The 1954 CIA Coup in Guatemala

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The 1954 CIA Coup in Guatemala

The 1954 coup that deposed the democratically elected government of Guatemala has long been acknowledged to have been the result of CIA covert action. Recently declassified documents have shown a new, and more sinister light, on the CIA's involvement in an action that gave birth to some of the most brutally dictatorial regimes in modern history. No one at this point will dispute the original involvement, but there are still those who maintain that this is all water over the dam of history and that the US has not had direct responsibility for the actions of a Guatemalan government since the 1954 coup. (Evans-Pritchard)

I intend to outline the background of the political circumstances that lead to the coup. This will include Guatemala, the US and the world scene at the time, when anti-communism contended with communism as state ideologies. I will contend that the coup was all but inevitable in the prevailing political climate of 1954. But that still doesn't make it right. We have been finding out for nearly half a century how wrong it was. Opinions have always varied with the positions of their adherents, but I believe there is one thing that can no longer be disputed: the CIA catalyzed a turn for the worse, even to the inhuman, for many Latin American governments by its actions in managing the Guatemalan coup. They provided the essential weapon for the modern national security state, the knowledge of how to organize an efficient apparatus of state repression and terror.

‘The wink and the nod’ that was all somehow acceptable to your primary sponsor caused many a dictator to adopt these methods to take and maintain power. Only recently have internal CIA documents become available, allowing researchers to begin to look inside the CIA itself. Partial as these releases are, they supply valuable insight into the machinations of this secretive organization. These documents outline the beginning of the Terror; let's hope we are seeing the end of it.

The early 1950s was a time of tension and uncertainty in the world. The Cold War replaced ‘hot’ war. Humankind had gone from the terror of actual war to the terror of the potential of nuclear war. The situation was aggravated by the ongoing conflict in Korea which pitted the forces of the ‘Free World’ against the specter of international Communism. Anticommunist hysteria gripped the US political scene, mirroring many of the excesses of the Stalinist enemy that it was in struggle with in the international arena.

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