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obscure to the US press was patently obvious to large numbers of Latin Americans.
Heated protests against the United States broke out during this week in June in at least
eleven countries and was echoed by the governments of Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay,
and Chile which condemned American "intervention" and "aggression".
Life magazine noted these protests by observing that "world communism was
efficiently using the Guatemalan show to strike a blow at the U.S." It scoffed at the idea
that Washington was behind the revolt.29 Newsweek reported that Washington "officials
interpreted" the outcry "as an indication of the depth of Red penetration into the
Americas".30 A State Department memo at the time, however, privately acknowledged
that much of the protest emanated from non-communist and even pro-American
On 21 and 22 June, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Toriello made impassioned
appeals to the United Nations for help in resolving the crisis. American UN Ambassador
Henry Cabot Lodge tried to block the Security Council from discussing a resolution to
send an investigating team to Guatemala, characterizing Toriello's appeals as
communist maneuvers. But under heavy pressure from UN Secretary-General Dag

Hammarskjold, the Council was convened. Before the vote, while Lodge worked on the
smaller nations represented on the Council, Eisenhower and Dulles came down hard on
France and Great Britain, both of whom favored the resolution. Said the President of the
United States to his Secretary of State: "The British expect us to give them a free ride
and side with them on Cyprus. And yet they won't even support us on Guatemala! Let's
give them a lesson."32
As matters turned out, the resolution was defeated by five votes to four, with
Britain and France abstaining, although their abstentions were not crucial inasmuch as
seven votes were required for passage. Hammarskjold was so upset with the American
machinations, which he believed undercut the strength of the United Nations, that he
confided that he might be forced "to reconsider my present position in the United
During this same period, the CIA put into practice a plan to create an "incident".
Agency planes were dispatched to drop several harmless bombs on Honduran territory.
The Honduran government then complained to the UN and the Organization of
American States, claiming that the country had been attacked by Guatemalan planes.34
Arbenz finally received an ultimatum from certain army officers: Resign or they
would come to an agreement with the invaders. The CIA and Ambassador Peurifoy had
been offering payments to officers to defect, and one army commander reportedly
accepted $60,000 to surrender his troops. With his back to the wall, Arbenz made an
attempt to arm civilian supporters to fight for the government, but array officers blocked
the disbursement of weapons. The Guatemalan president knew that the end was near.
The Voice of Liberation meanwhile was proclaiming that two large and heavily
armed columns of invaders were moving towards Guatemala City. As the hours passed,
the further advance of the mythical forces was announced, while Castillo Armas and his
small band had actually not progressed very far from the Honduran border. The
American disinformation and rumor offensive continued in other ways as well, and
Arbenz, with no one he could trust to give him accurate information, could no longer be
certain that there wasn't at least some truth to the radio bulletins.
Nothing would be allowed to threaten the victory so near at hand: A British
freighter docked in Guatemala and suspected of having arrived with fuel for Arbenz's
military vehicles, was bombed and sunk by a CIA plane after the crew had been warned
to flee. It turned out that the ship had come to Guatemala to pick up a cargo of coffee
and cotton.
A desperate Toriello pleaded repeatedly with Ambassador Peurifoy to call off
the bombings, offering even to reopen negotiations about United Fruit's compensation.
In a long cable to John Foster Dulles, the foreign minister described the aerial attacks on
the civilian population, expressed his country's defenselessness against the bombings,
and appealed to the United States to use its good offices to put an end to them. In what
must have been a deeply humiliating task, Toriello stated all of this without a hint that
the United States was, or could be, a party to any of it. The pleas were not simply too
late. They had always been too late.
The Castillo Armas forces could not have defeated the much larger Guatemalan
array, but the air attacks, combined with the belief in the invincibility of the enemy,
persuaded Guatemalan military officers to force Arbenz to resign. No Communists,
domestic or foreign, came to his aid. He asked the head of the officers, Army Chief of
Staff Col. Carlos Diaz, only that he give his word not to negotiate with Castillo Armas,
and Diaz, who despised the rebel commander as much as Arbenz did, readily agreed.
What Diaz did not realize was that the United States would not be satisfied merely to

oust Arbenz. Castillo Armas had been groomed as the new head of government, and that
was not negotiable.
A CIA official, Enno Hobbing, who had just arrived in Guatemala to help draft a
new constitution (sic) for the incoming regime, told Diaz that he had "made a big
mistake" in taking over the government. "Colonel," said Hobbing, "you're just not
convenient for the requirements of American foreign policy."

Presently, Peurifoy confronted Diaz with the demand that he deal directly with
Castillo Armas. At the same time, the Ambassador showed the Guatemalan colonel a
long list of names of some leaders, requiring that Diaz shoot them all within 24 hours.

"But why?" Diaz asked.
"Because they're communists," replied Peurifoy.35

Although Diaz was not a communist sympathizer, he refused both requests, and
indicated that the struggle against the invaders would continue.36 Peurifoy left, livid
with anger. He then sent a simple cable to CIA headquarters in Florida: "We have been
doubled-crossed. BOMB!" Within hours, a CIA plane took off from Honduras, bombed
a military base and destroyed the government radio station. Col. Castillo Armas, whose
anti-communism the United States could trust, was soon the new leader of Guatemala.
The propaganda show was not yet over. At the behest of the CIA, Guatemalan
military officers of the new regime took foreign correspondents on a tour of Arbenz's
former residence where they could see for themselves rooms filled with school
textbooks published in ... yes, the Soviet Union. The New York Times correspondent,
Paul Kennedy, considered to be strongly anti-Arbenz, concluded that the "books had
been planted" and did not bother to report the story.37 Time made no mention of the
books either, but somehow came upon the story that mobs had plundered Arbenz's
home and found "stacks of communist propaganda and four bags of earth, one each
from Russia, China, Siberia and Mongolia. "38 Time's article made it clear enough that it
now knew of the American role in Arbenz's downfall (although certainly not the full
story), but the magazine had nothing to say about the propriety of overthrowing a
democratically elected government by force.

Castillo Armas celebrated the liberation of Guatemala in various ways. In July
alone, thousands were arrested on suspicion of communist activity. Many were tortured
or killed. In August a law was passed and a committee set up which could declare
anyone a communist, with no right of appeal. Those so declared could be arbitrarily
arrested for up to six months, could not own a radio or hold public office. Within four
months the committee had registered 72,000 names. A committee official said it was
aiming for 200,000.39 Further implementation of the agrarian reform law was stopped
and all expropriations of land already carried out were declared invalid.40 United Fruit
Company not only received all its land back, but the government banned the banana
workers' unions as well. Moreover, seven employees of the company who had been
active labor organizers were found mysteriously murdered in Guatemala City.41
The new regime also disenfranchised three-quarters of Guatemala's voters by
barring illiterates from the electoral rolls and outlawed all political parties, labor
confederations and peasant organizations. To "his was added the closing down of
opposition newspapers (which Arbenz had not done) and the burning of "subversive"
books, including Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Dostoyevsky novels, and the works of

Guatemala's Nobel Prize-winning author Miguel Angel Asturias, a biting critic of
United Fruit.42
Meanwhile, John Foster Dulles, who was accused by Toriello of seeking to
establish a "banana curtain" in Central America,43 was concerned that some
"communists" might escape retribution. In cables he exchanged with Ambassador
Peurifoy, Dulles insisted that the government arrest those Guatemalans who had taken
refuge in foreign embassies and that "criminal charges" be brought against them to
prevent them leaving the country, charges such as "having been covert Moscow agents".
The Secretary of State argued that communists should be automatically denied the right
of asylum because they were connected with an international conspiracy. The only way
they should be allowed to leave, he asserted, was if they agreed to be sent to the Soviet
Union. But Castillo Armas refused to accede to Dulles's wishes on this particular issue,
influenced perhaps by the fact that he, as well as some of his colleagues, had been
granted political asylum in an embassy at one time or another.44
One of those who sought asylum in the Argentine Embassy was a 25-year-old
Argentine doctor named Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Guevara, who had been living
in Guatemala since sometime in 1953, had tried to spark armed resistance to the
invading forces, but without any success. Guevara's experience in Guatemala had a
profound effect upon his political consciousness. His first wife, Hilda Gadea, whom he
met there, later wrote:

Up to that point, he used to say, he was merely a sniper, criticizing from a
theoretical point of view the political panorama of our America. From here on he
was convinced that the struggle against the oligarchic system and the main
enemy, Yankee imperialism, must be an armed one, supported by the people.45

In the wake of the coup, the United States confiscated a huge amount of
documents from the Guatemalan government, undoubtedly in the hope of finally
uncovering the hand of The International Communist Conspiracy behind Arbenz. If this
is what was indeed discovered, it has not been made public.

On 30 June, while the dust was still settling, Dulles summed up the situation in
Guatemala in a speech which was a monument to coldwarspeak:

[The events in Guatemala] expose the evil purpose of the Kremlin to destroy the
inter-American system ... having gained control of what they call the mass
organizations, [the communists] moved on to take over the official press and
radio of the Guatemalan Government. They dominated the social security
organization and ran the agrarian reform program ... dictated to the Congress
and to the President ... Arbenz ... was openly manipulated by the leaders of
communism ... The Guatemalan regime enjoyed the full support of Soviet
Russia ... [the] situation is being cured by the Guatemalans themselves.46

When it came to rewriting history, however, Dulles's speech had nothing on
these lines from a CIA memo written in August 1954 and only for internal consumption
no less: "When the communists were forced by outside pressure to attempt to take over
Guatemala completely, they forced Arbenz to resign (deleted). They then proceeded to
establish a Communist Junta under Col. Carlos Diaz."47
And in October, John Peurifoy sat-before a congressional committee and told
My role in Guatemala prior to the revolution was strictly that of a diplomatic
observer ... The revolution that overthrew the Arbenz government was engineered

and instigated by those people in Guatemala who rebelled against the policies and
ruthless oppression of the Communist-con-trolled government.48

Later, Dwight Eisenhower was to write about Guatemala in his memoirs. The
former president chose not to offer the slightest hint that the United States had anything
to do with the planning or instigation of the coup, and indicated that his administration
had only the most tangential of connections to its execution.49 (When Soviet leader
Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs were published in the West, the publisher saw fit to
employ a noted Kremlinologist to annotate the work, pointing out errors of omission
and commission.)

Thus it was that the educated, urbane men of the State Department, the CIA and
the United Fruit Company, the pipe-smoking, comfortable men of Princeton, Harvard
and Wall Street, assured each other that the illiterate peasants of Guatemala did not
deserve the land which had been given to them, that the workers did not need their
unions, that hunger and torture were a small price to pay for being rid of the scourge of
The terror carried out by Castillo Armas was only the beginning. It was, as we
shall see, to get much worse in time. It continued without pause for more than 40 years.

In 1955, the New York Times reported from the United Nations that "The United
States has begun a drive to scuttle a section of the proposed Covenant of Human Rights
that poses a threat to its business interests abroad." The offending section dealt with the
right of peoples to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over their natural
wealth and resources. Said the newspaper: "It declares in effect that any country has the
right to nationalize its resources ..."50

11. Costa Rica mid-1950s
Trying to topple an ally, part I

If ever the CIA maintained a love-hate relationship, it was with Jose Figueres,
three times the head of state of Costa Rica.
On the one hand, Figueres, by his own admission in 1975, worked for the CIA
"in 20,000 ways ... all over Latin America" for 30 years.1 "I collaborated with the CIA
when we were trying to topple Trujillo," he divulged, speaking of the Dominican
Republic dictator.2
On the other hand, Figueres revealed that the Agency had twice tried to kill
him. He did not elaborate, although he stated at the same time that he had tried for two
years to get the Bay of Pigs invasion called off. This may have precipitated one or both
of the assassination attempts.
The CIA also tried to overthrow the Figueres. government. In 1964, the first
significant expose of the Agency, The Invisible Government, disclosed that:

in the mid-1950s CIA agents intruded deeply into the political affairs of Costa
Rica, the most stable and democratic republic in Latin America. Knowledgeable
Costa Ricans were aware of the CIA's role. The CIA's purpose was to promote the
ouster of Jose (Pepe) Figueres, the moderate socialist who became President in a
fair and open election in 1953.4

Figueres remained in office until 1958, in this his first term as president; he had
headed a liberal junta in the late 1940s.
The Agency's "major grievance was that Figueres had scrupulously recognized
the right of asylum in Costa Rica”for non-Communists and Communists alike. The
large influx of questionable characters complicated the agency's job of surveillance and
forced it to increase its staff."5
The CIA's problems with Figueres actually went somewhat deeper. Costa Rica
was a haven for hundreds of exiles fleeing from various Latin American right-wing
dictatorships, such as in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and
Figueres was providing groups of them with material and moral support in their plans to
overthrow these regimes.6 To Figueres, this was entirely in keeping with his anti-
totalitarian beliefs, directed against the left as well as the right. The problem was that
the dictators targeted for overthrow were all members in good standing of the United
States' anti-Communist, "Free-World" club. (The American attitude toward Trujillo was
later modified-) Moreover, Figueres had on occasion expressed criticism of the
American policy of supporting such dictatorships while neglecting the economic and
social problems of the hemisphere.
These considerations could easily outweigh the fact that Figueres had
established his anti-Communist credentials, albeit not of the "ultra" variety, and was no
more a "socialist" than US Senator Hubert Humphrey. Although Figueres spoke out
strongly at times against foreign investment, as president he was eminently
accommodating to Central America's bêtes noires, the multinational fruit companies.7
In addition to providing support to Figueres's political opponents,8 the CIA,
reported The Invisible Government, tried:

to stir up embarrassing trouble within the Communist Party in Costa Rica, and to
attempt to link Figueres with the Communists. An effort to produce evidence that
Figueres had been in contact with leading Communists during a trip to Mexico
was unsuccessful. But CIA agents had better luck with the first part of their
strategy”stirring up trouble for the Communists. They succeeded in planting a
letter in a Communist newspaper. The letter, purportedly from a leading Costa
Rican Communist, put him on record in opposition to the Party line on the [l956]
Hungarian revolution. Unaware that the letter was a CIA plant, the leading


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