The following was a research paper I recently wrote for my U.S. – Latin America Relations seminar. I know this is “too long” for a blog, but if you enjoy this kind of thing you won’t mind, and if you don’t then I recommend you bounce down to some of the other posts.
If the United States is now characterized as an empire, then the 1954 Guatemala coup d’état was one of the first assertions of that title. The ramifications for world order in the late 20th century were profound. Enjoy.
Power Projection and United States Imperialism:
United Fruit and the 1954 Guatemala Coup
The whole policy of my Government is encompassed within the limits of representative democracy and has three great and fundamental objectives: growth of and absolute respect for democratic liberties; raising of the standard of living of the Guatemalan people through the transformation of a semi-feudal, semi-colonial economy into a capitalistic economy; and the defense of national sovereignty and independence.
The 1954 coup d’état of the Arbenz administration in Guatemala represented a nexus of pivotal events in global and regional politics. For the powerful multinational United Fruit Company, it marked the beginning of the end of a neocolonial era in Middle America. For the United States, Guatemala was an assertion of hegemony which would rapidly reach across the globe and seek to contain expansion of the Soviet Union. For Guatemala, it was an abrupt disruption to the novel experience of nationalism and economic sovereignty. For those who paid attention, the United States’ rhetoric about promoting freedom and liberty was tempered by its protection of corporate interests and support of repressive right-wing regimes. Since the release of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency in the late 1970s, much has been written and understood about the mechanics of Operation PBSuccess. What has not been considered are the many different conditions that converged at a particular point in time that not only enabled the coup, but also allowed many Central American élite to grant acceptance. It has been well established that the CIA and United Fruit (UFCo) orchestrated the overthrow of Arbenz, and that concerns over industry nationalization and Communist infiltration were prominent. What is less established is how the coup d’état provided an opportunity for the architects of United States foreign policy to project power in a novel fashion. When this novel projection of power is considered the primary goal of actors like the Dulles brothers and President Eisenhower, the sovereignty of Guatemala and the financial interests of United Fruit become expendable.
Historical Source Materials
Rigorous histories of the 1954 Guatemala coup d’état were unavailable before the late 1970s, due to the sequestration of CIA documents. At that time, Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, authors of Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, filed a Freedom of Information Act request and challenged the administration’s intransigence in court. Their success led to a substantial — albeit sanitized — archive of primary source documents for study. A number of these memoranda and white papers are utilized in this analysis. Bitter Fruit became a seminal work on the subject, carefully linking the interests of United Fruit Company, the Eisenhower administration and several of the United States’ allies in Central America and the Caribbean. Schlesinger and Kinzer place the influence of UFCo, the rabid anti-Communism of the Eisenhower administration, and the weakness of the Arbenz administration in a credible context. Their monograph provides operational details of the preparation for and the execution of Operation PBSuccess. This analysis does not contradict their findings, but adds a few insights into the organizational development of the crisis and aftermath.
Other secondary sources provide background on the development of forces prior to the coup d’état. Paul J. Dosal’s Doing Business with the Dictators: A Political History of United Fruit in Guatemala 1899-1944 and Watt Stewart’s biography of Minor Keith, Keith and Costa Rica: A Biographical Study of Minor Cooper Keith, help to illustrate the near-feudal environment that contributed to fantastic riches and the inevitable leftist response of the population. Memoirs by Thomas McCann and Edward Bernays give insight into the tactics of UFCo and the company’s intimacy with the Eisenhower administration. The report Guatemala, published by the North American Congress on Latin America, was published prior to Bitter Fruit (and the FOIA document release) and provides a social history of the country, the Revolution of 1944 and counter-revolution, and the descent into civil war after Arbenz was deposed. Two other sources are significant in the way they are utilized. Andrew Bacevich’s Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War asserts that the early 1950s was the incubator for neoliberal power projection from the United States across the globe. I also draw upon the research of Dr. Robert A. Altemeyer, a retired psychology professor from the University of Manitoba and recognized expert on the subject of authoritarian thought. Altemeyer’s research is useful in describing the actions of the Dulles brothers and understanding their obsession with the “Red Threat,” whether real or perceived.
The primary source material comes from the aforementioned FOIA archive at the CIA, as well as a collection of annual reports from UFCo. These documents were helpful in assessing the views of both parties, although they must be met with skepticism. The annual reports are very interesting for what they do not contain, indicating assuredness that the company’s plans would pay off. Of the CIA memoranda examined (including those that were not included in this analysis) it is clear that knowledge of the adversary was circumscribed, nor was that seen as a problem. Contrary to limiting the value of these sources, their bias is insightful and useful, if they are interrogated properly.
Fomenting the Revolution
The germination of the United Fruit Company occurred in the jungles of Costa Rica in the late 19th century, when an adventurous Brooklynite named Minor Cooper Keith left his cattle business in Texas at the request of his uncle and traveled south to build a railroad. For an entrepreneur who was not afraid of the corruption, repressive dictatorships and oppressive climate, Central America offered a business environment potentially more lucrative than laissez-faire. He formed International Railways of Central America (IRCA) and began laying track throughout Costa Rica. Simultaneously, a freighter captain named Lorenzo Dow Baker discovered the popularity of the banana fruit and began shipping produce to Boston, where it moved quickly and profitably. In 1885 Baker capitalized the Boston Fruit Company at $15,000. Within five years it had reached $531,000 and consumed three rivals. The 1899 merger with Keith, creating United Fruit Company, allowed Boston Fruit to absorb over 100,000 acres of prime banana land owned by Keith while providing his cash-strapped railway with much-needed capital. From the beginning, the feudal structure of society allowed for economic domination and plunder. A report prepared for Keith’s investors in London was scathing, noting the the contracts Keith had procured for hauling bananas were “…an undisguised monopoly, contrary to the concession of the railway, and contrary to justice…. The banana growers were constantly petitioning the Government to interfere and break the obnoxious monopoly…” But instead of facing resistance from the landed élite, Keith proved adept at gaining ongoing favor from those in power. As UFCo grew, a conscious decision was made to focus development not only in Costa Rica but especially Guatemala, not only for the prime banana land available, but because the government was seen as “the region’s weakest, most corrupt and most pliable.”
Keith wielded influence in other, more personal ways. In late 1882 or early 1883, he became enamored with the young Cristina Castro Fernández. She was the daughter of Dr. José María Castro, who had twice occupied the presidency of Costa Rica and been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Cristina’s mother also had extensive and eminent associations. The courtship and subsequent marriage lent greatly to Keith’s stature in the region.
Estrada Cabrera rose to the presidency of Guatemala during a coup d’état in 1898, and UFCo was quick to recognize the business opportunity this presented. During the next few years, Keith secured a number of contracts with Cabrera, giving UFCo control of all railway transportation throughout the country, exclusive transportation rights to all government mail, cargo and personnel between the Caribbean coast and New Orleans, and most importantly, an exemption from export taxes for bananas. In 1904, Cabrera granted Keith a contract to build a sixty-mile section of railway between El Rancho and Guatemala City. If completed on time, Keith would receive possession of the entire railway for 99 years. He also received 168,000 acres of prime banana land, all the docks in Puerto Barrios and all the property, rolling stock, buildings, and telegraph lines. The government guaranteed an annual income of 5% on the estimated investment (amounting to $4.5 million) for fifteen years. The early management of UFCo — led by Minor Keith — understood the unstable and dangerous business environment of Central America, and approached negotiations with rulers like Cabrera aggressively and with determined focus. Often times contracts were given with such favorable terms because no other companies desired the opportunity. In this way, UFCo negotiated the surrender of Guatemala’s economic sovereignty with little resistance or notice.
During the first three decades of the 20th century UFCo continued these practices, developing what would eventually be designated “The Octopus”: an infrastructure network of transportation, communication, labor and land holdings. This network operated as a de facto public sector, except that it was controlled by one of the most profitable multinational companies on the planet. The result was draconian oppression of competitors. IRCA was known to impose high transportation costs on the competitors of UFCo, denying them market access on the same low terms. When confronted with the threat by independent growers that they would seek alternatives to loading bananas at the port, L.F. Whitbeck, IRCA’s general manager, stated “he would apply the maximum rates to the shipment and explained the difficulties that an independent firm would face when it attempted to load bananas at the Puerto Barrios pier, where United Fruit controlled all the facilities.” Communication was another monopoly held by UFCo. Even as late as 1953, the company boasted that “[t]ropical radio is today an important element in providing public-service radiotelegraph and radio-telephone communication not only to the governments and peoples of Middle America, but to their correspondents in North and South America, the West Indies and every other part of the world.” This control had predictable effects on the Guatemalan economy: tremendous wealth disparity, a landless peasantry unable to sustain itself, extremely high illiteracy and no basic infrastructure beyond what was owned by UFCo. Guatemala could be characterized as a serfdom controlled by a few dozen families. Such a system required an accomplice to hold political power. By the 1920s, Jorge Ubico had ascended to the presidency and controlled the legislature with an iron fist. When legislators offered resistance to The Octopus, Ubico terminated their efforts and allowed the monopoly to continue unfettered.
A significant change in the management of United Fruit took place in 1930, one that would shape the company’s response to events two decades hence. Sam “The Banana Man” Zemurray sold his Cuyamel Company to UFCo for stock, but by 1932 the Great Depression and mismanagement caused the share value to plummet ninety percent. Zemurray left New Orleans to attend a board meeting in Boston and demanded that he be made managing director of operations. Allegedly he flung down a stack of proxies on the table and shouted, “You gentlemen have been fucking up this business long enough. I’m going to straighten it out.” After his appointment was announced, share value doubled. Zemurray would build a team of consultants, public relations professionals and lobbyists to advance UFCo’s agenda in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
If the relationship between United Fruit and Guatemala’s military leadership during the first half of the 20th century could be described as colonial, then the Revolution of 1944 was the long-awaited reaction. After mishandling the response to a teachers’ union protest in which 200 people were killed or injured, Jorge Ubico imposed a state of siege. Shocked at the continuing protests against him, he resigned his office on July 1 to General Federico Ponce, a protégé of Ubico and choice of the landed gentry. Although Ponce took some measures to placate protest leaders, the assassination of the journalist and legislator Alejandro Córdova created a political convulsion that threatened his position. In response, Ponce declared free elections to validate his hold on power. Teachers and labor leaders recruited Dr. Juan José Arévalo Bermejo, who had been living in exile in Argentina. As the election approached, two young officers — Major Francisco Arana and Captain Jacobo Arbenz — killed their superiors and sparked a series of uprisings throughout the military. After two days of spurious fighting Ponce was forced to accept a settlement brokered by the United States. Arana and Arbenz formed a junta and immediately declared upcoming elections.
Although Jorge Ubico would return to challenge Juan Arévalo in the election, Arévalo and his vice-presidential candidate Jacobo Arbenz would handily win and open a new era of democracy in Guatemala. The age of the caudillo was over.
The October Revolution of 1944 was a positive development for Guatemala, but it provoked a number of quiet responses over the next several years. Taken individually, these were neither surprising nor alarming, yet they intersected at a point in the future with disastrous consequences for the country and its democracy.
When the Arévalo administration took power in March 1945, it comprised a center-left political alliance that focused its legislative energies on working class people. Four priorities were annunciated for the six-year term: agrarian reform, worker protections, educational reform and the consolidation of democracy. Such a center-left approach seemed likely, given the success of the New Deal in the United States and its supposition that government should serve a public interest. Domestically, these four areas of society were clearly the most neglected for the majority of the population. Although Guatemala was an agrarian society, almost three-quarters of the arable land was owned by two percent of the population. Most peasants were unable to sustain themselves through agriculture. The legislature passed labor reforms that allowed for organizing, petitions against poor working conditions, and established a labor court that distributed power to the worker. A minimum wage was instituted and female and child labor was regulated. These types of reforms were considered progressive, aligned with U.S. standards, and were initially met with favor. There was nothing particularly disturbing about the pace of reform; Arévalo being somewhat moderate and having to balance a parliament made up of many competing interests. Additionally, and despite his moderate platform, he faced constant attack from the right-wing and repeated coup attempts. Over time, his coalition frayed and labor unrest preceded the discovery of an arms shipment in Puerto Barrios (which was controlled by UFCo.) As the election season opened in 1950, right-wing resistance led by former junta member Colonel Arana culminated in his assassination and a brief political uprising. Arévalo was able to put down the revolt only by arming labor unions. When the dust settled, Jacobo Arbenz was seen as the clear successor to the presidency.
The election of Jacobo Arbenz represented the first peaceful, democratic transition of power in Guatemala. Arbenz was not considered to be an ideologue, even though it was recognized that his wife had some Marxist connections. Nevertheless, given the nature of his coalition, which was based on Arévalo’s Revolutionary Action Party (PAR), the existence of Communist party members in bureaucratic positions did not initially cause alarm. What generated the greatest response from the right-wing and observers in the United States was the implementation of a land reform act, which sought to expropriate uncultivated landholdings above 670 acres. Landowners were to be compensated based on the declared property value from 1952, and paid in 25 year agricultural bonds yielding three percent interest. This became a rallying cry for those who wanted to see Communism invading the western hemisphere, but by all accounts the program was actually quite moderate, echoing sentiments from a previous World Bank study and falling well with the parameters of the future Alliance for Progress. Other initiatives confronted the monopolies of UFCo dating back to the Cabrera regime. The government of Guatemala began developing a highway system to challenge the rail monopoly of IRCA, and plans existed to build another port on the Caribbean. Another priority was national electrification; much of the power generation in 1953 was in the hands of foreign companies, and did not extend very far into the countryside. Given that each of these individual initiatives had been viewed positively by development organizations around the world, Arbenz might have been forgiven for not realizing the political gravity of his agenda. Not being an astute politician, he failed to look at the genuine center of power in Washington, D.C., and recognize the domestic changes occurring there.
Sam Zemurray was formulating strategy from his headquarters on Pier 3 in New York. Zemurray was a man who planned in decades, and he had begun assembling a damage-control team before Arbenz implemented the land reform program. His actions were not extraordinary for a powerful multinational company of UFCo’s size, but they were a prerequisite for remaining powerful. He engaged Edward Bernays to handle his public relations. Bernays was a brilliant messaging specialist who believed that reaching “opinion-molders” could dramatically shift public opinion and feed back to legislators (in this regard he was a visionary far ahead of his time.) In his 1920s book titled Propaganda, Bernays wrote, “[t]he conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…” To hedge against Bernays’ liberal leanings, UFCo also hired J.A. Clements Associates, a right-wing think tank known for being rabidly anti-Communist. In Central America, UFCo worked to secure support from neighboring countries. Arrangements were made through an attorney named Adolph Berle to introduce Dr. José Figueres, the President of Costa Rica, to John McClintock and Kenneth Redmond, Assistant Vice President and President of United Fruit, respectively. This meeting, which took place in May 1953 (thirteen months before the coup d’état,) concluded with the assurance of Figueres to support an anti-Communist liberal movement in Guatemala. In order to achieve his objectives in Washington, D.C., Zemurray hired Thomas Corcoran, a Harvard-educated lawyer with extensive connections throughout the government. True to their profile in Central America as a de facto government, United Fruit began to manipulate the unseen mechanism of society and demonstrate exactly who held power in Guatemala.
As the Eisenhower administration took power in the United States, a number of connections between it and UFCo became significant, not for their unusual nature but simply as prerequisites for achieving objectives. Spruille Braden, former ambassador to Chile and Undersecretary of State for Latin American Affairs was hired as a consultant in the early 1950s. Former Wisconsin Senator Bob LaFollette was considered a close friend of the company until his suicide. It was well known that John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s first Secretary of State and the older brother of the Director of the CIA, “was reputed to have been the author of the actual concessions which the firm negotiated on our behalf from the governments in whose countries we operated.” And finally (this list is far from complete,) Wisconsin Senator Alexander Wiley, who was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the Guatemala crisis, was a friend of the company and a leading critic of the Arbenz administration. Wiley was one of Bernays’ “opinion-molders” who denounced the Communists in Guatemala many times on the Senate floor. This network proved effective at disseminating UFCo’s hyperbole about the Communist beachhead in Guatemala, impacting not only the public’s opinion but that of academics and legislators as well. The incestuous relations of actors in the public and private spheres of this crisis played into the hands of the tactician Bernays who was prepared and capable of shaping attitudes and opinions for the achievement of the company’s objectives.
There was only one component missing in order to execute UFCo’s plan of replacing the Arbenz regime. When it arrived in early 1953, the company surely felt assured about a beneficial outcome. What they didn’t realize was that a larger, less controllable force was at work that would prove far too powerful and unpredictable.
A number of factors coalesced in 1953 that made the Guatemala coup d’état not only possible but also desirable. First, the United States emerged from the Second World War economically and politically powerful, and willing to globally espouse its ideology. Domestically, the Truman administration was unpopular and the New Deal lost steam. The center-right reemerged and captured power in the legislative and executive branches. The rise of China and the alienation from the Soviet Union ignited a Red Scare that was effectively employed to mobilize U.S. citizens. And Latin America, which had been overlooked during the war, was now being viewed as a region that needed to be brought back into the western sphere of influence. The tactics employed by United Fruit to stoke the Red Scare in Central America were not only the logical response to this environment but also contributed to its perpetuation.
Allen Dulles, John Foster Dulles and Dwight Eisenhower
Eisenhower brought a number of changes to United States foreign policy, first and foremost beginning with his Cabinet. He appointed John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State, and promoted younger brother Allen from Deputy Director of the CIA to lead the agency. Both men brought an anti-Communist zeal with them to the administration. As Schlesinger describes John Foster, “…like religious zealots he often resembled, viewed the world in stark black and white; those countries not for him were against him.”[23
] This made the adoption of realpolitik a simple matter, which was tested in the first days of 1953. Eisenhower became concerned about the popularity of Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran, particularly after he moved to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. Convinced by his Secretary of State to authorize a covert action, the CIA sent Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. to topple Mossadegh. The success demonstrated to the Dulles brothers that covert action could be effectively employed to project power around the globe, and they relied upon an obscure and previously unused provision in the CIA charter which authorized covert and paramilitary operations.[24
] In a matter of a few months the methods used to deploy power changed radically, primarily because of the worldview of the Dulles brothers.[25
A more conservative electorate brought the new center-right administration to power, and officials made several moves to reward those who made the transition popular. In order to placate “super-patriot” Senator Joseph McCarthy, John Foster Dulles hired former McCarthy aide Scott McLeod to check the “loyalty” of present and incoming department members, thus lending respectability to the infamous senator’s bipolar worldview. This aligned with United Fruit’s tactic to generate fear of a Communist beachhead in Guatemala. In addition to Senator Wiley’s fiery speeches, UFCo engaged the resources of J.A. Clements and Associates to publish a white paper on the Red Threat in Central America. McCann cites “Report from Guatemala” in his memoir: “A Moscow-directed Communist conspiracy in Central America is one of the Soviet Union’s most successful operations of infiltration outside of the Iron Curtain countries.” McCann goes on to state that, “the company got it into the hands of every member of Congress who would accept it (and in the days of Senator Joe McCarthy, that was a lot of Congressmen), and we sent it to every ‘major opinion-molder’ in the United States…” The report was such a work of fiction that none of the contributors agreed to take credit for it, but it was published anonymously and the audience seemed to accept it without question. This policy feedback loop was another cautionary example of incestuousness amongst the élite: their worldview prompted assertions and interpretations of the world which were then used to justify that worldview.
Former administration officials working with United Fruit and credible media outlets responding to prompts from Bernays popularized perspective shifts inside the administration. The New York Times was a favorite outlet of Bernays’, for their credibility and their liberal audience (which he felt needed to be “brought on-board.”) As early as 1950 the paper published that the Communist party of Guatemala, “…receives substantial funds and other aid from the Soviet Government, functions as an arm of the official Soviet Information Bureau and uses Guatemala as a base for the infiltration of the five other Central American republics.” Lissner provides no corroborating evidence for this statement, and a similar column written about UFCo’s troubles in Guatemala was based primarily on conversations with Company officials. Public opinion would become important for the Eisenhower administration, since an operation to topple the Arbenz administration would represent a radical departure from past United States policy toward Latin America and jeopardize U.S. standing in the newly chartered Organization of American States. The steps taken by UFCo, and later parroted by administration officials, prepared the case to be prosecuted.
By the time that Eisenhower authorized the CIA to proceed with what would become Operation PBSuccess, much of the intelligence gathered regarding the threat in Guatemala was fabricated. In his memoir, Edward Bernays expresses surprise at how little was known at the time decisions were being made. Clearly, hyperbole was standard operating procedure; only achieving the company’s objectives were important. And while the counter-narrative was not adequate to dampen public sentiment, there were press reports the rest of Latin America did not agree with the U.S. threat assessment. The Department of State had difficulty engaging a Latin American country to press the case against Guatemala; they did not see the Communist threat as grave, and they sympathized with the harassment of UFCo, which stood for Yankee imperialism throughout the Caribbean.
Other signs of disingenuousness in the administration’s argument were present. United Fruit and the CIA began the search for a successor to Arbenz in May 1953, thirteen months before the coup d’état. The first choice was Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, a former Ubico strong man who had opposed Arbenz in the previous election. He balked at the offer when the CIA demanded he favor UFCo and IRCA, destroy the railway unions, suspend claims against Britain for Belize, and pay back the cost of operations (to be presented in the future.) Eventually, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas was selected for his pliability. During the interim period prior to the invasion, he was maintained in Honduras. Multiple executives of UFCo reported that Armas was provided food and housing on UFCo property in Honduras. In order to compensate for the lack of substantive evidence about a regional threat, the CIA took to “salting” the Guatemalan coast with small arms marked with Soviet emblems. The New York Times reported that “submachine guns, hand grenades, automatic pistols, and forty rifles bearing hammer and sickle markings” were discovered. McCann recognized this as a CIA ruse — one that he himself would eventually employ.
At the Tenth Inter-American Conference of the OAS, held in March 1954, the transparency of United States action was demonstrated. Guillermo Toriello — now Foreign Minister of Guatemala — delivered a sharp indictment of U.S. imperialism in Central America. He noted, “[t]he people of Guatemala are enormously disturbed to find that a respected people… finds itself faced with the dismaying reality that those who boast of encouraging other peoples to travel the road to economic and political liberty decide to bring them to a halt…” Toriello’s speech clearly indicates that not only had he been facing pressure through diplomatic channels, he was aware that a military intervention was imminent. Guatemala had recently uncovered documentation describing subversive activity and armed intervention by “foreign conspirators and monopolistic interest” — allegedly referring to the United States and UFCo — as a “noble undertaking against communism.” Despite accusing the United States of working against Pan-Americanism by their support of intervention, John Foster Dulles was eventually able to twist enough arms to pass a resolution against Communist incursion in the hemisphere. If a legal rationale would become necessary for the coup d’état, the United States would have something they could fall back on.
A thin veil of legitimacy was maintained into May 1954, despite the execution of operations. The coup d’état was designed as a psychological pressure operation, with overt diplomatic agitation and propaganda designed to destabilize military support for Arbenz. Leaflets were dropped across the capital city describing a large invasion force amassed on the border. Small aircraft strafed buildings and military bases. The Arbenz administration had no weaponry to counter these small but effective attacks. Throughout this period Foreign Minister Toriello met with Ambassador John Peurifoy in an effort to dissipate tensions. Although Peurifoy — a rabid anti-Communist — was authorized to negotiate directly for the return of United Fruit’s land holdings, he maintained an unshakeable position with Toriello: “…the disagreements between the United States and Guatemala had nothing to do with the United Fruit Company, but rather concerned the failure of President Arbenz to oust Communists from his government.” Even after the Alfhem affair — which the Eisenhower administration consider a green light for the incursion — a CIA memo downplayed the threat posed by the shipment. “Guatemala has succeeded in obtaining considerable supplies of arms and military equipment, but has not been able to obtain complementary supplies of ammunition. All of the arms and equipment obtained is old and much is deficient in various ways.” Peurifoy’s negotiating sincerity, the belligerence over the Alfhem, and the intransigence regarding UFCo were consistent with behaviors of the previous year and indicative of a government more interested in projecting power into Central America than deflecting a legitimate political threat.
Castillo Armas crossed the Guatemalan border on June 18, and made little progress towards the capital. His complacency (he actually stopped the advance and rented a house in Esquipulas) indicated that forces exterior to his insurgency were controlling the operation. Despite successful appeals to the United Nations Security Council, there was little leverage for Guatemala to gain. On Sunday, June 27 a haggard Jacobo Arbenz accepted that he had no international support and no support within the military. After a meeting between Peurifoy and Army Chief of Staff Carlos Enrique Díaz, the general drove to the National Palace and informed Arbenz he had until 4:00p.m. to vacate his office. A new junta was formed which would soon lead to Armas’ ascent to the presidency.
Although heralded as a great victory in 1954, the actual costs of the Guatemala coup d’état must be assessed on many different levels. Despite the myriad ways of evaluating the action, it strains the imagination to identify positive outcomes.
The first year of the Armas regime unfolded in a predictable manner. Having accepted a deal similar to the one offered Ydígoras, he restored United Fruit’s expropriated lands, although he publicly asserted his desire to remain true to many of the reforms embodied in the October Revolution. However, organized labor leaders were not so fortunate. Armas outlawed labor unions after the coup d’état, then reauthorized unions through the National Committee for the Defense of Communism, a super-judicial arm of the executive. The organization was authoritarian and severely restricted the activities of labor unions and organizers. During the “clean-up” after the change of power, reports of extrajudicial killings began to surface in outlying towns. In one specific account, “…nine of the young labor leaders were taken captive to Chiquimula, the ‘Liberation’ headquarters, where they were reported to have been summarily executed by a firing squad.”
In keeping with their stoicism the year prior, United Fruit’s 1954 Annual Report made little mention of the upheaval. A single sentence read, “[t]he overthrow of the Communist-dominated government of Guatemala, while causing a cessation of shipments from that country for a period of about three weeks, was a decidedly favorable development which will have far-reaching effects in the future.” This statement proved prescient.
Just weeks after the completion of the coup d’état, the Department of Justice filed an action against United Fruit for alleged anti-trust violations. There had been murmurings about the possibility of this for a couple of years, but the general belief was that no action would be taken once the Eisenhower administration came to power. Even considering the political independence of the Department of Justice — a consideration granted out of protocol more than practicality — it is not irresponsible to suspect the correlation of the coup d’état and the lawsuit. McCann claims in his memoir that the purpose was “…to focus attention elsewhere, and to cloud the surface appearance of the administration’s true and close relationship with United Fruit…” Although the initial penalties were considered a slap on the wrist, the long-term implications for maintaining UFCo’s colonial model in the Caribbean led to the demise of the company, first by hostile takeover and then by fire sale.
Volumes could be written about the CIA’s legacy of intervention in Guatemala. With two low-cost, high-impact successes under his belt, Allen Dulles considered Operation PBSuccess a model for projecting power around the globe. Instead of mobilizing large armies and deploying expensive weapons systems to tenuous situations, the CIA could provide a discreet, light footprint and the operational intelligence to affect the global balance of power. As Andrew Bacevich convincingly argues in Washington Rules, this desire [or need] to project U.S. power gained momentum until it became divorced from ideology and policy. Today there is some question if our leaders are capable of significantly altering the impulse to militarily engage throughout the world. Bacevich traces the origins of the phenomenon back to the first year of the Eisenhower administration, and the CIA’s success in Iran and Guatemala. Of course, those successes did not continue. Dulles mistakenly applied the PBSuccess model to Cuba when seeking to overthrow Fidel Castro, and the disastrous result was the Bay of Pigs invasion. The poor judgment cost Dulles his job, but the agency maintained the strategy and tactics adopted a decade before. The next three decades saw the CIA active in Indochina, Central America, and Chile, to name just a few theatres. In 1994, the Chief Historian of the CIA wrote in the Introduction to Operation PBSuccess’ history, “…we are perhaps less certain today than most Americans were at the time that this operation was a Cold War victory.”
The greatest cost of the 1954 coup d’état was born by the people of Guatemala. Castillo Armas was assassinated in 1957, and Ydígoras — the former Ubico protégé — won the election. The corruption and incompetence that followed led to a military uprising in 1960 that was suppressed, but the after effects prompted guerrilla activity from disenfranchised military officers. Thus, the distinction between an “Arévalo-Arbenz-Castillo succession” and an Ubico-style past written about by Gillen in 1956 was no longer relevant. The return to right-wing militancy garnered acceptance from the United States, and the series of dictators that followed attacked opponents and civil liberties with impunity. In what would be described as the Vietnamization of Guatemala, funding for MAP (military and police,) weapons sales and public safety funds dramatically increased in the early 1960s and remained high for a decade. Weapons sales doubled between 1971 and 1972. The 1970s and 80s would witness appalling violence against organized labor, journalists and the peasantry. In the early 80s alone, nearly 100,000 rural peasants were killed by the Ríos Montt regime. It was not until 1996 that a peace settlement was reached, and Guatemala could attempt to repair four decades of conflagration.
While the past three decades have provided insightful information about the drivers and actions which precipitated the 1954 overthrow of the Arbenz administration, the significance of the coup d’état is only given a cursory analysis in many of the sources examined. The path to U.S. hegemony forked in the early 1950s, and many questions were prompted by the convergence of multiple forces in Washington and Guatemala City. What if Stevenson had won the election in 1952? What if Operation PBSuccess had failed, which was more than likely? What if United Fruit had negotiated a settlement with Arbenz in 1952? It is not the purpose of this paper to offer answers to such questions, but each of them highlights the importance of the historical drivers behind them.
The nexus of conditions that enabled the CIA action against Arbenz was three-tiered. On a cultural and economic level, the popular response against a half-century of military repression, corruption, feudalism and neocolonialism was unexceptional; the most surprising aspects of the October Revolution of 1944 were that it took so long to occur and that it was relatively bloodless. The abdication of economic sovereignty by the Cabrera regime left Guatemala completely dependent upon United Fruit, and the country’s poverty was a reflection of that. Politically, the center-left democracy which emerged with the victory of Juan José Arévalo provided a New Deal philosophy to a population that had no expectation of social safety or good government. The labor, education and land reforms proposed appeared reasonable steps to creating a democratic, capitalist republic in Central America. Arévalo’s coalition struggled against the right-wing and faced challenges to its power — both legislative and subversive — but made reasonable progress. These conditions were not adequate to explain the action taken against Guatemala in 1953-54. Even the concern of Communists in the legislature and lower bureaucratic offices of the administration were insufficient, considering Communist activity elsewhere in Latin America. What was needed was the ascent of the Dulles brothers within the Eisenhower administration, two power brokers with a Manichaean worldview towards communism and the vision to reshape the projection of United States power across the globe. The Arbenz administration failed to see the trophy it presented to Washington, just as United Fruit failed to see that their alliance was one of convenience and not commitment. These three vectors — cultural, political and global — intersected in 1953 and offered the United States a new path to empire.
 Guillermo Toriello Garrido, “Address by his Excellency Guillermo Toriello Garrido Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala in the Third Plenary Session March 5, 1954” (speech, Organization of American States Tenth Inter-American Conference, Caracas, Venezuela, March 5, 1954) http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000913129/DOC_0000913129.pdf [accessed May 16, 2012].
 Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 66. See also Watt Stewart, Keith & Costa Rica (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1964), 154-158.
 Stewart, 150-151.
 Thomas McCann, An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1976), 45.
 Stewart, 50-51. Despite the benefits of such a union between Keith and Castro, I do not wish to question their relationship. By all indications the couple remained devoted to each other until Keith’s death in 1929.
 Paul J. Dosal, Doing Business with the Dictators: A Political History of United Fruit in Guatemala 1899-1944 (Wilmington: SR Books, 1993), 38-41.
 Dosal, 44.
 Dosal, 198.
 United Fruit Company, Annual Report, 1953, 6.
 Dosal, 197.
 Dosal, 184. This story has been related in a number of accounts (including McCann,) and therefore seems to be widely accepted. Some versions that I came across used sanitized language, but the point was equally conveyed.
 Schlesinger, 28.
 Schlesinger, 30-31.
 Schlesinger, 37.
 Susanne Jonas and David Tobis, eds., Guatemala (Berkeley: North American Congress on Latin America, 1974), 46.
 Schlesinger, 45.
 Schlesinger, 55.
 Toriello, 4-5.
 McCann, 45.
 Jonas, 58.
 McCann, 55-57.
 The complete statement from the United Fruit Company 1953 Annual Report: “The Company has filed with the Department of State, for presentation to the Government of Guatemala, a claim for just compensation for the expropriation including the appraised present value of the lands and improvements expropriated, and the damage caused to the Company by depriving it of its reserve banana lands and greatly shortening the useful life of its expensive facilities on the west coast.” Given the failure of Operation Fortune and the courtship with President José Figueres, the lack of substance in the above statement indicates considerable confidence in a positive outcome. The Dulles brothers were leading State and CIA, and plans for Operation PBSuccess were underway. Like a powerful, sovereign nation, United Fruit was exercising realpolitik.
 Schlesinger, 101.
 Schlesinger, 100.
 The Dulles brothers’ worldview is important because they appear to be the point on which the coup d’état pivots. Both brothers exhibited characteristics of what Dr. Robert Altemeyer referred to as Social Dominance Orientation, a form of authoritarian behavior. People who score high on the scale tend to be intimidating, ruthless and vengeful. The love power and lack empathy. They are quite adept at suspending moral and ethical considerations when acting. Most importantly, social dominators don’t believe in law and order as much as they believe you shouldn’t get caught breaking the law. This is indicated in John Foster Dulles’ response to British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden’s protest of possible interdiction of British shipping: “rules applicable in the past no longer… meet the situation and [are] required to be revised or flexibly applied.” (Schlesinger, 162.) Much like Bernays’ “invisible government,” the actors inside of the Eisenhower administration believed that the actions they took would be justified by the end result, whether that be the perpetuation of UFCo’s economic dominance or the United States’ hegemony. For a discussion of the Social Dominance Orientation scale, see Robert Altemeyer, “The Authoritarians” (University of Manitoba, 2006), http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ [accessed April 16, 2007], 166-169.
 Schlesinger, 101.
 McCann, 50. Although it appears that most copies of this scurrilous report were successfully destroyed, a few copies remain. I found one in the Princeton University library, but it was not available to check out on World Cat. Perhaps I will be able to visit and read the report during my next visit to New York City.
 Will Lissner, “Soviet Agents Plotting to Ruin Unity, Defenses of Americas,” New York Times, June 22, 1950.
 Schlesinger, 84.
 Edward L. Bernays, biography of an idea: memoirs of public relations counsel Edward L. Bernays (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1965), 764.
 Bernays, 768.
 Schlesinger, 121.
 McCann, 59-60.
 Toriello, 3-6.
 Schlesinger, 105.
 Staff, “Guatemalan Procurement of Arms from the Soviet Orbit, June 23, 1954,” CIA Historical Review Program, Central Intelligence Agency, 2003, http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000921353/DOC_0000921353.pdf [accessed May 24, 2012], 12.
 Schlesinger, 22.
 John Gillin and K.H. Silvert, “Ambiguities in Guatemala,” Foreign Affairs 34 (April 1956): 482.
 Gillin, 477.
 United Fruit Company, Annual Report, 1954, 3.
 McCann, 62.
 Nicholas Cullather, “Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala 1952-1954,” Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1994, http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000134974/DOC_0000134974.pdf [accessed May 16, 2012], ix.
 Jonas, 177-179.
 Gillen, 481.
 Jonas, 196.
 Schlesinger, x, xxvii.
Altemeyer, Bob. “The Authoritarians.” University of Manitoba, 2006. http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ [accessed April 16, 2007].
Bacevich, Andrew J. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. Kindle edition.
Bernays, Edward L. Biography of an idea: memoirs of public relations counsel. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965.
Cullather, Nicholas. “Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala 1952-1954.” Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1994. http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000134974/DOC_0000134974.pdf [accessed May 16, 2012].
Dosal, Paul J. Doing Business with the Dictators: A Political History of United Fruit in Guatemala 1899-1944. Wilmington: SR Books, 1993.
Gillin, John and K.H. Silvert. “Ambiguities in Guatemala.” Foreign Affairs 34 (April 1956): 469-482.
JCK. “Memo of April 22, 1954.” CIA Historical Review Program, Central Intelligence Agency, 2003. http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000916227/DOC_0000916227.pdf [accessed May 18, 2012]
Jonas, Susanne and David Tobis, eds. Guatemala. Berkeley: North American Congress on Latin America, 1974.
McCann, Thomas P. An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit. New York: Crown Publishers, 1976.
Schlesinger, Stephen and Stephen Kinzer. Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.
Staff. “Guatemalan Procurement of Arms from the Soviet Orbit, June 23, 1954.” CIA Historical Review Program, Central Intelligence Agency, 2003. http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000921353/DOC_0000921353.pdf [accessed May 24, 2012]
Stewart, Watt. Keith and Costa Rica: A Biographical Study of Minor Cooper Keith. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1964.
Toriello Garrido, Guillermo. “Address by his Excellency Guillermo Toriello Garrido Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala in the Third Plenary Session March 5, 1954.” Organization of American States Tenth Inter-American Conference. http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000913129/DOC_0000913129.pdf [accessed May 16, 2012].