Latin American strategy helped shape U.S. authorities’ reaction to progressive developments at the climax of the Cold War

This paper analyzes how Latin American strategy helped shape U.S. authorities’ reaction to progressive developments at the climax of the Cold War. It clarifies the striking differentiation between U.S. support of the Bolivian upheaval and the significant threat with comparative liberal patriot developments in Guatemala. In spite of the fact that U.S. policymakers stressed that “Communists” were invading the Bolivian Government, Bolivian representatives persuaded the Eisenhower organization to help their unrest. The discussion shows that notwithstanding amid the pinnacle of McCarthyism, United States policymakers’ vision stretched out some long ways past Cold War fanaticism. This vision joined an inconspicuous if eventually conflicting, energy about the energy of patriotism, a desire to advance formative radicalism, and want for hemispheric administration paying little respect to key and ideological rivalry with the Soviet Union. United States authorities were anxious to misuse the developing power of nationalism in the third world and utilize it to reinforce the “inter-American framework.”


The Bolivian revolutionaries exhibited their political task as copacetic to Washington’s broader local objectives, and along these lines figured out how to secure a significant opportunity of development to keep on pursuing a radical progressive plan and statist program of improvement, financed and empowered by several million in U.S. help dollars. Nor was Arbenz a communist, however he declined to disassociate himself from the communists publically. At first, this could be clarified away as political practicality by U.S. authorities with dreams of a more agreeable association with the political driving forces behind the Guatemalan insurgency. Maybe above all, the very act of overthrowing Arbenz while continuing to wield substantial influence on its client regimes made the notion of a U.S. appeal to the “authentic revolution” or “leftist nationalism a very tall order indeed.


The Eisenhower organization had ended up being amazingly adaptable to Bolivia’s conduct inside the inter- American framework; however, its reaction to the Guatemalan revolution showed the fundamental idea of that context. The Arbenz government challenged the U.S. by straightforwardly safeguarding the multiplication of communist thoughts and socialist lawmakers in places of energy, against Washington’s unequivocal solicitations. This principled resistance proceeded with long after the U.S. had chosen Arbenz must be expelled, and on the off chance that anything Guatemalan talk began to increase despite developing U.S. weight. Arbenz invited communists into the administering coalition government in January 1953, and charged the U.S. with utilizing anticommunist talk to cover its financial dominion for the benefit of the interests of United Fruit, incidentally affirming U.S. doubts of socialist impact in Guatemala simultaneously. Guatemala additionally made the single choice against an anti-communist determination at the Organization of American States’ meeting in Caracas: a determination comprehended to give a finish of legitimateness to a looming U.S. intercession.

Scarcely three months after the fact, Castillo Armas would lead a little unexpected of furnished outcasts to attack Guatemala, given last consent by the CIA after Guatemala had been discovered endeavoring to purchase arms from Czechoslovakia. The attack was no military danger all alone, however, its implied bolster from the U.S. driven the Guatemalan army to request Arbenz’ acquiescence, preparing for Castillo Armas to take control and fix the changes of the revolution. The CIA wondered about its power, Guatemala rapidly tumbled off of Washington’s radar, and the nation came back to administer by a thin arrangement of financial and military elites who pursued progressively savage battles against the Guatemalan left for the rest of the century. The majority rule, redistributive and revolutionary hopes for the age of 1944 had been broken, and it would take until the 1990s and more than 100,000 lives previously the universal war conceived of the political clashes powered by the U.S. intercession would move towards resolution.

Or, on the other hand, so the story goes. However, this outstanding account disregards some critical realities about U.S. approach towards Guatemala, while additionally exhibiting an important contrast between the conciliatory situating of Bolivia and Guatemala opposite their efficient Northern neighbor and its more extensive hemispheric plan. The Arbenz government’s crime in the eyes of the U.S. authorities had its underlying foundations more in its determined resistance of Washington and its vision of the inter-American framework, and less in distraction with the Cold War and one-sided anticommunism. By analyzing the Caracas conference through the eyes of Bolivian negotiators, it turns out to be clear how the MNR government’s way to deal with the United States was on an elementary level unique in relation to Guatemala’s, even as the MNR grasped regular reason with the Arbenz government on land reform and communicated no little level of distrust in regards to U.S. aims for Caracas.

Arbenz comes to control

Arbenz’s relationship with communism, clear and stressing to some in Congress, the State Department and the Press, was as yet unclear to numerous U.S. authorities in the mid-1950s. Undersecretary of State James E. Webb even went so far as to guarantee that there were “no communists in Guatemala” as Arbenz came to power. Like early examinations of Fidel Castro, the level of communist effect on him and his legislature was indistinct in the underlying years to numerous in Washington: it was simply after the U.S. endeavored to overthrow these pioneers utilizing Cold War rationales that this story wound up noticeably dug in and all around acknowledged in official thinking.15 But back amid 1950-52, however, Arbenz was upbraiding local anticommunists and “foreign interests” (United Fruit), utilizing similar rhetoric to the PGT, the Embassy additionally depicted Arbenz as advocating “capitalist” and “progressive” positions, and inviting outside capital.

These investigations of Arbenz’ middle of the road, pragmatic non-communist leftism appeared to be astoundingly like talk encompassing the Bolivian president, a figure who was at first significantly more stressing to US spectators than Arbenz as president. Both had an ideological liking for Marxism. However, the State Department emphasized that the MNR contained pro-capitalist and moderate inclinations moreover. Paz and original MNR pioneers, as Arbenz, appeared to be “ascertaining and inspired by political survival.” But not at all like Arbenz, Paz had computed that political survival was “needy upon financial survival, and financial survival is subject to the United States. Subsequently, the not so distant for Bolivia according to handy government officials must be connected to the United States and not the Soviet Union.” Paz concurred with their investigation: contending to a crowd of supporters in La Paz “we require dollars for our subsistence.”

The similarities between the two movements did not end there. Both, directing Marx, advocated land reform to transform their countries from the “feudal” to the “modern and capitalist.” Both nationalized U.S.- claimed property. Both exhibited resistance of communists, however, the Guatemalans were at first substantially more hesitant than the MNR to take part in a clampdown on their rivals to one side in the press. Both expressly observed their unrests as against radical and as motivation for others and looked to advance the spread of transformation, land reform, and rights for indigenous Latin Americans through word and deed.

However, as this exposition has contended, these political objectives were not inconsistent with U.S. dominion. Leftist nationalism incited some indecision, and worries for the U.S., no doubt. In 1950 charge d’affairs Milton Wells kept up that “even should the communists vanish from the administrative scene, Leftist nationalism would stay to convey forward the 1944 revolution, and, presumably, will deliver its amount of issues for United States-Guatemalan relations” But leftist nationalism likewise energized numerous authorities as a critical world authentic power and vital partner, both exposed to the harsh elements War and in U.S. endeavors to keep up its hemispheric leadership. Though both Guatemala and Bolivia needed to spread insurgency, land reform and social majority rules system over the district, the ways they approached accomplishing these points were particularly unique. Their discretionary methodologies showed a pivotal contrast in their dispositions towards the United States and its position as hegemonic arbiter of adequate conduct inside the inter-American framework. Therefore, it was not only “disentangled” U.S. “attributions” of expectation to these developments, however strong contrasts inside their political way to deal with U.S. control that decided how the Eisenhower organization would respond to progressives in Guatemala and Bolivia. These distinctions were apparent at the tenth inter-American conference at Caracas, where the Bolivians and Guatemalans would grasp comparative causes, however, verbalize their help for those reasons in altogether different ways.

Overthrowing Arbenz

Despite some initial enthusiasm for the incoming president, Arbenz quickly disappointed the U.S. officials. His landmark land reform, enacted by presidential decree 900, distributed large plots of uncultivated land to landless tenant farmers, in a country where 2.2 percent of the population owned 70 percent of the nation. In doing so, Arbenz clashed with the U.S. corporation United Fruit, which controlled vast swathes of Guatemala’s arable land and kept much of it fallow. Lobbied intensively by United Fruit, the U.S. government became increasingly worried by the presence of communists within the Arbenz administration, and put increasing pressure on Arbenz to distance himself from what they saw as dangerous radicals that might begin to pave the way towards Soviet influence in Guatemala.

On purpose of rule, the Guatemalan government dismissed the very thought that the United States had any business in deciding the way of its local changes or the interior political flow of its administration: rule that were as far as anyone knows cherished in the Good Neighbor Policy, and the OAS contract settled upon in Bogota in 1948. U.S. authorities were less keen on these purposes of the guideline and more worried about the Guatemalan refusal to consider important their nerves seeing the impact of socialism as a potential vehicle for infringing Soviet impact. The Guatemalan government was unwilling to acknowledge the necessary preface of what was in question for the U.S. This implied the revolution couldn’t be viewed as a capable individual from the U.S.- drove inter-American system. The Guatemalans were determined to attempting to explain an alternate form of Pan-Americanism, one that rejected anticommunism as a cover for conservative governments focused on quieting difference and weight for redistributive change, and one progressively free from the United States. Arbenz had tried to utilize the Central American provincial association, ODECA (the Organización de Estados Centroamericanos) to advance the policies and values of the revolution: majority rule government, land reform; and to advocate for the advancement of a freer foreign strategy line looking for a typical “meaning of aggression.”

Guatemala’s objectives for ODECA demonstrated hard to accomplish, given that nations, for example, Nicaragua and Honduras kept on being ruled by conservative military governments associated to the United States and antagonistic to Guatemala’s land reform. Potential partners in majority rule Costa Rica additionally demonstrated slippery, with President Jose Figueres in Costa Rica hesitant to adjust himself to measures that may destabilize the region. Frustrated by the absence of footing in the association, the Arbenz government chose to pull back from ODECA in April 1953. This choice stuck in the memory of Eisenhower and is a primary reason he gave in his memoirs for the decision to oppose Arbenz. Guatemala was separating from regional associations on terms that the United States saw as especially difficult of its plan and authority.

In the weeks after the Guatemalan withdrawal from ODECA John Moors Cabot, Undersecretary of State for between American undertakings and a keen supporter of the Bolivian insurgency went by Guatemala and had a group of people with President Arbenz. He made the U.S. position plain to the president, clarifying, “I am not trying to interfere in your internal affairs, but you have got to make a choice. You have either to cooperate with us, or you can cooperate with communism, but you cannot do both. If you want any cooperation from us you have to make a clean break with the communists and no fooling.” communism had turned into the staying point in relations between the two nations, and “it was very evident that he was not set up to settle on that decision right now,” as Cabot disclosed to Congress on May 22nd upon his arrival. But, Cabot demanded that “the circumstance isn’t sad despite the fact that it is awful.” He explained, reverberating other State Department authorities.

Arbenz was not a communist, but instead, he was publically challenging U.S. solicitations by distancing himself from the communists. His violations were not those of a masking communist shill, but instead of a principled patriot who declined to acknowledge the U.S. vision of the inter-American system. Anti-communist must be recognized on a fundamental level, mainly when the United States demanded it. However, this was not an instance of a perplexity of nationalism and communism, yet an enunciation of how one could be controlled by the other. Given his view of the Arbenz government’s uncompromisingly free state of mind, Eisenhower taught the CIA to start intending to evacuate Arbenz in the late spring of 1953. This choice was a genuine advance and stamped how far relations had fallen between the two nations. Be that as it may, this decision was not irreversible and there was much in the discretionary domain still to play for. Far as with the organization’s states of mind towards Castro amid 1959, policymakers saw clear contrasts between the non-communist nationalism of Arbenz, and however his government seemed dangerously susceptible to communist influence, he still had the potential to alter course.

The U.S. sought to implement an anticommunist resolution at the inter-American conference scheduled for Caracas in March 1954. The administration did this to send a clear message to the Guatemalans, particularly the military, which had already defeated an abortive exiles invasion at Salamá the previous year: The United States was willing to use its considerable power to bring about a change in government in Guatemala. The new resolution also gave the United States, in the view of its diplomats, a modicum of legality and legitimacy while enforcing regional solidarity behind any upcoming change in Guatemala’s government.

The Bolivian government understood the stakes at Caracas. Foreign Minister Guevara argued to his colleagues that the Eisenhower administration saw the Arbenz government’s refusal to hove to the US line on communism represented a “test of inter-American regionalism,” which would, in turn, have implications for the U.S.’ other regional defense organizations, such as SEATO. At the same time, the Bolivian Foreign Ministry wanted to emphasize to the rest of the world that Bolivia could “contribute to the inter-American system.” The U.S. demanded adherence to its hegemonic leadership, and its desire to police acceptable behavior within it, but the Bolivians still saw an opening for pan-American diplomacy “helping to foster democratic institutions,” “social justice” and “individual liberty.” And there might even be the possibility of aligning with the Guatemalan government at Caracas to achieve this.

Some accounts of the MNR’s relationship to the Arbenz regime emphasize that the Bolivian government was primarily isolated from the Guatemalan revolution. These narratives hold that the MNR sought common cause with Guatemala only briefly in March and April of 1953 as a product of “frustration” with the United States. At that time Washington was proving unwilling to grant aid and a more comprehensive tin contract, and the MNR was becoming increasingly desperate for funds. But identification and cooperation with the Guatemalans went beyond temporary frustration or as a negotiation tactic. The MNR sought identification with the Guatemalan revolution from the first moments of the revolution to the last months of the Arbenz administration and displayed this enthusiasm at the Caracas conference even as it voted for the anticommunist resolution that would help undermine the Guatemalan government.

During preparations for the conference, the Bolivian foreign ministry was well aware of regional sympathies for the Guatemalan government in the face of a U.S.-backed anticommunist resolution designed to undermine Guatemala’s position in the region. The Ministry asked its ambassadors in neighboring countries to “find out discreetly” if other governments supported Guatemala, and if so could they contemplate supporting the Guatemalans at Caracas? The Cabinet and Foreign Ministry also discussed the likely domestic political fallout, mainly from organized labor, should the Bolivians be seen to be cooperating with the U.S. against Guatemala.

Guatemala’s scrutinizes of U.S. control as complicit with exploitative organizations and dominion appeared to propose that the Arbenz government had become tied up with Soviet and comrade purposeful publicity and its contentions against US control in the area. Toriello seemed to have satisfied the forecasts of Thomas Corcoran, United Fruit’s PR executive and former brain truster for FDR, who had accentuated: “at whatever point you read ‘United Fruit’ in Communist purposeful publicity you may promptly substitute ‘Joined States. The MNR administration, in its ‘semi-official ‘ daily paper La Nación, made it clear amid their “propaganda campaign” in the US that they wished to spread revolutionary “by example” while “regarding sovereignty.” xxxx Modifiers like these made the MNR appear to be more dependable individuals from the hemispheric framework to any semblance of Milton Eisenhower, who showed “uncommon comprehension and sensitivity” for the MNR and unbridled energy for its program of land reform. Arbenz did not believe such enthusiasm was possible, seeing US hegemony as dominated by the desire to support US monopolies seeking to quash Guatemalan economic nationalism, and attempted to continue to support efforts to create more democratic, prosperous and just societies covertly and overtly, but outside of U.S. auspices. As U.S.

Arbenz’s government underestimated the potential reach of U.S. hegemony but also misunderstood its fundamental purpose. The United States demanded symbolic deference to its leadership within the regional system, and Arbenz failed to satisfy this requirement. In fact, his government increasingly represented an outright challenge to Washington’s narratives about the nature of the Cold War and the community of interest in the Western hemisphere. One Guatemalan government official told New York Herald-Tribune journalist A. T. Steele that “communism is your problem, not ours.” In such a climate, Arbenz’ refusal to eject communists from his governing coalition presented a strong challenge to U.S. hegemony. After the communists entered coalition government in January 1953, Arbenz proceeded to lead the Guatemalan parliament in a minute’s silence for the death of Stalin, withdrew from ODECA, and rejected the right of the United States to interfere with national sovereignty and the “will of the people” whilst castigating its subservience to the United Fruit Company. Guatemalan Vice President Estrada believed “if we are called communists because our principles are derived from the popular will, then it is not our fault.”

Such attitudes betrayed the fact that the Guatemalan government did not respect U.S. views on communism within the inter-American system, which in turn displayed a lack of respect for the United States as the arbiter of acceptable behavior in the region. The Guatemalan government seemed remarkably unconcerned at the prospect of U.S. intervention until very late in the day, according to the Mexican Communist party, Guatemalan newspaper El Imparcial and journalist Clemente Marroquin Rojas. As the purpose of the United States became, clear Arbenz did make some efforts to satisfy Washington. Arbenz tried to explain to the ambassador Puerifoy that “there were some Communists in his Government…but they were ‘local.’[They] Followed Guatemalan, not Soviet interests. They went to Moscow merely to study Marxism, not necessarily to get instructions.” Given Guatemala’s continued defiance of direct requests from the U.S., these explanations very late in the day were insufficient to alter U.S. perceptions. The Bolivians, sensitive to the travails of non-recognition the MNR government had suffered in the 1940s, anticipated this problem and addressed it to a much greater extent, albeit more rhetorically than substantively.


As their joint positions on land reform help uncover, Bolivia and Guatemala exhibited a typical plan and wellsprings of political inspiration and support, yet their states of mind and conduct towards U.S. dominion were extraordinary. U.S. Strategy towards Guatemala and Bolivia in the 1950s showed that there was coherency to U.S. strategy, yet not construct principally in light of anticommunism. The Bolivians were not compelling anticommunists, but instead exhibited emblematic adherence to the thought that it was an essential reason for the side of the equator as a whole. Neither was Arbenz, a communist, however, he declined to disassociate himself from the communists publically. At first, this could be clarified away as a political convenience by U.S. authorities with dreams of a more important association with the political driving forces behind the Guatemalan revolution. In the end, be that as it may, his stubborn resistance from U.S. impedance in Guatemalan domestic politics was progressively recalibrated as bullish autonomy which boded ill for hemispheric solidarity under Washington’s authority.

This isn’t to recommend that Castillo Armas and Arbenz were cut from the same political cloth, a long way from it. The vital point is that the United States trusted that both could be co-selected into North American hegemony along comparative lines. U.S. policy endeavored to shape both into partners they could depend upon, yet also be pleased to be related with: examples to the more extensive area of the American brand of advance and the advantages of collaboration with Washington. That rhetoric was self-serving and stressed past credibility, but it remains vital to understand nonetheless. To appeal to leftist nationalism, and demonstrate its benevolent hegemony U.S. officials needed compliant leaders willing to express symbolic deference the United States. U.S. officials also required cooperation from Congress to supply the aid dollars to maintain their influence, and a competence and political legitimacy that the Castillo Armas government lacked. Maybe, in particular, the very demonstration of overthrowing Arbenz while proceeding to employ significant impact on its clients’ regimes made the idea of a U.S. offer to the “bona fide upheaval” or “leftism nationalism a complicated request for sure. In any case, it was regardless a request that policymakers and authorities wished to satisfy, and this desire was exploited by the MNR in ways that the successive Guatemalan administrations in the 1950s proved unable. The Arbenz government, by contrast, looked to seek after comparative approaches to the MNR while compellingly and straightforwardly dismissing North American interference in Latin American domestic strategy and policy.

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