349. Telegram 634 From the Embassy in Guatemala to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]


  • Counter Terror


  • Guatemala 583

1. At diplomatic corps dinner his honor last Friday, President Arana took me aside and alluded to our conversation previous day. He reiterated assurance he gave me at end of our earlier conversation (para 8 reftel) and, in almost poignant fashion, appealed for help, understanding and support—saying he “knew I was friend.”

2. Last night Foreign Minister Herrera raised subject with me at inauguration new C.A. School International Relations. Positioning himself where we could not be overheard, Herrera told me President Arana had filled him in on last Thursday’s conversation. He said President was concerned and preoccupied by what I had told him.

3. Herrera said President had asked him for his own guess as to what forces in Washington had precipitated approach. Herrera said he told President he knew there were still some leftist leaning people in State Department, and approach probably had been thought up by them. (It might be worth noting in this connection that Herrera, despite his urbanity, is among “hawks” of GOG.) Continuing, Herrera alluded somewhat unflatteringly to State Department and mentioned Alger Hiss. I answered that Alger Hiss had been a traitor, and I regarded allusion as inappropriate. I added that he should not regard my instructions as having come from some low level of State Department official. [Page 2] Herrera said he had not meant to suggest this, and said he had not used Hiss allusion when talking with President.

4. Herrera explained his rationale for believing my instructions gestated within State Department. He said he had watched U.S. press closely, and there was nothing which could be described as press campaign—or even much attention to Guatemalan internal developments. As for U.S. Congress, our Congressmen go straight into print if there is something on their minds. If there were serious congressional concern, we would have heard about it before now. Alluding to Brazilian case, Herrera said they had gotten themselves to change their image. Answering Herrera, I said my government’s point was to anticipate our problem, and not wait for upsurge congressional, press and public outcry—or need to spend millions trying to catch up with problem we might avoid.

5. Herrera asked me if I realized that real leaders of FAR were “right in the university.” He also asked me if U.S. sources of intelligence didn’t confirm this. I answered that such information as I had about FAR indicated the contrary. That real leaders were full-time terrorists, living black in this society—men like Manzana, El Cura, Sustos, etc. Herrera responded that he was not closely informed on this, but it might be worthwhile for me to go into question more deeply with the President.

6. I indicated my concern over possible repercussions in the international free trade union movement over death of Oliva y Oliva, or others like him. We talked briefly about international ties of Christian Democrats. Herrera remarked that it certainly would be “an awful mess” if anything happened to De Leon Schlotter.

7. Herrera mentioned Otten Prado’s death, and said with some feeling that it did not evoke same response in “some political circles” my country as death of Mijangos. I took occasion to reiterate my sympathy and my outrage at killing of that promising MLN leader. I assured Herrera that concern I expressed to President Arana on behalf my government, came from friends and partners and, in case of my mission, we share risks and [Page 3] GOG aspirations for peace. At this point Herrera said: “We had better not talk too long in full view diplomatic corps, or they will think there is some crisis.” I offered to call on Herrera if he would like to talk further, but he did not think it necessary at this point. (Regarding this last exchange, I am not sure Herrera had President Arana’s authorization to raise subject with me, or to reveal their discussion of my approach.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 785, Country Files, Latin America, Guatemala, Vol. I. Secret; Exdis. A stamped notation on the telegram indicates it was received in the White House Situation Room on February 17 at 8:21 a.m. In telegram 809 from Guatemala City, February 26, Davis reported the arrival of two U.S. journalists on the wake of his meetings with Arana and Herrera and suggested: “GOG may get idea—which they will of course deeply resent—that we issued private warning, they responded, and we disregarded response and socked them.” (Ibid.) In telegram 35575 to Guatemala City, March 3, the Department noted its main motive was to try to help anticipate such critical press interest and avoid damage to Guatemala’s image and prestige. (Ibid.)
  2. Ambassador Davis reported his encounters with President Arana and Foreign Minister Herrera at a diplomatic dinner the day after he had conveyed the Department of State’s concerns regarding Guatemala’s counterinsurgency activities. President Arana appealed for help, while Herrera responded by alluding somewhat unflatteringly to the Department.