The U.S. Ambassador in Guatemala, John E. Peurifoy, sent this telegram to the Department of State on May 24, 1954, summarizing his meeting with the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Guillermo Toriello. The meeting took place just weeks before Castillo Armas’s forces began invading Guatemala. In it, Peurifoy reports that the Guatemalan government was unlikely to change any of their policies, and that they are still asserting that the country is not communist. The document mainly focuses on Toriello’s concern about UFCO, as he “had no confidence in impartiality of Secretary Dulles, because of connection with Sullivan and Cromwell, and certain employees of State Department.” Toriello stresses that UFCO and other United States interests are compromising the sovereignty of Guatemala in their control of ports, communication lines, and transportation, but also in their funding of Castillo Armas’s troops. The document does not give any indication that Toriello knows that the U.S. government is also behind those plans. In response to these concerns, Peurifoy advises the Department of State to “play down fruit company problem for present and concentrate on Commie issue.”
This telegram reveals that even in the last weeks before the coup began, UFCO was a major focus of both U.S. and Guatemalan officials. Toriello’s suspicion of conflicts of interest in the U.S. government, like Dulles’s potential impartiality, is shared by some modern historians, like Schlesinger and Kinzer. The document shows that this perspective is not new, but rather shared by many Guatemalans at the time. Peurifoy’s final advice to the Department of State to “play down” their interest in UFCO suggests that the United States’ assertion of purely political motives was false to some extent. Even if they did have genuine geopolitical concerns, they also purposely hid their economic reasons for the sake of appearances.
“Communism: I told Toriello that for US problem of Communism was of greatest concern and that until that was solved I feared we would continue to have difficulties, he replied with standard line that Commies few and of no importance. I said I could not agree with him on this.
After his talk with me Toriello held press conference at which he announced that he and I would hold conversations looking toward solution of outstanding problems and expressed optimism that tension could be diminished.
My feeling is that Guatemalans are seriously worried over possibility of OAS meeting and are making desperate effort to induce us to defer or drop plans for international action. They either believe or wish to make Latin America believe that our real concern over Guatemala stems from UFCO’s problems and hope that discussions on this issue can be drawn out until moment for action has passed. There is no indication that they have any intention of modifying their attitude towards Commies. I therefore suggest Department play down fruit company problem for present and concentrate on Commie issue.”
Link to full text: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v04/d452
Peurifoy, John E. Telegram to Department of State. “The Ambassador in Guatemala (Peurifoy) to the Department of State.” U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, May 24, 1954. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952-54v04/d452.