17. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Embassy in Guatemala1

429. Eyes only Ambassador and Counselor. On return from Guatemala Ambassador Cruz in informal conversation told Fisher ARA President Castillo had personally made following charges to him:

Cordova Cerna2 is President’s enemy; works against Castillo and criticizes him freely for incompetence; Cordova sees Embassy officers with excessive frequency without reporting to President; procured removal of Ambassador Peurifoy3 by false representation to Department that President so desired; secured Mann’s appointment as person with whom he could work. After repeating foregoing accusations by President Ambassador Cruz made personal assertion he believed Cordova paid off certain army officers for disloyal purposes.

President asserts Embassy unfriendly his regime and Ambassador and Counselor excessively friendly toward Cordova; Mann too close large US companies, especially UFCO and IRCA.

President asserts UFCO furthering its private interests versus national interest. Gave as example company’s failure give up control Guatemala’s principal port; asserts UFCO exerts various kinds pressure [Page 53] on Guatemala; asserts company endeavors utilize Embassy support. Gave as specific example UFCO collaboration with Cordova to delay US aid to Guatemala in order improve company’s bargaining position in contract negotiations last month.

Cruz states he insisted Castillo misinformed and believes he partly removed misapprehension but President’s attitude is still cause for concern.

Cruz said he would not take matter up formally but hoped help clear up Castillo’s misunderstandings without adverse effects Embassy officers or affecting relations. He suggested (1) Counselor take advantage his recent excellent talk with Cruz on subject Guatemalan port problem to take up same matter with Castillo and at same time clarify Embassy’s total position re abstention from internal politics, its relations with American companies, etc.; (2) Embassy cultivate closer relations with President’s ranking confidant Major Oliva4 with less emphasis on contact with Cordova.

According reliable information from another source Cruz returned from Guatemala with Castillo’s instructions to obtain removal Ambassador and Counselor. According this source Castillo was embittered by his accumulating difficulties including alleged inadequacy US aid attributing latter in part to what he thought was Embassy’s unsympathetic attitude as result influence American companies and Cordova. Same source states Cruz realized only after arrival here inadvisability making representations as instructed and decided minimum compliance would be approach Department desk officer on basis their personal friendship limiting statement to Castillo’s misunderstanding concerning Counselor.

Holland proposes inform Cruz circumstances regarding Peurifoy’s replacement and Mann’s appointment; explain delay in arrival US aid due administrative difficulties in Washington; emphasize Department’s full support of Ambassador and Counselor; state Department reporting substance Cruz conversation to you with request you see President.5

You may consider discussing foregoing with President direct emphasizing your willingness deal with those government officials he designates. In order ensure coordination Embassy and Department kindly cable your views by Monday morning for use in conference now scheduled with Ambassador Cruz for twelve o’clock. To avoid prejudicing Cruz suggest you not see President until Department [Page 54] reports on Monday conference. No reference should be made to information received from reliable source other than Cruz.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 121.142/1–2255. Secret; Limit Distribution; Niact. Drafted and approved by Holland.
  2. Juan Córdova Cerna, a civilian member of the Junta of Government which assumed control of Guatemala following the resignation of President Jacobo Arbenz in June 1954.
  3. John E. Peurifoy, Ambassador in Guatemala, November 4, 1953–October 2, 1954.
  4. Enrique Trinidad Oliva.
  5. Document 20.
  6. The Embassy responded to these statements in telegram 459 from Guatemala City, January 23. (Department of State, Central Files, 714.00/1–2355)