133. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans of the Central Intelligence Agency (Wisner) to Director of Central Intelligence Dulles1


  • Position Paper on PBSUCCESS

I. Appreciation of the Situation

A. Conclusions of the Board of National Estimates

The following estimate of the situation in Guatemala and adjoining countries is taken from a special estimate prepared during the past week by the Board of National Estimates. General Bull headed the Special Panel and the views of State (OIR) and the service intelligence agencies were solicited in the preparation of the estimate. The terms of reference of the estimating panel included the following questions:

What is the present strength of the Communists in Guatemala?

What are the current strengths and attitudes of Honduras, Nicaragua and Salvador and what are the effects upon them of a continued march of Communism in Guatemala?

On whose side is time?

The conclusions of the Board of National Estimates as of 22 April 1954, are as follows:

[Omitted here are the Conclusions from Document 132.]

B. Assets Available to PBSUCCESS

1. Inside the Country

a. General

Before listing specific assets, the population of Guatemala should be mentioned as a strong, potential asset. Predominantly anti-Communist the people, once aroused from their normal political inertia, could play a powerful role against the Arbenz regime. Increasing government repression and Communist brutality are having their effect evidenced in numerous instances of popular unrest throughout the country. A few typical examples taken at random are the signature of an anti-Communist petition by 50 people in Communist Escuintla; a new [Page 252]vigorously anti-Communist newspaper in Chiquimula; large pockets of averred anti-Communists at numerous points in the Mazatenango area; public meetings attended by several hundred people at Puerto Barrios; and the denial to the Communists of the local labor organization at Quezaltenango.

Though only tied together informally at present, considerable focus has been given to the large Catholic group by the extremely effective pastoral letter of April 4 issued by the Archbishop of Guatemala urging all Catholics to combat Communism. This letter, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], can, and it is believed will, have continuing effect if its message is continuously replayed.

Additional unity of purpose is provided by the psychological assets available in Guatemala as well as the encouragement generated by the vague but growing recognition that “something is in the air”—a well-backed movement is around the corner. Calligeris’ announced leadership and well-received political manifesto of late February have contributed to this. It has also been a consequence of the paramilitary program, not presently military and formidable, but psychologically persuasive. A consciousness of the stick behind the carrot is considered a prerequisite to creating any effective opposition in Guatemala, Communist-dominated as it is today.

b. Psychological

Psychological assets include many newspapers and radio stations, not controlled or influenced by CIA, which are still independent. “El Espectador”, for example, is strongly anti-Communist. So is Clemente Marroquin Rojas, the most influential journalist in Guatemala City. Admittedly these independents must move with caution and their days of independence may well be numbered but for the moment they survive.

A controlled group in Guatemala City publishes a weekly, “El Rebelde”, directs poster and leaflet teams, a telephone provocation team, “goon” squads and runs intermittent radio broadcasts. It also operates a political organization consisting of a coalition of numerous political groups known as the National Anti-Communist Front (FAN), which provides coverage of the entire country. This is supplemented by a special group, “Inspectors”, who periodically travel throughout the country contacting numerous agents.

Several other small anti-Communist publications in various parts of Guatemala receive financial aid and guidance.

c. Military and Paramilitary

As stated above the Board of National Estimates concludes that a revolutionary potential exists in the Guatemalan Army. Specific data may be adduced to confirm this estimate.

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Disaffection and dissatisfaction are evident throughout all echelons. The high command is particularly vulnerable to defection and in some instances defection in place is practically assured. The Minister of National Defense, Jose Angel Sanchez, is opposed to Communist control over Arbenz and is considered inclined towards supporting any well-organized opposition movement. The Chief of the Armed Forces Colonel Carlos Enrique Diaz, is probably discredited and considered no longer loyal to Arbenz. The Chief of Staff, Colonel Enrique Parinello de Leon, has repeatedly indicated his desire to see the end of the Communist-controlled regime. The Chief of the Air Force, Colonel Luis A. Giron, is believed disaffected. The Minister without Portfolio, Colonel Elfego Monzon, is actively, covertly organizing within the Army for a coup [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Plans are under way to incorporate his assets with those of the Junta and a meeting is being planned to effect this union. Thus, within the high command a definite capability exists to defect in place sufficient numbers of influential military leaders to ensure control over the Armed Forces before any overt action is undertaken.

In furtherance of the objective to defect the Army, two distinct operations are in progress; the Junta, through its military contacts and an independent effort by CIA targeted at key personnel. The Junta leadership, being primarily composed of Guatemalan Army officers in exile, has achieved certain success to date. The leaders of this organizational effort have been examined by polygraph and cleared as to the validity of their statements. The independent effort is now being carried out by a case officer in the field following 60 days of intensive study of the most promising targets of importance.

In addition, a military organization of younger officers positively pledged to Calligeris is in existence. They have been organized and contacted by Calligeris’ military representative in Guatemala. The Calligeris organization presently has four trusted military leaders in the four sectors of Guatemala City and a leader in each of the nine target garrisons. These leaders estimate that, on D-Day, they can capture from within all the garrisons except Quiche, Mazatenango and San Jose, where added efforts to prepare capitulation are in progress.

At best, the apparently “safe” garrisons will be taken without firing a shot. Where this does not work, correct disposition of friendly elements plus the denial of weapons and ammunition to enemy forces should quell opposition. If necessary, civilian paramilitary units will step in to provide overwhelming force.

As regards this civilian paramilitary organization, substantial numbers of men in each of the nine garrison areas in Guatemala are already pledged. The number of men available in each garrison area are listed [Page 254]below. Three columns are given to show the various estimates, ranging from the most conservative to the optimistic. Column I figures cannot, of course, be guaranteed but are the result of checking Calligeris’ figures with individual leaders who have been exfiltrated from Guatemala. These figures have been sufficiently confirmed by questioning, where possible, that it is the belief of the Lincoln staff that they are accurate. Moreover, in no instance has questioning shown initial estimates to be seriously erroneous.

Total Positive Pledges Total Which There is Reason to Believe Exist in Area & Are Anti-Govt to Point of Taking Action Calligeris Claimed Support. Presently Unconfirmed but not Disproved
Guatemala City 1725 4225 9125
Coban 920 1750 4850
Quezaltenango 415 1915 8490
Mazatenango 195 2095 4000
Quiche 187 1887 4000
Puerto Barrios 471 671 1485
Jutiapa 660 2060 6000
Zacapa 565 1175 1200
San Jose 4 150 150
Total target, garrison vicinity 5142 15,928 39,300

In addition to the above civilians available in the garrison areas, four other civilian organizations in important tactical areas, ringing Guatemala City, are envisaged. Strength figures in these areas computed in the same manner as above are as follows:

Area I 70 70 70
Area II 350 1300 3520
Area III
Area IV 150 1350 9420
Total Tactical outer org. 570 2720 13,010

The entire complex of friendly military and paramilitary assets will be firmly organized, finally trained and led on D-Day, by the paramilitary assets developed and existing outside Guatemala. These assets are discussed under 2c below.

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d. Intelligence

Intelligence from within Guatemala is provided mainly by the Junta Intelligence Service located in Honduras and discussed in the next section below. In addition the Guatemala City Station is providing good intelligence on political and psychological subjects as well as from sources on the Government, Army and Communist Party. In addition intelligence is provided by the propaganda organizations mentioned above as well as by the State Department and the service attachés.

2. Outside the Country

a. General

One of the major assets of the Group outside of Guatemala is the backing provided by other countries.2

[5 paragraphs (31 lines of source text) not declassified]

b. Psychological

In addition to independent media, the following controlled external PW assets are available:

Publications and Radio
Boletin del Ceuage 5000 copies (3000 smuggled into Guatemala) Published weekly in Honduras by controlled anti-Communist group of Guatemalan exiles.
Radio Programs Honduras Same group.
Leaflets and Bulletins Honduras (smuggled into Guatemala) Same group.
El Combate 5000 copies (3000 smuggled into Guatemala) Published weekly in Salvador by anti-Communist front group (FAGE).
Radio Broadcasts(Cristal YSY) Reaches about 50 miles beyond Guatemalan border Same group.
Pronto Newspaper, just begun. Distribution in Guatemala being developed, if possible Published in Mexico by anti-Communist Guatemalan group (FEGAM).
Bulletin for the Liberation of Guatemala Newspaper, anti-Junta but also anti-Communist Published in Mexico (a few reach Guatemala) by Comm. for the Liberation of Guatemala (LIONIZER).

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A principal, if not the principal, psychological asset is a clandestine radio [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which is expected to go on the air April 26. Broadcasting tapes are and will be prepared at Lincoln. This station will be beamed at Guatemala from where it will be purportedly broadcasting. Programs are planned for the next thirty to forty days and two weeks of tapes are now ready for use. This radio will also provide the radio support needed immediately prior to the uprising unless it is inoperative or its use is undesirable in which case a contingency station fully under our control will be used. Preparations for this installation are substantially completed.

A writing staff of Guatemalans has been installed in safe houses near Lincoln to provide the support needed for the above assets as well as preparing additional propaganda material for field distribution. A reporting system has been devised for psychological purposes which is providing substantial raw material for the writers. This is supplemented by hourly FBIS service and the receipt within 18 hours of publication of daily newspapers from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, Salvador and Honduras.

To buttress the effects of the Caracas anti-Communist resolution two conferences in Mexico City have been arranged. The first scheduled for May 1 will be sponsored by the “Latin American Laborers in Exile” largely under the auspices of ORIT. Though not directly targeted at Guatemala, it is anticipated that considerable propaganda against the target will be generated. The second to be convened 27–30 May will be called the “Congress Against Soviet Intervention in Latin America”. It will be attended by many prominent anti-Communists from every country in Latin America and will have as its main object the focusing of the attention of Latin Americans on the Communist situation in Guatemala thereby constituting a call for all anti-Communists to aid in the struggle.

c. Paramilitary

In the paramilitary field Calligeris is, of course, the leader and has with him an Executive, a senior Colonel, plus four ex-officer personnel as a staff. In addition there are 67 trainee graduates of one of our schools; 9 radio operators and crypto clerks in training plus 5 more on the way, who are already experienced. Recently about 40 more men arrived from Guatemala as sub-unit leaders or special task personnel while some 212 men with varying degrees of experience and different capabilities are available on a stand-by basis and will provide the nucleus for various shock forces. Adequate provision has been made for logistical support.

d. Intelligence

The primary intelligence assets are those initially provided by the Junta (Headquarters in Honduras) but now sufficiently reformed, compartmented and polygraphed to be legitimately considered the equivalent [Page 257]of a direct PBSUCCESS asset. This separate but controlled service has penetrations in the major Guatemalan Government departments, all military garrisons, the Communist Party (PGT), [1 line of source text not declassified]. A CE Section has been developed giving exclusive attention to Communist penetrations of the Junta, conducting investigations and developing safeguards. Moreover, radio operators will soon be deployed within Guatemalan target areas to provide W/T communications for intelligence and EEI’s.

[3 paragraphs (20 lines of source text) not declassified]

C. Security

Ever since the work was first started on the preparation of a plan for PBSUCCESS it has been fully recognized that the U.S. would be accused of being the main sponsor of most if not all activities directed against the Arbenz regime. Written statements to this effect were included in the report on Stage One written in December 1953;3 in a paper written in March 1954 and presented to the Secretary of State,4 and, in addition, there have been numerous oral reports to the same effect. Moreover it has been consistently assumed that in an operation of this scope some evidence supporting the accusations would unavoidably be available to unfriendly powers or individuals. Nevertheless it was concluded that there was sufficient likelihood that no irrefutable evidence of a legal nature would be discovered to justify the undertaking particularly when the risks were weighed against the importance of the project.

A careful review of all known factors bearing on security now in existence including [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] of the U.S. Embassies in Guatemala and Honduras indicates that so far the estimates have been accurate and that security has been as well maintained in this project as could reasonably be expected. Consequently it is fair to assume that no irrefutable evidence tying the project to the U.S. Government is in the hands of the enemy. It would of course be as impossible in this case as in all others to guarantee this last statement but it can be asserted that the risks of U.S. involvement today are not such as to warrant, in our opinion, a termination or modification of the project on security grounds, if it is otherwise desirable.

Added support in cloaking the U.S. hand exists in the number of other countries which both have good reasons for wanting to see the replacement of the Arbenz Government and have the means for backing a coup of the size planned. The following facts are known to many:

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[4 paragraphs (25 lines of source text) not declassified]

The known hostility of the above countries to Arbenz was useful in cloaking the U.S. hand at the time of the January 1954 White Paper.5 This paper directly accused Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, as well as private U.S. interests, of attempting to intervene in Guatemalan affairs with the acquiescence of “the government of the North”. Much of the “evidence” appended to the White Paper was quickly established as spurious and the Guatemalan Government itself hedged on whether “the government of the North” was intended to mean Mexico or the United States. Consequently nothing in the White Paper established official U.S. involvement. Continued study of the after effects of the White Paper indicates that it somewhat reinforced suspicions among all those previously inclined to suspect the U.S. but was roundly disbelieved by the majority of anti-Communists in Central America.

In conclusion the following observations on the question of U.S. involvement seem appropriate:

Although a number of individuals in both the Nicaraguan and Honduran Governments are personally convinced that the U.S. is favorably disposed toward this operation and although the Guatemalan regime may and probably does have indications to this effect, plausible denial by the U.S. in response to any charges could still be sustained. This would be especially true if the Guatemalan regime had been effectively overthrown and its leaders scattered.
There is not the slightest doubt that if the operation is carried through many Latin Americans will see in it the hand of the U.S. But it is equally true that they would see the hand of the U.S. in any uprising whether or not sponsored by the U.S., particularly since the U.S. has made it clear in many overt ways that it heartily disapproves of the Arbenz regime. In short it might be said that the only way to forestall such a belief is for the U.S. to make sure that there is no revolution, which we are in no position to do since there is good reason to believe that some one of the other potential sponsors will in all probability press for the revolution which under such circumstances (a) would in all likelihood abort and (b) would be laid at our door anyhow.
Assuming that in this instance a decision is taken to terminate or substantially to modify the present project for security reasons or at least on the grounds that the hand of the U.S. is too clearly shown, a serious question is raised as to whether any operation of this kind can appropriately be included as one of the U.S. cold war weapons, no matter how great the provocation or how favorable the auspices, as far as the entire area of Latin America is concerned.

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II. Possible Courses of Action

Continue the plan in substantially its present form, bending every effort toward the earliest feasible conclusion. Some adjustment of the present target date would probably be necessary in view of the delays thus far encountered in the timetable of scheduled accomplishments and developments. There would, of course, be an understanding that the final phase would not be authorized unless and until the Director had satisfied himself that conditions were favorable for the success of the operation.
Adopt a substantially modified form of the plan, accentuating the intelligence, propaganda, political action, and defection aspects thereof, and postponing paramilitary action until October or later. This would have to assume that there could be a vigorous and coordinated program of official and overt action and covert operations.
Abandon the present plan and rely upon overt diplomatic action and relatively minor political and psychological warfare activities to overthrow the present regime. What is specifically proposed is to begin with a strong official statement of the United States position toward the present regime in Guatemala, followed by an attempt to secure the support of the Caracas majority at an OAS meeting in September for the application against Guatemala of the sanctions envisaged in the Rio Pact. Essentially this would involve an economic and communications blockade of Guatemala by OAS members or at least by those members willing to support and join in the action.

III. Conclusions

The best chance of removing the Arbenz regime is to proceed as energetically as possible along the lines of the present plan. There is evidence of political and psychological unrest within Guatemala and of growing hostility to the regime. A revolutionary potential exists in the Army. Continued application of planned and integrated pressures should force progressively greater unrest and defection while removal of such pressures will greatly strengthen the opposition and discourage or disaffect allies and potential allies.
It is fair to assume that no irrefutable evidence tying the project to the U.S. Government is in the hands of the enemy. The security of the project is as good as can be expected and fully in keeping with the estimates made and reported on numerous occasions starting with the beginning of the project. Any action against the Arbenz regime will be charged against the United States whether or not it has any responsibility for it.
Alternative IIB which would substantially postpone the target date offers few advantages but has numerous disadvantages, among them: possible loss of assets through disaffection or insecurity (time and exposure [Page 260]being in direct ratio); loss of support from other nations, almost surely Honduras which would hesitate to support near its elections, even assuming it still has a stable and friendly government; and Nicaraguan support would diminish if it could be counted on at all; disruption of the present defection program, both military and civilian, which is geared to early action; loss of intelligence as a result of the effect of further evidence of inability to act on the part of Calligeris; similar reduction in the effectiveness of propaganda; danger of an early, abortive coup by impatient elements; and strengthening of the Arbenz team since time is on its side particularly if pressures are relaxed.
Alternative IIC is outside the jurisdiction of CIA but presents difficult questions requiring answers not presently available. Some of these are:
Will evidence of Communist domination in Guatemala be available in such convincing form as to make it difficult, if not impossible, for a Latin American politician, not wishing to recognize the fact, to avoid doing so?
How many of the countries that voted for the Caracas resolution would vote in the same fashion, if such vote involved taking action against Guatemala?
Assuming an embargo is voted, when will it be possible and will it be effective in denying (a) access to Guatemala of non-Western Hemisphere shipping adequate for its trade, (b) access to imports of Mexican petroleum, (c) access to imports of Argentinean grain and (d) access to European sources of supply for industrial goods? Would such an embargo close European, Asiatic and Soviet bloc markets for Guatemalan coffee?
Assuming failure before the OAS, will it be possible to undertake any action along the lines presently contemplated or will our hands be tied?
Is it contemplated that our NATO allies would be asked to recognize that the Guatemalan regime presents a serious military threat and therefore to join in the imposition of economic sanctions?
Frank G. Wisner
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–01025A, Box 151, Folder 6. Top Secret.
  2. Regarding the activity of other countries, see Documents 126 and 127.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 75.
  4. Reference is to the Second Interim Report, March 15, not found.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 89.