Wiki: 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état

The 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état was a covert operation carried out by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that deposed the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz and ended the Guatemalan Revolution.[1] Code-named Operation PBSUCCESS, it installed the military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a series of U.S.-backed dictators who ruled Guatemala.

A popular revolution against the U.S.-backed dictator Jorge Ubico[2][3][4] in 1944 had led to Guatemala's first democratic election and the beginning of the Guatemalan Revolution.[5] The elections were won by Juan José Arévalo who wanted to turn Guatemala into a liberal capitalist society.[6] He implemented social reforms which included a minimum wage law, increased educational funding and near-universal suffrage. Arévalo's defense minister Jacobo Árbenz was elected President in 1950, and continued the social reform policies, as well as instituting land reform, which sought to grant land to peasants who had been victims of debt slavery prior to Arévalo. Despite their moderate policies, the Guatemalan Revolution was widely disliked by the United States government, which was predisposed by the Cold War to see it as communist, and the United Fruit Company (UFC), whose hugely profitable business had been affected by the end to brutal labor practices.[7][8] The attitude of the U.S. government was also influenced by a propaganda campaign carried out by the UFC.[9]

U.S. President Harry Truman authorized Operation PBFORTUNE to topple Árbenz in 1952, with the support of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza García, but the operation was aborted when too many details became public. Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected U.S. President in 1952, promising to take a harder line against communism; the close links that his staff members John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles had to the UFC also predisposed him to act against Árbenz. Subsequently declassified CIA documents stressed the importance of physically eliminating "Communists and collaborators" perceived as loyal to Árbenz.[10] Eisenhower authorized the CIA to carry out Operation PBSUCCESS in August 1953. The CIA armed, funded, and trained a force of 480 men led by Carlos Castillo Armas. The force invaded Guatemala on 18 June 1954, backed by a heavy campaign of psychological warfare, including bombings of Guatemala City and an anti-Árbenz radio station claiming to be genuine news. The invasion force fared poorly militarily, but the psychological warfare and the possibility of a U.S. invasion intimidated the Guatemalan army, which refused to fight. Árbenz resigned on 27 June, and following negotiations in San Salvador, Carlos Castillo Armas became President on 7 July 1954.

The coup was widely criticized internationally, and created lasting anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America. Castillo Armas quickly took dictatorial powers, banning all political parties, torturing and imprisoning political opponents, and reversing the social reforms of the Guatemalan Revolution. A series of U.S.-backed authoritarian governments ruled Guatemala until 1996. The repression sparked off the Guatemalan Civil War between the government and leftist guerrillas, during which the military committed massive human rights violations against the civilian population, including a genocidal campaign against the Maya peoples.[11] The coup has been described as the definitive deathblow to democracy in Guatemala.[10]


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