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Cold War 18 - Backyard 1954 - 1990

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Cold War

Episode Eighteen

Backyard 1954 - 1990

The Communist Party was never the center of the Communist movement in Guatemala until Jacobo Arbenz came to power in 1951. Prior to 1951, Communism lived within the urban labor forces in small study groups during 1944 to 1953 which it had a tremendous influences on these urban labor forces. Despite of its small size within Guatemala, many leaders were extremely vocal about their beliefs for instance, in their protests and more importantly the literature. In 1949 in Congress, the Communist party only had less than forty members, however, by 1953 it went up to nearly four thousand. Before Arbenz come to power in 1951, the Communist movement preferred to carry out many of their activities through the so-called mass organization. In addition to Arbenz success, Guatemalan Communist Party moved forward its activities into public.

After Jacobo Arbenz came to power in 1951, he extended political freedom, allowing Communists in Guatemala to participate in politics. This move by Arbenz let many opponents in Ubico’s regime to recognize themselves as Communists. By 1952, Arbenz supported a land reform, and took unused agricultural land, about 225000 acre, from owners who had large properties, and made it available to rural workers and farmers. These lands were to be taken from the United Fruit Company with compensation; however, the UFC believed the compensation was not enough. Meantime, Arbenz allowed the Communist Party to organize and include leaders among his adviser who were lefty. The propaganda that was led by United Fruits Company against the revolution in Guatemala persuaded the U.S. government to fight against communism in Guatemala. The United States clutched on small details to prove the existence of widespread Communism in Guatemala. The Eisenhower administration at the time in the U.S. were not happy about Arbenz's government, they considered Arbenz to be too close to Communism; there have been reports that Arbenz’s wife was a Communist and part of the Communist Party in Guatemala. Even though it was impossible for the U.S. to gather evidence and information about Guatemala’s relations to the Soviet Union, Americans wanted to believe that Communism existed in Guatemala. Many groups of Guatemalan exiles were armed and trained by the CIA, and commanded by Colonel Carlos Castillo Arms they invaded Guatemala on June 18 1954. The Americans called it an Anti-Communist Coup against Arbenz. The coup was supported by CIA radio broadcasts and so the Guatemalan army refused to resist the coup, Arbenz was forced to resign. In 1954 a military government replaced Arbenz' government and disbanded the legislature and they arrested communist leaders, Castillo Arms became president.

Arbenz proceeded to nationalize and redistribute un-utilized land owned by the United Fruit Company, which had a practical monopoly on Guatemalan fruit production and some industry. In response, United Fruit lobbied the Eisenhower administration to remove Arbenz. Of still greater importance, though, was the widespread American concern about the possibility of a so-called "Soviet beachhead" opening up in the Western Hemisphere. Arbenz's sudden legalization of the Communist party and importing of arms from then Soviet-satellite state of Czechoslovakia, among other events, convinced major policy makers in the White House and CIA to try for Arbenz's forced removal, although his term was to end naturally in two years. This led to a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1954, known as Operation PBSUCCESS, which saw Arbenz toppled and forced into exile by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. Despite most Guatemalans' attachment to the original ideals of the 1944 uprising, some private sector leaders and the military began to believe that Arbenz represented a Communist threat and supported his overthrow, hoping that a successor government would continue the more moderate reforms started by Arevalo. After the CIA coup, hundreds of Guatemalans were rounded up and killed.

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