Ambiguities in Guatemala

Courtesy Reuters

MANY journalists, especially in Europe and Latin America, have not been able to resist the temptation, whether in irony or in sober seriousness, to identify Guatemala as the "first liberated Soviet satellite." This can be made to appear as either a fine or barbarous thing, depending upon the individual's point of view. In the United States the story of the overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman and his Communist-infiltrated régime has long since disappeared, and the problems with which President Carlos Castillo Armas has been wrestling for the past 20 months naturally have attracted far less interest than did the revolution itself. Meanwhile the present "Liberation" government of Guatemala stands before the world and its own people in an ambiguous light. If difficulties are to be avoided for Guatemala herself and for the United States in its Latin American relations, this ambiguity requires clarification soon.

The ambiguity is twofold. First, the Castillo government is almost universally believed in Guatemala and the rest of the world outside the United States to be the creature of the Department of State. In the absence of any countervailing evidence, this belief is supported by some very decided pronouncements made by Secretary Dulles shortly before the shooting started in 1954 and by the actions and words of the American Ambassador during the fracas. Yet for more than a year after the revolution the United States did little to help the government of Castillo Armas and appeared relatively uninterested in its success.

Second, although in many respects repressive and undemocratic, the Liberation government has shown both in word and deed that, in the eyes of Guatemalans at least, it would like to be considered the heir of the basic politico-social revolution which in 1944 turned out the 14-year dictatorship of Jorge Ubico and established the first system approaching political democracy and the welfare state in the nation's history. In fact, President Castillo Armas and prominent members of his administration have repeatedly asserted not only that they do not intend

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