131. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Synthesis of Ambassador Peurifoy’s Remarks Relevant to PBSUCCESS Made at a Meeting 21 April 1954


  • Ambassador Peurifoy; [5 names not declassified]
Ambassador Peurifoy described the general situation as having worsened beyond that described in his February report.2 As an example of this, he cited his belief that the Guatemalan Government is leading up to suppression of the independent press. He concluded that the usual diplomatic methods did not suffice to correct the situation and inferred that more drastic and definitive steps to overthrow the government must be taken.
Ambassador Peurifoy commented that despite the poor situation, there were some events such as the Archbishop’s letter3 that are definitely encouraging. He said this letter has reached the man in the street and is well received. He suggested that our propaganda not fail and to continue to exploit the letter and tie it into other opportunities.
The government, he said, is absolutely under control of a small Communist group and the government as a whole is moving in the direction of Communism. Such things as withdrawal of military pacts and other economic sanctions may irritate these people but will not stop them.
It was the Ambassador’s opinion that the country is now in a receptive mood and that various groups, particularly the students, are believed to be ready to act. As an example of the atmosphere in Guatemala City, he said that most people are armed when they go to social functions and that all Latin American diplomats are armed wherever they go. The Ambassador saw little to be gained from economic sanctions and from OAS action and agreed with the view expressed that the United States would face less of an outcry if it achieved a successful coup than it would during a long trying period of sanctions which, in [Page 245]any case, will possibly not be effective. He did not think, moreover, that Latin American countries, with the possible exception of Mexico and the Argentine, would go after the United States following a reasonably secure coup. In connection with the consideration of economic sanctions he pointed out that in Guatemala time is running against us.
He expressed the opinion that Pellecer has not split with Arbenz and doubts that Pellecer will get an overseas assignment since he and Gutierrez, who are in fact running the country, are too important to Arbenz. As an example of Pellecer’s current political thinking, he recommended we consult Pellecer’s speech made recently at Chimaltenango. In reply to a question as to Diaz’ present position, Ambassador Peurifoy stated that he had been advised that Diaz is “out” as a result of a disagreement with Arbenz over the choice of the president of congress. Ambassador Peurifoy is inclined to doubt this as he believes that if it were true Diaz would have made an attempt while he was still in command.
With regard to the arming of labor elements Ambassador Peurifoy said he did not doubt that some arms have reached the campesinos.
As to the attitude of the army, Ambassador noted that there are all sorts of reports but that it is his view that the army is opportunistic and would move against the government if they thought it to be to their advantage. He said that the army is in a vulnerable position because Arbenz could gradually remove suspected officers from key positions and replace them with others. Ambassador concluded that time is running against us, particularly with regard to the army. The political situation is worsening he believes as the other parties of the national front, while they are not Communist, are falling more and more under the influence of Communist leadership.
In speaking of the need for action in Guatemala, the Ambassador said, “If we maintain the status quo, we shall in the end have to use ‘those gallant marines.’”
He stated the belief that hard hitting speeches against Guatemala by personages in the United States Government could be counterproductive and would particularly alienate those non-Communists whose actions are influenced by nationalist emotions.
He expressed doubt as to the feasibility of the “cotton plan” and believed that the alternative plan to blow up cotton gins owned by the Arbenz coterie would be desirable. He stated occasional sabotage of pipelines, one or two bridges and installations in the Puerto Barrios area would cause great commotion in the country.
He specifically recommended a leaflet air drop on Guatemala City on May Day and suggested the leaflet material should include some reference to the Archbishop’s letter.
In reply to the question as to whether Toriello is salvageable, the Ambassador replied in the negative and he suggested he be eliminated.
He pointed out that some of the project’s buildup phases could in themselves precipitate the fall of government.
Mr. [name not declassified] asked the Ambassador whether he thought the project is exerting pressure on the government. The Ambassador replied in the affirmative and added that one hears about RUFUS coming back and the rumor has even set dates for such a coup such as Holy Week and now May Day. He concluded that there is in this connection considerable nervousness on the part of the government.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-01025A, Box 151, Folder 1. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted on April 22.
  2. Neither the report nor a more detailed reference to the report has been found.
  3. On April 4 Guatemalan Archbishop Mariano Rossell Arellano issued an anti-Communist pastoral letter, the text of which has not been found. The Embassy in Guatemala City provided an overview of the letter and its impact in dispatches 852, 856, and 871, April 12, 14, and 23, respectively. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files, 814.413/4–1254, 714.00(w)/4–1454, and 714.00(w)/4-2354)