Guatemala as Cold War History, by Richard H. Immerman

1262 Words3 Pages

From the time of its colonization at the hands of Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500’s, Guatemala has suffered under the oppression of dictator after dictator. These dictators, who ruled only with the support of the military and only in their own interests, created a form of serfdom; by 1944, two percent of the people owned 70 percent of the usable land.

The Allies’ victory in WWII marked democracy’s triumph over dictatorship, and the consequences shook Latin America. Questioning why they should support the struggle for democracy in Europe and yet suffer the constraints of dictatorship at home, many Latin Americans rallied to democratize their own political structures. A group of prominent middle–class Brazilians opposed to the continuation of the Vargas dictatorship mused publicly, “If we fight against fascism at the side of the United Nations so that liberty and democracy may be restored to all people, certainly we are not asking too much in demanding for ourselves such rights and guarantees.” The times favored the democratic concepts professed by the middle class. A wave of freedom of speech, press, and assembly engulfed much of Latin America and bathed the middle class with satisfaction. New political parties emerged to represent broader segments of the population. Democracy, always a fragile plant anywhere, seemed ready to blossom throughout Latin America. Nowhere was this change more amply illustrated than in Guatemala, where Jorge Ubico ruled as dictator from 1931 until 1944. Ubico, a former minister of war, carried out unprecedented centralization of the state and repression of his opponents. Although he technically ended debt peonage, the 1934 vagrancy law required the carrying of identification cards and improved ...

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... to overthrow the democratically elected (1950) Guatemalan leader, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. Apprehensive of Arbenz’s land reform efforts and the freedom afforded to the communist party under the current regime, President Truman authorized the shipment of weapons and money to anti-Arbenz groups. Within five weeks the operation to topple Arbenz quickly fizzled when representatives loyal to the president uncovered the plot and took steps to solidify their power.

Works Cited

Immerman, R. H. Guatemala as Cold War History. Political Science Quarterly, 629. Retrieved May 4, 2014, from

Burns, E. B., & Charlip, J. A. (2007). Latin America: an interpretive history (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that guatemala has suffered under dictator after dictator, who ruled only with the support of the military and only in their own interests, creating a form of serfdom.
  • Analyzes how the allies' victory in wwii marked democracy's triumph over dictatorship, and the consequences shook latin america.
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