Aftermath Part III

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.

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I thought this time around that I’d give you folks a little visual context, some faces to go with the names that come flying out of the podcast too thick and fast to stick too well to the brain.

First we’ve got the elected dictators, the “they’re bastards but they’re our bastards” of the United States in Guatemala.

Credit: Prensa Libre—Aftermath
From left to right: Colonel Arana Osorio, the Butcher of Zacapa; General Kjell Eugenio Laugerud Garcia, a peacemaker only by dint of standing between two murderers; and General Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, the man who would help to tip Guatemala over the edge

And then a couple of the priests who show up in the episode, both missionaries—Father Luis Gurriarán from Galicia in Spain and Father William Woods from Texas and the Maryknolls in the US—and both of whom did their work in the collectives in the jungle, carving the most wholesome living conditions in Guatemala out of the jungle in El Quiche and Huehuetenango.

Credit: La Voz de Galicia — Aftermath
This is Father Luis Gurriaran, the guy who set up one of the first collectives in the Ixcan, thankfully at a very old age after his 45 years in Guatemala


Credit: — Safe for Democracy
And this is Father William Woods, with the airplane he used to ferry cardamom out of the Ixcan and transport people and necessaries back in. The plane he and four others were shot down in.

I’d like to find some photos of them with the members of the collectives or any photos of the collectives from the period, but so far I’m coming up short. We do have a couple of Santa Maria Tzéja, the community that Father Luis founded with his parishioners, though.

Credit: — Aftermath
Here’s the school of the community, the jungle now well tamed, it seems like.


Credit: — Safe for Democracy
And here’s some younger community members getting ready for some ballet folklórico, which is very familiar to me here in Mexico.

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I hope you guys aren’t getting too tired of these two maps, and that they’re helping you out if you need them.

Wasn't kidding about the crude, was I. That's the quality you get from Safe for Democracy
A crude map I drew to help myself out
Safe for Democracy
And here’s another much larger, much more detailed, actually accurate map for reference. Click to see it full size.

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And last but never, not ever, least, the bibliography, for anybody who makes it this far down into the aftermath.

“Controlling the Counterinsurgency: Plan De Campaña ‘Victoria 82′” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book.

“The Guatemalan Military: What the U.S. Files Reveal National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book.

“Attacks on Ex-Priests, Liberation Theology Misfire.” The Gazette, April 2, 1986.

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

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

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

Amnesty International. 1976. Amnesty International Annual Report 1975-1976. London, UK: Amnesty International Publications.

Booth, John A. “Global Forces and Regime Change: Guatemala in the Central American Context.” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 42 (4): 59-87.

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

Geyer, Georgie Anne. “U.S. Role Grows in Guatemala Rebel Threat.” The Washington Post, Times Herald, Dec 13, 1966.

Goodsell, James Nelson. “US Steps Up Aid, Concern for Central America Nations.” Safe for Democracy. The Christian Science Monitor, Feb 20, 1980.

Hall, Patricia K. “Military Rule Threatens Guatemala’s Highland Maya Indians.” Cultural Survival Quarterly, Jun 30, 1986.

Houser, Henry P. “Guatemala’s Bishops Change Directions.” 1992. The Christian Century, Jun 17, 1992, 605.

Konefal, Betsy. For Every Indio Who Falls: A History of Maya Activism in Guatemala, 1960-1990. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2010.

Nairn, Allan. “The Guns of Guatemala: The Merciless Mission of Rios Montt’s Army.” The New Republic, Apr 11, 1983.

Novak, Michael. “The Case Against Liberation Theology.” New York Times, Oct 21, 1984.

Scharper, Stephen B. “Explaining Liberation Theology.” New York Times, Dec 2, 1984.

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

Schirmer, Jennifer. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights: The Guatemalan Military Project : A Violence Called Democracy. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.

Schneider, Ronald M. Communism in Guatemala, 1944-1954: With a Foreword by Arthur P. Whitaker. (Pa. Univ. for Policy Research Inst. Ser. no. 7) Safe for Democracy (Praeger Pubns. in Russian Hist. and World Communism no. 80), 1959.

Susan Fitzpatrick Behrens. 2004. “From Symbols of the Sacred to Symbols of Subversion to Simply Obscure: Maryknoll Women Religious in Guatemala, 1953 to 1967*.” The Americas 61 (2): 189.

Tho, Brigadier General Tran Dinh. Pacification. US Army in Vietnam. Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History, 1980.

Aftermath Audio Acknowledgements

AP Archive. “Guatemala: Funeral of Murdered Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera”

Doctor Turtle. “Thought Soup”

Chomsky, Noam. “List of US Presidents and their War Crimes”

Cooper, Alisdair. “When I Grow Up”

Engel, Kai. “After Midnight”

Hefferman, Jon Luc. “Mangata”

Mejía, Carlos. “La Misa Campesina”

TV España 2. “La Embajada de España en Guatemala”

USAID, “Guatemala Earthquake: In the Face of Disaster 1976”

Zabriskie, Chris. “Cylinder Nine”

And that’s it for this run through of Safe for Democracy and this edition of the notes. If you made it this far, why not go ahead and share it on literally every single one of your social media profiles? You’ve got to have some kind of dedication to be reading the post post post scripts, so what could bugging a few relatives or old college friends hurt.  Safe for Democracy this and that, all over the internet.

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