LatinX History: US overthrows President elect of Guatemala to protect Corporate Interests
Leads to Decades of Devastating Civil War, Instability, and Devastation of the Guatemalan people.
In 1944, Guatemalan citizens elected Jacobo Arbenz in a fair democratic election. Arbenz was progressive political leader, who supported social reform policies such as the expansion of voting rights, the support of open debate, union organizing for workers, and legitimate political parties. His biggest policy push however was the agrarian reform platform, which called for the expropriation of unused lands from foreign corporate interests, in order to return the land to the impoverished Guatemalan people.
This spelled R E D for the United States government, who represented the largest share of those foreign corporate interests in the name of the United Fruit Company, whose product we know as Chiquita Banana. Lobbied by the corporate interests, and convinced that there were communists in the Guatemalan government, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Dulles, and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles conspired to use military force to overthrow Arbenz.
Training guerrilla soldiers in Honduras and Nicaragua, and using psychological warfare tactics in the form of propaganda, the United States so thoroughly intimated the government of Guatemala that the state fell without much battle.
Carlos Castillo Armas, the puppet President put in place by the United States CIA after the coup, was by the CIA’s own account an authoritarian dictator who was “inept” despite having “virtually dictatorial powers.” During his reign, he managed to roll back most of the agrarian reforms, forcible taking the land back from the poor and giving it to rich corporations, arrested and killed thousands of workers who dared to organize, investigated over 70,000 people for communist sympathies, and put 10% of the population on a list of suspected communists.
By overthrowing Arbenz, the United States undermined Guatemala’s ability to create and sustain a stable democratic government. The insertion of Castillo so destabilized the Guatemalan society, that leftist insurgencies sprung up across the countryside, directly leading to the devastating Guatemalan Civil War from 1960 to 1996.
Declassified CIA document detailing the sterilization of the “red infection” in Guatemala: