Under Secretary’s Meetings, Lot 53 D 250

Notes of the Undersecretary’s Meeting, Department of State, 10:15 a.m., June 15, 1951

UM N–357

[Here follow a list of those persons present (21) and discussion of a matter unrelated to Guatemala.]

Current Relations with Guatemala (UM D–101/1)

5. Mr. Mann1 reviewed the document and gave a background summary on conditions and developments in Guatemala. He pointed out that Latin America is in the throes of a social revolution. He noted that the communists in Guatemala are small in number, but they control strong anti-U.S. elements and nationalist groups. The army is the key to the situation in Guatemala and it is divided. The army is held together by a desire to avoid a dictatorship and some elements are worried about the communists. Within the last 30 days, ARA has decided that it is advisable to apply certain economic pressures. They have started by shifting the work on the Inter-American Highway from Guatemala, and they have reduced the work on a hospital in that country. They have talked to Commerce about reducing the exports to Guatemala. Mr. Mann felt that economic pressures would be effective since 85 percent of Guatemala’s exports are sold in this country and 85 percent of their imports come from the United States. He emphasized that we should proceed quietly since this proposed policy is, in effect, a violation of the Non-intervention Agreement2 to which we are a party. He pointed out that this policy has a risk involved, because the Non-intervention Agreement is a corner-stone of our Latin-American foreign policy. If it became obvious that we were violating this agreement, other Latin American governments would rally to the support of Guatemala. This would strengthen the hands of the nationalists and communists in that country. He pointed out that these proposed actions would be the first of its kind since the establishment of the Good Neighbor policy. He emphasized again that these steps should be handled quietly, and that each one should be justified on technical grounds.

[Page 1441]

6. Mr. Thurston3 said that he deplored the use of coercive measures, but he believed that the conditions in Guatemala called for corrective policies. He felt that ARA’s proposals were not intemperate and might be effective. He suggested that it might be wise later to obtain support of other Latin American countries.

7. Mr. Matthews4 asked whether Latin America was more alive to the danger of U.S. intervention than communism. Mr. Mann agreed that this was true and said that this represented one of the dangers in the policy proposed. He pointed out that we have talked to people on the Hill, and Congressman McCormack5 states that he would back us on our policy toward Guatemala.

8. Mr. Martin6 pointed out that when we were faced with the same problem in Italy we tried to reduce unemployment. It appeared to him that we were proposing an increase of unemployment in Guatemala in handling the same problem. Mr. Webb asked whether the government would change after some of these economic pressures are applied. Mr. Mann felt that the situation in Guatemala would get worse instead of better and that the communists would fight in order to retain their power. They are in a position to do this because they are well organized and have arms. We hope, however, that the center and right elements in Guatemala will see that it is necessary to get together and clean their own house. Their pocketbooks will be affected by our moves and this may stimulate action against the communists.

9. Mr. MacKnight7 pointed out an inconsistency which disturbed him from a propaganda point of view. He noted that on page 6 of D–101/18 it is suggested that we should explain our inability to meet official requests on technical grounds. Later, it is noted that we should influence Guatemala so that the people feel that they have something to hope for. He felt that it would be difficult to give them a spark of hope when we were denying them so many things. He pointed out that this was a difficult propaganda position. Mr. Mann pointed out that the right and center elements in Guatemala feel that we have supported the communists and when it becomes apparent that we are not doing so they will come to our side. Mr. MacKnight suggested that the apparent inconsistency which he noted on page 6 should be clarified.

10. Mr. McGhee9 felt that the ARA proposal was a good one. He believed that we should withhold favors to a country which is managed [Page 1442] by the communists. It would show the Guatemalans, as well as other peoples, that we are standing up for things in which we believe. Mr. McGhee felt the only criterion was whether it would work. He also suggested that the Kem Amendment10 might be of value in this case as well as many others.

11. Mr. Hickerson11 agreed with ARA’s proposal that we should use UN organizations and measures wherever possible to support our policies. He said that he was working with ARA in this regard. However, he asked whether ARA planned to use independent organizations to assist us in Guatemala. He pointed out that we used trade unions, labor representatives, and organizations of other governments in our campaign against communism in Italy and France. He also suggested that church groups could be used effectively to help us on our policy. Specifically, he pointed out that it is planned to send an ILO team to Guatemala. He suggested that instead of dragging our feet on this proposal we should back it, provided the right people are included on the delegation. He felt that if good, anti-communist individuals were included on the team they would be able to get in touch with the right and center groups in Guatemala and do us a lot of good. Mr. Mann pointed out that the people who control the labor unions in Guatemala are communists. Mr. Hickerson recognized this fact, but felt that leaders from outside Guatemala could influence important groups in Guatemala who are anti-communist. Mr. Webb felt that Mr. Hickerson’s suggestion was a good one and Mr. Mann agreed to work on this idea.

12. Mr. Hickerson was afraid that the approach proposed by ARA might harden public opinion unless it were handled very carefully. Mr. Webb agreed and asked whether we could do something in the propaganda field but still avoid the appearance of intervention. Mr. Mann pointed out that we have been working with the AP and UP to get them to cable factual information on events in Guatemala. Mr. Webb pointed out that it was necessary to combine the political, economic, and psychological forces in order to accomplish our objectives in any country, including Guatemala.

13. Mr. Mann stated that the suggestions made were good ones and would be taken into account by ARA.

  1. Thomas C. Mann, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.
  2. For a pertinent statement concerning the principle of non-intervention in Latin America, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. viii, pp. 629630.
  3. Walter Thurston, Policy Planning Staff.
  4. H. Freeman Matthews, Deputy Under Secretary of State.
  5. Representative John W. McCormack (D–Mass.), House Majority Leader.
  6. Edwin M. Martin, Director, Office of Regional European Affairs.
  7. Jessie M. MacKnight, Special Assistant, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.
  8. Supra.
  9. George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs.
  10. The Kem Amendment (Section 1302 of Public Law 45, Third Supplemental Appropriation Act, approved June 2, 1951), so-named after Senator James P. Kem of Missouri, directed that all economic and financial assistance must be withheld from any country which exported strategic materials to Communist-bloc nations. For text of the amendment, see 65 Stat. 63.
  11. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs.