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Lawsuit: Chiquita fruit company ‘funded death squads’ in Colombia

By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Fruit importer Chiquita Brands International "knowingly provided material support to a terrorist organization" by paying protection money and providing weapons to a Colombian rebel group, a lawsuit filed in a Florida court this week alleges.Three US citizens who survived a five-year hostage ordeal at the hands of Colombia's notorious FARC paramilitary group, along with the family of a fourth man who was killed by FARC rebels, say Chiquita owes them damages because it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to FARC for a decade beginning in 1989.
Chiquita "knew that FARC was a terrorist organization and that it kidnapped, killed and terrorized thousands of people in Colombia," the complaint (PDF) states, "but [they] ignored these risks in order to further their own narrow business interests in growing and exporting bananas in Colombia."
The complaint goes on to say that Chiquita "knowingly provided currency or monetary instruments, weapons (including arms and ammunition), and other forms of material support and resources and transport of munitions" to FARC.
Marc Gosalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, employees of defense contractor Northrop Grumman, were traveling by plane in Colombia in 2003 when they were shot down by FARC rebels, who immediately killed the plane's pilot, Thomas Janis, and a Colombian guide accompanying them.
Story continues below...
Gosalves, Howes and Stansell spent five years as FARC hostages before being released in 2008. All three are parties to the lawsuit, as are five members of Janis' family.
Chiquita was fined $25 million in 2007 for having paid $1.7 million to AUC, a right-wing paramilitary group at odds with FARC. This would suggest that Chiquita played both sides of the long-running military conflict in Colombia.
Chiquita Brands says it was "an extortion victim in Colombia, paying left- and right-wing groups to protect its employees, not to promote violence," reports the Business Courier in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Chiquita Brands is headquartered.
But the lawsuit suggests Chiquita's involvement with FARC may have been more pro-active than simply paying protection money. The suit alleges that the company created dummy corporations and falsified its payroll records to hide payments to FARC, and used its network of local transportation contractors to funnel weapons to the group.
Chiquita has a long and sordid history in Colombia. The most notorious incident took place in 1928, when the company was still known as United Fruit Company. Colombian troops massacred an unknown number of UFC workers -- believed to be in the thousands -- during a protest over bad work conditions on the company's plantations.


Hostages Say Chiquita Funded Death Squads

April 10th, 2010 Flashback: Lawyer for Chiquita in Colombia Death Squad Case May be Next U.S. Attorney General
Via: Courthouse News Service:
Three U.S. citizens were held hostage by a Colombian death squad for 5 years, and one was murdered, while Chiquita Brands International gave the terrorists weapons and millions of dollars in “protection payments,” the former hostages and their families claim in Tampa Federal Court.
Former hostages of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) say Chiquita owes them treble damages under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, because the New Jersey-based company paid FARC up to $200,000 a year for 10 years.
In a March 2007 plea agreement, Chiquita admitted it had paid $25 million and funded the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) – a right-wing, anti-labor death squad – and other terrorist groups, according to the eight plaintiffs’ 82-page complaint.
The FARC and the AUC fought for control of land and lucrative cocaine crops for years, through open war, death squads and terror.
A February 2009 report from the Special Litigation Committee of the Chiquita board of directors found that the company began paying FARC “protection money” in the late 1980s.
In 2003 the FARC shot down a plane carrying Keith Stansell, Marc Gosalves, Thomas Howes and Thomas Janis, who were conducting a civilian counternarcotics surveillance mission for their employer, Northrup Grumman.
The plane’s five passengers all survived the crash, but FARC members shot to death the U.S. citizen pilot, Janis, and the Colombian host-nation rider, Sgt. Luis Alcides Cruz, within minutes of taking the group hostage, according to the complaint.
Stansell, Gosalves, Howes and Janis’ wife and four children demand damages from Chiquita for its giving money, arms and ammunition to FARC – “a foreign terrorist organization that has killed, maimed, injured, kidnapped and held hostage thousands of civilians, including many U.S. citizens,” according to the complaint.
The three hostages say they were held captive for 1,967 days, until they were rescued on July 2, 2008.
The FARC publicly took credit for the kidnapping and promised to release the Americans and 250 high-level Colombian citizens in exchange for certain political concessions, territory in a demilitarized zone for FARC’s base of operations, and the release of hundreds of FARC combatants apprehended by the Colombian authorities, according to the complaint.
“FARC supports its operations through kidnappings, extortion, drug trafficking and ‘war taxes’ it collects from residents, businesses and landowners,” according to the complaint.
Chiquita made its first “guerrilla payment” of $10,000 to Chiquita in 1989 – when the banana giant opened its Banadex export subsidiary in Colombia – and ultimately paid $100,000 to $200,000 a year through 1999, according to the complaint.
“Over time, the payments were fixed to a percentage of Banadex’s gross revenues, with as much as 10 percent being diverted to FARC,” the complaint states.
The former hostages say Chiquita knew about FARC’s practice of murdering and kidnapping Americans. At least 23 Americans were taken hostage between 1993 and 1997. But Chiquita benefited from its relationship with terrorists and spent years covering it up, according to the complaint.
“During the period relevant to this action, FARC held significant influence over, controlled, or was fighting other terrorist organizations for control of labor unions in Colombia’s banana-growing regions,” the complaint states.
The former hostages say Chiquita worked with FARC-controlled labor unions, such as Sintrabanano, and helped FARC subvert many local labor unions.
By helping FARC wrest control of local labor unions, Chiquita carved out “a competitive advantage over other banana growers facing less accommodating unions,” according to the complaint. Chiquita also allegedly benefited from FARC’s harassment of competitors in the region.
“Defendants knew that FARC engaged in acts of terrorism against U.S. interests in Colombia and knew the danger that providing material support to FARC would pose to the safety of other individuals and entities working within Colombia, but defendant ignored these risks in order to further their own narrow business interests in growing and exporting bananas in Colombia,” according to the complaint.
The former hostages and Janis’ family seek treble damages from Chiquita. They are represented by Newton Porter with Porter & Korvick of Miami.
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[TD]Chiquita Banana To Face Colombia Torture Claim

by Pratap Chatterjee, CorpWatch Blog
March 30th, 2012
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[TD="class: photocaption, width: 300"]Chiquita bananas. Photo: Dawn Huczek. Used under Creative Commons license[/TD]
Chiquita, the global banana producer, was ordered this week to face a federal court over their role in paying off right wing death squads in Colombia. Villagers allege that the death squads used "random and targeted violence in exchange for financial assistance and access to Chiquita's private port for arms and drug smuggling," according to alawsuit filed on their behalf by EarthRights International and Cohen Milstein.

The lawsuit, which is based on the Alien Torts Claims Act (ATCA), is likely to go forward, even though the statute is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case against Royal Dutch Petroleum in Nigeria that may limit the use of the act against corporations under U.S. law. (see U.S. Supreme Court: Can Multinationals Be Sued for Crimes?) The 223 year old ATCA allows foreigners to sue in U.S. courts for violations the "law of nations."

Cincinnati-based Chiquita has been growing bananas in Colombia since 1899. For over four decades these operations have been under attack first by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a left-wing guerrilla group, and then by Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary group created by ranchers and drug traffickers.

Court documents show that Chiquita executives paid off both groups. FARC was paid between $20,000 and $100,000 a month. Chiquita has also admitted to making over 100 payments totaling $1.7 million to the AUC or affiliated organizations over seven years.

The villagers have accused the AUC of a number of human rights abuses including torturing and killing at least 40 people in the town of Mapiripan in July 1997 and then killing 36 people and torturing dozens in a February 2000 operation.

Court documents also show that a shipment of 3,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 5 million rounds of ammunition from Nicaragua in 2001 was invoiced to Chiquita. The armaments were delivered to Chiquita warehouses and then trucked to the AUC by Chiquita, according to the legal papers.

Chiquita, which was represented by Eric Holder, admitted the payments and paid a fine of $25 million. (Holder has since been appointed U.S. attorney general in 2009 by Barack Obama)

In a ruling issued earlier this week, U.S. federal judge Judge Kenneth Marra in Florida ruled that the charges of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; violation of the rights to life, liberty and security of person and peaceful assembly and association; and consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights" would be heard in court.

Benjamin Brown of Cohen Milstein told CorpWatch that the "exciting" news was that Marra would allow his clients to use Colombian law in the case, which would mean that even if the Supreme Court did not allow the Shell lawsuit to proceed under U.S. law, the Chiquita lawsuit would likely not be affected.

"We're thrilled that the judge has recognized that our claims against Chiquita for violations of Colombian law can proceed in this lawsuit," added Marco Simons of EarthRights in a press statement. "The plaintiffs have been waiting for justice for a decade and more, and this is one more step in the right direction for them to finally have their day in court."

A number of lawsuits have been brought against corporations under the Alien Torts Claims Act. EarthRights International has been able to use the statute to negotiate asettlement in December 2004 with Unocal on behalf of thirteen villagers for alleged human-rights violations, such as forced labor, in the construction of the Yadana gas pipeline project in Burma.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum on February 28, 2012, but did not make a decision. Instead it ordered plaintiffs to return to court in October 2012 for additional arguments.

Colombia's Mapiripán massacre was "well-coordinated in advance" with the Colombian Army, according to confidential paramilitary sources, one of which the U.S. Embassy believed had "participated directly in the planning" of the killings. The new disclosures are the first from a fresh set of declassified diplomatic cables on the Mapiripán case released at the end of last week by the State Department's Appeals Review Panel on the15th anniversary of the massacre.If this "blunt admission" of Army complicity in the Mapiripán massacre was correct, an Embassy official observed, "then both of the key paramilitary operations which most directly affected U.S.-assisted counter-narcotics operations in the Guaviare region in 1997 had been conducted with the foreknowledge and facilitation by members of the Colombian Army." The other "operation" was the October 1997 massacre at Miraflores, which, like Mapiripán, was then an important narcotics trafficking hub in Colombia's eastern plains.It's taken the State Department 15 years to declassify what it knew only 18 months after those dark days: that the Mapiripán massacre was likely the result of an Army-paramilitary conspiracy that went "well beyond" the units and individuals that have been implicated so far. The document suggests that the previous convictions in the casewhich mostly involve junior officers and crimes of omissionare merely the tip of the iceberg.A few days ago, we published a 2003 letter in which the State Department claimedsix years after the factthat the Colombian military had tried to "cover up" the massacre, in which dozens were brutally killed by illegal paramilitary forces brought in from northern Colombia. These new documents, most of which are from 1997-1999, go a long way toward explaining how they arrived at that conclusion.The Mapiripán case remains one of the most critical, and in many ways unresolved, massacre cases in recent Colombian history. In a country that has seen far too many human rights atrocities, no single case is as central the story of paramilitary expansion in Colombia as Mapiripán. The operation was the first major projection of paramilitary power outside of northern Colombia, where the rightist militia forces consolidated their hold on power in the 1980s and 1990s.The Embassy report did not identify the two "public, well-known" individuals from the paramilitary stronghold of Montería, Córdoba, who provided the information, but said that "we have reason to believe that one of the two … has participated directly in the planning of AUC military operations to include, based on a discussion with POLOFF [the Embassy's Political Officer], Mapiripán."The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), led by Carlos Castaño, was the country's top paramilitary organization at the time. Castaño, now deceased, admitted that the AUC was behind the massacre, warning that there would be "many more Mapiripáns." Several other paramilitary members, including top commander Salvatore Mancuso, have also been convicted for plotting the massacre.The Embassy judged the paramilitary interlocutors to be "most credible," according to the cable, which was approved by U.S. Ambassador Curtis Kamman. "We know of no reason for them to deviate from their boasting of the AUC's full-fledged independence," the Embassy said, "other than their desire for the USG [U.S. government] to understand correctly what had transpired eighteen months ago." The AUC, under Carlos Castaño, wanted "political legitimacy," according to the cable, and "some degree of recognition from the USGwhich they have consistently failed to get." By raising the question of Mapiripán, the report continued, the Embassy official who interviewed the sources had "put the two in a position of either having to lie to us, or to come clean."Mapiripán "was quite different" from other paramilitary operations, the paras told the POLOFF"a special case." At least five different paramilitary fronts participated in the massacre with "full coordination" from the Army, including "travel, logistics, intelligence and security." The conspiracy went "well beyond" the two sergeants who had been arrested for facilitating the paras' arrival at a joint military/police airfield in San José del Guaviare.Mapiripán was actually "a well-coordinated counter-narcotics operation," the sources said, the goal of which was to strike "a coordinated blow" against the left-wing FARC guerrillas, "by targeting the key money-movers who buy and sell cocaine for the FARC." The operation was a "success," according to one of the paramilitary contacts, in that it had damaged "the FARC's ability to move both money and cocaine in the region."The paramilitary sources also "did not contradict" the Embassy official's suggestion that such a "well-coordinated" operation would have also involved the collaboration of Army elements from their point of departure in Urabá.In recent years, the former commander of the Army brigade in Urabá at the time of the Mapiripán massacre, Gen. Rito Alejo del Río, has come under scrutiny for alleged "systematic" reliance on paramilitary forces to strike at guerrillas in northern Colombia. Now on trial in a separate human rights case, Del Río has never been charged in connection to Mapiripán, despite that fact that several former paramilitaries and at least one of the military officers convicted in the case have identified Del Río as one of the intellectual authors.It's notable enough that an Embassy official had direct, face-to-face contact with one of the presumed authors of the Mapiripán massacre, but the real news here is the paras' "blunt admission" that they had the "full coordination" of the Army, from beginning to end. This suggests that the Mapiripán conspiracy was much wider and deeper than previously thought.From the start, Mapiripán was unique as much for its sheer brutality as for what appeared to be the clear involvement of Colombian security forces. Most importantly, the massacre put the newly-formed AUC on the map and established the model by which AUC paramilitary forces, aided by elements of the security forces, would swoop into an important narcotics-producing area, assassinate scores of perceived guerrilla supporters and take over the drug trade.
Honduras: Military Coup Engineered By Two US Companies?

By John Perkins

August 07, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- I recently visited Central America. Everyone I talked with there was convinced that the military coup that had overthrown the democratically-elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, had been engineered by two US companies, with CIA support. And that the US and its new president were not standing up for democracy.

Earlier in the year Chiquita Brands International Inc. (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Co had severely criticized Zelaya for advocating an increase of 60% in Honduras's minimum wage, claiming that the policy would cut into corporate profits. They were joined by a coalition of textile manufacturers and exporters, companies that rely on cheap labor to work in their sweatshops.

Memories are short in the US, but not in Central America. I kept hearing people who claimed that it was a matter of record that Chiquita (United Fruit) and the CIA had toppled Guatemala's democratically-elected president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and that International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT), Henry Kissinger, and the CIA had brought down Chile's Salvador Allende in 1973. These people were certain that Haiti's president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been ousted by the CIA in 2004 because he proposed a minimum wage increase, like Zelaya's.

I was told by a Panamanian bank vice president, "Every multinational knows that if Honduras raises its hourly rate, the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean will have to follow. Haiti and Honduras have always set the bottom line for minimum wages. The big companies are determined to stop what they call a leftist revolt' in this hemisphere. In throwing out Zelaya they are sending frightening messages to all the other presidents who are trying to raise the living standards of their people."

It did not take much imagination to envision the turmoil sweeping through every Latin American capital. There had been a collective sign of relief at Barack Obama's election in the U.S., a sense of hope that the empire in the North would finally exhibit compassion toward its southern neighbors, that the unfair trade agreements, privatizations, draconian IMF Structural Adjustment Programs, and threats of military intervention would slow down and perhaps even fade away. Now, that optimism was turning sour.

The cozy relationship between Honduras's military coup leaders and the corporatocracy were confirmed a couple of days after my arrival in Panama. England's The Guardian ran an article announcing that "two of the Honduran coup government's top advisers have close ties to the US secretary of state. One is Lanny Davis, an influential lobbyist who was a personal lawyer for President Bill Clinton and also campaigned for Hillary. . . The other hired gun for the coup government that has deep Clinton ties is (lobbyist) Bennett Ratcliff." (1)

DemocracyNow! broke the news that Chiquita was represented by a powerful Washington law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, and its consultant, McLarty Associates (2). President Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder had been a Covington partner and a defender of Chiquita when the company was accused of hiring "assassination squads" in Colombia (Chiquita was found guilty, admitting that it had paid organizations listed by the US government as terrorist groups "for protection" and agreeing in 2004 to a $25 million fine). (3) George W. Bush's UN Ambassador, John Bolton, a former Covington lawyer, had fiercely opposed Latin American leaders who fought for their peoples' rights to larger shares of the profits derived from their resources; after leaving the government in 2006, Bolton became involved with the Project for the New American Century, the Council for National Policy, and a number of other programs that promote corporate hegemony in Honduras and elsewhere.

McLarty Vice Chairman John Negroponte was U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, former Deputy Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, and U.S. Representative to the United Nations; he played a major role in the U.S.-backed Contra's secret war against Nicaragua's Sandinista government and has consistently opposed the policies of the democratically-elected pro-reform Latin American presidents. (4) These three men symbolize the insidious power of the corporatocracy, its bipartisan composition, and the fact that the Obama Administration has been sucked in.

The Los Angeles Times went to the heart of this matter when it concluded:

What happened in Honduras is a classic Latin American coup in another sense: Gen. Romeo Vasquez, who led it, is an alumnus of the United States' School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The school is best known for producing Latin American officers who have committed major human rights abuses, including military coups. (5)

All of this leads us once again to the inevitable conclusion: you and I must change the system. The president whether Democrat or Republican needs us to speak out.

Chiquita, Dole and all your representatives need to hear from you. Zelaya must be reinstated.



"Who's in charge of US foreign policy? The coup in Honduras has exposed divisions between Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton" by Mark Weisbrot (July 23, 2009)

(2) (July 23, 2009)

(3) "Chiquita admits to paying Colombia terrorists: Banana company agrees to $25 million fine for paying AUC for protection" MSNBC March 15, 2007 (July 24, 2009)

(4) Fore more information: (July 23, 2009)

(5) "The high-powered hidden support for Honduras' coup: The country's rightful president was ousted by a military leadership that takes many of its cues from Washington insiders." by Mark Weisbrot, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2009 (July 23, 2009)
Guatemala and the CIA

The CIA involvement in Guatemala was a lot more about fruit than about communism and the Cold War. However, the Cold War ethos were a guise to what was really behind the covert actions of the government which was ultimately seen as the most successful coup in CIA history.

The power of the fear of communism turned out to be a helpful aid in the economic plights of Washington. Although the threat of communistic expansion in Latin America was real, the United States Government saw another problem arising in the country of Guatemala where the United Fruit Company, a business that had been introduced into Guatemala in 1904, was having problems with the president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in the 50s. President Arbenz saw the UNFCO as the reason why Guatemala continued to be underdeveloped, and made plans to stop the "stranglehold" that the company had over the country. The company which had strong influence in Washington was not about to let this happen, therefore the CIA organized an intricate plan to overthrow Arbenz; this plan worked.

The United Fruit Company

The fruits of Guatemala play a very large role in the CIA coup in the country. The United Fruit Company's history started in 1899 when a merge between The Boston Fruit Company and an entrepreneur by the name of Minor Keith occurred. His business was railways; his dream was "to monopolize commerce in Central America by building and maintaining rail lines in areas where no other forms of transportation were available." His first railway was built in 1870 in Costa Rica; he exported bananas mostly into New Orleans and the Southern United States from 1870 till 1899 when he accepted the offer of partnership from the Boston Fruit Co. Athis peak, he was known as the "uncrowned king of Central America." (Schlesinger 66, 67)
The Boston Fruit Company had been shipping bananas from Jamaica, Cuba, and Santa Domingo since 1885 but finding that the crops were getting thin in 1898, they decided that they needed their own land to harvest. This is when they decided that Minor Keith could help expand their profits as well as his own. Together, the new corporation named the United Fruit Company obtained 212,394 acres of land which 61,263 acres were already producing bananas, along with 112 miles of railroad, "by 1930, the UFCO had operating capital of $215 million and owned sprawling properties not only in three Caribbean islands, bust also Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Columbia- and its largest domain, Guatemala" (Schlesinger 67).
Although extremely successful in its own right, the UFCO had some competition with a man nicknamed, "Sam the Banana Man", Samuel Zemurray. After selling arms to a Honduras leader in exile in the US (helping cause a revolution in Honduras) Zemurray gained an agreement with this leader that granted him every concession that he sought, which included protection without tax increases and permission to import building materials without paying duty. As Zemurray's company expanded, it grew too close to the UFCO's property, and so UFCO bought out Zemurray. The concessions that Zemurray gained and the concessions that UFCO already had with the railroad, were a great advantage to the company.
These concessions as well as the enormous economic control that the company held in Guatemala would become the issue that President Arbenz would try stop. Besides controlling all trade, (due to the fact that the co. owned Puerto Barrios the only export site) the company established "side deals" and obtained control over such things as the telegraph service. The company employed a large portion of the population in Guatemala as well, basically taking over the lives of all the Guatemalan people. "The company provided adequate housing, medicine, and even established a school for the employees children ( Critics liked to charge that the Guatemalan people indirectly paid for this largesse many times over through uncollected taxes on United Fruit property and exports)" (Schlesinger 71). President Arbenz wanted to free the country from it's reliance on the American company, and start setting up some new Guatemalan companies and resources.

Arbenz and His Mission

"All the achievements of the Company were made at the expense of the impoverishment of the country and by acquisitive practices. To protect its authority it had to recourse to every method: political intervention, economic compulsion, contractual imposition, bribery [and] tendentious propaganda, as suited its purpose of domination. The United Fruit Company is the principle enemy of the progress of Guatemala, of its democracy and of every effort directed as its economic liberation." President Arbenz expresses his bitterness towards UFCO. (Schlesinger 73) Arbenz became the leader of Guatemala in 1951. His plans were to immediately take control over the country through independent development. He saw the impoverishment of his fellow countrymen as the fat cats of America growing fatter off his land and realized that there must be change. "His overriding objective was to build upon the ongoing reforms and to establish Guatemala's independence in the relation to the international political and economic structure" (Immerman 62) He worked on a new agrarian reform, which would change the lives of the Guatemalans whom were so used to working for the UNFCO. He also strongly encouraged independent activity in the economy. Arbenz's reform included ideas that would take the worker off the fields year-round and put them into industry, he decided that his farmers would produce crops other than bananas and coffee, the country side would grow foods that the people of the country could actually eat and not have to import. "By diversifying Guatemala's agricultural production and redistributing the land more efficiently, Arbenz hoped to promote a more rational economy and a unified, interdependent state" ( Immerman 64). This aggressive goal for development threatened the fruit company; and the fact that Arbenz was receiving financial support from the Communist party for his goal, gave the CIA reason to investigate and overthrow him without international or American backlash.

The Mission

The "triumphant" coup in Guatemala was a long process in the making. It started first in the press with stories of "Reds" interfering in the country's politics; the press was being heavily influenced by the United Fruit Company. "The New Leader (an anti-Communist Weekly magazine) began to publish stories sympathetic to the Fruit Company's position on Guatemala. It carried numerous articles both before and after the coup, justifying intervention against Arbenz's regime on the grounds that a Soviet takeover was imminent. The stories made a vivid impression on the US liberal community, which was not well-informed about Guatemala." (Schlesinger 89) The company continued to rally support, convincing both conservative and liberals Americans that "something evil was afoot" thus winning the backing for its policies in Guatemala, as well as a great amount of influence in the government.
In the words of Nick Cullather, a CIA employee who gathered all the classified documents dealing with the coup in order to write a manual about it for the CIA, PBSUCCESS (the mission that finally overthrew Arbenz) was "an intensive paramilitary and psychological campaign to replace a popular elected government with political nonentity. In method, scale, and conception it had no antecedent and its triumph confirmed the belief of many in the Eisenhower administration that covert operations offered a safe, inexpensive substitute for armed force in resisting Communist inroads in the Third World" (Cullather 7) The CIA's motive and guise for involvement was Communism, Guatemala had received arms from Czechoslovakia in 1954, and John Foster Dulles warned the US that Guatemala could become an "outpost of Soviet Power in Latin America.. . . The CIA in collaboration with the United Fruit organized and financed an anti-Arbenz coup. In June, right wing conspirators overthrew Arbenz and installed a military government headed by the CIA's hand picked man, Carlos Castillo Armas…" (Boyer 113)
The plan was to remove Arbenz from government and recover the land that he had given to the peasants under his new agrarian policies. Thus PBFORTUNE, PBSUCCESS and the final phase PBHISTORY as they were codenamed, were made. In a press release given by the National Archives and Records Administration, the Archives explained this about the coup, "PBFORTUNE, begun during the Truman Administration, was a short-lived operation due to security leaks. PBSUCCESS initiated in August 1953, during the Eisenhower Administration, supported the coup that that resulted in the resignation of President Arbenz and the installation of Colonel Castillo Armas. The final phase of the operation, PBHISTORY, aimed at recovering documentation abandoned by President Arbenz's Administration." ("National Archives to Open CIA Guatemalan Materials") The Guatemalan overthrow was seen as the most successful CIA clandestine operation, and was to be the model of more to come if another country was "threatened" by communism.

The Overthrow

The following accounts on the actual days of the overthrow come from author Stephen Schlesinger. As dawn broke over Guatemala City, a C-47 transport plane lumbered low in the sky, flying from the south over nearby mountains. It was still early on the morning of June 18, 1954. It swooped over the plaza facing the Palace, then swerved upward again, suddenly spewing thousands of small leaflets into the air. The printed notices in large block letters carried a bold demand: Guatemala's President, Jacobo Arbenz must resign immediately. They warned the mysterious plane would return that afternoon to blow up the city's main arsenal to assure Arbenz's swift departure. Most Guatemalan already knew enough to link the "Voice of Liberation" with the exile forces of Carlos Castillo Armas, a forty-year old former army colonel and longtime enemy of President Arbenz who had been plotting against the government from neighboring Hinduras. That night Arbenz ordered a blackout in the capital. At 11:30 in the evening, the government shut off all the lights in the streets in official buildings and at the airport. Citizens were required to extinguish lamps in their houses. A half hour later, just as Arbenz had feared, a DC-3 buzzed the city without warning, winging in from the west. It drew .30 cailiber machine gun fire from government ginners on the city's outskirts, and took some shots from larger but older Befors 20mm. guns at the city's center. Seeing no target in the darkened city, the plane passed overhead, later reportedly dropping a cache of arms by parachute near the Pacific coast. (7-16) These attacks continued through the next day, more planes flew by and bombed the city. On the second day of the attacks Arbenz decided to appeal to the nation. "Over the din, Arbenz angry and emotional, told Guatemala that 'the arch-traitor Castillo Armas' was leading a 'heterogeneous Fruit Company expeditionary force' against the country." (19) Through the last days of June Castillo Armas brought in his troops and began the take over of Guatemala. On the 25th of June, 1954, Arbenz resigned. Castillo soon took over, with much bitterness from the Guatemalan nation.


The coup was ultimately successful for the United Fruit Company and for the United States. Castillo was in power, land was returned to the Fruit Company, and knowing that Castillo was in power ensured that no Communist uprisings would spurn from Guatemala. This mission later became an example to other missions such as the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. It was seen as a well organized and perfectly hidden action by the CIA. Now after many documents have been released more is known about this mission, however, most of it has been edited and what has been removed will remain secret forever.

Annotated Bibliography

Cullather, Nick. Secret History: The CIA's Classified Account of its Operations

In Guatemala, 1952-1954 . Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999

I will be using this book to help me explain what exactly the CIA's plans were for the overthrow of Guatemalan Pres. Arbenz. It is written by a CIA historian, who is no longer with the CIA, so it may give a type of bias towards the CIA, but I believe the author is still being critical in his writing. There are a couple of pictures in the book that we may be able to use for the website, a long with a PBSUCESS timeline.

Immerman, Richard H. The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention.

Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.

This source will help me get a better idea of the history of Guatemala and its relations with the US. There is a chapter on the coup that will give me a further explanation on what happened in '54.

Schelsinger, Stephen and Stephen Kinzer. Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American

Coup in Guatemala. Garden City: Doubleday & Co, Inc., 1982.

I think this book is going to be much like the Cullather book, but with more criticism towards the CIA. It will help me get another grasp on the events, and will hopefully share more info than my other two sources.

Actual documents from and about the coup

Press release that explains the differences in the different sections of the coup 19530303.htm

The site where the picture of Arbenz came from

Site where I found picture of the rebels that is in the intro