611.14/5–2454: Telegram

The Ambassador in Guatemala ( Peurifoy ) to the Department of State


776. Pursuant to his request (Embtel 760, May 22),1 I called this morning on Foreign Minister Torielio. He looked ill and said he had had to defer visit to Presbyterian Hospital in New York because of circumstances. Talk lasted hour and half and touched on relations with US, United Fruit Company problems, arms shipment and Communism. It gave no hint of any basic change in Guatemalan policy.

Relations with US: Toriello expressed concern over Guatemala’s relations with US which he said were getting worse; he knew consultations were now taking place regarding calling an OAS meeting and if one were called, Guatemala would attend and defend itself; Guatemala had strong case and would command respect of other American Republics for not tolerating intervention; he doubted meeting would do either Guatemala US much good.

Fruit Company problems: Toriello said he would hand me note2 rejecting Department’s claim for UFCO and did so at end of interview. Note summarized in Embtel 772, May 24.3 He then said Fruit Company had been exploiting Guatemala for years and paid very little taxes and he wondered whether we could not sit down with our advisers and work out solution. I asked whether government had ever informed UFCO exactly what it desired and he said, he felt company should approach government first. He then said he had no confidence in impartiality of Secretary Dulles, because of connection with Sullivan and Cromwell, and certain employees of State Department on UFCO question and suggested I discuss this matter personally with President Eisenhower. I replied that his suspicions of Secretary and of Department’s fairness were entirely groundless and that dealing in personalities only confused the issue. Toriello then said he might call me towards end of week at which time he might have some concrete proposals to make re UFCO. I said I would be available whenever he [Page 1128] wished to talk to me but reminded him other American interests were also involved, mentioning specifically Grace Line’s current difficulties (Embtel 743, May 21).4 He stated clearly that American interests would eventually have to give up control of all ports, communications and transportation since Guatemala was sovereign nation.

Arms shipment: Toriello confirmed that Guatemala had received arms shipment but denied categorically that arms were manufactured in any country which US regarded as Soviet satellite. When I asked if he could state arms were not purchased in satellite country, he replied negatively. He emphasized refusal of US to sell arms left Guatemala no alternative and assured me arms were for protection, since UFCO was financially backing Castillo Armas plot against Guatemalan Government. He said arms were not for aggression.

Communism: I told Toriello that for US problem of Communism was of greatest concern and that until that was solved I feared we would continue to have difficulties, he replied with standard line that Commies few and of no importance. I said I could not agree with him on this.

After his talk with me Toriello held press conference at which he announced that he and I would hold conversations looking toward solution of outstanding problems and expressed optimism that tension could be diminished.

My feeling is that Guatemalans are seriously worried over possibility of OAS meeting and are making desperate effort to induce us to defer or drop plans for international action. They either believe or wish to make Latin America believe that our real concern over Guatemala stems from UFCO’s problems and hope that discussions on this issue can be drawn out until moment for action has passed. There is no indication that they have any intention of modifying their attitude towards Commies. I therefore suggest Department play down fruit company problem for present and concentrate on Commie issue.

  1. In the referenced telegram, Ambassador Peurifoy reported that in an effort to secure foreign support for Guatemala in the arms shipment controversy, Foreign Minister Toriello on the previous day had explained to all Chiefs of Mission, except Ambassador Peurifoy, Guatemala’s views on the issue, and that the Foreign Minister had allegedly stated that Guatemala would attend and defend its position if a meeting of the OAS were called, but that he would appeal to the United Nations Security Council if attacks against Guatemala did not cease (414.608/5–2254).
  2. Not printed.
  3. In telegram 772, Ambassador Peurifoy reported that in the Guatemalan Government’s memorandum, dated May 24, 1954, Foreign Minister Toriello rejected UFCO’s claim for damages, refused to consider the subject an appropriate one for international discussion, and described the action of the U.S. Government in presenting the claim as intervention in the internal affairs of Guatemala (214.1141 UFCO/5–2454).
  4. Not printed (814.062/5–2154).