Aftermath Part III

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Hey everybody, and welcome to the fourth episode of Safe for Democracy, the podcast about the foreign policy disasters of the United States in the 20th century.

This is the third part of a series exploring the violent aftermath of the US-backed coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

If you’re just now coming to the podcast, it’d probably be best to start with episode one, which tackles the coup, and then come through the Aftermath in order. But if that’s not your game, fair enough, start right here.

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Last time we had a brief respite, tackling Liberation Theology, social Catholicism, jungle collectives, and the spirit of indigenous pride that had Mayas all over Guatemala taking to the streets and demanding their fundamental right to life and to culture.

We left off with General Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García in the Presidential Palace, and his relative leniency, after the murderous regime of the Butcher of Zacapa, Colonel Arana Osorio, was allowing Guatemalan civil society to flourish for the first time in decades.

That interstitial period is about to end, though, with the fraudulent election of General Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, who will take a less generous view of what he sees as traitorous elements in the country.

La violencia and tierra arrasada are still one episode away, so we’ve got three more weeks to worry yet, but we won’t get all the way through this one unscathed either.

This time around, it’s earthquakes, committees of campesino unity, massacre in Panzos, and the helping hand of Ronald Reagan, as always, making war to make the world safe for democracy.

Maps and ephemera follow for anyone who’s game.

Continue reading Aftermath Part III

Aftermath Part II

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Hi, and welcome to the third episode of Safe for Democracy.

Which is the second part of the Aftermath, which, in four shows, is the second part of our overarching series on Guatemala.

Simple.

 

Last time we worked our way from the coup against Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 through the repressive regimes of Carlos Castillo Armas and Jose Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes and how they provoked the creation of a guerrilla movement and the way the State and the guerrilla came together in a conflagration of violence—in which the rebels got much the worst of things—towards the end of the 1960s.

This episode’s a little less dark.

Violence in Guatemala was cyclical: State repression provoked demonstrations and organizing on the part of the populace, which invited greater repression that tended to wipe opposition out. And in the lull after the greatest waves of violence gave Guatemalan society time to begin rebuilding itself, time and again.

Today’s show covers the last such lull that Guatemala would have for a very long time.

This time we’re looking at the growth of Liberation Theology and radical social Catholicism in Guatemala and the parallel and related growth of the pan-indigenous movement that gave Maya Guatemalans a commanding, national voice for the first time in centuries.

Continue reading Aftermath Part II

Aftermath Part I

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Hey everybody, welcome to Safe for Democracy and our second episode.

If you’ve listened to the first podcast, you know that we’d originally planned to do a quick one-two, one episode for the coup in 1954 and one to cover what happened afterwards. But history can balloon on you, and the material I wanted to breeze through in an hour and a half expanded to more than five hours. The script’s not done yet, but it’s over a hundred typewritten pages, and will be a good sight longer before it’s done.

Longer than my undergraduate thesis
Longer than my undergraduate thesis

So what we’ve decided to do is to break the Aftermath up into four parts, the first three being about an hour and the last one somewhat less than two. The feedback we’ve gotten on the first episode is that although everybody loves Dan Carlin, hour long shows are about as long as people want.

All of the shows of the Aftermath will have a bit more noise on them than I would’ve liked, but I recorded them in the quietest place I could get to in this Sierra, the bungalow of a fellow and still-active Peace Corps Volunteer, James Dykstra.

God, just look at him
God, just look at him

I’ve tried to strip out or avoid as much of that noise as I can, but bear with it; we’re talking a lot about campesinos in these shows, and a little bit of campesino ruckus on them can’t hurt too much.

As I release these every few weeks, I’ll have more time to get a headstart on our next topic, Operation Ajax and the coup in Iran, and I’ll have some breathing room to take care of other stuff in my life. Hope that works for you.

Now, on to the show itself.

Continue reading Aftermath Part I

The Coup

 

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Hey, welcome to the first full episode of Safe for Democracy.  We’re going to be looking at Guatemala from 1930 or so until 1954, in the lead-up to the coup against President Jacobo Arbenz in the June of that year.

What comes after we’ll tackle in the next episode, which should come out sometime next week, if all goes well.

Here below are some sources and maps for anybody who wants help with the geography I’ll be talking about, but if you don’t need or don’t want that, go ahead and listen.

By the way, the cover image up there is La Gloriosa Victoria, a mural currently residing in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Diego Rivera painted it about the events of this very episode. That’s Allen Dulles on the left shaking hands with Carlos Castillo Armas on the right, and it’s Eisenhower’s face on the bomb. The children are, of course, nameless Guatemalans.

Enjoy the show.

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Excerpted from Nick Cullather's The Secret History
Excerpted from Nick Cullather’s The Secret History

Here we’ve got the plans for Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas’s ground forces at the outset of the invasion. See how even though he only had a few groups of men, he could preoccupy a large proportion of Guatemala’s small army by spreading them out over the long, forested border.

 

Here's another much larger, much more detailed map for reference. Click to see it full size.
Here’s another much larger, much more detailed map for reference. Click to see it full size.

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And for anybody who needs it

Here’s a bibliography

“Guatemala Chief Hits Critics in U.S.”  New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 5, 1954.

“Guatemala’s ‘Plot’ Charges Denounced.”  The Washington Post (1923-1954), Jan 31, 1954.

“President Arbenz of Guatemala Quits.”  Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jun 28, 1954.

Arbenz, Jacobo. 1954. Resignation Speech. PaysDesVolcans. (Youtube).

Cullather, Nick and Piero Gleijeses. Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999

McCann, Thomas and Scammel, Henry. An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 1976.

Rivera, Diego. “La Gloriosa Victoria”. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gobiernodeguatemala/5033870374.

Roettinger, Philip C. 1986. “The Company, then and Now.” The Progressive, July, 1986, 50.

Rothenberg, Daniel, ed, Memory of Silence: The Guatemalan Truth Commission Report. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Schelsinger, Stephen and Stephen Kinzer.  Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1982.

Schneider, Ronald M. 1959. Communism in Guatemala, 1944-1954. (Pa. Univ. for Policy Research Inst. Ser. no. 7) (Praeger Publications in Russian History and World Communism no. 80).

Simons, Marlise. “Guatemala: The Coming Danger.” Foreign Policy 43 (1981) : 93-103.