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Counterrevolutionary Friends: Caribbean Basin Dictators and Guatemalan Exiles against the Guatemalan Revolution, 1945–50

  • Aaron Coy Moulton (a1)

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It was in January 1950 that Guatemalan Col. Carlos Castillo Armas, a rather unfamiliar figure at the time, headed for El Salvador, giving no sign that he would eventually become one of the most notorious antagonists in the destruction of the 1944-54 Guatemalan Revolution. Late in 1950, he and some 70 compatriots attacked Guatemala City's Base Militar, hoping to overthrow Juan José Arévalo's government and prevent Jacobo Arbenz from assuming the presidency. Though the assault failed and its participants were imprisoned, the dissident bribed his way out of jail and took into exile a newfound reputation as an influential conspirator.

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I would like to thank Michael Donoghue, Andrew Lannen, Asa McKercher, Margaret Power, Bevan Sewell, David Sheinin, James Siekmeier, and Dustin Walcher for their edits and suggestions on the article; Winfield Burggraaff, John Fishel, Dick Millett, Orlando Pérez, and others at the November 2014 Annual Conference of the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies in Panama City for their comments on a shorter version; and Fabián Herrera and others at the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Morelia for inviting me in March 2016 to present the research. I also thank the two anonymous reviewers with The Americas who gave invaluable edits. This research was supported by a Dissertation Year Fellowship from the Truman Library Institute, a Samuel Flagg Bemis Dissertation Research Grant from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the John Pine Memorial Scholarship from Phi Alpha Theta, and the James J. Hudson Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

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1. On Castillo Armas's November 1950 Base Militar attack and subsequent escape, see Gleijeses, Piero, Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944–1954 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 8183; “Guatemala (w/ Attachment),” Document 0000915053, January 13, 1950, Central Intelligence Agency Library, “Guatemala” Collection, www.foia.cia.gov/collection/guatemala [hereafter CIA FOIA]; “Plans of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas for Armed Revolt against the Government,” Document 0000915075, August 24, 1950, CIA FOIA; “Memorandum From the Acting Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, Central Intelligence Agency ([name not declassified]) to the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (Helms),” Document 7, Washington, March 17, 1952, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954: Guatemala, Susan K. Holly and David S. Patterson, eds. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2003) https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54Guat [hereafter FRUS Guatemala].

2. On Operation PBSUCCESS, see Immerman, Richard H., The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982); Blasier, Cole, The Hovering Giant: U.S. Responses to Revolutionary Change in Latin America, 1910–1985, 2nd ed. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985); Wood, Bryce, The Dismantling of the Good Neighbor Policy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 145190; Rabe, Stephen, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 2663; Gleijeses, Shattered Hope; Lehman, Kenneth, “Revolutions and Attributions: Making Sense of Eisenhower Administration Policies in Bolivia and Guatemala,” Diplomatic History 21:2 (Spring 1997): 185213; Cullather, Nick, Secret History: The CIA's Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala, 1952–1954 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); Siekmeier, James, Aid, Nationalism, and Inter-American Relations: Guatemala, Bolivia, and the United States, 1945–1961 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1999); Schlesinger, Stephen and Kinzer, Stephen, Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 2005); Grow, Michael, U.S. Presidents and Latin American Interventions: Pursuing Regime Change in the Cold War (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2008), 127; and Rabe, Stephen G., The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 3658. On US relations and Castillo Armas's regime, see Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 351–360; and Streeter, Stephen, Managing the Counterrevolution: The United States and Guatemala, 1954–1961 (Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 2000), 3358.

3. Arturo Calventi a Telésforo R. Calderón, Cable 7, San Salvador, 24 enero 1950, Archivo General de la Nación, Santo Domingo [en adelante AGNRD], Fondo Presidencia, Colección Secretaría de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores [en adelante SERREE], Caja IT 2903956 “Fechas extremas 1948-1953, Ref. Antigua 2270,” Exp. “Salvador, 1949-1952, Código 5/C.”

4. The historiography on the fall of Arbenz's government and US policy toward Latin America during the Cold War is described in Streeter, Stephen M., “Interpreting the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala: Realist, Revisionist, and Postrevisionist Perspectives,” The History Teacher 34:1 (November 2000): 6174; Rabe, Stephen G., “Marching Ahead (Slowly): The Historiography of Inter-American Relations,” Diplomatic History 13:3 (Summer 1989): 297316; Gilderhus, Mark T., “An Emerging Synthesis? U.S.-Latin American Relations since the Second World War,” Diplomatic History 16:3 (Summer 1992): 429452; Friedman, Max Paul, “Retiring the Puppets, Bringing Latin America Back In: Recent Scholarship on United States-Latin American Relations,” Diplomatic History 27:5 (November 2003): 621636; Rabe, Stephen G., “Marching Ahead (Forthrightly): The Historiography of Inter-American Relations,” Passport 45:2 (2014): 2531; and Andrew J. Kirkendall, “Cold War Latin America: The State of the Field,” H-Diplo Essay No. 119 (November 2014), 1–17, https://networks.h-net.org/node/28443/discussions/52148/h-diplo-essay-119-cold-war-latin-america-state-field-h-diplo-state, accessed October 23, 2018.

5. Leonard, Thomas M., The United States and Central America, 1944–1949: Perceptions of Political Dynamics (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1984), 75105; Handy, Jim, Revolution in the Countryside: Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, 1944–1954 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994); Levenson-Estrada, Deborah, Trade Unionists against Terror: Guatemala City, 1954–1985 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 1448; de Ita, Guadalupe Rodríguez, La participación política en la primavera guatemalteca: una aproximación a la historia de los partidos durante el periodo 1944–1954 (México: Universidad Autónoma de México, 2003); Grandin, Greg, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 1971.

6. Grandin, Greg, “Off the Beach: The United States, Latin America, and the Cold War,” in A Companion to Post-1945 America, Agnew, Jean-Christophe and Rosenzweig, Roy, eds. (Malden, MO: Blackwell, 2006), 426.

7. Gilbert M. Joseph, “What We Now Know and Should Know: Bringing Latin America More Meaningfully into Cold War Studies,” in In from the Cold: Latin America's New Encounter with the Cold War, Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniela Spenser, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 7; Daniela Spenser, “Standing Conventional Cold War History on Its Head,” in In from the Cold, 381–382.

8. Gilbert M. Joseph, “Latin America's Long Cold War: A Century of Revolutionary Process and U.S. Power,” in A Century of Revolution: Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence during Latin America's Long Cold War, Greg Grandin and Gilbert M. Joseph, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 398–407; Greg Grandin, “Living in Revolutionary Time: Coming to Terms with the Violence of Latin America's Long Cold War,” in A Century of Revolution, 3–5; Tanya Harmer, Allende's Chile & the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 2.

9. Alan McPherson, “Afterword: The Paradox of Latin American Cold War Studies,” in Beyond the Eagle's Shadow: New Histories of Latin America's Cold War, Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Mark Atwood Lawrence, and Julio E. Moreno, eds. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013), 308.

10. Ariel C. Armony, Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in Central America, 1977–1984 (Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1997); J. Patrice McSherry, Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); Harmer, Allende's Chile; Luis Alberto Herrán Ávila, “Las guerrillas blancas: anticomunismo transnacional e imaginarios de derechas en Argentina y México, 1954–1972,” Quinto Sol 19:1 (junio 2015): 1–26; Kyle Burke, “Radio Free Enterprise: The Manion Forum and the Making of the Transnational Right in the 1960s,” Diplomatic History 40:1 (January 2016): 111–139.

11. Margaret Power, “Who but a Woman? The Transnational Diffusion of Anti-Communism among Conservative Women in Brazil, Chile and the United States during the Cold War,” Journal of Latin American Studies 47:1 (February 2015): 93–119; Aaron T. Bell, “A Matter of Western Civilisation: Transnational Support for the Salvadoran Counterrevolution, 1979–1982,” Cold War History 15:4 (October 2015): 511–531.

12. Grandin, Last Colonial Massacre, 78–86; Manolo E. Vela Castañeda, “Guatemala, 1954: las ideas de la contrarrevolución,” Foro Internacional 45:1 (marzo 2005): 89–114; Robert H. Holden, “Communism and Catholic Social Doctrine in the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944,” Journal of Church and State 50:3 (January 2008): 495–517; Patricia Harms, “‘God Doesn't Like the Revolution’: The Archbishop, Market Women, and the Economy of Gender in Guatemala, 1944–1954,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 32:2 (2011): 111–139.

13. Mark T. Hove, “The Arbenz Factor: Salvador Allende, U.S.-Chilean Relations, and the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala,” Diplomatic History 31:4 (September 2007): 623–663; Roberto García Ferreira, “‘El caso de Guatemala’: Arévalo, Arbenz y la izquierda uruguaya, 1950–1971,” Mesoamérica 49 (diciembre 2007): 25–58; Max Paul Friedman, “Fracas in Caracas: Latin American Diplomatic Resistance to United States Intervention in Guatemala in 1954,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 21:4 (2010): 669–689; Lukás Perutka, “Arms for Arbenz: Czechoslovakia's Involvement in the Cold War in Latin America,” Central European Journal of International & Security Studies 7:3 (September 2013): 59–76; Michelle Denise Getchell, “Revisiting the 1954 Coup in Guatemala: The Soviet Union, the United Nations, and ‘Hemispheric Solidarity,’” Journal of Cold War Studies 17:2 (Spring 2015): 73–102.

14. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala, 95–96, 141–143; Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 220–221, 248–252, 292–294; Cullather, Secret History, 48–51; Streeter, Managing the Counterrevolution, 23–26.

15. Jorge Ramón González Ponciano, “Guatemaltecos en la ciudad de México,” Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire 2 (2001) http://alhim.revues.org/590, accessed October 23, 2018; Nathalie Ludec, “Voces del exilio guatemalteco desde la ciudad de México,” Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire 2 (2001) http://alhim.revues.org/599, accessed October 23, 2018; Guadalupe Rodríguez de Ita, La política mexicana de asilo diplomático a la luz del caso guatemalteco: 1944–1954 (México: Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora, Dirección General del Acervo Histórico Diplomático de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 2003); Roberto García Ferreira, “La diplomacia liberacionista y el exilio guatemalteco en América del Sur, 1954–1960,” X Jornadas de Sociología (2013), http://cdsa.aacademica.org/000-038/452.pdf, accessed November 26, 2018; Guadalupe Rodríguez de Ita, “Exiliados guatemaltecos en México: Una experiencia recurrente,” Pacarina del Sur: Revista de Pensamiento Crítico Latinoamericano (noviembre 2014), http://www.pacarinadelsur.com/home/abordajes-y-contiendas/319-exiliados-guatemaltecos-en-mexico-una-experiencia-recurrente, accessed October 23, 2018.

16. Mario López Villatoro, Por qué fue derrotado el comunismo en Guatemala? (Guatemala: Talleres Gráficos Díaz Paiz, 1955); Emma Moya Posas, La jornada épica de Castillo Armas vista desde Honduras (Tegucigalpa: Talleres la República, 1955); Guatemala y su dolor: corona fúnebre sobre la tumba del coronel Carlos Castillo Armas (Guatemala: Tipografía Nacional de Guatemala, 1957); Manuel de la Guarda, Castillo Armas, libertador y mártir (Guatemala: Editorial Indoamérica, 1957); Guillermo Putzeys Rojas, Así se hizo la liberación (Guatemala: Tipografía Nacional de Guatemala, 1976). Works by the Secretaría de Propaganda y Divulgación begun under Castillo Armas's regime and memorializing his movement are numerous; a representative example is Así se gestó la liberación (Guatemala: Secretaría de Divulgación, Cultura y Turismo, 1956).

17. See José Calderón Salazar, Letras de liberación, 2 tomos (Guatemala: Tipografía Nacional, 1955); Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, My War with Communism, Mario Rosenthal, trans. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963); and Guillermo Flores Avendaño, Memorias, 1900–1970, 2 tomos (Guatemala: Editorial del Ejército, 1974).

18. There are persistent difficulties in tracing exiles’ activities. The inability of scholars to access crucial materials on Caribbean Basin dictators and exiles opposed to the Guatemalan Revolution derives not from any lack of effort but from the legacies of dictatorial regimes, revolutionary upheavals, and environmental disasters that damaged or lost documents in Nicaragua. Only recently has there been access to such repositories as the Honduran Archivo de Relaciones Exteriores. Also, organizing and declassifying the relevant foreign relations files at the Dominican Archivo General de la Nación (AGNRD) is a slow and difficult task. The documents from the Secretaría de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores (SERREE) collection at the AGNRD remain relatively unorganized, with unclear reference codes. Fortunately, the help and patience of archivists there, such as Óscar Feliz, have enabled scholars to locate relevant materials.

19. Levenson-Estrada, Trade Unionists against Terror, 14–48; Rodríguez de Ita, La participación política; Grandin, Last Colonial Massacre, 19–71.

20. Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 149–170; Handy, Revolution in the Countryside.

21. Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 186–189; Handy, Revolution in the Countryside; Grandin, Last Colonial Massacre, 52–59.

22. See Yankelevich, Pablo, La revolución mexicana en América Latina: Intereses políticos, itinerarios intelectuales (México: Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora, 2003); Santana, Adalberto, “La Revolución Mexicana y su repercusión en América Latina,” Latinoamérica: Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos 44 (2007): 103127; Spenser, Daniela, The Impossible Triangle: Mexico, Soviet Russia, and the United States in the 1920s (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999).

23. Kiddle, Amelia, Mexico's Relations with Latin America during the Cárdenas Era (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016), 8889, 91, 155–157, 177.

24. Gobat, Michel, Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua under U.S. Imperial Rule (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005).

25. Agente J-19 al Agente H-277, S-X-Nro. 2581, 21 octubre 1936, Archivo del Instituto de Historia de Cuba, La Habana [en adelante AIHC], Fondo “Ejército 1934-1952” [en adelante FE1934], Colección “Agentes del SIM” [en adelante SIM], Exp. “Agente J-19 expedientes, informes e investigaciones;” Agente W-105 al Agente J-19, Informe 4400-9648-G-3, 20 abril 1936, AIHC, FE1934, SIM, Exp. “Juan V. Govea (Agente W-105);” Vicente E. González al Jefe de la Escuela 19 de la Guardia Rural, San Luis, 24 julio 1935, AIHC, FE1934, Colección “Regimiento No. 8 Ríus Rivera,” Exp. “J’ del Regimiento.”

26. On new research on the Soviet Union and the Communist International in such areas as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, and Mexico, see the works by Spenser; Víctor Jéifets y Lázar Jéifets, “Los archivos rusos revelan secretos: El movimiento de la izquierda latinoamericana a la luz de los documentos de la Internacional Comunista,” Anuario Americanista Europeo 8 (2010): 35–64; Rupprecht, Tobias, “Socialist High Modernity and Global Stagnation: A Shared History of Brazil and the Soviet Union during the Cold War,” Journal of Global History 6:3 (November 2011): 505528; Michelle Denise Reeves, “Extracting the Eagle's Talons: The Soviet Union in Cold War Latin America,” (PhD diss.: University of Texas, 2014). On the Communist International in Central America before the Cold War, see Cerdas, Rodolfo Cruz, La hoz y el machete: La Internacional Comunista, América Central y la revolución en Centro América (San José, Costa Rica: Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1986); Erik Ching A., “El Partido Comunista de Costa Rica, 1931–1953: los documentos del Archivo Ruso del Comintern,” Revista de Historia 37 (enero-junio 1998): 7–226; Pujals, Sandra, “¿Una perla en el Caribe Soviético?: Puerto Rico en los archivos de la Comintern en Moscú, 1921–1943,” Op. Cit. 17 (2006–2007): 117157; and Zumoff, J. A., “Ojos que no ven: The Communist Party, Caribbean Migrants, and the Communist International in Costa Rica in the 1920s and 1930s,” Journal of Caribbean History 45:2 (2011): 212247.

27. In fact, scholarship on Vicente Lombardo Toledano, such as that by Daniela Spenser, shows important divisions between him and anticommunist leftists like Arévalo.

28. See Bethell, Leslie and Roxborough, Ian, eds., Latin America between the Second World War and the Cold War, 1944–1948 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Grandin, Last Colonial Massacre, 52–59; and Moulton, Aaron Coy, “Building Their Own Cold War in Their Own Backyard: The Transnational, International Conflicts in the Greater Caribbean Basin, 1944–1954,” Cold War History 15:2 (2015): 135154.

29. See Grandin, Last Colonial Massacre; Vela Castañeda, “Guatemala, 1954”; Holden, “Communism and Catholic Social Doctrine”; and Harms, “‘God Doesn't Like the Revolution.’” For similar ideals elsewhere, see Deutsch, Sandra McGee, Las Derechas: The Extreme Right in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, 1890–1939 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); Gould, Jeffrey L. and Lauria-Santiago, Aldo A., To Rise in Darkness: Revolution, Repression, and Memory in El Salvador, 1920–1932 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

30. Vela Castañeda, “Guatemala, 1954,” 107–109, hits upon this idea for Guatemalan dissidents during the 1954 coup.

31. Fletcher Warren to US Secretary of State, No. 55 “Subject: Attitude of Nicaragua Toward the Guatemala-El Salvador Unionist Attempt,” Managua, June 6, 1945, National Archives II, College Park, Maryland [hereafter NARAII], Record Group 84 “Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State” [hereafter RG84], “Honduras, Tegucigalpa Legation and Embassy, Classified General Records, 1940–1958” [hereafter US Embassy Tegucigalpa], Box 26.

32. Harold D. Finley to US Secretary of State, No. 2823, “Subject: President Somoza Expresses Concern at Mexican Actuation,” Managua, January 16, 1945, NARAII, RG84, “Guatemala, U.S. Embassy, Guatemala City, Classified General Records, 1937-1961” [hereafter US Embassy Guatemala City], Box 12.

33. John D. Erwin to US Embassy, Managua, No. 225, Tegucigalpa, October 13, 1945, NARAII, “Nicaragua, U.S. Legation and Embassy, Managua, Classified General Records, 1938-1961” [hereafter US Embassy Managua], Box 9, Folder “800, 1945.”

34. John D. Erwin to US Secretary of State, “Subject: Communication from Guatemalan Government to Honduran Foreign Office,” Tegucigalpa, September 12, 1944, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 19.

35. John D. Erwin to US Secretary of State, No. 1940 “Subject: Political Developments in Salvador,” Tegucigalpa, July 12, 1945, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 26.

36. Lt. Col. Nathan A. Brown, Report R11-45 “Subject: Communist Propaganda and Activities in Honduras,” Tegucigalpa, February 8, 1945, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 26.

37. John D. Erwin to US Secretary of State, No. 1745 “Subject: President Carías reports efforts of outside agitators,” Tegucigalpa, March 28, 1945, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 26.

38. Gordon S. Reid, Tiburcio Carías Jr, Memorandum of Conversation, July 15, 1947, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 34.

39. Roberto Despradel a Manuel A. Peña Batlle, No. 367 “Asunto: Cable cifrado No. 27740,” Ciudad de Guatemala, 16 noviembre 1945, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903348 “Fechas extremas 1944-1950, Código 658,” Leg. “3348, Oficios y Correspondencia, 1950.”

40. Roberto Despradel a Rafael Trujillo, Ciudad de Guatemala, 21 mayo 1946, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903348, Leg. “3348.”

41. Roberto Despradel a Manuel A. Peña Batlle, Ciudad de Guatemala, 21 agosto 1946, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903348, Leg. “3348.”

42. On the 1947 Cayo Confites expedition, see Grullón, José Diego, Cayo Confites: la revolución traicionada (Santo Domingo: Editora Alfa y Omega, 1989); Ameringer, Charles D., The Caribbean Legion: Patriots, Politicians, Soldiers of Fortune, 1946–1950 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996); and García, Humberto Vázquez, La Expedición de Cayo Confites, 2nd ed. (Santo Domingo: Archivo General de la Nación, 2014).

43. Víctor Antonio Fernández, No. 285 “Asunto: Guatemala suspende relaciones diplomáticas,” Tegucigalpa, 25 julio 1947, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349 “Fechas extremas 1947-1950, Código 658.”

44. Juan Pinillos a John B. Faust, Tegucigalpa, 19 agosto 1946, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 32.

45. Arturo Ramírez al Departamento de Investigaciones Políticas, Ciudad de México, 24 abril 1945, Archivo General de la Nación, Ciudad de México [en adelante AGNMX], Fondo Dirección General Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales [en adelante DGIPS], Caja 750, Exp. 1; Arturo Ramírez a Col. Nathan A. Brown, Tegucigalpa, July 17, 1947, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 34. Ramírez deserted Ubico before he began conspiring against Arévalo.

46. Federico Ponce a Sidney E. O'Donoghue, Ciudad de México, 04 octubre 1945, 814.00/10-445, NARAII, Record Group 59 “General Records of the Department of State” [hereafter RG59], Decimal File 814 “Records of the Department of State Relating to Internal Affairs of Guatemala, 1945–1949” [hereafter DF814], National Archives Microfilm Publication M1527 [hereafter M1527], Roll 1; Federico Ponce a Manuel Ávila Camacho, Ciudad de México, 26 diciembre 1944, AGNMX, Fondo Presidencial, Colección “Manuel Ávila Camacho,” Exp. 559.1/33.

47. M. Antonio Archila Obregón, “Pueblo Guatemalteco,” Ciudad de México, 10 julio 1946, AGNMX, DGIPS, Caja 750, Exp. 1; S. Walter Washington to US Secretary of State, No. 392 “Subject: Alleged Letter Sent By Guatemalan President to Soviet Chargé d'Affaires in Mexico,” Mexico City, July 11, 1946, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Guatemala City, Box 14; de Defensa Patria, Comité, La Tribuna de la libertad: voz de los Guatemaltecos en el destierro (Masaya: Plutarco, 1946); Salazar, José Calderón, Guatemala bajo el signo rojo (México: Comité Patriótico Guatemalteco, 1947).

48. Fletcher Warren to US Secretary of State, No. 110 “Subject: Guatemalan Political Exiles in Managua,” Managua, June 27, 1945, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Managua, Box 9, Folder “800, 1945;” Roberto Despradel a Manuel A. Peña Batlle, No. 336 “Asunto: Informe político,” Ciudad de Guatemala, 16 octubre 1945, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903348, Leg. “3348.”

49. Víctor Ant. Fernández J. a Arturo Despradel, No. 375, “Asunto: Informe sobre los acontecimientos en Guatemala,” Tegucigalpa, 22 septiembre 1947, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349; Joaquín Balaguer a Rafael Trujillo, No. 837, Ciudad de México, 08 septiembre 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903961 “Fechas extremas 1948-1951, Ref. Antigua 2270,” Exp. “1948-1950, Código 5/C.”

50. Paul C. Daniels to Gordon S. Reid, Tegucigalpa, August 14, 1947, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Tegucigalpa, Box 34; Fletcher Warren to US Secretary of State, A-226, Managua, June 21, 1945, 814.00/6-2145, NARAII, RG59, DF814, M1527, Roll 1.

51. Historians have yet to identify all of the numerous plots and conspiracies that threatened Arévalo's government. Some occurred simultaneously, some were halted at the last minute, and some fizzled out. If there were links between such plots and external patrons, they remain unclear. In mid 1951, Arévalo claimed that 30 of 32 conspiracies during his presidency received foreign assistance. See G. Wallace LaRue to the US Department of State, No. 20 “Subject: Visit of Ex-President Juan José Arévalo,” July 12, 1951, 714.00/7-1251, NARAII, RG59, Decimal File 714 “Records of the Department of State Relating to Internal Affairs of Guatemala, 1950-1954” [hereafter DF714], M1527, Roll 1.

52. Emilio García Godoy a Víctor Ant. Fernández J. vía Secretaría de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores, Núm. 19809, Ciudad Trujillo, 18 julio 1947, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349; Víctor Ant. Fernández J. a Emilio García Godoy, vía Secretaría de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores, No. 290 “Asunto: Remisión de carta del señor Arturo Ramírez al Excelentísimo Señor Presidente de la República,” Tegucigalpa, 28 julio 1947, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349; Rafael Trujillo a Gustavo Julio Henríquez, 28 agosto 1947, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349.

53. R. Paíno Pichardo a Rafael Trujillo, Memorandum No. 3, febrero 1948, AGN, Colección Bernardo Vega [en adelante CBV], Exp. 077-097 “Expediente sobre la captura de aviones en Nicaragua.”

54. The role of the Guatemalan army in removing Arbenz in the face of the US government's opposition during Operation PBSUCCESS is a central thesis in Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, and Cullather, Secret History.

55. Paíno Pichardo a Trujillo, Memorandum No. 3.

56. On Arana's 1949 plot, see Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 50–71; Piero Gleijeses, “The Death of Francisco Arana: A Turning Point in the Guatemalan Revolution,” Journal of Latin American Studies 22:3 (October 1990): 527–552.

57. Francisco Aguirre, Gordon S. Reid, Memorandum of Conversation, March 19, 1948, NARAII, RG84, “Nicaragua, Managua Embassy, General Records and Classified General Records, 1947–1955” [hereafter US Embassy Managua II], Box 26, Folder “800: Nicaragua, General conf file, 1948.” Francisco Aguirre, Nicaraguan exile and former associate to Somoza, proffered reliable information on the dictator's relationships with dissident exiles throughout the Caribbean Basin. The US Embassy in Managua verified that Coronado Lira was in Managua.

58. Maurice M. Bernbaum to US Secretary of State, No. 74, Managua, March 22, 1948, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Managua II, Box 24, Folder “800: Nicaraguan Involvement in Guatemala internal affairs, Confidential telegram file, 1948.”

59. Maurice M. Bernbaum to US Secretary of State, No. 79, Managua, March 30, 1948, NARAII, RG84, US Embassy Managua II, Box 24, Folder “800: Nicaraguan Involvement.”

60. René Malagón a Virgilio Díaz Ordóñez, No. 91 “Asunto: Cuestiones relacionadas con el viaje del Lic. Luis Coronado Lira a nuestro país,” San Salvador, 11 mayo 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349.

61. Virgilio Díaz Ordóñez a Telésforo R. Calderón, 14306 “Asunto: Informes para ser trasmitido al señor Coronado Lira Salazar,” Ciudad Trujillo, 11 mayo 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349; Virgilio Díaz Ordóñez a Telésforo R. Calderón, 14960 “Asunto: Cuestiones relacionadas con el viaje del Lic. Luis Coronado Lira a nuestro país,” Ciudad Trujillo, 17 mayo 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349.

62. “Carta abierta del Lic. Luis Coronado Lira al canciller guatemalteco” (San Salvador: Editorial Nosotros, 1948), No. 854, University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas at Austin, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, Arturo Taracena Flores Collection [hereafter ATF], Box 3 “No. 841-1284, 1948-1950,” Folder “841-880.”

63. Carlos Salazar, hijo, “MEMORANDUM sobre última situación política en Guatemala,” AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349.

64. Salazar, “MEMORANDUM.”

65. Luis Bonetti a Rafael Trujillo, vía Secretaría de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores, No. 208 “Asunto: Información confidencial,” Tegucigalpa, 30 agosto 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2904052 “Fechas extremas 1948-1956, Ref. Antigua 2339,” Exp. “1948-1949, Código 5/C.”

66. Rafael Damirón Díaz a Telésforo R. Calderón, No. 232, Ciudad de México, 01 octubre 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2904052, Exp. “1948-1949;” Francisco Castillo Nájera al Secretario de Gobernación, Núm. 50735 “Asunto: Actividades de exiliados políticos guatemaltecos,” Ciudad de México, 15 enero 1946, AGNMX, DGIPS, Caja 750, Exp. 1.

67. Damirón Díaz a Calderón, No. 232.

68. Manuel Melgar de la Cerda, Memorandum Confidencial, Ciudad de México, 29 septiembre 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2904052, Exp. “1948-1949.”

69. Melgar, Memorandum Confidencial.

70. Melgar, Memorandum Confidencial; Manuel Melgar de la Cerda, “Personas que responden del memorándum anexo,” Ciudad de México, 29 septiembre 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2904052, Exp. “1948-1949.”

71. See Holden, “Communism and Catholic Social Doctrine”; and Harms, “‘God Doesn't Like the Revolution.’”

72. Melgar, Memorandum Confidencial.

73. Damirón Díaz a Calderón, No. 232.

74. Anastasio Somoza a Embajada Nicaragüense en Ciudad Trujillo, Managua, 25 octubre 1948, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2904052, Exp. “1948-1949.”

75. On the dictators’ involvement in the Costa Rican Civil War, the Venezuelan military coup, and the 1948 invasion of Costa Rica, see Moulton, “Building Their Own Cold War in Their Own Backyard.”

76. José E. Aybar a Rafael Trujillo, San Francisco, 25 enero 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349.

77. Aybar a Trujillo. On Rossell y Arellano's important role in opposing the Guatemalan Revolution, see Holden, “Communism and Catholic Social Doctrine”; and Harms, “‘God Doesn't Like the Revolution.’”

78. Fernández J. a Despradel, No. 375; Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 837.

79. José E. Aybar a Telésforo R. Calderón, San Francisco, 20 julio 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903349.

80. Joaquín Balaguer a Rafael Trujillo, No. 802, Ciudad de México, 05 septiembre 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903961, Exp. “1948-1950.”

81. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 802; Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 837.

82. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 802.

83. The Dominican peso under Trujillo was pegged to the US dollar, so Balaguer's RD$10,000.00 was equivalent to US$10,000.00.

84. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 802.

85. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 837.

86. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 837.

87. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 837.

88. See Schlesinger and Kinzer, Bitter Fruit.

89. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 837.

90. Arturo Ramírez a Rafael Trujillo, Ciudad de México, 29 septiembre 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903961, Exp. “1948-1950.”

91. Balaguer a Trujillo, No. 938.

92. Arturo Calventi, “Memorandum de Conversación con el Coronel Marco Antonio Molina, Jefe de Estado Mayor del Ejército de El Salvador,” Ciudad Trujillo, 29 noviembre 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903956, Exp. “Salvador.”

93. Arturo Ramírez a Joaquín Balaguer, Ciudad de México, 21 diciembre 1949, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903961, Exp. “1948-1950.”

94. “Guatemala (w/ Attachment),” Document 0000915053, January 13, 1950, CIA FOIA.

95. “Plans of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas for Armed Revolt against the Government,” Document 0000915075, August 24, 1950, CIA FOIA.

96. Calventi a Calderón, Cable 7.

97. Calventi a Calderón, Cable 7.

98. Rafael Damirón Díaz a Telésforo R. Calderón, No. 94, Tegucigalpa, 03 abril 1950, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903825 “Fechas extremas 1948-1953, Código 484,” Exp. “1949-1953, Código 5/C.”

99. See “Documentos sobre la situación política de Guatemala,” AGNRD, CBV, Exp. 070-106 “Documentos sobre la situación política de Guatemala, AGNRD, CBV, Exp. 070-106; Andrew B. Wardlaw to Rudolph Schoenfeld, William Krieg, and John C. Hill, Office Memorandum, “Subject: Conversation about Discussions with President TRUJILLO About Possible Overthrow of Guatemalan Government,” September 18, 1953, NARAII, RG84, “Guatemala, U.S. Embassy, Guatemala City, Classified & Unclassified General Records, 1953-1956,” Box 3, Folder “350: Guatemala, Aug. – Dec. 1953.”

100. “Organización del Partido Reconciliación Democrática Nacional (Redención),” 1950 (Imprenta Sansur, 1950), No. 1124, ATF, Box 3, Folder “1108-1158, 1950.”

101. Andrew B. Wardlaw to Rudolph Schoenfeld, William Krieg, and John C. Hill, “Subject: Conversation about Discussions with President TRUJILLO About Possible Overthrow of Guatemalan Government.”

102. Carlos Salazar, hijo, y Luis Coronado Lira, “MANIFIESTO a los Guatemaltecos,” 15 agosto 1950 (San Salvador: Editora Ahora, 1950), No. 1084, ATF, Box 3, Folder “1073-1107, 1950.”

103. Carlos Salazar, hijo, y Jesús Unda Murillo, “Publicaciones [del Partido] ‘Reconciliación Democrática Nacional’ (Redención),” Guatemala, 12 mayo 1950, No. 1122, ATF, Box 3, Folder “1108-1158, 1950.”

104. Jesús Unda Murillo y Carlos Salazar, hijo, “Publicaciones del Partido Reconciliación Democrática Nacional – Redención,” Guatemala, 01 junio 1950 (Imprenta Iberia), No. 1125, ATF, Box 3, Folder “1108-1158, 1950.”

105. See Richard Patterson to US Secretary of State, Guatemala City, No. 329, Guatemala City, July 21, 1949, 814.00/7-2149, NARAII, RG59, DF814, M1527, Roll 2; and Collins D. Almon to Milton K. Wells, Memorandum, September 14, 1949, 814.00/9-2049, NARAII, RG59, DF814, M1527, Roll 2.

106. See Nos. 1192 and 1197 in ATF, box 3, folder 1159-1197, 1950.

107. See the various items in ATF, box 3, folder 1108-1158, 1950.

108. Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, and Schlesinger and Kinzer, Bitter Fruit, present Arenas as an opponent of Castillo Armas in late 1953. However, recently declassified materials in the United States and the Dominican Republic confirm that Arenas did join Castillo Armas throughout the 1950s, even if they often jockeyed for the most prominent position.

109. Héctor Incháustegui Cabral a Telésforo R. Calderón, No. 1355, Ciudad de México, September 26, 1950, AGNRD, SERREE, caja IT 2903349.

110. Rafael Matos Díaz a Telésforo R. Calderón, Cable 304, Tegucigalpa, November 9, 1950, AGNRD, SERREE, caja IT 2903825, Exp. 1949-1953;” Telésforo R. Calderón a Rafael Matos Díaz, Ciudad Trujillo, November 10, 1950, AGNRD, SERREE, caja IT 2903825, Exp. 1949-1953.

111. Consejo Supremo del Movimiento Revolucionario Anticomunista, “Manifiesto al Pueblo de Guatemala,” frontera de Guatemala, noviembre 1950, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903348, Leg. “3348.”

112. Consejo Supremo del Movimiento Revolucionario Anticomunista, “Manifiesto al Ejército de Guatemala,” frontera de Guatemala, noviembre 1950, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903348, Leg. “3348.”

113. “Memorandum From the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, Central Intelligence Agency (King) to the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Wisner),” Document 2, Washington, January 11, 1952, in FRUS Guatemala.

114. Matthews, Herbert L., A World in Revolution: A Newspaperman's Memoir (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 262.

115. Luis F. Thomen a Rafael L. Trujillo, 05 mayo 1952, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903920 “Fechas extremas 1945-1953, Código 1320, 1330,” Exp. “1945-1953, Código 1330;” Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi a Rafael L. Trujillo, Managua, 21 julio 1952, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 2903958 “Fechas extremas 1939-1952, Ref. Antigua 2270,” Exp. “Nicaragua, Sec. Calderón, 1948-1952, Código 5/C.”

116. Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi a Rafael L. Trujillo, Managua, 10 septiembre 1952, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja 2903958, Exp. “Nicaragua.”

117. “Memorandum for the Record,” Document 23, Washington, October 8, 1952, in FRUS Guatemala.

118. See Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala, 95–96; Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 292–294; and Cullather, Secret History, 48–51.

119. “Memorandum for the Record,” Document 54, Washington, September 18, 1953, in FRUS Guatemala.

120. Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 289–294; Cullather, Secret History, 48–49, 70–71, 79–80.

121. “Cable to Director from (Deleted) Re Guatemala 1954 Coup,” Document 0000916049, May 1, 1954, CIA FOIA; “General-KUGOWN/PBSUCCESS-Specific-Guatemalan Exiles in Mexico (w/Attachment),” Document 0000917348, March 16, 1954, CIA FOIA.

122. Jorge Prieto Laurens, Cincuenta años de política mexicana: Memorias políticas (México: Editora Mexicana de Periódicos, Libros y Revistas, 1968).

123. “KUGOWN/Summit-Travel Report J. L. Arenas, Manuel Salazar (w/Attachment),” Document 0000923393, May 23, 1954, CIA FOIA; “El Diputado Guatemalteco Arenas Prepara Aquí una Junta Anticomunista,” Excelsior, 13 abril 1954, 714.00/4-2354, NARAII, RG59, DF714, M1527, Roll 2.

124. Ramón Brea Messina a Joaquín Balaguer, Cable 82, Tegucigalpa, 07 abril 1954; Joaquín Balaguer a Rafael Trujillo, Memorandum 1888, Ciudad Trujillo, 08 abril 1954, AGNRD, SERREE, Caja IT 3114906 “Embajada Dominicana en Honduras, Fechas extremas 1953-1994, Código 30127.”

125. Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 246–248, 304–308, 339–350; Cullather, Secret History; “Memorandum for the Record,” Document 55, Washington, September 25, 1953, in FRUS Guatemala.

126. “Instructions for (Deleted) During Mexico Trip in Preparation of Congress,” Document 0000923858, March 5, 1954, CIA FOIA.

127. Maurice M. Bernbaum, Aureliano Otañez, Memorandum of Conversation “Subject: Venezuelan-Guatemalan Exchange of Ambassadors,” Caracas, August 20, 1954, NARAII, RG84, “Venezuela, U.S. Legation & Embassy, Caracas, Classified General Records, 1935-1961,” Box 89, Folder “320: Venezuela and Guatemala, 1953.”

128. Maurice M. Bernbaum, Memorandum of Conversation “Subject: Conversation With A Reliable And Invariably Well Informed Source Regarding Venezuelan Relations In Central America,” Caracas, October 30, 1954, NARAII, RG59, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs/Office of Middle American Affairs, “Records Relating to El Salvador and Guatemala, 1942-1954,” Box 3, Folder “Guatemala, Political, International, Aug.-Dec. 1954.”

I would like to thank Michael Donoghue, Andrew Lannen, Asa McKercher, Margaret Power, Bevan Sewell, David Sheinin, James Siekmeier, and Dustin Walcher for their edits and suggestions on the article; Winfield Burggraaff, John Fishel, Dick Millett, Orlando Pérez, and others at the November 2014 Annual Conference of the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies in Panama City for their comments on a shorter version; and Fabián Herrera and others at the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Morelia for inviting me in March 2016 to present the research. I also thank the two anonymous reviewers with The Americas who gave invaluable edits. This research was supported by a Dissertation Year Fellowship from the Truman Library Institute, a Samuel Flagg Bemis Dissertation Research Grant from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the John Pine Memorial Scholarship from Phi Alpha Theta, and the James J. Hudson Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

Counterrevolutionary Friends: Caribbean Basin Dictators and Guatemalan Exiles against the Guatemalan Revolution, 1945–50

  • Aaron Coy Moulton (a1)

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