The CIA was established in 1947 – the same year Washington served notice that its support for Latin American democracy was conditional on the maintenance of order – and began to develop contacts among military officers, religious leaders, and politicians it identified as bulwarks of stability. Yet it was not until 1954 that it would execute its first full-scale covert operation in Latin America, overthrowing Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz and installing a more pliant successor. Arbenz, as CIA analysts and most historians today admit, was trying to implement a New Deal-style economic program to modernize and humanize Guatemala’s brutal plantation economy. His only crime was to expropriate, with full compensation, uncultivated United Fruit Company land and legalize the Communist Party – both unacceptable acts from Washington’s early-1950s vantage point.
Operation PBSUCCESS, as the CIA called its Guatemalan campaign, was the agency’s most comprehensive covert action to date, much more ambitious than its operations in postwar Italy and France or in Iran the year before. Unlike the ouster of the Iranian prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, which took a mere couple of weeks. Arbenz’s overthrow required nearly a year. In addition to destabilizing Guatemala’s economy, isolating the country diplomatically through the OAS, and training a mercenary force in Honduras, the Guatemalan campaign gave CIA operatives the chance to try out new psych-war techniques gleaned from behavioral social sciences. They worked with local agents to plant stories in the Guatemalan and U.S. press, engineer death threats, and conduct a bombing campaign – all designed to generate anxiety and uncertainty. They organized phantom groups, such as the “Organization of Militant Godless,” and spread rumors that the government was going to ban Holy Week, exile the archbishop, confiscate bank accounts, expropriate all private property, and force children into reeducation centers. Operatives studied pop sociologies and grifter novels and worked closely with Edward Bernays, a pioneer in public propaganda (and Sigmund Freud’s nephew), to apply disinformation tactics. Borrowing from Orson Welles’s WAR OF THE WORLDS, they transmitted radio shows – taped in Florida and beamed in from Nicaragua – that made it seem as if a widespread underground resistance movement were gaining strength; they even managed to stage on-the-air battles.
– pgs. 42, 43, EMPIRE’S WORKSHOP: LATIN AMERICA, THE UNITED STATES, AND THE RISE OF THE NEW IMPERIALISM, by Greg Grandin, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2006
Always, the big boys in this game, which are the United States of America and the Organization of American States (OAS), feel the need to pamper and coddle the military/industrial complex which has ruled the republic of Guatemala since 1954. We say this because, most recently, the rulers of Guatemala should have been condemned, based on the findings of the OAS inquiry into the April 20 Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano incident, with the same level of regional alarm which Jimmy Morales, the President of Guatemala, dramatically raised on the afternoon of Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Passionately condemning the “cowardly” violence of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) which he blamed for the shooting death of the Guatemalan teenager, Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano, on that Thursday afternoon of April 21 Jimmy Morales announced on national television, an announcement which received widespread regional publicity, that he was bringing his troops to the republic’s western and southern borders with Belize, and in so doing Morales was threatening the peace-loving people of Belize with a military invasion.
It was less than 24 hours after the minor, Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano, who, it is now established, was 14 years old at the time of his death, had been killed in the Chiquibul jungle, and Mr. Jimmy Morales, commander of the largest military in Central America, a military 30 or 40 times larger than Belize’s, had already tried the case, convicted the Belize army, and begun making preparations for punitive military action against Belize.
As is frequently the case, the Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow, was out of the country, somewhere in the United States at the time. It was days before he made any comment on the Jimmy Morales threat, days before he spoke to the people of Belize. The situation at the mouth of the Sarstoon River in the south had been inflamed between the Guatemalan military and both civilian and military Belizean personnel for more than a year. The Government of Belize, as most often represented by our Foreign Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, had constantly appeared weak and appeasing in the face of aggressive Guatemalan rhetoric and behavior, and now an incident in the Chiquibul dark was being used as a pretext by the Guatemalans to threaten war. On the afternoon of Thursday, April 21, the Government of Belize did not respond appropriately to the threats of the Guatemalan President: the Belize army was not deployed to our borders with Guatemala. The people of Belize were left to guess and suppose and speculate …
For days, the situation appeared surreal. When Prime Minister Barrow did speak to the Belizean people by telephone, to assure us that the tension at the borders was being eased, the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Carlos Raul Morales, rushed on national television in his republic to declare, no such thing. The republic was demanding justice for Julio Alvarado Ruano who, he repeated, had been murdered by the “cowardly,” “unprofessional” Belizean army.
Four months went by before an official, forensic report on the April 20 incident became available. The Prime Minister of Belize is again out of the country, somewhere in the United States. Our understanding is that the OAS report was tabled, so to speak, on Thursday, August 18. Late in the morning of Tuesday, August 22, this newspaper heard that the report had found that it was the park rangers whose bullets had killed the teenager, not the Belize army. In the afternoon of that same Tuesday, August 22, the newspaper heard an additional detail from the report. We were listening to hearsay, solid hearsay, but hearsay nonetheless. On Wednesday morning, August 23, KREM Radio’s Marisol Amaya, having obtained a copy of the official report, gave a detailed account of that report on the Wake Up Belize (WUB) talk show on KREM Radio/Television.
This offhand manner is not, we submit, how the official report of the April 20 Chiquibul incident should have been handled. This newspaper’s feeling is that, in Washington, the American State Department and the OAS colluded to low-key the findings of the Alvarado Ruano report. On Madison Avenue, they would call this a “soft launch.” Jimmy Morales and Carlos Raul Morales are war rhetoric criminals. They behaved like propaganda terrorists in April. The findings of this report should been presented in such a manner as to have Jimmy and Carlos Raul convicted by the court of regional public opinion.
The really sad part of this whole episode is the crass cynicism with which Jimmy and Carlos Raul Morales used the impoverished, tragic child, Julio Alvarado Ruano, as an excuse to terrorize Belizeans. There is a harsh poverty in the Petén which is painful to contemplate. We Belizeans are, on a whole, sympathetic to that poverty. A major reason for that poverty is all the land grabbing by the Guatemalan military in Petén following the overthrow of the land reformer, President Jacobo Arbenz, in 1954. The people of the Petén have no land to grow food. In desperation, they risk their lives to violate the national sovereignty of Belize.
It was a decision of the American State Department and their Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to overthrow Arbenz in 1954 because his land reform threatened the United Fruit Company. State and the CIA were supported by the Guatemalan oligarchy because they felt Arbenz’s land reform also threatened their massive estates. Arbenz properly charged United Fruit Company taxes on land they were not using. Thirty years of Guatemalan civil war followed in the years after Arbenz’s overthrow. Guatemala has yet to deal with the fact that a few Guatemalan oligarchs own most of the land, while the vast majority of Guatemalans, most of whom are Indigenous natives, are landless and oppressed.
Instead of encouraging more equitable land distribution in Guatemala and Honduras, what Washington is trying to do is to have Belize become an oligarchical state like the aforementioned republics – Guatemala and Honduras. That is why Belize has been under attack on so many fronts: the predators are trying to take away the country from us roots Belizeans. The Americans want Belize to become like Guatemala and Honduras. This was the prescription of the Seventeen Proposals in 1968. We rejected that then, and we reject it now.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie – murdered at Caracol in cold blood on September 25, 2014.
P.S. The Guatemalan government tried to shake the faith of the Belizean people in our BDF soldiers. Their conspiracy backfired. The faith of the Belizean people in our BDF soldiers is now stronger than ever before. Where we do not have faith, is in our civilian politicians. And you can take that to the bank.