22. Telegram From the Ambassador in Guatemala (Armour) to the Department of State1

462. Mann and I had a long and satisfactory talk with Castillo late afternoon January 24 (Deptel 429). I began by saying we were informed Ambassador Cruz had made certain statements concerning my Embassy which the Department considered useful in clearing up possible misunderstandings. Cruz statements could be divided into three main categories—(a) the amount of American aid (b) Embassy’s relations with Cordova Cerna (c) Embassy’s relations with officials American companies. Did the President wish to comment on these subjects?

President forthrightfully expressed his dissatisfaction with lack progress in economic field. He said Guatemala was show-case for entire world to see and economic failure his regime would have far-reaching consequences. The question was what to do to get things moving now rather than in future. He needs more aid and advice. He referred particularly Pacific coastal highway and mentioned corn shortage. He said Ambassador Cruz had been asked deliver letter President Eisenhower which stressed Guatemala’s urgent needs and invited President to send representative here to survey situation. He did not know whether letter had been delivered.

We expressed our general agreement with these views and reminded him of accomplishments since mid-September. We said first four months were hardest and were confident fruits our past and future efforts would, with necessary cooperation of government, begin to show more and more in months to come. Regarding Pacific highway, USOM had been ready since December 21 pay bills, but due to government’s vacillation in first preferring private contractors, then caminos, then private contractors again, followed by dismissal of Minister Communications, had resulted in loss month for which we would not accept responsibility. We did, however, regret loss of time between mid-September and mid-December in obtaining decision on aid and arranging for disbursements. Re corn: Did President realize that Washington had in substance offered make available over million dollars worth corn at only nominal cost Guatemalan Government and that only problem was formula might have resulted delay in construction Pacific highway.2 He said this had not been [Page 62] adequately explained to him by his Ministers. There followed constructive discussion positive steps that could be taken which will be reported separately.

President expressed surprise and ignorance Cruz’ remarks on subjects our relations with Cordova Cerna and with officials American companies. Remarked Cordova apparently working loyally at present and referred to recent cordial conversation with official UFCO. Volunteered he had at no time expressed dissatisfaction with efforts Ambassador or Counselor. Agreed he and I should meet regularly each mid-week for review problems and is to dine with me on Thursday. To protect Cruz, I emphasized we were not complaining actions his Ambassador who seemed to be trying his best serve Castillo.

We conducted conversation with the dignity which the situation demanded. If this Embassy is to be effective in discharging its many responsibilities here it must and will be respected. After President disavowed any dissatisfaction with Embassy, conversation was cordial.

We are more convinced than ever (Embtel 459) that aside from his immediate political problems, Castillo’s main concern is failure get a public works program started quickly and frustration at delay in dealing effectively with agrarian reform, labor, and other problems pressing in on him. There are moments when he seems almost pathetic. He must literally be led by the hand step by step. It will be a difficult task to do this without arousing nationalistic reactions, but we intend expand scope our efforts with Klein and Saks as one of main vehicles.

It is relatively easy plant in his mind suspicion that Embassy responsible for delay in getting financial and technical aid programs going, and from this to suggest ulterior motives and conspiracies with real and fancied opposition elements. To degree which we cannot precisely determine, we believe Cruz added to and embroidered on what President actually said. Whether these or similar charges are made in future will probably depend on whether he can get his government operating smoothly and effectively and on whether he gets aid quickly and in what he considers adequate quantity.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 814.00/1–2555. Secret; Limited Distribution.
  2. Discussions between officials of the Department of State and the Foreign Operations Administration concerning a donation of corn to Guatemala began in late December 1954, and continued intermittently into 1955. The first shipment of corn to Guatemala was approved in April 1955; for additional infomation, see the Department of State Bulletin, August 1, 1955, p. 196.