98. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs (Burrows) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Oliver)1
- Your Meeting Today with Mr. Broe of CIA2
CIA appears to feel more strongly than we do at this time with respect to certain threatening aspects of the Guatemalan situation. The Agency in recent briefings for key officials of the U.S. Government has stated that President Mendez of Guatemala has abdicated all power to the military and is himself in the hands of extreme rightists.
Our own analysis of the situation is that Mendez has allowed the military great latitude in their activities, but that the situation is not out of hand. Mendez agrees in principle with the need to eliminate communist and insurgent elements by clandestine means, but at the same time recognizes the danger to his administration of the counter-terrorists, who include among their targets certain members of the majority Partido Revolucionario, as well as some labor and peasant leaders and intellectuals.
Our Embassy in Guatemala now feels that with the relative success of the GOG in dealing with the insurgency problem, the continued activities of the counter-terrorist organizations could lead to a loss of popular support for the Mendez Government and the creation of a coup climate. I agree with this assessment. We are, in effect, at a crucial point: Mendez could lose control of the situation, but it does not appear that he has. Ambassador Mein feels that the Minister of Defense is both loyal to Mendez and in control of the Army and that he has done an effective job of preventing a confrontation between the Army and the Partido Revolucionario.
If the opportunity arises, you might wish to determine on what basis the CIA has decided that Mendez has lost control. I should like to add as a footnote that Mendez never really gained full control over events in Guatemala; he has no power base and as a result has been forced to attempt to balance opposing factions and satisfy divergent interest groups. In this he has been successful and we have reason to believe he can prevent a serious deterioration in the political climate. His style, however, will continue to be one of compromise rather than self-assertion.