351. Telegram 60510 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Guatemala1 2

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  • Ambassador Asensio Complains of Guatemalan Image in U.S.

1. Asensio called at his request on Assistant Secretary Meyer April 9 to explain his chagrin at unpleasant image of Guatemala being cast these days by American press and, indeed, by U.S. officials.

2. After noting Arana Administration is in last stages of QUOTE clearing away the debris UNQUOTE of insurgency and returning to Guatemala to QUOTE normalcy UNQUOTE, he enumerated press stories which do not recognize successes to date of pacification effort, and alleged U.S. officials still telling inquirers that Guatemala remains QUOTE a dangerous place UNQUOTE.

3. Meyer replied that a) international press always zeros in on the worst in a country, and Guatemala is but one of many targets; b) while U.S. officials must answer specific inquiries on current conditions in Guatemala [Page 2] straightforwardly, we have tried and will try harder to put facts into the proper context for inquirers; and c) Asensio might consider putting together a group of QUOTE balanced UNQUOTE journalists for a visit to Guatemala. Assistant Secretary added that we appreciate narrow ledge on which Arana walking, with requirements for law and order on one side and, on the other, the contemporary world’s propensity for attacking all constituted authority and comparatively conservative governments in particular.

4. Asensio said he will consider a press visitation and added he is initiating a public relations campaign aimed at U.S. bankers, Members of Congress, and other QUOTE influential persons. UNQUOTE

5. In course conversation Ambassador volunteered that state of siege to be lifted QUOTE within few days. UNQUOTE

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GUAT. Limited Official Use. Drafted on April 9 by Bell; cleared by Breen, Wiggins, and Hurwitch; approved by Meyer. In Airgram A–73 from Guatemala City, April 23, the Embassy reported that President Arana faced a dilemma regarding a November 1970 state of siege: “To end the State of Siege without being able to announce a decisive victory against the insurgent Left is politically difficult; to continue under Siege powers for an indefinite period is equally perilous.” (Ibid., POL 15–1 GUAT)
  2. In a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Meyer, Guatemalan Ambassador Asensio expressed “his chagrin at unpleasant image of Guatemala being cast these days by American press and, indeed, by U.S. officials.”