348. Telegram 22560 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Guatemala1 2

[Page 1]

For Ambassador

1. As you know USG assisted the Mendez regime in dealing with some of its internal security problems, and increased that assistance when Arana requested shipment public safety equipment which we supplied on a crash basis to help him grapple with security problems. Most recently USG undertook to sell estimated dols 12 million in arms and expedite delivery 8 A–37B aircraft whose arrival in Guatemala will manifest USG continuing support Arana government.

2. In this context, we are troubled by recent turn of GOG’s current counter-insurgency campaign toward what appears to be a broadening of the definition of “FAR terrorist” to include “leftist” opposition figures who as far as we know are not repeat not involved in the FAR terrorist movement. Recent assassinations of public figures as Camey, Mijangos, Oliva y Oliva which, our intelligence indicates, have been carried out by groups under the control of the GOG, seem to fall into this category.

3. Obviously the USG is not responsible for actions [Page 2] of the GOG, and cannot control those actions. Indeed it would be presumptuous and unnecessarily obtrusive, if the US were to attempt to tell the GOG how best to handle the very difficult problem of combating this persistent terrorism. On the other hand, interest in friendly relations with Guatemala over the long run could be threatened by a close identification with what in the public mind are the excesses of a particular government’s counter-insurgency campaign. In the short run, the international image which the GOG creates with its counter-insurgency methods could lead to a resurgence of the events of 1967–68 when the USG was heavily criticized for supporting similar counter-terror activities. This criticism within the US as well as within Guatemala, severely constrained the ability of the USG to support the government’s programs as actively as both governments would have desired.

4. Embassy reporting suggests that President Arana, despite his initial reluctance, has yielded somewhat to the heavy pressures of some MLN supporters to broaden the scope of the counter-terror campaign to include not only identifiable FAR terrorists but also the “leftist” opposition. We do not underestimate the force of these pressures; indeed President Arana’s initial clamp-down in July of the “ojo por ojo” established initially the reasonableness of his own intentions. The provocations by the FAR in the fall of 1970 no doubt gave weight to the arguments of the extremists in his camp to engage in counter-terror. It would seem, therefore, timely and appropriate that the US make known its concern to President Arana as a means of exerting a moderating influence upon the course of events.

5. Therefore unless you perceive objections, you are requested to obtain appointment with President Arana and make following points to him:

A. USG understands difficult problems posed by insurgency: (If you think it useful you might recall that we have lost three of our own people to the insurgents) and that we have responded to his request for emergency [Page 3] public safety equipment last summer and delivered it in an unusually short time: In similar fashion we are responding to his request to purchase A–37B aircraft.

B. We are equally sympathetic with his desire to bring FAR terrorism to a halt, and have enthusiastically supported his aspirations to begin incorporating the marginal Guatemalans into the mainstream of national life. Our support, both for his anti-insurgency and his economic development programs is well known by him.

C. As friends and partners, we were deeply disturbed by the “ojo por ojo” killings of May and June 1970. We applauded the action of President Arana to bring such groups firmly under control following his inauguration. As we indicated to President Arana at that time, a highly visible counter-terror campaign which contained appearances of assassinations of people, who at least in the public eye, appear to be innocent, risk generating a reaction from the US press and Congress which would impose practical constraints on US ability to support the government. In 1968 the reaction in the US had become strong enough to constrain the USG in its efforts to assist the GOG. Our desire to avoid a repetition of this unfortunate situation is our only motive in speaking to President Arana at this time. We have, of course, no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of Guatemala.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 785, Country Files, Latin America, Guatemala, Vol. I. Secret; Exdis. Drafted on February 9 by Breen; cleared by Hurwitch; approved by Meyer. In Airgram A–14 from Guatemala City, January 25, the Embassy reported that representatives of the Christian Democratic Party charged that the Arana administration had embarked on a policy of assassinating the legitimate political opposition. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12 GUAT)
  2. The Department of State asked the Embassy to express concern to President Arana over the targeting of leftist opposition figures not involved in FAR terrorist activities. The Department feared that “friendly relations with Guatemala over the long run could be threatened by a close identification with what in the public mind are the excesses of a particular government’s counter-insurgency campaign.”