Guatemala, United Fruit Company, President Arbenz discussed on Stuff You Missed in History Class
Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm I'm Tracy v Wilson and I'm holly FRY welcome to our two part episode about the time the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated a coup to overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala in part one we even overview of US policy as it related to Central America especially in particular we talked about how evolved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries we also talked about United Fruit company and how it came to be a major player in Guatemala and elsewhere elsewhere and then we took a very brief look at Guatemala's history up to the presidency of Juan Jose Array below who made just sweeping reforms in Guatemala after being elected president after the October Revolution. That was a lot to cover. I strongly recommend listening depart one before listening to this episode because that recap is just the tip of the iceberg for an episode that also is a tip slightly larger tip of the iceberg at this point. United Company was Guatemala's largest employer and its largest single landowner and it had a monopoly on the banana industry united through company also controlled the railroad in the port and the utilities and United Fruit Company thought all of these changes that the array below administration had made were threatening its business and we'll talk about today the CIA increasingly thought they were evidence of a Communist threat that needed to be dealt with as we mentioned in part art one Juan Jose at Lowe's administration started to struggle in its later years he faced increasing criticism especially from Guatemala's elite and he weathered multiple tokuda attempts one of his most vocal critics increasingly became Colonel Francisco Arana Arana had served in the military during the Biko Administration and had had been part of the coup that overthrew his interim successor General Federico Ponce he had also been part of the military junta that had temporarily run Guatemala during being part of the October Revolution from there he had become a rave lows chief of the armed forces but Rana increasingly disagreed with a lot Arabia's labor reforms. He finally resigned his position so that he could run for president wants. A rebel is term was up and he also threatens to launch a coup telling the president that he would be overthrown from office if he did not dismiss his whole cabinet and replace them with men on his choosing after he did this array below informed his advisors of this plot and they all agreed that are on should be exiled what happened next is actually not entirely clear but on. July Eighteenth Nineteen Forty Nine Arana was ambushed and killed at Avalon had given the order that he be apprehended and honest key rival for the Presidency Colonel Huck Akobo Arbenz Guzman also knew about the order but it is not clear whether a revolu ordered on a captured or killed who fired the first shot shot when it happened or exactly what our Benz knew about what was going on regardless there. This was an incredibly fragile moment for Guatemala's new democracy be an uprising spread through Guatemala City which involved around US military supporters about one hundred and fifty people were killed in two hundred were wounded before the government regained control the United States also became a lot more wary of Guatemala's government and of Huckabee Arbenz so did United Fruit company and the following May United Fruit company lobbyists. Thomas Corcoran held his first meeting to discuss a US overthrow of the presidency corker later became United Fruit company's liaison to the CIA on November Eleventh Nineteen Fifty Huckabee Arbenz was elected president of Guatemala. He got sixty five percent percent of the vote he took office in Nineteen fifty one and he started trying to build on April lows earlier work and to solidify the changes that had already been made his administration also started trying to get out from under United Fruit company's multiple monopolies by building a Newport and a new highway to it and a new you electric plant yeah so even though there had been a all of this questionable like possible assassination previously like the the the fact that there was supposed to be a democratic election and that it did happen there was a peaceful transition of power was still a really important moment and Guatemalan History Arbenz bins also started trying to make the land reform that array below had started go even further many of those new policies and programs had mostly affected the Guatemalan middle-class they had not as much affected the lives of the country's poorest agricultural workers. Arbenz thought the key to improving these people's People's circumstances was a land redistribution program which would put more of the country's uncultivated land directly into the hands of people who could farm it themselves selves at this point seventy percent of the land in Guatemala was controlled by two percent of the population of all the land that was being controlled by major landowners. There's only one quarter of it was actually being used to grow anything. United Fruit company was the largest single landowner in Guatemala controlling forty percent of the arable land but only cultivating ten to fifteen percent of it on top of that in retaliation for the changes in the Guatemalan government United Fruit company had started laying office workers and refusing to rebuild banana plantations that had been damaged in storms unless the government restored its earlier concessions in addition to being in Guatemala's single largest landowner. It was also Guatemala's largest single employer. Two thirds of Guatemala's population was involved in agriculture alter in some way as well so this whole pattern of land ownership where huge landowners were owning a lot of land but not growing anything on it was contributing you you all kinds of problems. Including poverty and malnutrition United Fruit company and others claimed that they needed this additional uncultivated land is basically a backup in case of a major crop failure but they're critics claimed that this uncultivated surplus was way more than they could possibly ever need our benzes plan to fix this was decree nine hundred which went into effect on June twenty-seventh nineteen fifty to land owners who had more than six hundred acres of uncultivated land were required to sell it to the Guatemalan government in exchange for twenty five year interest bearing bonds the tax value of the land as of May nineteen fifty fifty two was used to determine the selling price so smaller farms under two hundred twenty three acres were exempt from this and so we're farms that were between two hundred twenty any three and six hundred seventy acres that were at least two-thirds cultivated farms that we're fully cultivated were also unaffected. No matter how large the farm was is the terms of this law actually required Arbenz to relinquish some of his own land and someone else affected was gear theriault who became Arbenz as foreign minister canister government owned land used to grow coffee was also completely redistributed during this program as well the relinquish land would then be distributed to landless endless people in Forty two point five Acre plots either so they would own it outright or so that they would hold it for their lifetime in the latter case the land couldn't couldn't pass directly to their ears but their descendants would get preferential treatment when decisions were made about the land after their death people who owned the land outright would pay five five percent of their annual crop value to the government and people who held it in a lifetime tenure would pay three percents this law also established committees that people who thought thought they were entitled to Land Could Petition and the committee would review their case and make a decision every case had to be decided within six weeks of submission which was totally different from operating under the more dicta to`real government where you could ask for something and then it would never happen or be addressed. A subsequent law also established a National Agrarian Bank to issue fixed rate loans to land recipients to help them get their farms started started while this program was in effect one point five million acres of land were distributed to about one hundred thousand families in Guatemala. This was probably between twenty and twenty five percent of the people who were eligible the National Agrarian Bank and its newly established credit agency had approved more than eleven million dollars in loons an average of two hundred twenty five dollars per applicant in the fall of nineteen fifty-three the Guatemalan embassy reported that it's corn production had increased east by fifteen percent rice by seventy two percent and wheat by twenty one percent with much of the increase attributed to the small farms started. Thanks to decree cree nine hundred hits harder to track actually how this affected overall domestic crops and export crops because this this this did not last very long this program didn't so it does seem like that there were more crops that stayed in the country domestically and fewer crops crafts that were exported for that first year but some of that was also accounted for because of weather that affected coffee production like it's really complicated but overall it does seem like people were using this land for what it was supposed to be for which was growing crops for themselves in addition more than half of Guatemala's population relation was indigenous at this point with most but not all of them belonging to one of more than Twenty Different Maya groups and digital people made up the large majority already of landless rural people so this program was returning land Guatemala's native people for the first time since the Spanish conquest as was is the case with earlier new programs. This wasn't perfect. There were cases of people who wanted more land than they were allotted or who had not been allotted land commandeering. Liam they weren't entitled to there were also overzealous committees that seemed to want to settle the score after decades of being exploited by large landowners who allotted Moorland Orleans and was really allowed and it does appear that Guatemala's Latino population received disproportionately more land allotments than other ethnic groups overall. Although this system gave previously landless people the opportunity to try to become self sufficient farmers and in nineteen fifty four the Guatemalan government also rolled out a literacy Orissa program in these same rural areas hoping to help the people who had received this land become better able to manage it themselves long-term two-thirds of the lambs it was seized during all this belonged to United Fruit company which felt like it was being unfairly targeted by decree nine hundred on top of that the payment that was offered to united fruit was far less than the market value of the land sources reported as either six hundred and thirty thousand dollars or about a million dollars this was because the the company had been artificially undervaluing its land for tax purposes and reported tax value was what was being used to determine the payment nevertheless the the US government on behalf of United Fruit Company demanded a much higher payment of fifteen point nine million yes so basically United Fruit company when he was mad about a problem they made for themselves in this situation they finally there loophole finally got discovered and caught and exploited by someone else not even exploited uh-huh but like applied in another one and then and then it hurt yes so has had been the case with so many of the array below oh administration's reforms the United States and United Fruit company criticized this whole land distribution program as communism and to be clear this this policy was influenced by Guatemala's Communist Party which was called the Guatemalan Workers Party or which lines up with how that translates into Spanish one of the advisors who had helped draft decree nine hundred was Jose Manuel for -Tuni- who was our benzes friend and also the general secretary decree nine hundred had also been passed with the support of the Communist Party which are Benz had legalized after becoming President Arbenz maintained that the communist presence in the Guatemalan government was small all and that he himself was dedicated to capitalism and democracy one of the stated goals of decree nine hundred was to allow previously landless people to become part of the capitalist economy and to improve Guatemala's capitalist economy overall and it doesn't appear that the PG had connections to the.