20. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 25, 19551


  • Guatemala: Relations between President Castillo Armas and the American Embassy


  • Ambassador José Luis Cruz Salazar of Guatemala, Mr. Holland and Mr. Fisher.

Mr. Holland said that Mr. Fisher had informed him about his conversation with Ambassador Cruz. He understood that Ambassador Cruz was interested in learning whether Sr. Cordoba Cerna had had anything to do with the transfers of Ambassador Peurifoy and Mr. Mann.

Ambassador Cruz said that Sr. Cordoba Cema himself had told President Castillo Armas that he had obtained the transfer of Ambassador Peurifoy and secured the appointment of his friend Mr. Mann as Counselor. President Castillo Armas suspected that Cordoba [Page 57] Cerna had given the United States Government to believe that President Castillo desired Ambassador Peurifoy’s removal. Ambassador Cruz was to inform the Department of State that President Castillo had nothing to do with it. Ambassador Cruz said he had learned from the President only during his recent visit to Guatemala about Cordoba Cerna’s trip to Washington last summer, and about his claims to have influenced the Department. Ambassador Cruz said that had he known sooner, he would have clarified the President’s position to the Department before this.

Mr. Holland said he could inform Ambassador Cruz categorically that there was no truth to the statement that Sr. Cordoba Cerna had influenced the transfers of either Ambassador Peurifoy or Mr. Mann. The decisions on these transfers were taken before Sr. Cordoba Cerna called at the Department. Secretary Dulles decided that Ambassador Peurifoy was urgently needed in Thailand because of the situation there and Mr. Holland had to persuade him to postpone Ambassador Peurifoy’s departure from Guatemala for a month and a half because of the great importance to us of the developments there. Mr. Dulles chose Ambassador Armour to succeed Mr. Peurifoy, calling him out of retirement because of our desire to have in Guatemala the best man to be found. Mr. Armour is a giant of our Foreign Service. Mr. Holland personally selected Mr. Mann to work under Ambassador Armour in order to form the best possible team in our mission in Guatemala. Mr. Holland said that in his opinion Mr. Mann is unexcelled in ability among American Foreign Service Officers of his age and rank.

Mr. Holland said that the President’s suspicions about Ambassador Armour and Mr. Mann were, of course, utterly false. He said that the United Fruit Company did not guide United States foreign policy decisions, and that, on the contrary, the United States Government from time to time found it necessary to guide and restrain the company in certain ways. Ambassador Armour and Mr. Mann never acted except in the interests of the United States. Ambassador Cruz agreed and said he insisted to President Castillo that this was so. He had discussed at length with Mr. Mann various aspects of the United Fruit Company problem and thought Mr. Mann was fully aware of its delicate nature. Ambassador Cruz thought that President Castillo Armas would sincerely welcome the Embassy’s frank opinion on political questions, and would appreciate being informed when he was making mistakes. Ambassador Cruz mentioned Mr. Mann’s recommendation to him that the Guatemalan Government present problems to the United States with a little less precipitousness as an example of a valid and helpful suggestion.

Mr. Holland said that our objective was to clear up the President’s misunderstandings about the Embassy, which raised a false [Page 58] obstacle to the most effective solution of the abundant real problems facing Guatemala and the United States. Mr. Holland was convinced that the best way to do this was for Ambassador Armour and Mr. Mann to go to the President and inform him that, according to information received from Mr. Holland in a personal communication, there existed some misunderstandings which should be cleared up. Mr. Holland said that they would then proceed to have an open and frank discussion which would dissipate the false impressions which the President held.

Ambassador Cruz said the solution he had in mind and which he had already suggested to Mr. Fisher was that Ambassador Armour and Mr. Mann call on the President to discuss the problem of the return of the ports from the United Fruit Company to the Government. They would say that they had already discussed this with Ambassador Cruz and wished to take it up with the President. They would take the opportunity afforded to clarify their position on all of their points bothering the President, thus dispelling his doubts.

He felt that the President had spoken with him in confidence concerning the Embassy, and did not expect that he would report it to the United States Government. Although he preferred his own suggestion, he would readily accept Mr. Holland’s decision to proceed as he had indicated.

Mr. Holland said he was convinced that the direct approach was the only way to clear it up adequately. He was also convinced that it would not damage Ambassador Cruz’s position but would enhance it. The United States was grateful to Ambassador Cruz for providing the opportunity to remove a source of unnecessary difficulty. Mr. Holland emphasized that the United States had no desire to do any injury to Ambassador Cruz and he was certain that the course he outlined would produce favorable results for Ambassador Cruz personally.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 121.14/1–2555. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by John W. Fisher of the Office of Middle-American Affairs.