32. Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

No. 20

Section I–Current Activities of the Guatemalan Government

The Guatemalan government has, during the last few weeks, shifted three or four of its garrison commanders. This of course is one measure taken to prevent anti-government forces from becoming established in the army. In two instances this shifting of commanders has worked against us and we have been obliged to select new leaders within the garrisons concerned. We anticipate further moves of this nature and expect to counteract it by having at least two of the superior officers in our organization.

Recently, we learned of the government’s plan to make Quetzaltenango its headquarters in the event of revolution. The government expects any invasion to start from across the Salvadoran frontier and believes its best chances for defense are to fall back on Quetzaltenango and establish a defensive line roughly north and south through that city. Terrain favors such a defense and, by so doing, the government will have in its rear, i.e. the area between Quetzaltenango and the Mexican frontier, the wealthiest and most productive section of Guatemala from which to draw support. The government recently transferred one of its best officers to command Quetzaltenango and has re-enforced the area with troops and arms. Fortunately at the same time the government transferred to the garrison as [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in command one of our best officers. Thus, as long as he is there we will be fully informed on all government plans for the area. In this instance shifting of commanders has worked in our favor.

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Comment: This information, i.e. that the government is thinking defensively instead of offensively in the event of revolution is of considerable importance and supports Calligeris’ plan for heavy initial shock action and rapid concentration around the Capitol.

Because the government no longer completely trusts the army it has begun the development of a secret force of non-military personnel. Though full details are not available the force numbers approximately 1500 men all of which are handpicked for their experience and toughness. The total force breaks down into three separate organizations. These are:
Caribbean Legion. About 200 men mostly Central Americans, commanded by General ___2 Ramirez, a Santo Domingoan; the second in command is Col. Rivas Montes, a Honduran. General Ramirez at present owns and operates a sawmill on the outskirts of Jalapa where he has the 200 men supposedly working. We believe it is a training area for the Legion. Col. Montes is living in Guatemala City where he heads Aviateca for the Guatemalan government.
Secret Communist Organization. Composed of roughly 500 men scattered throughout Guatemala. Commander of this organization is a closely guarded secret. The function of this group is to act as “shock” troops in the event of trouble and to liquidate any communist leaders who get out of line. President Arbenz and the other top communist leaders are well aware of this latter function.
_?_. No known name for this organization. Its leader is one ___ Fernandez, a Cuban of Spanish origin(?). The group is composed of Cubans and Spanish republicans. Size of organization is unknown. We do know that Fernandez is in close contact with Carlos Prios Socorates, a Cuban. I believe this organization more dangerous than the Legion.

The Guatemalan government has been purchasing arms from El Salvador, Czechoslovakia, and probably Mexico. We do not know the extent of these purchases. Interestingly enough we do know that none of the arms purchased are going to Guatemalan army. We have reason to believe the arms are going to labor organizations and communist groups.

Comment: Calligeris reports that Czech arms purchases to date have consisted only of six (6) AA MG .50 Cal.

Political. Present political activity of the government centers around the following:
Communist infiltration of all legal political parties in Guatemala. For this purpose the government is not using men well known as communists but men known to it, the government, as communists or communist sympathizers. During 16–18 January 1953 deputies to the National Congress are to be elected. Though the communists now control the National Congress they hope toÊ dominate it completely by placing their men through the other parties.
In March 1953 all judgeships in the supreme and lower courts come up for re-appointment. The deputies elected in January take office on 1 March and they will make the appointments to the courts. These appointments will carry down to the city magistrate level. Thus if the communists completely dominate the National Congress through the election of their deputies in January, and I assure you they will, they will in turn appoint their own men to the courts and will, by 15 March, completely dominate the three branches of the government, i.e., Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.

The government has embarked on a campaign to sell communism to the people. The usual propaganda outlets are being employed. Recently they have begun the publication of pamphlets, copies of three which I have given you. The booklet on the Agrarian Law is being widely distributed in Honduras and Salvador.

Comment: Copies of the pamphlets referred to are enclosed.3

Honduras. Guatemalan political activity is on the increase.
We have information that in northern Honduras there are more than forty (40) communist cells in existence.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is on the Guatemalan payroll. As far as we can determine he is receiving $2000.00 a month from the Guatemalan government. [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
[1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] we believe the man the government really intends to support is Francisco Morazan, a Honduran, at present private secretary to President Arbenz of Guatemala.
Costa Rica.
Economic. Economic conditions in Guatemala are very grave and are becoming worse every day. Capital is leaving the country. It is going to Mexico and the United States.
On 21 November last I was told by [1 line of source text not declassified] that President Arbenz is preparing to invoke the Economic Emergency Law (La Ley de Emergencia Economia). Under this law all capital in the country, local and foreign, will be frozen.
The Guatemalan government is preparing to impose a 6% tax on all imports and exports.

Section II–Activities of the Calligeris Organization in Guatemala

I am not fully informed on every phase of our military preparation in Guatemala, that being primarily Calligeris’ responsibility, however I can say that we have reached a high degree of organization [Page 53]and have never been in a better state of readiness than we are at this moment.

Troop Organization.
Jutiapa. The Guatemalan [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] here is with us as are his three (300) hundred soldiers. Our initial striking force in this area consists of three (300) hundred armed civilians. In addition we have fifteen (1500) hundred men ready but without arms. We have sufficient trucks to move this entire force.
Jalapa. The officers and one (100) hundred men stationed here are with us. We have eight (800) hundred civilians ready but without arms.
Santa Rosa. No army garrison here. We have one (1000) thousand men ready here but without arms.
Zacapa. The garrison here has six (600) hundred soldiers well armed. They have four (4) 75 mm canon and four (4) AA MG .50 Cal. We are not sure of this garrison but hope they will join us.
Gualan. No garrison here. We have two (200) hundred men here unarmed.
Coban. Army garrison here of about fifteen (1500) hundred men. The post has four (4) 75 mm canon (Pack How.). The second and third in command plus a nucleus in the ranks are with us. We have two (2000) thousand men ready here as an initial force. More than an adequate number of trucks.
Salama. No garrison here. We have a force of six (600) hundred men ready without arms.
Quetzaltenango. There is a garrison of eight (800) hundred men in this area. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in command are with us. In this area we have organized a group of fifty (50) commandos in sub-units of five (5) men each. Their mission will be to kill all political and military leaders in the city. In the general area we have three (3000) thousand men. They need arms. The city has an excellent airport which we plan to capture and use.
San Jose (port on the Pacific ocean). No garrison. The city has an excellent military airfield built by the Americans. The field is not used by the military there being no Guatemalan air force units here.
Mazatenango. Garrison of three hundred and fifty (350) soldiers. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in command are with us. We have eight hundred (800) men organized here but without arms.
Chimaltenango. No garrison. We have one thousand (1000) men here without arms. We have sixty trucks (60) ready. We are building an airfield here.
Sanarate. (SW of El Progreso) No garrison. We have five hundred (500) men ready without arms.
El Progreso. No garrison. We have five hundred (500) men without arms.
Puerto Barrios. Garrison of one hundred and fifty (150) men. The garrison recently received four (4) AA MG .50 Cal. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in command is with us. I do not know the size of our civilian force.

Guatemala City. The government here has about five thousand (5000) men including soldiers and police. Within the city we [have] six hundred (600) men organized in commando units each with a specific mission.

“K” Groups. Mission to kill all leading political and military leaders. The list has already been drawn up. I have in my home a city map showing the location of the homes and offices of all targets.

Saboteurs. We have teams ready to sabotage communications, utilities, all headquarters, transportation, military installation and equipment. For these teams we have selected men whose civilian employment is at or near the targets assigned. We do not plan permanent but only disruptive sabotage.

Documents teams. These teams will capture and impound all documents in government offices, party headquarters, and labor unions.

Liberation Committees. Independent of our fighting organization we have organized in each town a liberation committee. The function of these committees will be to assume political and police control in each town as it is liberated and thus re-establish and assure public order and welfare until the new government is prepared to assume these functions.
Identity Cards. To protect our personnel and prevent enemy personnel from changing sides during and after the action I have prepared and issued 40,000 identity cards.
Intelligence Service. We have developed an intelligence organization. It exists in the government, police, and the army. The head of this service is [name not declassified] a man we trust implicitly and a man who has over 20 years intelligence experience. At present he is seeking to penetrate the labor unions.

Airfields. We are selecting and developing airfields all over Guatemala, and in particular around the Capital. Our major field in the Capital area is near the town of Dolores (SSE of Guatemala City and ENE of Esquintla) a particularly isolated area. Here we expect to bring in by air arms and equipment and assemble 3000 men which force will comprise one column for the march on the Capital. We already have the necessary trucks earmarked. In selecting our airfield sites we have enlisted the aid of [name not declassified] an American living in [Page 55]Guatemala. He served as a pilot in WW II and has agreed to fly for us. He states that he can buy us four (4) DC–3s and get us three more American pilots.

Comment: Seekford has asked that this man be sent to visit Calligeris.

Psychological Warfare. We have prepared a psychological warfare program.
The farmers of Guatemala have collected money to carry out a press and radio campaign. This is being developed.
We are prepared to carry out Calligeris’ 30 day campaign.
We have arranged with the Archbishop of Guatemala for a series of special Masses covering an 8 day period in which the clergy will outline the dangers of communism to Guatemala and ask that the people resist and fight these dangers. In most of the churches throughout Guatemala the women have formed committees to aid in this campaign. What we hope to do through this program is to bring the people to a high emotional pitch. What the Archbishop does not know is that we intend to tie this 8 day campaign to our D-day. He is unaware of our military plans.
Current Plans of the Organization. Calligeris recently asked me to visit General Trujillo and ask for help. I believe such a trip would be profitless because neither General Trujillo or General Somoza will give us material help without being properly assured by [that] the United States government approves of such help. Without this approval both of these men stand to lose too much.

We have been building our organization before March of this year. We counted heavily upon your help. Unfortunately that help has now been withdrawn. We used that promise of help as a restraint upon our people from impatient action. Now we can restrain them no longer. Secondly, the Guatemalan government is now proceeding on a plan of action which, if successful, will give that government complete domination of every phase of Guatemalan life. If we permit the government to succeed in its present plan then our chances of eventually overthrowing that government will be very considerably reduced. It has therefore been the decision of the group controlling our organization to strike not later than the first of February 1953 with whatever means we have at our disposal.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–01025A, Box 134, Folder 6. Top Secret. A cover memorandum, not printed, indicates that the report is a record of a conference held November 27–December 1; the participants’ names and the location of the conference were not declassified.

    Also on December 1 Secretary of State Acheson met with Guatemalan Ambassador Guillermo Toriello to discuss U.S.-Guatemalan relations, especially pro-Communist propaganda and activities in the Guatemalan Congress. Ambassador Toriello attempted to justify Guatemala’s attitude toward Communist influence in the country. “Once or twice during the conversation, Toriello urged us not to be taken in by the denunciations of the Government by the opposition. By innuendo, he seemed to allege that our estimate of the situation had been unduly influenced by wild stories and rumors circulated by the subversive opposition, disguised and cloaked by anti-communism. The anti-communist movement in Guatemala is dangerous, he argued, since it does conveniently serve as a cloak for the irreconcilable opposition.” The full text of the memorandum of conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. IV, pages 10521055.

  2. The underlining in paragraphs (1) and (3) is in the source text.
  3. Not printed.