Brief history of the victims and the rebels
“They did not have a fire then and Tohil created it and gave it to them, and the peoples warmed themselves with it, feeling very happy for the heat it gave them. The fire was lighting and burning, when a great downpour and hail came that extinguished it” .
“My pilots are blond and blue-eyed,” former Guatemalan President Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes once said, “but that does not mean they are American.” The physical coincidence, in this country of Indians, was certainly not accidental. United States intervention in Guatemala’s internal affairs has long encompassed all fields. The imperialist presence in the country is, due to its harshness, exemplary: this is a stark model of the exploitation suffered by the tormented lands of the south of the Rio Grande. Guatemala is the awkwardly masked face of all Latin America; the face that exhibits the suffering and hope of these lands that are stripped of their wealth and the right to choose their destiny. In the United States, the President of Guatemala, sidentes and dictators in Guatemala are placed and removed from the United States; The economy is controlled from Wall Street, through investments, trade and credits; the army receives arms, training, and guidance from US officers who often participate personally in military operations within the country; the press and television depend heavily on the advertisements of foreign companies; officials and technicians of the United States Embassy or of “international” organizations exercise a parallel government that becomes unique when it comes to decisions; Coca-Cola has replaced natural fruit juices and the god of Protestants and Mormons competes with the Mayan deities, who have survived hidden behind Catholic altars. Dominance and exploitation of Guatemala as if it were an object of private property is certainly not new. It has acquired unique characteristics since 1954, because the criminal invasion that imperialism unleashed then has marked the present history of the country on fire. The fall of Árbenz was a decisive link in a long chain of attacks that neither started nor ended with it. The current situation could not be explained without taking into account the revolutionary process of the decade opened in 1944 and its tragic end: these storms come from those winds. The same forces that bombarded Guatemala City, Puerto Barrios, and Puerto San José at four in the afternoon on June 18, 1954, are in power today: they occupy, today, the royal power, behind the screens that lend them a civil regime that proclaims, hypocritically, heir to the defeated revolution. From that disaster onward, the demolished people were learning to rise up by other means: in the lost revolution there is also the key that explains the consolidation and development of the current guerrillas.
A new consciousness
The colony wanted to become a homeland: until 1944, the country had been a witness and victim, but not the protagonist, of its history. For a long time ago, the fate of Guatemala had been playing the luck of foreign currencies, on Wall Street or Washington or at the Pentagon headquarters. Led by university students and young nationalist army officers, the revolution broke out and ended the long reign of the dictator Ubico – an old general whose German-philosophical sympathies did not prevent him from serving the interests of American companies and whose proclaimed cult of honesty did not hinder his excellent relations with the local oligarchy.
This small country of illiterate and starving Indians stood on its feet: Arévalo and Árbenz, successively elected by popular vote, were to lead the difficult adventure of national affirmation. National, I say, in a sense that transcended the borders of Guatemala: from these governments came the best and most intense efforts to rebuild, on new bases, the lost Central American unity. Since Central America, like all of Latin America, has been torn apart by the borders that imperialism consolidated or invented to dominate it better, it will not be imperialism that reconstitutes the fractured large homeland:
from the original projects of Arévalo to the current Sieca (Central American Integration Secretariat), there is the same distance that separates the Alalc (Latin American Free Trade Association) from the dreams of Artigas or Bolívar. The so-called “Central American integration”, as it is being carried out, does not produce anything other than the disintegration of the weak national industries in the area, for the benefit of the integration of the businesses of foreign companies: operations are planned on a regional scale; Markets expanded and taxes and controls eliminated, imperialist looting takes new, more effective forms. Twenty years ago, the attempts of the Guatemalan revolution to group Central America politically and economically were aimed at overcoming the Balkanization of the area, for the benefit of the area itself; An attempt was made to give a common response to the common challenge of underdevelopment, to overcome fragmentation in order to overcome misery and backwardness. But the Odeca (Organization of Central American States), born out of those concerns in 1951, ended up becoming an enemy organization of the Guatemalan government: far from breaking the isolation of the popular revolution, it sharpened it. It was one of the catapults used by the United States to bomb and annihilate, after a long and terrible campaign, the Arbenz regime. La Sieca is, nowadays, a worthy heir to that Odeca.
The Central American projections of the Guatemalan revolution could not crystallize except through other revolutions that did not occur. From its small neighboring countries, ruled by straw men from United Fruit or by dictators for life, Guatemala received nothing but hostility or indifference. But the revolution began and continued its course within borders, until it was finally crushed by CIA-prepared troops in Honduras and Nicaragua. His conquests are still very much alive in the memory of the people. A vigorous education plan was launched; rural and urban workers organized into unions, protected by the Labor Code. The United Fruit Co., a state within the state, owner of the land, rail and port, exempt from taxes and free of controls, ceased to be omnipotent in its vast properties. The new labor and social security laws made possible the development of the internal market, by increasing the purchasing power and living standards of workers. Through the construction of highways and the creation of the port of San José, in the Pacific, the monopoly that United Fruit exercised over transport and commerce was broken. Ambitious economic development projects were launched, such as the country’s electrification works, promoted with national capital. “In Guatemala we have not received loans, because we know very well that, when dollars are received with the right hand, sovereignty is given with the left,” Arévalo had said, an Arévalo at that time very different from the one that would end up advising armed intervention against the Cuban Revolution.
Guatemala was beginning to demonstrate, in the eyes of all Latin America, that a country can break underdevelopment, come out of misery, without humiliating itself as a beggar at the gates of the Empire. There was a new Constitution, which for the first time was not a cheating rhetoric written by the doctors behind the backs of its people, and there was, above all, a new conscience: the obstacles gave Guatemala the certainty of its newborn strength. The descendants of the Mayans were rescuing a sense of dignity that had been badly hurt since the times when they had been crushed by the Spanish conquest. On June 17, 1952, the Árbenz government approved the land reform law. On leaving the government, in his farewell speech, Arévalo had revealed that his administration had had to circumvent thirty-two coups d’etat promoted by the United Fruit Co. The agrarian reform was too much: it was an unbearably dangerous example for Latin America. The North American embassy decided that the Árbenz government smelled strongly of communism and represented a danger to the security of the Hemisphere10. It was not the first time that a bourgeois nationalist regime with a vocation for independence was described as such. Neither Arévalo nor Árbenz intended, by the way, the socialization of the means of production and exchange: the agrarian reform law set as essential objective “Develop the peasant capitalist economy and the capitalist economy of agriculture in general”. The other measures taken by both governments were oriented to the same end. This “confusion” would not be the last, as demonstrated by the blood spilled in other countries in the following years. The good health of North American investments south of the Rio Grande and the power policy of the United States in its natural area of influence they are based on sacred economic and social structures that determine that in Latin America more than one child dies per minute of illness or hunger. Whoever touches those structures commits sacrilege: scandal breaks out.
A crushing international propaganda campaign was launched against Guatemala. From there comes the plague, it was said: “The Iron Curtain is descending on Guatemala”. In the first months of 1954, more than a hundred thousand families had already benefited from the agrarian reform, which only affected unproductive land and paid compensation, in bonds, to the expropriated owners. United Fruit only cultivated 8% of its land extended to both oceans: its immense wastelands began to be distributed among poor peasants who were preparing to work them. The president of United Fruit warned in a confidential interview: “From now on, it will no longer be about the people of Guatemala against United Fruit Co .; the issue will become the case of communism against the property, life and security rights of the Western Hemisphere. ” The OAS met to grant its blessing to the invasion that the CIA was preparing against Guatemala. Among the outraged Democrats who raised their hands to condemn the Arbenz regime at the Caracas Conference, were then the representatives of the bloodiest dictators in the history of the continent, living guarantees stability from Latin America: Batista, Somoza, Trujillo, Pérez Jiménez, Rojas Pinilla, Odría: even now, so much added corruption would break any computer that proposed to measure it. “We had no doubts or hopes,” Guatemalan Foreign Minister Toriello would write later on about the Conference. That was the last time, already on the eve of the agony, that Guatemala was able to raise its voice to express the independent foreign policy that had been born with the revolution and died with it: in Chapultepec, in San Francisco, in Rio de Janeiro, in Bogotá. And in many other European and American cities it had resounded with enough force and with enough courage that the United States considered the insolence of that small country inadmissible.
The OAS gave its approval and the military officer on duty, Castillo Armas, a graduate from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, brought down his troops trained and paid by the United States over Guatemala. The invasion, backed by the bombardment of F-47s piloted by American “volunteers”, triumphed. Cornered by the enemy, betrayed by the military leaders whom he trusted to the end, Árbenz did not want, perhaps could not, fight. That tragic night of 1954, the people listened to the recorded text of their resignation on the radio, not the expected proclamation of resistance11. The same would happen, later, with other leaders of similar movements in Latin America: populist leaders or presidents with reformist intentions of a bourgeois nationalist character would end their days in power leaving him without blood; frightened, perhaps, by the contradictions that had been unleashed and fearing that they would be overwhelmed by the popular forces that had set in motion, neither Perón, nor Bosch, nor Goulart gave arms to the workers for the defense of their regimes faced with the challenge of successive military coups .
Shortly after the invasion of Guatemala, it was officially recognized from Washington that the crime machinery had been assembled, oiled, and put into operation by American hands. It was a nice little CIA job: one of its managers, General Walter Bedell Smith, joined the United Fruit board a year later, in one of whose chairs Allen Dulles, by then number one man in the Central Intelligence Agency. His brother, John Foster Dulles, had been the most impatient of the foreign ministers at the OAS meeting. It is explained: the drafts of the contracts that United Fruit signed with the government of Guatemala in 1930 and 1936 had been drafted on his lawyer’s desk.
Castillo Armas fulfilled its mission. He returned the expropriated idle land to United Fruit and other landowners and handed over the 4,600,000-hectare subsoil, almost half of the country, to the international oil cartel. The Petroleum Code was drafted in English and reached Congress in English: it was translated into Spanish at the request of a deputy who still had a trace of shame. The revolution had refused to deliver oil, despite the pressures exerted during its decade in office. “Who do you keep that oil for?” “For Guatemala,” Arevalo had replied to a Standard Oil agent. Today, the cartel keeps in reserve, without exploiting them, the fields where oil has been detected, a policy that is also practiced in other Latin American countries.
Castillo Armas ruled with blood and fire. He closed down opposition newspapers, which had functioned freely in Arbenz’s time, and sent democratic political militants and union and student leaders to prison, mass grave or exile. At last he himself was assassinated. Eisenhower mourned his death: “It is a great loss for his own country and for the entire free world,” he said. After new annulled elections and a short-lived military junta, General Ydígoras Fuentes won the presidency. Before the Castillo Armas invasion, Ydígoras himself had been invited by the CIA to lead the expedition. Now he himself says that he rejected the offer: interviewed by the journalist Georgie Anne Geyer in San Salvador, Ydígoras says that, as soon as he won the elections, he was approached by four CIA men who threatened to retaliate if he did not pay the balance of the debt of three million dollars that Castillo Armas had contracted to finance his invasion tinged with Gloria.
Ydígoras ratified with his signature an unconstitutional and shameful agreement of guarantees to foreign investments established or to come, which later served as a model for other Latin American governments with ideas no less doubtful about national dignity. He also made his own essay on land reform – with such unique characteristics that only large landowners benefited, as established in a recent official report. It was Ydígoras who offered Guatemalan land for the training of the forces that launched the assault on the Cuban beaches in April 1961, in exchange for some pledges of aid to his government. But his business with the CIA did not stop being ruinous, but he still complains, bitterly, that the United States did not comply with the terms of the agreement and says that he obtained the sugar quota he had been promised only when he threatened to boycott. the conferences of the Alliance for Progress.