Created: Wednesday, 06 May 2009 11:41
Written by Helen Burnes
In June 1954, US planes bombed Guatemalan cities while US-funded mercenaries invaded from Honduras and the CIA bribed the Guatemalan army to turn against the democratically elected government of Colonel Jacobo Arbenz. Thus ended an unprecedented ten-year period of democracy and social reforms that began with the previous elected President Juan Jose Arevalo in 1945. HELEN BURNES reports.
The CIA coup was a response to legislation by Arbenz to expropriate the uncultivated land of the powerful US multinational the United Fruit Company (La Frutera – the predecessor of today’s Del Monte corporation) and redistribute it to landless peasants. The coup, codenamed Operation Diabolo (Devil), was ordered in January 1954 by US President Eisenhower. It was organised by CIA Director Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State. The Dulles brothers both had shares in La Frutera.
Arbenz had played a key role in the civilian-military uprisings in summer and autumn of 1944 to bring down the dictator General Jorge Ubico. In December 1944 professor Arevalo won Guatemala’s first ever free election. Describing his government as ‘spiritual socialism’, he began to democratise the political system, introduce moderate legislation to redistribute uncultivated land and double the number of teachers and schools, whilst carefully distancing himself from Guatemalan communists. After his election, Arbenz took over in March 1951. He deepened and extended the reforms, recognising the Marxist Guatemalan Workers Party, which infuriated a US regime already set into the frenzied anti-communism of the McCarthy era.
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