Interpreting the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala: Realist, Revisionist, and Postrevisionist Perspectives

AT NINE IN THE EVENING of June 27, 1954, Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán announced his resignation. The beleaguered colonel had many reasons for abandoning the presidency. His 1952 land reform program, known as Decree 900, had enraged wealthy planters and United Fruit Company (UFCO) officials, who spread propaganda tagging Arbenz as a Communist. Earlier in 1954, at the Tenth Inter-American Conference in Caracas, Venezuela, the Eisenhower administration had isolated Guatemala by bludgeoning members of the Organization of American States (OAS) into adopting an anticommunist resolution which insinuated that the Arbenz regime had become a Communist beachhead. Then, on June 17, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas and his band of several hundred peasant soldiers–the so-called Liberation Army–had invaded Guatemala from Honduras with logistical support from a covert U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation code-named PBSUCCESS. As the Liberation army stumbled its way through the countryside, unmarked planes strafed Guatemala City while radio broadcasters jammed the airwaves with rumors that the government was collapsing. Although the early stages of the invasion had gone poorly for Castillo Armas, the Guatemalan army decided on the 25th to abandon the battlefield in Zacapa. The high command refused the president’s order to arm the civilian militias, and instead demanded that he step down. Feeling exhausted, confused, and cornered, Arbenz surrendered the government to the army, hoping desperately that the invaders might still be repelled. But U.S. officials threatened, cajoled, and bribed Castillo Armas’s military rivals, so that by July 1st the “Liberation” had triumphed.

The chain of events that led to Arbenz’s downfall has intrigued historians for decades. How important was PBSUCCESS to Castillo Armas’s victory? Did President Eisenhower know about the operation? If so, why did he order Arbenz’s removal? What role did the UFCO play in the intervention? Many Eisenhower administration officials, including the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen who headed the CIA, owned stock in the company, so did the Liberation really represent a conspiracy between United States public and private economic interests? And what about Arbenz? Was he a Communist? How influential was the Communist Party in Guatemala and was it tied to the Soviets? In short, was there really a communist threat in Central America that the Eisenhower administration prudently removed? Or did anticommunism serve merely as the pretext for overthrowing a nationalist regime that threatened U.S. hegemony?

Historians’ answers to these questions have both shaped and reflected the debate among realists, revisionists, and postrevisionists over the wellsprings and consequences of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. Realists, who concern themselves primarily with power politics, have generally blamed the Cold War on an aggressive, expansionist Soviet empire. Because realists believe that Arbenz was a Soviet puppet, they view his overthrow as the necessary rollback of communism in the Western Hemisphere. Revisionists, who place the majority of the blame for the Cold War on the United States, emphasize how Washington sought to expand overseas markets and promote foreign investment, especially in the Third World. Revisionists allege that because the State Department came to the rescue of the UFCO, the U.S. intervention in Guatemala represents a prime example of economic imperialism. Postrevisionists, a difficult group to define precisely, incorporate both strategic and economic factors in their interpretation of the Cold War. They tend to agree with revisionists on the issue of Soviet responsibility, but they are much more concerned with explaining the cultural and ideological influences that warped Washington’s perception of the Communist threat. According to postrevisionists, the Eisenhower administration officials turned against Arbenz because they failed to grasp that he represented a nationalist rather than a communist.[1]

The root of the realist interpretation can be traced to propaganda spread by the architects of PBSUCCESS. After the covert operation concluded, the Eisenhower administration as well as Castillo Armas and his followers asserted that the Liberation represented a popular revolution against a Communist dictatorship. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Henry F. Holland, for example, declared that “the people of Guatemala rose and dispersed the little group of traitors who had tried to subvert their government into another communist satellite.”[2] The State Department also denied that its opposition to Arbenz could be traced to the Fruit Company’s financial woes. Several weeks before the invasion began, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced: “If the United Fruit matter were settled, if they gave a gold piece for every banana, the problem would remain as it is today as far as the presence of Communist infiltration in Guatemala is concerned.”[3]

Arbenz and his supporters, by contrast, denigrated the Liberation as an international conspiracy masterminded by U.S.-based multinational corporations. “Our crime,” Arbenz explained in his resignation speech, “is having enacted an agrarian reform which affected the interests of the United Fruit Company.”[4] A 1955 study by the Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo (PGT, Guatemalan Communist Party) identified the UFCO and various Rockefeller interests as the major culprits in the plot against Arbenz. Guatemalan exiles portrayed Castillo Armas as a Wall Street lackey, who received Washington’s backing because he promised to return land to the UFCO.[5] These conflicting versions of the Liberation played out separately in the United States and Latin America. To cover-up PBSUCCESS, the State Department derailed an OAS investigation and issued several white papers on Guatemala that branded Arbenz as a Communist. U.S. journalists and reporters churned out sensational narratives in which Castillo Armas, the heroic “Liberator,” saved the Guatemalan people from the ferocious tyranny of the communist dictator, “Red” Jacobo. This disinformation campaign succeeded admirably in the United States, but it flopped badly in Latin America. Demonstrations led by students, labor organizations, and nationalists castigated the Eisenhower administration for coming to the defense of United Fruit.[6] The State Department’s troubleshooter for Latin America, Adolf A. Berle, told his diary: “We eliminated a Communist regime-at the expense of having antagonized half the hemisphere.”[7] Kalman Silvert, a North American academic who specialized in Latin American studies, reported in 1956 that a famous Mexican bookstore had sold thousands of books by Arbenz’s supporters, but only five copies of the most prominent Liberacionista tract.[8]

In the 1950s, anticommunist scholars such as Daniel James, Ronald Schneider, and John Martz asserted that the Eisenhower administration had accurately gaged the Communist threat in Guatemala. According to these realists, Washington and the rest of the hemisphere turned against Arbenz after U.S. intelligence revealed a secret shipment of Czech arms bound for Guatemala aboard the Swedish freighter Alfhem.[9] Political tracts by Castillo Armas’s supporters also glorified the Liberation as a heroic defeat of communism, but they made little or no mention of outside assistance.[10] Even as hard evidence of PBSUCCESS began to leak out, U.S. officials continued to insist that the Arbenz regime posed a grave security threat to the United States. CIA agent David Atlee Phillips, for example, later reflected that documents left behind by Arbenz had “revealed a paradigm of Soviet Cold War expansionism, a program clearly intended to establish a power base in the Western Hemisphere.”[11]

Revisionists, by contrast, defended Arbenz as a nationalist, not a communist, and they blamed his downfall on Yankee imperialism. The financial ties between U.S. government officials and the company, the massacre of at least 1,000 banana workers on a UFCO plantation immediately following the Liberation, and Castillo Armas’s decision to return land confiscated from United Fruit under Decree 900, all seemed to point toward a conspiracy.[12] Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, who served as president from 1958 to 1963, published memoirs charging that in 1954 several CIA agents had tried to recruit him to lead the Liberation on behalf of U.S. corporations with investments in Guatemala.[13] Two Fruit Company public relations agents, Thomas Corcoran and Edward L. Bernays, bragged openly that they had promoted news stories about the Communist threat in Guatemala in order to convince the U.S. government to remove Arbenz.[14]

For several reasons the revisionist interpretation of the Liberation gradually gained favor among U.S. academics during the 1960s and 1970s. The rise of the New Left and the legacy of the Vietnam War caused some historians to question many of the prevailing dogmas of the Cold War. Revisionist historians such as William Appleman Williams, Richard J. Barnet, and Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, for example, argued that the United States generally opposed democracy in the Third World. In their view, the Open Door policy had led to countless U.S. interventions in underdeveloped regions such as Latin America in order to protect trade, markets, and North American businesses such as the UFCO.[15]

The rise in the popularity of dependency theory in the 1970s also encouraged Latin American scholars to view episodes such as the U.S. intervention in Guatemala as an example of how economic interests of the core, or First World, dominated the periphery, or Third World.[16] As one dependista explained, “the UFCO propaganda campaign in combination with such factors as the prevalent ideological climate in the United States and the close linkages with governmental decision makers, among others, led to a positive assertion of core interests that for all practical purposes constituted a defense of UFCO interests in Guatemala.”[17] The North American Congress on Latin America, a leftist think tank which served as the leading proponent of the dependency school in the United States, proposed that an “intervention lobby” had managed to prod the Eisenhower administration into deposing Arbenz. The lobby, according to the political scientist Suzanne Jonas, formed “part of a broad network of power on Wall Street and in Washington that included or had ties with nearly all interest groups involved in foreign policy formation. On its own board, and through its law firms, banks, etc., UFCO integrated the principal Eastern groups-the Rockefellers, Standard Oil interests, the Morgans, and the Boston bluebloods-which dominated the foreign policy apparatus.” At the center of this “intervention nexus” stood the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, a highly influential lobbyist for United Fruit. John Foster Dulles, who had been a senior partner for Sullivan and Cromwell in the 1930s, had helped broker the deal that enabled the UFCO to control Guatemala’s only railway.[18]

The popularity of the revisionist interpretation peaked in the early 1980s with the appearance of Bitter Fruit, a cloak-and-dagger thriller that described in lurid detail how Fruit Company officials had conspired with the Eisenhower administration to topple Arbenz. The two journalists who authored the study, Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, insisted that the UFCO had played a “decisive” role in the coup because, had the company not redbaited Arbenz and exaggerated the Communist threat, the Eisenhower administration probably would have ignored Guatemala. Numerous ties between company and government officials, Schlesinger and Kinzer asserted, gave the UFCO extraordinary influence in Washington. Before launching PBSUCCESS, CIA Director Allen Dulles allegedly promised a top UFCO official that any government which succeeded Arbenz would protect the company’s interests.[19]Bitter Fruit received great accolades in the mainstream press. One awed reviewer exclaimed, “It’s a fantastic yarn–yet it all actually happened.”[20] In truth, Schlesinger and Kinzer’s study relied on selective and circumstantial evidence, some of it highly disputable.[21] Richard Bissell, the CIA official who directed PBSUCCESS, later recalled, “I never heard Allen Dulles discuss United Fruit’s interests.”[22] Adolf A. Berle told Costa Rican leader José Figueres: “Of course, we expected American rights to be protected, including the United Fruit Company; but the United Fruit Company’s interests were secondary to the main interests.”[23]

The first archival-based account of PBSUCCESS, which appeared at roughly the same time as Bitter Fruit, challenged the conspiracy thesis of Schlesinger and Kinzer. The CIA in Guatemala, by Richard H. Immerman, defended the revisionist view that the Arbenz regime did not constitute a Soviet threat to the United States. The study also revealed that the CIA’s logistical assistance proved crucial to Castillo Armas’s victory. According to Immerman, however, the Eisenhower administration decided to remove Arbenz, not because of lobbying pressure from United Fruit, but because U.S. officials had confused communism and nationalism. The State Department had failed to grasp that Arbenz was a “middle-class reformer” who had enacted a land reform to prevent, not encourage, the spread of communism.[24]

By emphasizing how misunderstandings had led to the overthrow of Arbenz, Immerman’s study encouraged investigations into how psychology, bureaucratic politics, and cultural bias shaped Washington’s conception of the Communist threat in Guatemala and elsewhere. Eisenhower postrevisionists, for example, have argued that the president and his advisors routinely confused anticolonialism and nationalism with communism in the Third World.[25] Cole Blasier, a former State Department official who has analyzed U.S. responses to revolutions in Latin America, has emphasized how exaggerated fears of communism distorted U.S. policymaker’s judgments during the Cold War.[26] Diplomatic discourses also provide clues to the intervention in Guatemala. The tendency to divide the world into “good” and “evil,” or “prophetic dualism,” as one study has put it, enabled the Eisenhower administration to stifle public debate over Guatemala.[27] Another scholar has contended that Washington’s “dependent image” of Guatemala helped U.S. officials create a stereotype of Arbenz that could not be challenged by conflicting evidence.[28] The CIA’s success in toppling the nationalist regime in Iran in 1953 also influenced Eisenhower’s approach to Guatemala. “Quick fix crisis management” and false analogies help explain why covert action became the weapon of choice against Arbenz.[29]

The combination of archival research and critical theory enabled postrevisionists to correct and refine the interpretation of revisionist studies, many of which suffered from excessive counterfactual reasoning and economic determinism. But the postrevisionist school also had its weaknesses. The social critic Noam Chomsky complained that Richard Immerman’s account failed to explain the root cause of the U.S. intervention in Guatemala. Most imperial minded leaders, Chomsky observed, “come to believe the propaganda they produce in an effort to justify brutal and murderous acts undertaken in the interests of dominant domestic forces.”[30] Likewise, the historian Ronald Pruessen found Immerman’s description of anticommunism excessively broad. What combination of “political, strategic, economic, psychological and/or ideological factors,” Pruessen wondered, led Washington to remove Arbenz.[31]

But perhaps the biggest mistake the postrevisionists made was to ignore the role of the Guatemalans themselves. By focusing exclusively on the U.S. documentary record, many scholars fell into the trap of reproducing “the world according to Washington.”[32] 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.

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]

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]

Although Shattered Hope appeared to be the last word on the U.S. intervention in Guatemala, new documentation recently released by the CIA has helped clarify some of the mysteries surrounding its role in overthrowing Arbenz. In 1992 the agency hired the historian Nicholas Cullather to write the official account of PBSUCCESS. The CIA’s chief historian, Gerald Haines, also wrote a separate report on the agency’s proposed assassination plots against the Arbenz regime. Both studies remained classified until 1997, when the CIA decided to release them as part of its so-called new openness policy.

Perhaps the most startling revelation in these new studies is confirmation of earlier reports that the CIA had contemplated assassinating high-ranking officials in the Arbenz administration.[37] The CIA originally devised assassination plots as part of PBFORTUNE, the first covert action plan to depose Arbenz. When that operation aborted in 1953, CIA officers drew up hit lists and offered training for Castillo Armas’s “K” groups, which had been formed to eliminate prominent Guatemalan leaders during PBSUCCESS. Certain State Department officials considered these proposals for a brief period in April 1954, but they eventually ruled them out as “counterproductive.” Unfortunately, censors have removed the names of most officials from Haines’s report, so we don’t know how high up the plan went or even if the hit list included Arbenz.[38]

Cullather’s report, which has since been published by Stanford University Press, offers a close look at PBSUCCESS through the eyes of the intelligence community. Like the postrevisionists, Cullather downplays the role of United Fruit and highlights security concerns. Indeed, it was the CIA rather than the UFCO that persuaded the State Department to pay attention to Guatemala. Agency analysts feared, not that the PGT was going to seize power immediately, but that the land reform offered the Communists an unprecedented opportunity to organize the masses.[39]

The CIA study also offers new evidence regarding two important historical issues. First, why did the agency choose Carlos Castillo Armas instead of Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes or Juan Córdova Cerna to lead the Liberation? According to Cullather, PBSUCCESS officers passed over Ydígoras because they considered the general to be too “ambitious, opportunistic, and unscrupulous.” They also scratched Córdova Cerna from the list because he served as legal counsel to United Fruit, which might have given credence to charges of banana imperialism. Castillo Armas, in contrast to the other candidates, appeared more innocent, likeable, and pliable. Aside from anticommunism he had no clear political philosophy, and therefore could be told what to do. The colonel also did not look like the traditional caudillo or strongman. “This is no Latin American dictator with a whip,” commented one agency informant.[40]

The second issue concerns the importance of PBSUCCESS to Castillo Armas’s victory. In 1990 the historian Frederick Marks tried to revive the “realist” interpretation that the Liberation represented a popular revolution against communism. According to Marks, historians have exaggerated the CIA’s role in securing Castillo Armas’s victory just as they have underestimated the military achievements of the Liberation army.[4]1 However, Cullather’s study verifies the criticisms of Stephen Rabe, who found major flaws in Marks’s research, including an excessive reliance on accounts by Castillo Armas’s supporters and a failure to consider contradictory evidence.[42] Castillo Armas’s soldiers did not have rockets or artillery, as Marks claimed, nor did they outfight the Guatemalan army. Castillo Armas did gain some followers as the invasion proceeded, but only in towns where the soldiers met no resistance. These new recruits may actually have been more of a hindrance than an asset because as they had to be fed and equipped.[43]

Some analysts have judged the CIA’s air support for Castillo Armas as the crucial component of PBSUCCESS that defeated Arbenz. To demonstrate the importance of air power, numerous studies cite Allen Dulles’s comment to President Eisenhower on June 23 that the chances of victory stood at only twenty percent unless he ordered more planes. Richard Bissell considered air support as the most “decisive” factor in Arbenz’s downfall.[44] Cullather observes, however, that the aircraft did not improve the military situation in the field. He discounts as an “agency legend” the explanation that Arbenz resigned because he had lost his nerve in the face of the air attacks and radio propaganda.[45] In truth, the CIA got lucky. There is evidence of incompetence, near misses, and operational fiascoes: the botched attempt to depose Arbenz in 1953 (PBFORTUNE); Castillo Armas’s military incompetence; Arbenz’s complacency (such as waiting too long to arm the popular militias); major breaches of security (Arbenz’s spies penetrated PBSUCCESS); disinformation flops (the Guatemalan press discounted as a fake the cache of Soviet arms planted by the CIA); the dropping of bombs that turned out to be duds; near backfiring of bribery attempts; and staffing the psywar radio operation with untrained illiterate technicians.

Considering all of this, Cullather joins many analysts in attributing the downfall of Arbenz to his army’s lack of loyalty. Had the high command chosen to fight seriously they could have easily crushed Castillo Armas’s ragtag band. Most military officers chose to abandon Arbenz, however, because they had grown weary of the ethnic conflict triggered by the land reform and because they feared that thwarting PBSUCCESS would only invite a much larger U.S. military intervention. The transition between Arbenz and Castillo Armas represented, in reality, a military coup, not a mass-based revolution against communism.[46]

One might be tempted to conclude from this lengthy review of the U.S. intervention in Guatemala that the topic has been exhausted. But historiography also teaches that our interpretation of momentous events can change slightly or dramatically as new evidence becomes available or as the popularity of certain historical theories rise and fall. There are still major gaps in the historical record that would be worth filling. Certain portions of the U.S. documentary record remain classified or sanitized, and the United Fruit Company has yet to open its archives. Still, it might be useful to take stock of the debate, because certain interpretations can be laid to rest. The Soviet Union did not control Guatemala in 1954, nor were local Communists on the verge of seizing power. The Liberation never would have succeeded without PBSUCCESS, which is not to say that Arbenz would have remained in power indefinitely. The historian Jim Handy, for example, has shown that many military officers had become disturbed over Arbenz’s land reform for both personal and ideological reasons. Plotting against Arbenz had begun in early 1954, and it seems likely that Arbenz would have fallen regardless of the U.S. intervention.[47] The original revisionist claim that United Fruit masterminded Arbenz’s defeat also appears untenable. Company’s records, if they ever become available, are unlikely to provide the smoking gun. If the UFCO was so important, then why is there so little evidence of its influence in the U.S. declassified record? It is possible, of course, that key documents are still being withheld from researchers, but there is no longer any reason to protect the company. Immediately after PBSUCCESS concluded, the Eisenhower administration permitted the Justice Department to proceed with a long delayed antitrust suit against United Fruit that weakened its monopoly and contributed to the company’s eventual disintegration.

If there is any controversy left, it will probably continue to revolve around the reasons for the Eisenhower administration’s decision to topple Arbenz. For some scholars, it may seem pointless to try and rank the causes of the intervention. “To emphasize either strategic or economic motives in analyzing U.S. policies toward Guatemala,” the historian Stephen G. Rabe has written, “is perhaps to draw distinctions without differences.”[48] But for others, the Eisenhower administration’s motivation for intervening in Guatemala bears directly on the issue of American responsibility for the violence that engulfed the country after Arbenz’s departure. Between 1954 and 1994 Guatemala experienced a gruesome civil war that left more than 150,000 dead.[49] The scholar Robert Pastor exculpates Washington for this tragedy; the policymakers who engineered PBSUCCESS were honest, sincere, and well-intentioned men, even if they were wrong to regard Arbenz as a Communist. To Piero Gleijeses, however, the Eisenhower administration’s pursued its hegemonic objectives in Guatemala without regard for the fate of the Guatemalan people. U.S. officials stand guilty, in his words, of “wanton criminal negligence.”[50]

Like the longstanding controversy over the origins of the Cold War, the debate over the U.S. intervention in Guatemala is not likely to be resolved solely by the discovery of new documents. What is known now about PBSUCCESS is so vastly superior to the evidence available forty years ago that historians can concentrate more on interpreting the evidence than on uncovering more of it. Advancements in historical interpretation usually depend on the discovery of new sources and/or new theoretical approaches. In this case, the historical literature on the U.S. intervention in Guatemala has matured to the point where it is now possible to narrate fairly clearly the series of events that led to Arbenz’s downfall. Much more contentious will be how to deconstruct this story now that the Cold War is over.

Notes

1 For definitions of realism and revisionism, see Bruce W. Jentleson and Thomas G. Paterson, eds., Encyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations (New York, 1997); on postrevisionism see John Lewis Gaddis, “The Emerging Post-revsionist Synthesis on the Origins of the Cold War,” Diplomatic History 7 (Summer 1983), 171-190. For the heated debate over revisionism and postrevisionism, see Michael J. Hogan, ed., America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations since 1941 (New York, 1995), pp. 1-155.

2 Text of Holland’s address before the Washington Board of Trade Group, undated, Record Group 469, ICA Mission Director Subject Files, box 5, folder: “Information – Speeches 1955,” United States National Archives, College Park, MD [hereafter RG].

3 Transcript of a news conference, 8 June 1954, U.S. Department of State, American Foreign Policy, 1950-1955: Basic Documents (Washington, DC, 1957), vol. 1, p. 1310.

4 Translated in embassy despatch 1028, 29 June 1954, RG 59, 714.00/62954.

5 Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo, La intervención norteamericana en guatemala y el derrocamiento del régimen democratico (Guatemala, 1955), p. 1718; Unión Patriotica Guatemalteca letter to Dag Hammarskjold, (translation), 14 November 1956, Lot 60 D 647, Guatemala Subject File (1957, ICA, to 1958, Antillon Hernandez), box 4, folder: “1957 Guatemala United Nations,” U.S. National Archives, College Park, MD; Unión Patriotica Guatemalteca, Guatemala contra el imperialismo (Guatemala, 1964), p. 21. For participant accounts with a similar slant, see Guillermo Toriello Garrido, La batalla de Guatemala (Buenos Aires, 1956); Juan José Arévalo, The Shark and the Sardines (New York, 1961).

6 For a summary of Latin American reactions to the Liberation, see Burgin memorandum to Raine, 23 June 1954, RG 59, 714.00/62354.

7 Quoted in Jordan A. Schwarz, Liberal: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era (New York, 1987), p. 318.

8 K. H. Silvert, “Guatemala 1955: II-Internal and International Consolidation,” American Universities Field Staff Mexico & Caribbean Area Series 3:2 (1956), 8-9.

9 Daniel James, Red Design for the Americas: Guatemalan Prelude (New York, 1954), p. 304, 316; Ronald Schneider, Communism in Guatemala: 1944-1954 (New York, 1958); John D. Martz, Communist Infiltration in Guatemala (New York, 1956).

10 Congreso Continental Anticomunista, El libro negro del comunismo en Guatemala (México, 1954); Jorge del Valle Matheu, La verdad sobre el “caso de Guatemala” (Guatemala,1956); Mario Efraín Nájera Farfán, Los estafadores de la democracia (hombres y hechos en Guatemala) (Buenos Aires, 1956).

11 David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch (New York, 1977), pp. 35, 53.

12 Julio Castro, Bombas y dolares sobre Guatemala (Montevideo, 1954); Gregorio Selser, El guatemalazo: la primera guerra sucia (Buenos Aires, 1954); Alberto Suarez, La lucha del pueblo de Guatemala contra el imperialismo yanquí (Montevideo, 1954); Raúl Osegueda, Operación Guatemala $$ OK $$ (México, 1955); Manuel Galich, Por qué lucha Guatemala: Arévalo y Arbenz, dos hombres contra un imperio (Buenos Aires, 1956); Julio Castello, Así cayó la democracia en Guatemala: la guerra de la United Fruit (La Habana, 1961); Benjamín Carrión, “Oración fúnebre por la OEA,” Cuadernos Americanos 141 (julio-agosto 1965), 25-26. On the United Fruit Company massacres, see K. H. Silvert, “Guatemala 1955: I-Problems of Administration,” American Universities Field Staff Mexico & Caribbean Area Series 2:2 (2 February 1956), 56; Comité de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, La violencia en Guatemala: dramática y documentada denuncia sobre “El tercer gobierno de la revolución,” la “democracia” de Mendez Montenegro (México, 1969), pp. 13-14; Ricardo Falla, Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcán Guatemala (Boulder, CO, 1994), p. 56; Jim Handy, Revolution in the Countryside: Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, 1944-1954 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1994), p. 194.

13 Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, My War with Communism (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963), pp. 49-50.

14 Thomas P. McCann, An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit (New York, 1976), 58-59; Edward L. Bernays, Biography of an Idea: Memoirs of a Public Relations Counsel (New York, 1965), pp. 762-66.

15 William Appleman Williams, Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York, 1972); Richard J. Barnet, Intervention and Revolution: The United States in the Third World (New York, 1968); Joyce Kolko and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1954 (New York, 1972).

16 Mark Berger, Under Northern Eyes: Latin American Studies and U.S. Hegemony in the Americas (Bloomington, IN, 1995), pp. 113-14.

17 José Aybar de Soto, Dependency and Intervention: The Case of Guatemala in 1954 (Boulder, CO, 1979), p. 237.

18 Suzanne Jonas and David Tobis, eds. Guatemala (Berkeley, CA, 1974), pp. 64-65.

19 Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (Garden City, NY, 1982), pp. 106, 120. This edition is now out of print, but in 1999 Harvard University Press reissued the study with a new introduction by Latin American historian John Coatsworth and a new afterward by Stephen Kinzer.

20 Jim Miller of Newsweek, back cover of the first paperback edition of Bitter Fruit.

21 Hugo Murillo Jiménez, “La intervención norteamericana en Guatemala en 1954, dos interpretaciones recientes,” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos [Costa Rica] 11:2 (1985), 154.

22 Richard M. Bissell, Jr., Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs (New Haven, CT, 1996), p. 90.

23 Adolf A. Berle, Navigating the Rapids, 1918-1971, eds. Beatrice Bishop Berle and Travis Beal Jacobs (New York, 1973), p. 616.

24 Richard H. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention (Austin, TX, 1982), pp. ix, 182-86.

25 Stephen G. Rabe, “Eisenhower Revisionism: A Decade of Scholarship,” Diplomatic History 17 (Winter 1993), 112-13; Thomas M. Leonard, “Nationalism or Communism? The Truman Administration and Guatemala 1945-1952,” Journal of Third World Studies 7 (Spring 1990), 169-91.

26 Cole Blasier, Hovering Giant: U.S. Response to Revolutionary Change in Latin America (Pittsburgh, 1985), pp. 221, 229.

27 Martin J. Medhurst, Robert L. Ivie, and Robert L. Scott, Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology (New York, 1990), pp. 157-163.

28 Martha L. Cottam, Images and Intervention: U.S. Policies in Latin America (Pittsburgh, 1994), p. 40.

29 Kenneth Lehman, “Revolutions and Attributions: Making Sense of Eisenhower Administration Policies in Bolivia and Guatemala,” Diplomatic History 21 (Spring 1997), 213; Alex Roberto Hybel, How Leaders Reason: U.S. Intervention in the Caribbean Basin and Latin America (Oxford, UK, 1990), p. 68.

30 Noam Chomsky, “What Directions for the Disarmament Movement? Interventionism and Nuclear War” in Beyond Survival: New Directions for the Disarmament Movement, eds. Michael Albert and David Dellinger (Boston, 1983), p. 293.

31 Ronald W. Pruessen, “Revisionism 2,” Radical History Review 33 (September 1985), 162.

32 Sally Marks, “The World According to Washington,” Diplomatic History 11 (Summer 1987), 265-82.

33 Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, p. 4.

34 National Intelligence Estimate 84, 19 May 1953, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954 (Washington, DC, 1984), vol. 4, pp. 1064, 1700.

35 Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, p. 152.

36 Quoted in ibid., p. 365.

37 William Corson, The Armies of Ignorance: The Rise of the American Intelligence Empire (New York, 1977), p. 356.

38 Gerald K. Haines, “CIA and Guatemala Assassination Proposals 1952-1954,” RG 263, CIA History Staff Analysis, June 1995, box 1, National Archives, College Park, MD.

39 Nicholas Cullather, Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of Its Operation in Guatemala, 1952-1954 (Stanford, CA, 1999), pp. 24-27.

40 Ibid., pp. 49-50.

41 Frederick W. Marks III, “The CIA and Castillo Armas in Guatemala, 1954: New Clues to an Old Puzzle,” Diplomatic History 14 (Winter 1990), 67-86.

42 Stephen G. Rabe, “The Clues Didn’t Check Out: Commentary on ‘The CIA and Castillo Armas'” Diplomatic History 14 (Winter 1990): 87-96.

43 Cullather, Secret History, pp. 72, 96.

44 Ibid., 75-76; Bissell, Reflections, p. 86.

45 Cullather, Secret History, pp. 97-99.

46 Handy, Revolution in the Countryside, pp. 184-90; Neale J. Pearson, “Guatemala: The Peasant Union Movement, 1944-1954” in Latin American Peasant Movements, ed. Henry Landsberger (Ithaca, NY, 1969), pp. 323-73; Philip B. Taylor, “Guatemala Affair: A Critique of U.S. Foreign Policy,” American Political Science Review 50 (September 1956), 787-806; Francisco Villagrán Kramer, Biografía política de Guatemala: los pactos de 1944 a 1970 (Guatemala, 1993), p. 150. Susanne Jonas, who originally placed most of the emphasis for Arbenz’s defeat on the U.S. intervention, now concedes that the army played a vital role. Susanne Jonas, The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads, and U.S. Power (Boulder, CO, 1991), p. 36.

47 Jim Handy, “‘A Sea of Indians’: Ethnic Conflict and the Guatemalan Revolution, 1944-1954,” The Americas 66 (October 1989), 203. For similar perspectives, see Edelberto Torres-Rivas, “Crisis y coyuntura crítica: La caída de Arbenz y los contratiempos de la revolución burguesa,” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 41 (enero-marzo 1979), 298; Pruessen, “Revisionism 2,” 161.

48 Stephen G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Austin, TX, 1988), pp. 59-60. For similar views, see James Dunkerley, Political Suicide in Latin America (London, 1992), p. 105; Blanche Wiesen Cook, The Declassified Eisenhower: A Divided Legacy (Garden City, NY, 1981), p. 231.

49 Stephen M. Streeter, Managing the Counterrevolution: The United States and Guatemala, 1954-1961 (Ohio University Press, forthcoming).

50 Cullather, Secret History, pp. xxviii-xxix.

 

By: Stephen M. Streeter