Thesis

Carlos Castillo Armas, the United States, and the 1954 counterrevolution in Guatemala

The 1954 overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz Gúzman orchestrated by the United States has been approached by various points of view by different historians. While many aspects of the overthrow such as the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency, the influence of the United Fruit Company, and the Guatemalan government’s relation to communism have all been covered, one crucial player in the overthrow, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, has not gained the same critical attention. Castillo Armas acted as the counterrevolutionary the CIA chose to lead the overthrow of Arbenz therefore understanding how he received the role and how he performed his task is important to understanding this historical moment.
 
 Documentation regarding the CIA’s covert operations has become more readily available in two forms. The first is the Foreign Relation of the United States series, which has added an entire volume detailing the workings of the CIA and the State Department in Guatemala. Secondly, the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room provides further documentation on the events prior to 1952 not featured in the Foreign Relations of the United States volume. In addition to American sources, a variety of Guatemalan sources have been obtained including one of Guatemala’s leading newspapers of the era, El Imparcial, and accounts from Guatemalan leaders on both sides of the conflict.
 
 The involvement of Carlos Castillo Armas in the CIA’s operation to overthrow the Arbenz government was not arbitrary. He had been in contact with the CIA as early as 1950 and his work to overthrow the Guatemalan government impressed the CIA. He appeared more powerful and better organized than competing Guatemalan rebels and subdued the ones that threatened his position. His actions influenced the decisions of the CIA. While his ultimate role in the CIA’s operation was only one part of a multifaceted plot, he played the part well and manipulated the CIA to his advantage.

Thesis (M.A., History)--California State University, Sacramento, 2011

The 1954 overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz Gúzman orchestrated by the United States has been approached by various points of view by different historians. While many aspects of the overthrow such as the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency, the influence of the United Fruit Company, and the Guatemalan government’s relation to communism have all been covered, one crucial player in the overthrow, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, has not gained the same critical attention. Castillo Armas acted as the counterrevolutionary the CIA chose to lead the overthrow of Arbenz therefore understanding how he received the role and how he performed his task is important to understanding this historical moment. Documentation regarding the CIA’s covert operations has become more readily available in two forms. The first is the Foreign Relation of the United States series, which has added an entire volume detailing the workings of the CIA and the State Department in Guatemala. Secondly, the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room provides further documentation on the events prior to 1952 not featured in the Foreign Relations of the United States volume. In addition to American sources, a variety of Guatemalan sources have been obtained including one of Guatemala’s leading newspapers of the era, El Imparcial, and accounts from Guatemalan leaders on both sides of the conflict. The involvement of Carlos Castillo Armas in the CIA’s operation to overthrow the Arbenz government was not arbitrary. He had been in contact with the CIA as early as 1950 and his work to overthrow the Guatemalan government impressed the CIA. He appeared more powerful and better organized than competing Guatemalan rebels and subdued the ones that threatened his position. His actions influenced the decisions of the CIA. While his ultimate role in the CIA’s operation was only one part of a multifaceted plot, he played the part well and manipulated the CIA to his advantage.

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