60. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Debriefing of Ambassador Rudolf E. Schoenfeld, October 28, 1953

Of the various comments made by Ambassador Schoenfeld on the communist situation in Guatemala, the following are most relevant to OCB interests:

The communist power-drive in Guatemala has reached an advanced state of infiltration, they hold key positions in (a) the agrarian movement, (b) the labor movement, (c) government administration short of cabinet level.
President Arbenz, who is half Swiss, has a granite streak of stubbornness in addition to his volatility and is firmly convinced that he can deal with the communists whenever he has to. This optimism is not shared by Ambassador Schoenfeld, who feels that Arbenz has not even begun to appreciate the real purposes and techniques of communism as a power-seeking movement, not a social reform.
On the anti-communist side, there are very few positions of strength. The church is extremely weak, all of its property having been confiscated, and a strong anti-clerical attitude exists. The intellectuals are either bemused by the appeals of communism, or are hypersensitive to the U.S. The land-owners are strictly apolitical and will not permit themselves, or their sons, to engage in political activity. They feel that Guatemalan politics has three unattractive destinations: the palace, the jail, or the cemetery. The independent press, however, is very alert to the communist danger.
Guatemala represents in miniature all of the social cleavages, tensions, and dilemmas of modern Western society under attack by the communist virus. Conditions will worsen considerably before we can improve them, and we should regard Guatemala as a prototype area for testing means and methods of combatting communism.
It will be of primary importance for U.S. labor organizations to encourage the growth of free trade unions in Guatemala, for U.S. corporations to adopt enlightened labor policy in the area, and for the U.S. Government to develop information activities along non-attributable lines.

Richard Hirsch2
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Jackson Records. Confidential. Prepared on October 29. Previously printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. IV, p. 1087 (Document 18).
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.