Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
United States Department of State
May 15, 2003
The operation to overthrow Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954, a decisive event in U.S. relations with Latin America early in the cold war, is the topic of a retrospective volume of the Department of State’s official documentary history, Foreign Relations of the United States, released on May 15, 2003. As part of a sub-series of the Foreign Relations series that documents the foreign policy of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration, this retrospective volume supplements the 1983 publication of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Volume IV, American Republics. The 1983 volume—which covered multilateral and bilateral relations with 20 American republics—provided an incomplete history of U.S. relations with Guatemala by not documenting the U.S. Government-approved role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the ouster of Arbenz.
Partly in response to this omission, Congress passed legislation in 1991, which the President signed, mandating that the Foreign Relations series “shall be a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity” and requiring U.S. Government departments and agencies to provide Department of State historians with “full and complete access to the records pertinent to United States foreign policy decisions and actions.”
In the early 1990s, Directors of Central Intelligence officially acknowledged 11 covert actions during the early cold war years, including the one in Guatemala. At the same time, Department of State historians gained fuller access to the CIA’s files on Guatemala. The new volume is a product of this improved access. The Central Intelligence Agency has reviewed the volume for declassification, in coordination with its review of a larger collection of documents on the Guatemalan operation that it is releasing to the public at the National Archives.
This new volume, a selection of the most significant documents, fills in many details about the role of the United States in Guatemala in the early 1950s and provides an accurate account of U.S. policy toward Guatemala. The operation in Guatemala is an important instance of the use of covert action to implement U.S. foreign policy, and this volume provides a detailed account of that action. The new volume does not reprint documents from the 1983 Foreign Relations publication, although footnotes and editorial notes refer back to significant documents in that earlier volume.
The retrospective volume on Guatemala, 1952–1954, relies primarily on documentation of the Directorate of Operations (DO) at the Central Intelligence Agency. Most of the DO documentation includes extensive records for PBFORTUNE, a 1951 contingency plan for ousting Arbenz; PBSUCCESS, the plan that was actually implemented; and PBHISTORY, the project to collect and analyze documents of the Arbenz government. The volume includes correspondence, memoranda, and cable traffic among CIA Headquarters, PBSUCCESS Headquarters in Florida, and CIA Stations including Guatemala, and between the Department of State and the Embassy in Guatemala. Also included are documents from the John Foster Dulles Papers at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library that were not printed in the 1983 compilation.
To facilitate research, both the new volume and the 1983 compilation are available on the Office of the Historian website. Copies of the new volume can be purchased from the Government Printing Office. For further information, contact Edward C. Keefer, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663–1131; fax: (202) 663–1289; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.