This telegram from the Ambassador in Guatemala, John E. Peurifoy, to the U.S. Department of State was sent on December 17, 1953 and provides advice on how to proceed against Árbenz’s government. It begins with Peurifoy stating that they have no choice but to intervene: “there appears no alternative to our taking steps which would tend to make more difficult continuation of his regime in Guatemala.” He then gives three suggestions for achieving this “difficult continuation,” which are: “we should carefully avoid any overt acts to which Guatemalan delegates at conference could point as evidence of persecution of Guatemala or intervention in its affairs. We should also avoid emphasis on fruit company problems… We should at same time step up locally… anti- Communist propaganda.” The document continues with more specific plans for implementation, and concludes by saying that any consequences of this plan would be worth it for the outcome.
This telegram was sent while PBSuccess was already approved and underway, and gives specifics about how the operation should be carried out. With the first point, avoiding the appearance of persecution, reveals the U.S. government’s efforts to obscure their involvement. The second, about playing down the role of UFCO, shows their awareness of this possible motivation and their need to hide it. Finally, the plan for anti-communist propaganda, which is detailed more later on in the document, demonstrates the variety of ways in which the U.S. and Castillo Armas was able to win and overthrow Árbenz, not only through military strength, but also with psychological warfare. Peurifoy’s suggestions provide a clearer understanding of PBSuccess, its objectives, and its tactics.
“As a result my interview with President Arbenz (mytel 154 December 17), I am convinced Communists will continue gain strength here as long as he remains in office. My staff agrees fully on this. Therefore, in view of inadequacy of normal diplomatic procedures in dealing with situation, there appears no alternative to our taking steps which would tend to make more difficult continuation of his regime in Guatemala. In present telegram, I shall deal with measures which, while they may not in themselves prove sufficient to produce political change here, are designed to contribute to creating climate favorable to such change.
Before Caracas conference, we should concentrate on preparing other well-disposed governments in Latin America for supporting our anti-Communist resolution and on publicizing abroad through press channels Communist developments in this country. At same time we should carefully avoid any overt acts to which Guatemalan delegates at conference could point as evidence of persecution of Guatemala or intervention in its affairs. We should also avoid emphasis on fruit company problems since these might cause confusion among Latin American delegates as to true nature of our differences with Guatemala. We should at same time step up locally . . . anti-Communist propaganda. . . . Krieg referred to this matter in letter of December 3 to John Fisher.”
Link to full text: https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/ike/iv/20210.htm
Peurifoy, John E. Telegram to Department of State. “Telegram From the Ambassador in Guatemala (Peurifoy) to the Department of State.” U.S. Department of State Archive. U.S. Department of State Archive, December 17, 1953. https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/ike/iv/20210.htm.