The Acts of the Democracies




Coup in Guatemala (The Fall of Arévalo)

The USA organises a military coup in Guatemala to remove the president, Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz was the successor to the popular and reforming president, Juan José Arévalo.

The country had been democratic since 1944; Arévalo had permitted free expression, legalized unions and diverse political parties. The USA Embassy had described the government as having "an unusual reputation for incorruptibility"; the Guatemalans had described the previous ten years as "Ten Years of Spring".

After the coup, and for the next 31 years, repressive governments would rule with USA support. The CIA gives the new government lists of people to be eliminated, identifying political and intellectual leaders as military targets. Arévalo is driven out of Guatemala and dies in exile. Peasant cooperatives are destroyed, unions and political parties crushed, and dissidents hunted down. Many indigenous villages are cleared leading to urban sprawl and poverty. Thousands are killed by government death squads and many more flee the country.

One of those fleeing is a young physician, Che Guevarra. His face would adorn posters for a generation in the 1960s.

Within a few years over 100,000 people, mostly the Maya, would be killed.

The USA declares that the reason for the coup was to stop a takeover by the USSR. In actual fact, the USSR had little interest in the country, not even maintaining an embassy. The real reason is economic - American companies (especially the United Fruit Comany in which CIA director, Allen Dulles, had an interest) would benefit from cheap labour, lax safety laws and a helpful government. The American company, Coca Cola, benefits when striking workers are killed by the military.

A USA document (US Policy Towards Latin America) admits that the major threat to USA interests is "nationalistic regimes [that implement] immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses".

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