Atelier N°15, article n°11

                   The Responsibility of the United Fruit Company in the 1954 coup in Guatemala.

                                                    by Julien RAMINA
                                                    Etudiant en maîtrise
                                           Université Stendhal -Grenoble III

                                                        May 6, 2001

Guatemala was ruled by the dictatorial regimes of Jorge Ubico Castenada and Federico Ponce Vaides. Dissatisfied with those, Jacobo Guzman Arbenz and Francisco Javier Arana led a military coup that succeeded in overthrowing Ponce a few months after he came to power, in 1944. The first free election in the history of the country followed:(1) Juan Jose Arevalo Bermej was elected president on March 15, 1945.(2) Arevalo started highly significant reformsy.(3) Arbenz followed in Arevalo's tracks as soon as he was elected president on March 15, 1951.(4) Arbenz had been elected legally.(5) Almost immediately, he initiated a series of reforms which favoured the Guatemalan people. Among these, most prominent was the land reform. The 'Agrarian Law', voted in June 1952, was meant to expropriate owners from part of their land. Arbenz also built roads and developed a new harbour, in San José, to break the monopoly of the United Fruit Company.(6) He also expanded the rights of trade union members.(7) Arbenz wanted to help Guatemalans by supressing the privileges formerly granted to foreign companies.

Soon, the reformist government in Guatemala was accused of being a Communist government, and in the context of the Cold War, the United States launched a military intervention to topple Arbenz, to preserve the continent from the dangers of Communism. The operation succeeded in overthrowing Arbenz on 18 June 1954. Guatemalan Colonel Castillo Armas, supported by Washington, replaced Arbenz and restored the dictatorship.(8)

American company owners enjoyed numerous advantages in Central America, such as the ownership of extremely vast tracts of land, favourable investment regulations, and a very cheap work force. Besides, American political leaders and businessmen had extremely close ties, and the latter often had influential positions in the government. It is then possible to question the veracity of the ideological motivations put forward to justify the coup: were American businessmen really threatened by the Evil of Communism, or were they upset by the wave of reform which redistributed the wealth of Guatemala in a more equitable manner, thus suppressing their privileges there?


The official reason given for the American intervention in Guatemala in 1954 was the Communist menace represented by Arbenz's government. Indeed, many people believed that Arbenz was a Communist, and that he wanted Guatemala to become a real Communist country.(9) American officials claimed that ‘international communism’ had ‘gained a political base’ in Guatemala, when Arbenz came to power.(10) A Senate Resolution dated 25 June, 1954, revealed that the ‘international Communist movement’ was acting in Guatemala; it explained that ‘government institutions [had been] infiltrated by Communist agents’, that ‘the pattern of  Communist conquest [had] become manifest’. The document also evoked the secret shipment of ‘weapons of war’ into Guatemala.(11) That affair referred to a purchase of arms from Czechoslovakia, a month before the coup. In fact, when that occurred, the American intervention was already organized. And it should be noted that Arbenz bought weapons from the Communist side because an American embargo prevented the United States -but also several other countries- from selling weapons to Guatemala.(12) Arbenz had no other recourse, then, than buying weapons from Czechoslovakia. And it provided another argument for Washington to criticize the Communist-friendly attitude of Guatemalan leaders. The fear of such a government so close to the United States,(13) the potential danger of contamination of Communism to other Central American countries, or of Communists settling in Central America, near strategic places like the Panama canal -American Ambassador to Guatemala John Peurifoy was against ‘[permitting] a Soviet Republic to be established between Texas and the Panama Canal’-(14) were sufficient reasons for the United States to attack Arbenz.

And though Jacobo Arbenz was far from being a Communist. He was a 'left-of-center Socialist', and only four seats out of fifty-six in the Congress were held by Communists.(15) Arbenz and his allies occupied as many as fifty one seats, but they only devoted four of them to the Guatemalan Labour Party, which was formed by Communists.(16) Furthermore, the Cabinet did not include any Communist members at all.(17) Arbenz was not even a member of the Communist Guatemala Workers' Party, PGT.(18) The Soviet Union did not help Guatemala militarily; neither did they keep diplomatic relations with the country.(19) Arbenz himself had no ideological links with Moscow, or any other Communist country.(20) When Arbenz was eventually forced to give up the Guatemalan government to Castillo Armas, he did not benefit any help from any domestic or foreign Communist people.(21) Actually, Arevalo and Arbenz's elections had followed a 'middle class revolt rather than a Communist one'.(22) And American officials knew that, since a White Paper from the State Department acknowledged that there were probably no more than 3,000 or 4,000 Communists in the whole country.(23) The United States nevertheless used the argument of the Communist threat over Central America to launch their intervention.


In Guatemala, a very large part of the population lives in rural areas. In 1978, the urban population of Guatemala was only 35.6% of the whole population.(24) By 1993, only 34% of the population lived in urban areas.(25) In 1973, Agricultural activities kept 56.8% of the active population busy.(26) But in spite of that, the land never belonged to those who worked on it. Traditionally, Guatemalan peasants -as most Central American peasants did- mainly produced cochineal and indigo. Those substances were used in the dying of fabric. The European textile industry imported a lot of those, before the advent of synthetic dyes, around 1850. Then the high profits earned through the production of coffee induced German and North American companies to take hold of as much land as possible.(27) (John Dos Passos remarked that Central American forests were cut down to enable European and North American consumers to eat bananas.[28]) Workers used to grow food-producing crops for their own families. But their land had been converted into plantations for export crops -including bananas, coffee, cotton... When Arbenz came to power, as much as 98% of the land was owned by 142 people -considering that each foreign firm amounts to one person.(29) At the time of the coup, 2.2% of the landowners possessed 70% of the land.(30) In 1975, then, only a twentieth of the population controlled two thirds of the land.(31) In 1973, only 3% of the land was cultivated permanently.(32) And 90% of all farms scarcely occupy 16% of the farm land of the country.(33) The land was concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy owners.


An American company, the United Fruit Company, was present in most of Central America. It was established in Guatemala in 1899, under the 'tyrannical regime of Manuel Estrada Cabrera'.(34) It came to be known as 'la frutera',(35) for Guatemalans. They produced bananas for the North American and European markets. The company was the 'principal landowner' in the country, under Eisenhower's presidency.(36) The United Fruit Company turned Guatemala into a ‘Banana Republic’; they owned 500,000 'fertile' acres.(37) But they only cultivated 8% of their land.(38)

Being a 'vertical integration' kind of company, they controlled 'every step of production from the time that the plants [were] put in the ground until the bananas [were] delivered to the wholesalers in [...] the United States.’(39) That is why they owned the railway lines and the main harbour,(40) many ships,(41) as well as the telephones and telegraph facilities of Guatemala.(42) The railway line had been built to carry coffee to the coast, for shipping.(43) It was the same pattern in all Central America, where almost all railroads on the East Coast were ‘American-built, American-owned banana roads’.(44)

But the company paid virtually no taxes,(45) and they had a monopoly on the export of banana.(46) Historians acknowledge that '[the] banana companies, like everything else in America, have begun with the cream. They have taken the best locations'.(47) Locals had to content themselves with worse land.

It is true, however, that the United Fruit Company had successfully fought malaria in Guatemala.(48) More interests were actually at stake: resources in nickel could be ‘lucrative’,(49) and oil could be exploited, too.(50) Then, the company had a firm footing in Guatemala.


The governments established after 1954 all offered special advantages to foreign investors. When Arbenz was overthrown, Castillo Armas 'abolished the tax on interest and dividends to foreign investors’.(51) Since then, Guatemala has been a very profitable place to invest money and establish corporations. The various governments all made a point of attracting foreign investment into Guatemala, disregarding the local needs, and often sacrificing the resources to foreign companies. Investment in Guatemala comes mostly from the United States. (92% of the foreign investment in the country come from the USA.) A company can invest money in Guatemala, use all the infrastructures, exploit the resources of the place and consequently make profit, without having to reinvest any of that profit money in Guatemala. And in the same time, a company will get advantages they would not enjoy at home. For instance, foreign companies are free from paying duties on some activities -importation of equipment...- for ten years; they are free from any taxes for five years; they benefit a fifty percent reduction for five more years...(52) In general, American companies ‘[removed] raw materials or foodstuffs at the cheapest rates, and [denuded] the continent of more wealth than [they brought] into it’.(53)

It is true that Guatemala receives economical help from the American AID (Agency for International Development). But then they have to respect strict requirements, which favour American investors over local investors, once again. That is why Guatemala may not use AID money to help companies which would be in competition with American companies.(54) Then, the loaned money enables Guatemalans to purchase goods from the United States.(55) Besides, Guatemalans import much more than they export, and they import mostly from the United States.(56) When AID money supports some development -building- project, they generally arrange things so that the work should be done with American tools and equipment, and by American companies. AID funds also permit the purchase of military or paramilitary equipment for the American-friendly right-wing elite, who will secure American interests and crush any upheaval.(57) Therefore North American assistance to Guatemala does not look like a gift, but rather like another form of investment, thinking ahead to future developments of American firms in Central America.


Guatemala offered an extremely cheap workforce to foreign investors. As in many Latin American countries, the native population had to rely on the current economic system to buy and sell goods. They were generally employed as day labourers for wealthy landowners. In Guatemala, the natives left their mountain homes to go and work in large coffee, cotton and sugar plantations, at certain periods of time. About half a million Indians worked on the Pacific coast, in those circumstances.(58) They were treated poorly -traveling at the back of trucks. Workers were not always willing to accept such kind of employment. But employers sometimes ‘recruited’ workers by giving them a lot of alcohol; once drunk, they were forced into drinking more and more, and consequently accumulated high debts. Then, they had to work in plantations to pay back those debts, and almost worked for nothing. In some instances, the military force was used to urge natives to engage in such work.(59) The wages were invariably miserable. Guatemalan cotton workers received monthly wages as low as about nineteen dollars, and it was not always paid in cash money.(60) The situation was worse for coffee workers; they left their homes in the same conditions, but were paid even less. In 1961, the average hourly wage amounted to two dollars in the United States; but Guatemalan workers received ten cents.(61) Plantations used a private -repressive- police force, to make sure that ‘[men would cost less than mules]’.(62) People were treated like beasts of burden, trucks and wagons being deemed more costly than transporting things on the back of native workers.(63) Guatemalan natives were considered a handy and cheap labourforce. As a consequence, they were exploited by landowners who needed them to work on their plantations. Foreign investors regarded them as a commodity.

The Guatemalan right-wing dictatorships established after Arbenz was toppled dedicated themselves to eliminating all efforts at unionization. When the United Fruit Company received its land back, after the coup, the government 'banned the banana workers' union'. Labour organizers were sometimes found murdered in murky circumstances.(64) After the American takeover, 'some 8,000 peasants were murdered in two months in a terror campaign that targeted particularly [United Fruit Company] union organizers [emphasis mine] and Indian village leaders.'(65) As soon as Arbenz was overthrown, more than 200 union leaders were murdered.(66) In 1967, the worst year in the wave of violence started in 1954, more than 2,800 intellectuals, students, Union leaders and peasants were assassinated.(67) Labour leaders were 'jailed or killed by the hundreds', in an attempt to stop 'the demands for reform'.(68) And trade unionists, as well as 'leaders of peasant cooperatives', were frequently found among the victims of 'counter-terror'.(69) When used at random, ‘[terror kept] unions and peasant associations from seeking their own way'.(70)

With the attempt at suppressing the labour movement, culture was threatened. The Castillo Armas regime had opposition newspapers cease their activities; books were burnt when deemed '"subversive"' -including Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo, and works by Guatemalan nobel-prize winning author Miguel Angel Asturias, who criticized the United Fruit Company.(71)

The United Fruit Company would not permit a reformist government to threaten all the advantages at stake, namely, the vast land resources, the extremely cheap and docile labourforce, the de facto monopoly on the export of bananas and on the infrastructures of the country. When he quit, in 1951, Arevalo revealed the United Fruit Company had financed as many as thirty-two conspirations against him.(72) The firm, which later changed its name for United Brands,(73) could not afford to lose their advantages in Guatemala.


The land reform was meant to expropriate owners, not from land they actually exploited, but from 'uncultivated' land.(74) Furthermore, a financial compensation was offered. The United Fruit Company, much concerned by the expropriation since they only cultivated 8% of their land,(75) deemed the compensation unsufficient, although the government offered as much as the company's own 'declared valuation for tax purposes'.(76) That amounted to $600 thousand.(77) The company disregarded their own valuation, and -thanks to the US Government- ‘entered a claim for $16 million’.(78) It appears, then, that the company wanted to earn money both on taxes and on the expropriation compensation. Arbenz’s land reform -redistributing 200 thousand acres of land from the United Fruit Company-(79) benefitted more than 100,000 families,(80) and it did not take cultivated land from the United Fruit Company. Therefore Arbenz's solution was close to an ideal one: every part could be content of receiving something, either land or money. When Arbenz was finally overthrown, the land was given back to the United Fruit Company and to other formerly-expropriated owners.(81) It was clear that Castillo Armas offered all of the resources of his country, the land, as well as a cheap and servile labour force -already existant before 1954- to American businessmen. It merely reestablished the system as it was before the 1945-54 wave of reform.(82) The pressing need of a majority of Guatemalans for land to live on was totally and deliberately neglected.


The United Fruit Company had very close ties with President Eisenhower. It may only have been coincidental, but many Washington officials had interests in Guatemalan resources, particularly fruit, produced by the all-powerful United Fruit Company, which controlled Guatemala.(83) Rather than a coincidence, then, it is likely that the politically powerful positions of United Fruit leaders and shareholders enabled them to push for a military intervention in Guatemala, which was highly favourable to the Company. The United Fruit Company entertained relationships with several State Department officials, Congressmen, the American Ambassador to the United Nations, and the Dulles brothers, among others.(84) In 1954, Allen Dulles was number one of the CIA. He had been President of the United Fruit Company.(85) His brother, John Foster Dulles, was Secretary of State from 1953 through 1959.(86) He had been very eager to launch the operation against Arbenz. The first drafts of the United Fruit contracts had been written in his study, when he was yet a lawyer,(87) the legal adviser to the United Fruit Company.(88) Henry Cabot Lodge, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, belonged to the Board of Directors of the United Fruit Company.(89)

It should be borne in mind that Henry cabot Lodge -the President of the United Nations Security Council at the time of the intervention(90) opposed the discussion of a resolution to send an investigating team to Guatemala(91) -the aim of the resolution would have been to have a peaceful, neutral witness of the situation, after the overthrow of Arbenz. And Walter Bedell Smith, who was the Director of the CIA before Allen Dulles, came to manage the United Fruit Company after the 1954 coup.(92) President Eisenhower’s personal secretary, Anne Whitman, was also the wife of the United Fruit Company’s public relations director.(93) Under Secretary of State Spruille Braden also justified the American support of the coup, declaring in 1953 that ‘suppression [of Communism], even by force, [...] would not constitute an intervention in the internal affairs of the former.’ Spruille Braden belonged to a family with large mining interests in Latin America. He was a consultant to the United Fruit Company.(94) The long list of government members who had interests in the United Fruit Company reveal that the most powerful officials in the United States were totally biassed about the intervention against Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. It is then very difficult to claim that anti-Communism was the sole motivation of the American intervention. Such financial interests were at stake that we cannot deny they played a fundamental role in the decision to help Castillo Armas take power in Guatemala.

The American press did not investigate independently, trying to inform citizens in an unbiassed way. They also had close ties with the American Government, which exercised a certain control and censorship over the information published. The American people, then, only knew the official version of the events in Guatemala. They had no alternative source of information. Noam Chomsky explains that ‘the New York Times [...] had been obediently following the line laid down by the State Department and the United Fruit Company. ’ It shows that businessmen and members of the US Government worked hand in hand to distribute a kind of propaganda, by limiting the information published to what they really wanted to see published. President Eisenhower, among other officials, disapproved of the Times and its coverage of the Guatemalan situation. He tried to remove Times correspondent Sydney Gruson from his position at the time of the overthrow of Arbenz.(95) Washington namely wanted to control the press. But the Press itself was also eager to restrict the information. This attitude is felt in the lack of rigour shown when selecting information. They did not investigate accurately, in an unbiassed way, as they should do to provide reliable information. For the case of Guatemala, the testimonies of ‘victims’ of violence was never taken into account, while the people who were responsible for that violence could express themselves, and were ‘relied upon for « the facts ».’(96) The press stuck to a simplistic vision of the facts, a more manichean, romanticized version. A study of American foreign policies in the Third World explains that ‘some key facts have long been concealed by the press, which much preferred fantasies about a « Communist takeover » blocked by the Guatemalan people’.(97) Once again, the press delivered unreliable information about American actions in Guatemala. Perhaps their purpose was only to improve their business, since ‘fantasies’ do appeal to a larger audience and raise greater sales than common information, however true and realistic it may be. They may not have had any ties with the government, and their actions may have been totally independent and free from any pressures. Nevertheless, they deliberately led a campaign of disinformation which supported the American intervention.

And the coup was not the expression of the rebellion of Castillo Armas, it was really originated in the United States, and devised by American officials, who frequently happened to have executive positions in important American firms, such as the United Fruit Company. The 1954 coup was ‘conceived of and run at the highest levels of the American Government in closest cahoots with the United Fruit Company,’ according to documents provided thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.(98) In the same manner, the State Department sent ‘warnings to the Guatemalan President [about a newly-debated labour code] at the behest of United Fruit.’(99) It is no surprise, then, that after the coup, Ambassador Peurifoy was required to organize talks between the freshly-established Castillo Armas regime and the United Fruit Company.(100) It reveals that the United States only established a new government to secure their economic interests, and not in order to fight an allegedly Communist ideology. Those intimate connections between commercial interests and Washington account for the American eagerness to nullify the land reform in Guatemala, and to reassess the supremacy of American corporate interests in Central America. American officials had a profitable financial return from the activities in Latin America.


Since the 1954 Coup in Guatemala, the United States exploited the resources and the facilities of the country, transforming it into a Banana Republic. Those economic interests were protected by a series of right-wing military dictatorships. Authoritarian rule eliminated all opponents or reformists.

The responsibility of the United Fruit Company in the Coup d’Etat which replaced Arbenz by Castillo Armas can no longer be questionned by Americans. Indeed, oficially, Castillo Armas launched the coup on his own, with his own men. It is actually known that he largely relied on American arms,(101) American equipment,(102) American techniques of war and torture.(103) Furthermore, American men were found actively participating in war missions.(104) Recently disclosed CIA documents reveal that the coup was initiated by Washington, not by Guatemalans.(105)

Nowadays, Guatemala is a very poor country, with rampant malnutrition,(106) indigent health services,(107) a low level of education...(108)

No one can tell for sure that the United Fruit Company is responsible for the situation of Guatemala today. But they possessed most of the Guatemalan land and infrastructures. They enjoyed many advantages that several Guatemalan leaders consented. They controlled most of the economy of the country, then, and they were influential enough to be able to topple a President of Guatemala. Therefore the de facto monopoly that the company exercised prevented an alternative way of governing the country. It prevented Guatemalans to administer themselves, to make good use of their land -staple crops were sacrificed for the benefit of export crops, thus creating problems of starvation. Attempts at reform were frustrated, crushed in blood, starting with the overthrow of Arbenz. United Fruit Company directors showed their opposition to reform by playing an active role in the 1954 Coup d’Etat; the new leader they chose for the country, Castillo Armas, was clearly a violent dictator. At the very least, the United Fruit Company terminated a promising reform. But they may have instigated a climate of violent repression, much more favourable to their interests.  Whether the United Fruit Company continued to support the dictatorships which impoverished Guatemala after the Coup or not does not repeal the fact that, at the beginning, they helped launch a series of authoritarian regimes which had terrible effects on the country.

The decades of violence which followed the American intervention have severely worsened living conditions in Guatemala. As in many countries where a majority of the population is very poor, children receive little education from school. Education costs a lot of money: some primary schools are not free; and pupils must be provided with proper clothes -sometimes uniforms-, transportation... Parents generally prefer to keep their children at home, where they can work, than to let them go to school. With poverty comes short-term considerations, when people have to struggle everyday for their own subsistence. They cannot foresee the importance of education for the welfare of society, since their main concern in life is to find some money to enable them to survive. The benefits of a proper education are long-term prospects, therefore they are not understood by people in distress. Girls suffer even more from the phenomenon, because they are considered more useful at home than boys. Consequently they quit school earlier than boys. Rural areas are more concerned with the problem, since schools are less numerous, sometimes far from some people’s homes, and people are generally poorer there than in towns. The result is that in Guatemala, 60% of women cannot read. The system of scholarships initiated after the United Nations focused on the problems of the rights of women, -it compensates for the money girls could bring to their families during their school time- is but a limited program. Indeed, it is expensive and relies on international institutions for development.(109) It certainly offers positive results, but the problems of a nation lies only with themselves, not with charity. The moral effects of depending on richer countries for development may not be that positive. Guatemalans need to solve their own problems on their own -not relying on foreign help-, to build a long-lasting development for the country, and only then will they be proud of the achievements of their nation.

The long decades of civil war in Guatemala have seriously damaged the physical aspect of the country. As in many wars around the world, the fighting forces resorted to the use of landmines within their tactical programs. Landmines are reputed for being particularly treacherous weapons: they are hidden, they remain effective long after conflicts end. As a consequence, years after wars, children die or ar maimed on landmines. Another effect of those weapons is that they prevent people from using vast tracts of land, when mines have been laid on it. Then, people are deprived of the resources of the land, they cannot grow badly-needed staple crops on it. If they own any farm animals, those may die as well, depriving people of the use, the value, the meat or the milk of the animal. For the specific case of Central America, mines have been laid in several countries, including Guatemala, causing many deaths and mutilations. The main problems with mines in general is that they are hidden, therefore people do not know where they are, and are mutilated, or killed. After the end of conflicts, armed forces sometimes reveal the locations of the mines they laid. Now, in Central America, the ‘Mitch’ hurricane caused floods and mud slides. The soil was washed away along riverbeds, down slopes... As a result, mines were dislodged from the ground on which they were hidden. The phenomenon threatens to take more lives, and to delay the mine removal efforts. Indeed, the mud slides have moved earth and debris, burying some mines further. These ones will be even more difficult to remove.(110)

As in many Latin American countries, maquilas have developed. They are foreign companies doing subcontracting tasks -generally making manufactured goods- for firms from richer countries. They are located in areas which offer many advantages to companies, among them a cheap labour force, few taxes, and proximity to the countries where the goods will be sold. The current drive towards globalization tends to increase the number of maquilas. 175,000 people work in Guatemalan maquilas. At the end of the year 1995, the maquila business occupied 77% of workers from the industrial sector in Guatemala. Maquilas employ a majority of women -they were 78% in Guatemala in 1993-, and most workers are young -between twenty-three and twenty-five. To enable goods to remain competitive, workers are always pushed to work harder: they can scarcely take pauses, they start their working days early, and go home late; facilities are in poor repair; working conditions are dangerous, which results in accidents, sometimes death... And workers are poorly rewarded by starvation wages. The constant pressure of competition -many people are desperate for employment- narrows the prospects of improvement, because employers can threaten to dismiss workers any time. And those who are already employed have to dedicate a large part of their income to transport, food, and children care when they are at work. In such conditions, employers exercise a powerful rule over maquila workers. Threat, harassment and rape are not uncommon. Unions are not welcome. A Guatemalan union member who mobilized against unemployment due to the closing of a factory has been harassed and threatened with death ever since 1994. His wife has been kidnapped for twenty-four hours, beaten up... As late as 1995, she -but also her baby- have been threatened again. In 1995, the dead body of a union member was found in a gully, in Guatemala City. He bore marks of torture. The man was engaged in a struggle to gain the right to organize. Consumer and human rights organizations -among others- have become concerned with those problems. They represent some hope for maquila workers. In 1997, after months, a collective agreement was signed between women workers and a North-American-owned factory.(111) Those hopes contrast the violence of the repression against those who work towards an improvement of the living conditions of Guatemalans. The repression led in Guatemala from the 1950s on is still present. But maquilas and the like are not strictly a Guatemalan phenomenon. They are part of a worldwide pattern implied by the globalized consumer society. American companies had interests in America and they went there first. But soon, Asian and European firms appeared in maquilas, resorting to the same methods: hard working conditions, and violent repression for those who threaten the established order. One of the dangers of globalization, then, is that companies from all around the world may exploit Guatemalans, and support governments which enable that, no matter how repressive they may be.

The United Fruit Company was there at first to make sure that the interests of foreign companies should be protected. They established and maintained strong, repressive governments, which waged a civil war for decades to prevent any change. The consequences are a country hampered by many social problems. The burdens of war still weigh heavily on the land, and offer gloomy prospects to the people of Guatemala. In the end, the ongoing globalization drive threatens human rights in Latin America, as companies from all around the world exploit Guatemalan resources, nowadays.

Therefore, the group of American political leaders who decided to topple Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 were probably more motivated by the profit they would earn from their relations with the United Fruit Company than by their fear of Communist contamination in Central America. Indeed, they entertained friendly connections with the firm and its officials, and Guatemala offered promising prospects to companies such as the United Fruit, which would dare venture into that business.

But the effects of the coup were disastrous, both in the short and in the long run: waves of political assassinations swept through the country, terrorizing the population; a policy of genocide destroyed native peoples; torture, murder have been common for Guatemalans ever since the 1950s; and consequently, there was little consideration left for the improvement of the system of education, of health conditions, of the access to proper food...

Guatemala remains a very ill-fated country, because all movements toward improvement have been repeatedly frustrated by dictatorships supported by the United States of America. The recent Quebec negociations for a free-trade zone throughout the American continent offer little opportunities for improvement. It is urgent that Guatemalans should regain self-consciousness and dignity.


(1) Review of the following book: Richard H. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982),
at <> (April 14, 2000), p. 1.

(2) Régis Bertrand, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras (Paris: Voyageurs du Monde, 1993), p. 9.

(3) Eduardo Galeano, Les Veines Ouvertes de l'Amérique Latine, Une Contre-Histoire, trans. Claude Couffon (Paris: Plon, 1981), p. 157.

(4) Régis Bertrand, op. cit., p. 9.

(5) William Blum, Killing Hope, US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995), p. 73.
See also Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (London and New York: Longman, 1980), p. 430.

(6) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 157.

(7) William Blum, op. cit., p. 74.

(8) Felix Greene, The Enemy, What Every American Should Know About Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1971), p. 196.

(9) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 158.

(10) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 197.

(11) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (Boston: South End Press, 1979), p. 274.

(12) William Blum, op. cit., p. 73.

(13) Richard H. Immerman, op. cit., p. 1.

(14) William Blum, op. cit., p. 73.

(15) Howard Zinn, op. cit., p. 430.

(16) William Blum, op. cit., p. 74.

(17) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 197.

(18) Noam Chomsky, July 22, 1993, introduction to: Jennifer Harbury, Bridge of Courage, Life Stories of the Guatemalan compañeros and compañeras (Edinburgh, Scotland: AK Press, 1994), p. 9.

(19) William Blum, op. cit., p. 73.

(20) id.

(21) ibid., p. 80.

(22) Richard H. Immerman, op. cit., p. 1.

(23) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 197.

(24) Annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 409.

(25) Régis Bertrand, op. cit., p. 7.

(26) Annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 409.

(27) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., pp. 146, 147.

(28) John Dos Passos, The Fourty-Second Parallel, quoted in Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 152.

(29) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 196.

(30) William Blum, op. cit., p. 74.

(31) Medea Benjamin, « Où en sont les réformes agraires en Amérique Centrale? La Terre ou la Révolte, » Le Monde Diplomatique (November 1985), p. 20. (Published on CD-ROM: Le Monde Diplomatique, CEDEROM-SNi inc. 1998. pp. 1,2. )

(32) Annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 409.

(33) Medea Benjamin, op. cit., pp. 1,2.

(34) V. G. Kiernan, America, The New Imperialism, from White Settlement to World Hegemony (London: Zed Press, 1980), p. 130.

(35) 'La frutera' means 'the fruitseller'. Régis Bertrand, op. cit., p. 9.

(36) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 276.

(37) V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 130.

(38) Eduardo Galeano op. cit., p. 157.

(39) J. Russell Smith and M. Ogden Phillips, North America, Its People and the Resources, Development, and Prospects of the Continent as the Home of Man (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1942), pp. 902-903.

(40) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 157.

(41) J. Russell Smith and M. Ogden Phillips, op. cit., Note p. 902.

(42) William Blum, op. cit., p. 75.

(43) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 148.

(44) J. Russell Smith and M. Ogden Phillips, op. cit., p. 903.

(45) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 157. See also p. 153.

(46) William Blum, op. cit., p. 75.

(47) J. Russell Smith and M. Ogden Phillips, op. cit., p. 904.

(48) V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 175.
See also J. Russell Smith and M. Ogden Phillips, op. cit., p. 942.

(49) V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 248.

(50) Carlos Sá Rêgo, Annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 408.

(51) Howard Zinn, op. cit., p. 431.

(52) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 195.

(53) V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 246.

(54) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 195.

(55) ibid., p. 196.

(56) Annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 409.

(57) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 198, 199.
See also V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 246.

(58) Carlos Sá Rêgo, Annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 408.

(59) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 72, 73.

(60) ibid., p. 133.

(61) ibid., p. 345.

(62) ibid., p. 136, 137. ‘Un homme coûte moins cher qu’une mule’. (‘A man costs less than a mule’.)

(63) ibid., p. 137.

(64) William Blum, op. cit., p. 81.

(65) Noam Chomsky, July 22, 1993, introduction to: Jennifer Harbury, Bridge of Courage, op. cit., p. 15.

(66) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 274.

(67) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 158, 159.

(68) William Blum, op. cit., p. 231.

(69) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 279.

(70) Noam Chomsky, July 22, 1993, introduction to: Jennifer Harbury, Bridge of Courage,op. cit., p. 2.

(71) William Blum, op. cit., p. 81.

(72) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 157.

(73) ibid., p. 151.

(74) V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 247.
See also Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 276,
William Blum, op. cit., p. 75,
and Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 196.

(75) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 157.

(76) William Blum, op. cit., p. 75.

(77) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 196.

(78) id.

(79) id.

(80) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 157.

(81) ibid., p. 158.
See also Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 278.

(82) Régis Bertrand, op. cit., p. 33.

(83) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 195.

(84) William Blum, op. cit., p. 75.

(85) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 198.

(86) Virginia Bernhard, David Burner, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and John McClymer, Firsthand America, A History of the United States, Third Edition in 2 Volumes (St. James, NY: Brandywine Press, 1994),
Appendix p. XXV.

(87) Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 158.
For further information on the relations between the Dulles brothers and the United Fruit Company, see also V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., p. 247.

(88) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 198.

(89) id.

(90) id.

(91) William Blum, op. cit., p. 79.

(92) Felix Greene, op. cit., p. 198.

(93) William Blum, op. cit., p. 75.

(94) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 274.

(95) Noam Chomsky, July 22, 1993, introduction to: Jennifer Harbury, Bridge of Courage, op. cit., pp. 14, 15.

(96) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 72.

(97) ibid., p. 274.

(98) ibid., p. 276.

(99) id.

(100) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 277.

(101) V. G. Kiernan, op. cit., pp. 247, 248.

(102) William Blum, op. cit., p. 232.

(103) ibid., p. 230.
See also Vincent Jauvert, op. cit., pp. 5-7.

(104) Howard Zinn, op. cit., p. 430.
See also William Blum, op. cit., p. 233.

(105) « CIA involved in Guatemala coup, 1954, » the Militant, Vol. 61, No. 24 (23 June 1997), p. 1,
at <> (8 March 2001)

(106)  Noam Chomsky, July 22, 1993, introduction to: Jennifer Harbury, Bridge of Courage, op. cit., p. 25.
See also William Blum, op. cit., p. 229.

(107) Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, op. cit., p. 280.
See also Noam Chomsky, July 22, 1993, introduction to: Jennifer Harbury, Bridge of Courage, op. cit., p. 25, and « Démographie, Culture Armée, » CD-ROM L’Etat du Monde (Paris: Editions La Découverte, 1981-1997).

(108) William Blum, op. cit., p. 229.
See also the annex to Eduardo Galeano, op. cit., p. 409.

(109) « Keeping Girls in School, » service: The New York Times, in International Herald Trubune on CD-ROM (30 November 1998), p. 8.

(110) Serge F. Kovaleski, « Hurricane Disrupts Land Mine Removal in Central America, » service: Washington Post Service, in International Herald Trubune on CD-ROM (16 November 1998), p. 2.

(111) Maurice Lemoine, « Zônes Franches, Zônes de Non-Droit, Les travailleurs centraméricains otages des ‘maquilas’, » Le Monde Diplomatique (March 1998), pp. 12,13. (Published on CD-ROM: Le Monde Diplomatique, CEDEROM-SNi inc. 1998, pp. 1-6.)


BLUM, William, Killing Hope, US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, Monroe, ME.:  Common Courage Press, 1995. pp. 73-75, 79-81, 231, 232, 233.

CHOMSKY, Noam and HERMAN, Edward S., The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I, The  Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, Boston: South End Press, 1979. pp. 72, 274,   276-279.

GALEANO, Eduardo, Les Veines Ouvertes de l'Amérique Latine, Une Contre-Histoire, trans. Claude  Couffon. Paris: Plon, 1981. pp. 72, 73, 133, 136, 137, 146-148, 151-153, 157-159, 345.
 Annex by Carlos Sá Rêgo, pp. 408, 409.

GREENE, Felix, The Enemy, What Every American Should Know About Imperialism, New York: Vintage  Books, 1971. pp. 195-199.

HARBURY, Jennifer, Bridge of Courage, Life Stories of the Guatemalan Compañeros and Compañeras,  Edinburgh, Scotland: AK Press, 1994. Introduction by Noam Chomsky, pp. 2, 9, 14, 15.

IMMERMAN, Richard H., The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention, Austin:  University of Texas Press, 1982.
 (Book Review at <>, [April 14, 2000], p. 1. )

KIERNAN, V. G., America: The New Imperialism, From White Settlement to World Hegemony, London:  Zed Press, 1978, p. 130, 175, 246-248.


BERNHARD, Virginia, BURNER, David, FOX-GENOVESE, Elizabeth and McCLYMER, John,  Firsthand America, A History of  the  United States, Third Edition in two volumes, St James,  New York: Brandywine Press, 1994. Appendix p. XXV.

BERTRAND, Régis, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Paris: Voyageurs du Monde, 1993. pp. 7, 9, 33.

RUSSELL SMITH, J. and OGDEN PHILLIPS, M., North America, Its People and the Resources ,  Development, and Prospects of the Continent as the Home of Man, New York: Harcourt, Brace  and Company, 1942. pp. 902-904, 942.

ZINN, Howard, A People's History of the United States, London and New York: Longman, 1980.
 pp. 430-431.


BENJAMIN, Medea, « Où en sont les réformes agraires en Amérique Centrale? La terre ou la révolte, »
 Le Monde Diplomatique,  November 1985, p. 20. (On CD-ROM: Le Monde Diplomatique,  CEDEROM-SNi inc. 1998. pp. 1, 2.)

« CIA involved in Guatemala coup, 1954, » the Militant, Vol. 61, No. 24, 23 June 1997, p. 1,
 at <> (8 march 2001)

JAUVERT, Vincent, « CIA, une sale guerre au Guatemala, » Le Nouvel Observateur, Dossier, No. 1812,  week of 29 July 1999, pp. 5-7, at <> (8 April 2000)

« Keeping Girls in School, » service: The New York Times, in International Herald Tribune on CD-ROM,  30 November 1998, p. 8.

KOVALESKI, Serge F., « Hurricane Disrupts Land Mine Removal in Central America, »
 service: Washington Post Service, in International Herald Tribune on CD-ROM,
 16 November 1998, p. 2.

LEMOINE, Maurice, « Zônes Franches, Zônes de Non-Droit, Les travailleurs centraméricains otages des  ‘maquilas’, » Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1998, pp. 12, 13. (On CD-ROM: Le Monde  Diplomatique, CEDEROM-SNi inc. 1998. pp. 1-6.)


« Démographie, Culture, Armée, » CD-ROM Etat du Monde, Editions La Découverte, CEDEROM-SNi  inc. 1981-1997.