz correctly assumed that the CIA had penetrated the leadership of the armed forces). When the weapons arrived in Guatemala, the story was reported in the Washington Post. The paper gave details of the Alfhem shipment and added: “The threat of Communist imperialism is no longer academic, it has arrived” (page 79). This publicity meant that Arbenz had to change his strategy and give most of the weapons to the army instead of the worker’ militias (page 80). Operation Mockingbird also ensured that the CIA involvement in the overthrow of Arbenz was not reported in the American media. John Peurifoy arranged with Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the owner of the New York Times, to remove its correspondent Sydney Gruson, from Guatemala (he was the only American journalist that Peurifoy was unable to control. Peurifoy met with American reporters in Guatemala City to discuss their reports. At his suggestion they all agreed to drop words such as “invasion”. Peurifoy also met with the French and British consuls in Guatemala and they agreed to “have a word with their correspondents” about their reporting of the invasion (page 94). However, the CIA was unable to control foreign newspapers. Aneurin Bevan, the leader of the left-wing of the Labour Party and himself the target of CIA plots and smear campaigns, wrote a series of articles explaining CIA involvement in the removal of Arbenz. He also reported that the CIA was working on behalf of the United Fruit Company (page 93). On 18th June, 1954, the Guatemalan foreign minister Guillermo Toriello, petitioned the UN Security Council to intervene to stop the outside aggression of the United Fruit Company. On 20th June, the UN Security Council approved a French motion calling all nations to keep out of trying to overthrow the democratically elected Arbenz. However, America ignored this ruling and continued in its efforts to instate a military dictator in Guatemala. The Times (UK) and Le Monde (France) attacked the cynical hypocrisy behind America’s “modern forms of economic colonialism”. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold charged that “the United States’ attitude was completely at variance with the UN Charter”. However, America’s allies went along with the CIA cover-up. As Winston Churchill, the British prime minister said at the time to one of his colleagues, why should he be bothered, “I’d never heard of this bloody place Guatemala” until now (page 111). After the military coup the CIA obtained over 150,000 documents from the offices of Arbenz’s government. The CIA later admitted they were unable to find evidence of the subject that “we are most interested in, namely the elements of Soviet support and control of Communism in Guatemala” (page 107 – 79-01228A Box 23). This was confirmed by the historian, Ronald M. Schneider, who also obtained access to these documents (Ronald M. Schneider, Communism in Guatemala, 1979). As soon as Castillo Armas took power he immediately revoked Arbenz’s reforms. He disfranchised illiterates (two thirds of the electorate), cancelled land reforms, outlawed all political parties, trade unions and peasant organizations. The new regime opened up its country to the “Mafia who joined with Guatemalan Army officers in opening gambling halls” (page 114). Left-wing activists were rounded up and arrested and some were executed. In fact, during his research, Cullather discovered a CIA document that revealed that CIA planned to assassinate Guatemalan officials and political activists after the successful coup. The document also provides information on the best ways to murder these people (it takes up 15 pages of the document and includes details of how to use firearms, explosives, other weapons and manual techniques to kill your victim). The names are blacked out so it is impossible to discover if the new military dictatorship followed this advice (page xv and Appendix C). What was the result of the overthrow of Arbenz? According to a UN report published 15 years after the imposition of a military dictator in Guatemala, three-quarters of the people were living “below starvation level”, three-quarters were illiterate, four-fifths lacked adequate drinking-water facilities or toilets and one fifth of the children died before they reached the age of five. (Sidney Lens, The Military-Industrial Complex, 1970, page 29). As Lyndon Johnson’s National Security Adviser wrote on 24th June, 1966 after a military controlled election in Guatemala: “the political knack for reaching practical working relationships with the military and other conservative elements is one which I hope will continue to prosper in this hemisphere”. In 1977 Jimmy Carter became the first American president to condemn Guatemala’s civil rights record. However, with the election of Ronald Reagan, American foreign policy returned to one of working with military dictatorships in Latin America. In 1981 Amnesty International reported that “tortures and murder are part of a deliberate and long-standing program of the Guatemalan Government”. The victims were “members of rural cooperatives, grassroots organizers, labor leaders, left-wing students, and armed guerrillas”. In his article, Culture of Fear, Piero Gleijeses, described Reagan’s relationship with the Guatemalan government. On 4th April, 1985, Rosario Godoy, the 24-year-old leader of Guatemala’s only human rights group, disappeared along with her two-year-old son and her younger brother. Their corpses were found in a ravine in the outskirts of Guatemala City. They had all been tortured. This included the baby whose fingernails had been pulled out. The Guatemalan government claimed that the three had died in a car accident. Elliott Abrahams, Reagan’s Under-Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, issued a statement claiming that “there is no evidence indicating other then the deaths were due to an accident” (America Watch, Guatemala: The Group for Mutual Support, 1985, pages 40-46). Thankfully, Congress resisted Reagan’s attempts to resume the military aid to Guatemala that had been cut off by Carter in 1977. It has been claimed that the real reason for the overthrow of Arbenz was to relight the Cold War. Stalin had died in February 1953. In May 1954 the Geneva Conference began in an attempt to settle the disputes in Indochina and Formosa (page 93). Many observers were optimistic about these developments. This hope came to an end with the engineered events in Guatemala. Backed by an obedient media, Eisenhower now had an excuse to prolong the Cold War (page 93). This he was able to do with a compliant American media still suffering the consequences of McCarthyism and the blacklisting of left-wing journalists. The events in Guatemala shaped the future of Latin America and ensured it became a focal point of the Cold War. As James Dunkerly has pointed out: “The Guatemala intervention shaped the attitudes and stratagems of an older generation of radicals, for whom this experience signaled the necessity of armed struggle and an end to illusions about peaceful, legal, and reformist methods.” (James Dunkerly, Power in the Isthmus: A Political History of Modern Central America, 1988, page 429) Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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