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Coup In Guatemala

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The Political, Social, and Economic Situation Prior to the Coup

Prior to the coup, Guatemala was a poor, undeveloped country. Jacobo Arbenz was Guatemala's first president elected under universal-suffrage. In 1954, Arbenz proposed a social and economic reforms including redistribution of underutilized land holdings. Most of the land ownership was concentrated by the wealthy and the United Fruit Company of the United States. For example, "it is estimated that 2% of the country's population controlled 72% of all arable land in 1945, but only 12% of it was being utilized." ( There were a number of attempts to redistribute the land more equitably, especially land that was not being utilized by existing land owners. These land redistribution efforts were popular with the peasant class, but were against the interests of the land owning classes and certain U.S. corporate interests including the powerful United Fruit Company.


U.S. Goals and Actions Leading to the Coup

The United States' first and foremost goal was to prevent the spread and influence of communism in Latin America. A secondary goal was to recover lost property for the United Fruit Company. Leading up to the coup, the CIA used covert or discrete means to undermine the government of Arbenz. These measures included trying to organize an opposition and make use of rumors, pamphlets, poster campaigns, and radio broadcasts. In addition, they tried to isolate the government from the Guatemalan military. In 1954, after the United Fruit lands were nationalized, the U.S. State Department cut economic aid and trade with Guatemala. This action was devastating to the economy of Guatemala. The CIA also drew up a list of fifty-eight Guatemalan government leaders to be assassinated. CIA documents that were later declassified deleted the names of those individuals targeted for assassination, so it was not clear whether these plans were fully carried out.

The outcomes of the coup for the citizenry of the country

As a result of the coup, the land reforms were reversed and the land ended up again being concentrated in the hands of few. The government was destabilized and kept changing hands due to the coups and political assassinations. The political system never developed economically; there was never a middle ground because of the coup. The country was polarized and a series of military dictators and juntas replaced Arbenz. "Although Arbenz and his top ideas were able to flee the country, after the CIA installed Castillo Armas in power, hundreds of Guatemalans were rounded up and killed. Between 1954 and 1990, human rights groups estimate, the repressive operatives of successive military regimes



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