The 1954 Guatemalan Coup Part 1


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Were going to be talking about something. That's still has a lot of relevance in the world today and that is the nineteen fifty four coup that overthrew overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala which was orchestrated by the US Central Intelligence Agency. It's not really accurate to say the this caused the coup but one of its biggest advocates in the United States was United Fruit company. Sometimes they'll see it described as like United Fruit company when he convinced the CIA government and that's exactly what happened it also didn't happen in isolation this was rooted in Cold War. We're paranoia about communism and it was also part of an overall pattern of US intervention in Latin America and overall pattern of US business interests trying to influence the governments of those nations so today we will have an overview of how the United States relationship to Latin America evolved over the nineteenth nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This definitely is not every twist and turn of those decades. It's more like a through line to put the stuff in context plus stuff. That's GonNa Kinda it come up later in the episodes and we'll talk about how United Fruit company came to be such a major player in Guatemala in the first place and what was happening in Guatemala that that caused the United Fruit company to be opposed to it the next time the second part of this tea party. We will talk about the coup itself and its aftermath. This coup was was carried out in one thousand nine hundred eighty four but the United States mentality behind it goes back to the Monroe doctrine which was articulated by President James Monroe in his December second doc in eighteen twenty three annual address to Congress the speech. That's known today as the State of the Union address. The address and the idea is in it were heavily influenced <unk> by Monroe's secretary of State John Quincy Adams. We talked about it just a little on our episode on John Quincy and his wife Louisa. There's obviously a lot more in the scope of this address but the basic ideas of the Monroe Doctrine worthies number one in the world had two spheres of influence the Americas were their own sphere here and the rest of the world was another number to the Americas were also not open for further colonization by European world powers number three the US. I wouldn't interfere with the internal matters of other nations and this included remaining neutral in the face of wars in Europe and remaining neutral when it came to existing European in colonies in the Americas and the number four if a European power attack ter- attempted to exert control over a nation in the western hemisphere the United States would view that as an attack on itself one of the motivations behind the Monroe doctrine was the recent independence of several nations in central and South America which had previously been Spanish colonial territory the US was concerned about the possibility of Spain or another European nation trying to recolonize and the Latin American nations themselves had the same concerns in eighteen twenty six simone. Bolivar convened the Panama Congress which brought together several newly Julie Independent Latin American republics to discuss the same issues wilder. Monroe doctrine asserted that the western hemisphere was off limits to European European colonization. It didn't suggest that the United States should stop its western expansion across North America but also didn't really suggest that the United States couldn't didn't expand its territory beyond that which happened through everything from the annexation of Texas to the treaties that into the Mexican American war in eighteen forty eight and the Spanish American war in eighteen ninety eight the Monroe doctrine also didn't really discourage the United States from trying to extend its influence within the western hemisphere including through what came to be known as the big brother policy in eighteen eighty nine. US Secretary of State James G Blaine spearheaded the first international conference of American States in this was the first in a series of meetings among the United States and several Latin American countries and it was something Blaine had been advocating for about about a decade and this led to the creation of the International Union of American republics and the International Bureau of American Republics in eighteen ninety the bureau zero later became known as the Panamerican Union these conferences and the organization that grew out of them or meant to improve cooperation among the nations involved involved including working out matters of International Trade International Law and dispute resolution and although it was an international organization it was also heavily he directed by the United States circling back to that idea of the US being the big brother in this part of the world. The first conference was held in Washington DC where the bureau is also headquartered the United States also organized the Bureau and funded its first year of existence. The Secretary of State of the United States was also chair of the organisation's ends governing board including after Hispanic delegates tried to turn it into an elected position the Monroe doctrine was a cornerstone of US foreign policy until nineteen nineteen o four when President Theodore Roosevelt articulated what came to be known as the Roosevelt Corollary in his annual message to Congress the Roosevelt Corollary expanded handed the monroe doctrine to include the idea that the United States had a responsibility to police the western hemisphere preserving the quality of life and other countries and taking taking direct action to restore and maintain order. Here is a segment of that address quote all that this country desires is to see the neighboring country entry stable orderly and prosperous any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship if a nation shows that it knows how to act act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters if it keeps order and pays its obligations it need fear no interference from the United States. It's chronic wrongdoing or an evidence which results in general loosening of the is a civilized society. May In America as elsewhere ultimately require fire intervention by some civilized nation in the Western Hemisphere. The adherence of the United States to the Monroe doctrine may force the United States however reluctantly in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence to the exercise of an international police power another aspect of this that was alluded to briefly in that was the collection of debts under the Roosevelt Corollary. If a country in the western hemisphere had an unpaid debt to one of the European powers that European power could not collect the debt that directly instead it was supposed to go through the United States. The United States had intervened in various nations in the Western Hemisphere before this point including in Panama Emma the US controlled Panama Canal Zone was created in February nineteen o four but after this shift in foreign policy the US intervened a lot especially especially in the Caribbean and Central America at various points the US occupied Cuba Haiti Dominican Republic Honduras Nicaragua on on and on there's actually more about US intervention in Haiti in the Dominican Republic and the aftermath of that intervention in our previous episode on the Mirabal Sisters. Yeah Yeah that that however reluctantly statement didn't actually play out to seem all that reluctant it kind of seems like a cover your tail phrase right. That's all of this way. Don't WanNa have to do this you guys but according to the rules that we just made so although Roosevelt's address had really focused on ideas like international stability a lot of these occupations and police actions and other interventions were motivated by protecting US interests in these nations and especially business interests a lot of those businesses were major growers of crops like coffee and fruit and for this reason sometimes all this US US military activity in Latin America during this period is looped together as the banana wars. It is also during this same time period that the term Banana Republic public was coined by American writer William Sydney Porter also known as oh Henry Porter. I use the term a short story published in nineteen o one and it's he used to describe a fictional country that was probably based on Honduras where he was living at the time the term conjures up images of small impoverished countries governed earned by harsh and often corrupt military dictatorships and dominated by one key agricultural export like bananas. The Term Banana Republic has a lot of disparaging connotations but it also reflects the reality of what was going on in much of Latin America. Many of these nations were reliant on one key export sport like bananas with that one industry being very tightly controlled by United States businesses and those businesses tried to keep conditions favourable able to their own interests in these countries they contributed to ongoing instability and corruption in the nation's where they were operating makes this kind of a weird name Brick Britt clothing retailer. Yeah I have often over. The years wondered how they landed there. Well it. It kind of goes up against the Cherry pop and daddy songs zoot suit riots in terms of historical. Why did you do this now. <hes> I guess it sounded good to someone at some point in time but this practice of direct intervention in international affairs took took a pause after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and we're GONNA get to all of that after we I pause for a little sponsor. Break Technology is becoming more or open data more accessible and the world more innovative. IBM is combining their industry expertise with the open source leadership of Red Hat to bring you more freedom more security more flexibility. Let's unlock the world's potential. Let's put smart to work learn more at IBM DOT com slash red hat and his march fourth nineteen thirty three inaugural address President Franklin Delano Roosevelt articulated what came to be known as his good neighbor policy to quote in the field world policy. I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and because he does so respects the rights of others. There's this aligned with a proclamation signed at the seventh International Conference of American States on December twenty six that same year article eight of this proclamation elimination was that quote no state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another so with this reduced focus on intervention the united handed states started pulling troops out of the nation's it was still directly occupying including Haiti and Nicaragua Roosevelt's administration also encouraged favorable depictions ends of Latin Americans and of Central and South America in the media the career of past podcast subject Carmen Miranda was tied to this whole idea and she became something of an international spokesperson for the ideals of the good neighbor policy overall the countries in the Caribbean and Central America saw this change in attitude with both both relief and suspicion after so many decades of direct military intervention by the United States but it didn't last long after World War Two things shifted once again and once again the shift was outlined in the president's annual address to Congress this time the president was President Harry S Truman and in his March Twelfth Nineteen forty seven address before Congress he outlined the idea that the United States would intervene to help democratic nations that were being threatened by authoritarian forces forces whether those forces were coming from within or without this Truman doctrine grew out of events taking place in Greece but a similar mindset was is also driving. US Foreign Relations in the Americas in the spring of nineteen forty eight the ninth International Congress of American States was held in Bogota Colombia Lumbia and at this conference the Panamerican Union was reorganized as the Organization of American States or s and a lot of the ideas that were part of the Monroe and Truman doctrine's became part of its formal charter basically applying these same ideas to all of the member states the charter also so built on the Rio Security Pact of nineteen forty seven which was also called the Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance and in that nineteen countries <unk> signed an agreement that an attack on any American state would be viewed as an attack on all the signatories this was at the start of the Cold War and at this conference friends the oh a s also passed resolution thirty two known as the preservation in defense of democracy in America this resolution read in part quote in order to safeguard peace and maintain mutual respect among states the present situation of the world demands that urgent measures be taken to prescribe tactics of totalitarian Palestinian domination that are inconsistent with the tradition of the countries of America and prevent agents at the service of international communism or of any totalitarian leterrier doctrine from seeking to distort the true and the free will of the peoples of this continent the republic's represented at the Ninth International Conference of American States declare that by its anti-democratic nature and it's interventionist tendency the political activity of international communism or any totalitarian doctrine is incompatible with the concept of American freedom which rests upon to undeniable postulates the dignity of man as an individual and the sovereignty of the nation a state this resolution also condemned quote interference by any foreign power or by any political organization serving the interests of a foreign power in the public life of the nations of the American continent it also condemned quote methods of every system tending to suppress political in civil rights and liberties and in particular the action of international communism or any totalitarian doctrine and this is where things take something of when i Ronnie turn the United States approved this resolution which condemned international communism because of quote it's antidemocratic nature and it's interventionist engine est tendency but not long after the resolution was passed the United States started intervening in other nations democracies and not necessarily because they were under under any kind of communist or totalitarian threat in another shift the US increasingly handled these interventions not through direct actions but through covert operations uh-huh through the newly-established Central Intelligence Agency the first big example of this came in nineteen fifty three when the CIA orchestrated a coup that overthrew overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran Mohammad Mosit- back the major issue was that my second started nationalizing British oilfields oil fields in Iran and the CIA launched the coup with the approval of the British government so this coup wasn't really about protecting Iran's democratic election from authoritarian authoritarian forces was about protecting oil interests for the most part the CIA admitted its role in two thousand thirteen and of course this is an entire other story with ramifications that are still affecting the world today but the fact that it was successful kind of made the CIA more okay with doing more things like this in the future the CIA orchestrated coup Guatemala was similar. It was ostensibly about stopping the spread of communism in Guatemala but one of its biggest advocates was was united fruit company which had a monopoly on Guatemala's banana industry so we have to backtrack for just a moment and talk about both bananas and United Fruit Company Bananas are the most Popular Fruit and the United States today with Apple's being a close second until the end of the nineteenth century. Most Americans had never even seen one then in eighteen seventy captain. Lorenzo Dow bought one hundred sixty bunches of green bananas in Jamaica for Schilling a bunch he took them to Jersey earthy city and sold them for two dollars a bunch which was a huge profit. He grew this into a business and along with several other men established. Boston Fruit company in eighteen eighty six soon multiple companies based in the US were buying up land in the Caribbean and establishing banana plantations and when they started running out of available land in the Caribbean they expanded into Central America Boston Fruit Company and other similar businesses didn't have much trouble buying the land that that they wanted like we mentioned earlier the countries where they were doing business tended to be small and impoverished and governed by dictatorships so a lot of times the decision to sell this. This land was being made unilaterally often. The Land Wasn't being used for anything else so the governments were happy to have the money for it or a government might give up the land in exchange for the fruit company providing some new infrastructure like roads or railroads or a port and all of this ties back to the Banana Republic public idea that we mentioned earlier in eighteen ninety nine Boston. Fruit company merged with railroad ventures owned by minor seat Keith in this newly formed company. He was called United Fruit Company. The combined railroad slash banana plantation model meant that the company could establish a monopoly on growing the fruit and hand on transporting it and anything else in the territory where it operated in this enterprise was already pretty large holding more than two hundred thousand acres of land in in the Caribbean and Central America. A little over sixty thousand acres of land were used as banana plantations. This finally brings us to the history of Guatemala and she will get gets you after another sponsor break. Let me tell you about Pete who loved hockey and always wanted to play in the NHL Pete played since he was three and begged his mom to let him stay on the ice by some nights he even slept tennis hockey. Skates Pete practiced and practiced until one day when he was forty seven. Pete realized he just wasn't that good so he threw his skates in the trash but then you heard how diko proud partner of NHL good save money on car insurance so he switched and saved a bunch so it all worked out now we finally finally get to how all of this connects specifically to Guatemala so as a quick overview of Guatemalan history. Spain began conquering colonizing what's now Guatemala Guatemala in the sixteenth century. Guatemala was a Spanish colony for more than two hundred years. Although in some of its more remote areas the indigenous Maya had pretty limited contact with the Spanish Guatemala declared its independence from Spain in eighteen twenty one from there it was briefly part of the Mexican Empire in in eighteen twenty three became part of the United provinces of Central America which also included Costa Rica El Salvador Honduras and Nicaragua the United provinces the began to fracture in eighteen thirty eight after a cholera epidemic and an uprising it dissolved by eighteen forty the uprisings leader Rafael Carrera <hes> became president of Guatemala and after abolishing elections became president for life in eighteen fifty four again. We are really just hitting highlights here for some context for the next several decades. Guatemala was governed by a series of dictatorships which were occasionally interrupted by short-term governments specifics of these dictatorships could really change from one administration to the next for example. The Catholic Church was very powerful in Guatemala from eighteen twenty three until till eighteen seventy one but when a more liberal administration took over in eighteen seventy one the church was stripped of a lot of that power in general though these dictatorships leaderships were all known for human rights abuses and for maintaining control through oppressive policies and the use of standing army and secret police force regardless regardless of whether you might classify them as liberal or Conservative throughout all of this while there were some advances and things like public health and the nation's overall economy eh outside of the Aristocracy Guatemala's people lived in poverty and without a lot of basic civil rights. This was often particularly true for indigenous people and for the descendants of enslaved Africans people of both indigenous and Spanish ancestry known in Guatemala as Latinos often had more social mobility but overall it was socially and economically very stratified with multi-layered hierarchy based on racial ethnic and class disparities for decades any gains in civil or human rights tended to be very small and short lived in these decades after becoming independent Guatemala became a major producer of coffee which was grown on large plantations and as this happened Guatemala shifted away from growing crops that were grown on smaller farms like indigo. Oh and Coca Neil as part of this shift fewer and fewer Guatemalans owned their own land as it was sold or cease to be consolidated into large coffee plantations and this shift happened very quickly and eighteen sixty one coca neal made up seventy one percent of Guatemala's agricultural exports ten years later coffee was at fifty percent and coca neal was down to thirty three percent. That was a trend that continued over the next couple of decades. It's the country also increasingly exploited the indigenous population as a source of cheap or even unpaid labor for these growing plantations for the decades. The peasant class which was mostly indigenous was subject to debt peon edge in which people were forced into unpaid labor in order to pay off debts and Guatemala's economic conditions that in rural areas landless people were very likely to be in debt United Fruit Company's presence in Guatemala started to increase around the turn of the twentieth century in one thousand nine hundred one Guatemalan President Manuel Estrada Cabrera gave United Fruit company a ninety nine year lease is on land in exchange for finishing a railroad from the Guatemalan capital to the port of Puerto Barrios which United Fruit company also controlled he he also put United Fruit company in charge of the country's postal service United Fruit company's presence continued to grow in Guatemala after nineteen o one with the the company following a similar pattern of acquiring land for banana plantations that we talked about earlier after dictator or who Biko came to power in nineteen thirty one he granted into the company another ninety nine year land lease part of this agreement included United Fruit company agreeing not to pay workers more than fifty cents a day so that other their workers wouldn't demand more money as well three years later we go abolised Guatemala's debt pianist system which had been keeping much of its indigenous population nation effectively enslaved. He was praised for abolishing that system but in its place he implemented a vagrancy law that required landless people to work for at least one hundred fifty days a year he also passed a law that exempted landowners from prosecution if they hurt or killed someone while defending ending their property so because this work was legally mandated and because landowners were empowered to use this kind of force under the idea of defending their property people had virtually no negotiating power when it came to things like their pay and they're working conditions so even though this effective enslavement system system didn't exist anymore. UNITED FRUIT COMPANY STILL had access to very cheap labor while Beka was in power Guatemala and United Fruit company became even more interconnected by the nineteen forties forty percent of the nation's arable land was being controlled United Fruit company to look at it another way less than half a percent of demolish farms measured more than one thousand one hundred acres but plantations of that size were taking up about half of the country's farmland and most of those plantations belonged to United Fruit company by this point United Fruit company had become Guatemala's largest employer and it had a monopoly over Guatemala's Guatemala's banana trade it also controlled the railroads and the utilities and the port at Puerto Barrios United Fruit Company worked out a lot of these deals in the nineteen thirties. Thanks to John Foster Dulles. He was working at United Fruit. Company's Law Firm. Sullivan and Cromwell United Fruit company was such a massive presence in Guatemala and the United States was such a big part of the United Fruit company that a lot of Guatemalans thought that the T. were basically the same thing but then on July I nine hundred forty four things started to change or Heyoo Biko was forced to resign after a popular uprising general strike that was largely led by teachers intellectuals workers and students another general Federico Ponce became interim president he promised election to confirm his presidency but by October of that year seemed pretty clear that no election was coming protests and demonstrations continued and on October Twentieth Nineteen forty four he was overthrown in a coup who led by Major Francisco Donna and Captain Ha Hobo Arbenz Guzman. This was a start of what came to be known as the Guatemalan Revolution or the October Revolution then and it followed the overthrow of military dictatorships in both Ecuador and El Salvador in May of that same year this wave of revolutions had been inspired in part by World War Two and the allies focus on the ideals of democracy and Human Rights Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four freedoms speech which was his nineteen forty one state eight of the Union address was particularly influential in that speech he hit expressed the idea that every person in the world had the right to the freedom of speech the freedom of worship the freedom from want and the freedom from fear one Jose Avenue won the election that was held in December of nineteen forty four with more than eighty five percent of the vote vote he had run on a reform platform that aligned with these ideals and with the protests and demonstrations that led up to the October Revolution a committee of Fifteen fifteen was formed to draft a new constitution which went into effect in March of nineteen forty five because Guatemala had been ruled by military dictatorships for so so much of its post-colonial history this constitution limited the power of the executive branch of the Guatemalan government it established Guatemala as a representative have democracy with the Presidency Limited to one six-year term and former presidents were ineligible for re election for the next twelve years military officers had to resign at least six months before election day if they wanted to run for office the new constitution also outlawed discrimination and guaranteed quote Life Life Liberty Equality Insecurity of the person of honor and of property. Juan Jose Palo was inaugurated as president of Guatemala in March of Nineteen nineteen forty-five just a few days after this new constitution was signed and he had a lot to get done in his one six year term the changes he and his administration tried to make were ambitious and sweeping he was focused on addressing the issues that had led to the October Revolution and had been part of those protests and demonstrations especially agrarian reform improving the educational system protecting labor rights and reinforcing this newly established system of democracy in Guatemala. <hes> the array below government disbanded the secret police and purge <unk>. Biko's former supporters from office. They changed the soldiers had to take upon on entering military service to include protecting the principle of democracy not just protecting the nation the administration allowed freedom of speech and a free press and multiple political parties emerged as totally different from the previous one party systems that attended to be under other the Communist Party was banned and voting rights were expanded although women who could not read still could not vote other initiatives included equal pay laws and legal equality between husbands and wives lives. Guatemala's largest university was also put under its own control rather than being controlled by the government previous administrations had for example tried to use this government control of the university to try to keep students from learning about the pro democracy movements that were happening elsewhere in Latin America in the nineteen forties New Labor. We're laws said a forty hour work week and established paid leave after giving birth to a child as well as a social security system employers were also required to pay eight people in actual money rather than scrip in one thousand nine hundred eighty seven new labour code established collective bargaining rights including the right to strike the New Labor Code also established Labor courts to settle disputes an increased minimum wage and other worker protections in nineteen forty eight the government government started trying to improve the condition of Guatemala's small farmers and landless citizens by passing a law that forced large landowners with uncultivated land to rented aren't people who had no land of their own the government also redistributed land that had been confiscated from Germans Nazi sympathizers during World War Two all all of this was just incredibly ambitious and it didn't go flawlessly the array below administration started to struggle about halfway through his term as some of the projects spago down and bureaucracy in general it became harder to build on the earlier games but overall this could not have been more different from the dictatorships that had govern Guatemala for most of its post-colonial history however many of Guatemala's elite were not happy about these changes and the arrival administration and had to fight off seemingly continual coup attempts U. S. business interests. Were not happy either. United Fruit company and US officials denounced many of our revolution policies and programs as communism and they started looking for a way to get rid of him. Which is what we will talk about next time. Do you have some listener mail in the meantime I do this actually came in via some tweets from John and John's first tweet in this a couple of tweets that he sent us was <hes> regarding our thalidomide episode. He tweeted US after part one came out and said something. I hope you discuss an episode to is how the crisis lead to women being virtually excluded from decades of medical testing and all the terrible downstream effects shocked to discover while researching this cracked article wrote a couple of years back and then sent us the link as well to the article on cracked so at that point we had recorded and edited episode to but it was not live have yet and we talked in that episode a little bit about how medical testing evolved and various ways that that affected drug testing and medical ethics. We didn't talk about about this specific aspect of it. It's one of those things where I had things in my notes about it and about especially how still today a lot of pharmaceutical testing thing is carried out on male test subjects and then the dosages are kind of extrapolated from that based on body weight which doesn't account for physiological sex differences at all but there was so much stuff to cover in that episode and not enough time to get to all of it and that was one of the things that wound up being cut so yes after the disaster there was also another drug that was called diethylene still bestir all or DAS. This is a synthetic estrogen that was given during pregnancy pregnancy to try to prevent miscarriages and premature Labor but not only was it not effective at preventing these things that also caused issues for the developing fetus including being an increased risk of some cancers of the reproductive system and fertility and reproductive issues later in life especially among women some of these issues can also be passed down to their children so after these two issues in one thousand nine hundred eighty seven the FDA issued a guideline called general considerations for the clinical evaluation of drugs and it recommended excluding quote premenopausal females capable of becoming pregnant from all phase one and early phase phase two clinical studies and that guidance didn't really change until nineteen ninety three so that's more than twenty years of of female. We'll patients being completely exclude from this kind of testing and even now a decade since that happened a female patients are way under represented represented and drug testing and this has enormous and far reaching consequences on what drugs are available and which adverse reactions are caught ahead of time it it goes on and on so thank you John for that we also got a couple of emails that were also about the the DAS drug drug disaster which has not gotten as much attention. I think as the limit has so you're like email us. We are history podcast at how stuff works dot com or also all over. Social media missed in history. 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