On the Guatemalan and Chilean Coups d’États
“ … [T]his small, maritime banana republic … provided for the maintenance of … the champagne [which] was bubbling trickily in the veins of the mercurial statesmen.” —O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings, 1904
“This is the first instance in history where a Communist government has been replaced by a free one.” —Richard Nixon, on the installation of President Armas in Guatemala, 1955
Within a period of nearly exactly two decades, the United States of America had wielded its mighty Arm of Intervention as it had done before and has not ceased to do since. By flexing its Biceps of Capitalism and Freedom between 1954 and 1973, the ordered structures of two Latin American nations were laid to slumber amidst a bedtime story whose moral was not to be oneself, but to lead oneself down the path from an Unfriendly Democracy to a Friendly Dictatorship. From such a paradoxical dream awoke two horrified states which have been awake since, tirelessly trying to clean up the covert mess which has littered their collective bedrooms of political thought—bedrooms, indeed, for such events have not awaken the ideals of a just and liberated society, but have caused the makers of those dreams to retire. With woe, the governments of Chile and Guatemala still crawl along Success’s floor, clinging to its surface, but always ending up between its cracks.
Such is the lot afforded those who have been manipulated as pawns by the hubris-drenched hands of another. And speaking of, hands not merely move the pawn from one side of the board to the other, but also mould the tools of change, and can with heightened haste, deliver change via one, single, defining punch. A punch. Sudden, and quite often resulting in the shedding of blood, a punch, whether to an individual, the wall, or the state, can not be guaranteed to affect change, but oh, it will be as marked an attempt as any other. The French—those mongers of the first revolution of the modern era; the purveyors of violent, democratic reform—have early on noted the effectiveness of a punch, and affectionately call a political one a coup d’état, or, a punch to the state. In Latin America, the United States was not justified in delivering its. Nor was America justified in delivering one to destabilize any country it seen as some sort of threat to its national security during the Cold War era. Guatemala and Chile came amongst the first and latter of such threats, and in addition to Cuba, are a most prominent triptych of examples.
What would be cited by the United States as their conversion of an authoritarian nation into a democratic one was not the first revolutionary action to penetrate the pages of Guatemalan history. In 1944, ten years before the American intervention and orchestration of 1954 in the small Latin American country, there had been a genuine revolution—a revolution of the Guatemalan peoples’ own accord; a horrible government beaten by the collective fists of an unsatisfied and uneasy peoples’ determined, democratic pugilism. Already possessed of a shaky political past, the state was at that time under the control of one of its many on-again, off-again authoritarian regimes, that of General Jorge Ubico, a Guatemalan military officer who had been desirous of too much power and had ultimately attained it, crowning himself as dictator. While Guatemala had been subject to Ubico’s totalitarian control since 1931, the sudden surge of revolutionary and violent, reformative fervor in neighboring nations such as Cuba, El Salvador, and Venezuela had crept its way into the hearts of the Guatemalan citizens, becoming their ideal and inspiring their mechanics of change. Discouragingly, the people who were increasing in their numbers of those supporting the overthrow of Ubico had been in surplus of motive, but in deficit of means. They needed a provocation, one which would induce the support of even more dissident Guatemalans. Providing them with their obligatory final straw, the unrest of the Guatemalan nation climaxed in one of Ubico’s army officers executing a schoolteacher. A nationally-expansive general strike ensued, entirely freezing all activity in the country and forcing Ubico to dramatically limit the excesses of his generals by utterly ceasing their powers. Underground support for the developing revolution reverberated throughout the state like the sound of a democratic hammer hitting a fascist anvil. Now comprised of dissident and liberal intelligentsia, professionals, and military officers, the October Revolutionaries needed a leadership team. A powerful and capable partnership came in the form of a young Jacobo Arbenz and Francisco Javier Arana—two officers in Ubico’s army who absolutely despised their führer. Joining the October Revolutionaries (as history now knows them), Arbenz and Javier led the coup which demolished Ubico’s dictatorship.
Much to the admiration of the now-liberated Guatemalan people—a people as it may now be evidenced, have long and by example been quite able to liberate themselves—Arbenz and Javier relinquished their control of the state upon attaining its freedom. Much in favor of holding a general election in which the freed could then choose their leader, the Guatemalans relished in the exercise they had not been able to enjoy since the 1920s. Known affectionately as The Ten Years of Spring to acknowledge and celebrate the symbolic and seemingly perpetual rebirth of their nation, the citizens ensured a decade of political reform and free speech by electing Juan José Arévalo, a civilian—the first in decades—as President in 1945, a year after the revolution of 20 October. Arévalo proposed major land reforms which would later become the downfall of the Spring, and inspired a broad patriotic spirit, pointing out the many ways in which Guatemala could become great. Formerly a university professor, Arévalo also legalized labor unions and new political parties. Despite the heroism which had now been assigned to Javier and Arbenz, Javier tried to initiate another coup to displace Arévalo and install himself as President, but which ended in Javier’s death upon failing to co-operate in being arrested. Still a hero in the minds of Guatemalans, Arbenz despite his former affiliations with Javier won by a significant 60% landslide in the 1951 Presidential election, replacing Arévalo as the leader of the prosperously-recovering Latin American enclave.
Now in office, Arbenz quickly cleaned house by firing all remaining military officers who supprted Javier (since Javier and Arbenz themselves were military officers). To further demonstrate his patriotism, Arbenz finalized the controversial land reforms of his predecessor through Decree 900, which expropriated all plantation land not being cultivated for the cause of improving the life of peasants, assigning to each peasant free and vast lots of arable land. Simultaneously, in 1952 he also legalized the Guatemalan Party of Labor, the nation’s first communist party, and one which would have increasingly questionable influence over Arbenz’s government—which itself was not officially communist when elected, but seemed, at least to the United States, to eventually become such. Among the policies of Arbenz’s government were the continued social reforms, and a promise to promote and support Guatemala’s identity as its own capitalistic state, free of most of outside economic influence. Already, the Americans were becoming annoyed with Arbenz’s left-leaning policies and were outraged by the actions which actually made them a reality. While Ubico was a dictator, he was one whom had the favor of the United States, and undeniably, Arbenz did not.
The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States had confirmed suspicions that Arbenz was meeting secretly and often with the Communist Guatemalan Labor Party. Coupled with the fact that the giant conglomerate United Fruit Company was appealing desperately to the American government to intervene with the situation of Guatemala’s government expropriating the majority of its land, the CIA began to make frequent suggestions to American President Eisenhower. Among the recommended procedures of the Intelligence Agency were the assassinations of Arbenz’s government ministers and business friends, and or a covert and complex, American-orchestrated coup to overthrow the Guatemalan President in favor of an American-selected replacement. There is no evidence that the government ministers or the business leaders were assassinated, but it is a scar on History’s face that a coup did materialize.
Continuing to nationalize uncultivated land held by the United Fruit Company—the world’s largest supplier of bananas, today called Chiquita—Arbenz’s adherence to his Decree 900 became an economic and territorial nightmare to American investors. Despite its standing as being an operator of a virtual Guatemalan fruit monopoly, United Fruit refused to relinquish its holdings and economic control in a nation which was not even its own. Arbenz personally, along with the majority of the Guatemalan population, seen the expropriations as a justified reversal of economic inequality in their country, while United Fruit lobbied its connections in Washington—brothers John Dulles (the American Secretary of State) and Allen Dulles (CIA Director)—to immediately stop Guatemala’s exercise of its legitimate abilities and rights as a sovereign state. Growing tired of the pressure placed on it by the frustrated United Fruit Company, Eisenhower’s administration gladly gave complete responsibility of the situation’s solution to Allen Dulles. The CIA, with much suggestion and supervision from Dulles, drafted two operation plans: Operation Presidential Board Fortune, in 1951 (approved 1952), and Operation Presidential Board Success, drawn up and executed in 1954. Operation PBFORTUNE was the list of Guatemalan government ministers and business leaders to be assassinated, but only to be carried out if Arbenz had been deemed a recognizable Communist threat within the Western Hemisphere; as such, this plan failed to be realized because of a lack of evidence at the time which could demonstrate without a reasonable doubt to the Americans in general that Arbenz was purely left in his views. Following the abandonment of PBFORTUNE rose an all-out coup from the ashes of mere, cancelled assassination attempts: PBSUCCESS.
In 1954, Arbenz had naïvely given the Americans the Soviet involvement it needed to cite as evidence and motive in order to stage some sort of retaliation in Guatemala. Arbenz reported at the meeting of the Organization of American States that year that he had suspicions that members of his government and economic community, including himself, and his nation as a whole, were potential targets of some sort of military operation. The members of the Organization gave audience to Arbenz’s pleas for military support should an attack ensue, but at the subtle suggestion of the American representative, refused to give their assistance. Not being able to obtain any arms from his international neighbors, Arbenz beseeched the government of Czechoslovakia—a Soviet satellite and virtual dependant of the USSR—for weaponry. When in May of 1954 a Swedish ship—Alfhem—arrived in Guatemalan waters carrying the Czech—i.e. Soviet—weapons that Arbenz had ordered at cheap prices from the Eastern Bloc satellite, the United States delighted in knowing it now had the evidence it thirsted for in order to squelch Arbenz’s government. While the Americans knew they needed a publicly-noticeable instance of Communism so close to the United States as to incite public fear, it also legally needed it too, at least under its own laws; a controversial paragraph from American President James Monroe’s seventh annual State of the Union speech in 1823 became the justification ever since for the American government to intervene in the affairs of any nation it deemed a threat to its own national security, particularly if the nation threatening—usually indirectly—had been doing so with the aid or coercion of some old world—i.e. European—power. The Monroe Doctrine, that heinous little piece of empirical thought and action, was not officially cited by the CIA in their now-declassified PBSUCCESS documents, but practicably was their only loophole to violate human rights and international law as they did in Guatemala.
The key personalities of the coup were John and Allen Dulles—the high-ranking United States officials who orchestrated the coup itself—; President Arbenz of Guatemala, whom the CIA accused of instigating a Soviet blockade in the Western Hemisphere which would result in the adverse treatment of American (financial) interests; Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, the military officer who would be installed by the Americans as Arbenz’s replacement as President, and who was actually one of the supprters of Arana who was fired by Arbenz upon taking office; the United Fruit Company, an American multinational whose massive land holdings were being dismantled by Arbenz’s pro-Guatemalan policies; Jack Purefoy, American Ambassador to Guatemala, appointed by the United States for the sole purpose of getting the coup in motion; and the Jesuits, who relayed information to and from the United States, Guatemala and Vatican City, they also helped with the dissemination of propaganda which would play a significant role in this coup.
The essential elements of the coup were to gather viable evidence that Arbenz was turning Guatemala into a Communist state, and was also obtaining the support and sanction of the USSR in some way; to, once evidence had been gathered, restructure the American diplomatic relations in Guatemala and surrounding countries, like Honduras, from where the coup would be staged; to use a mass dissemination of propaganda and total control of the media to downplay Arbenz’s public accusations and fears that the United States was planning an attack in his country; to construct a mock air-attack on Guatemala City to incite fear in the citizens; to convince the public that there was some mysterious rebel army—a sort of paramilitary—orchestrating the coup, not the Americans themselves; to restrict transportation in the country by not allowing Guatemalans to leave their nation, or allow others—including members of the media—to enter it by inducing a faux fear of the rebel army in them; to force Arbenz to leave office, through assassination or non-negotiable resignation and during his termination of office, occupy the Presidential Palace; to immobilize Arbenz’s military and ensure that the Soviet weapons he had obtained would not be used (against the United States); to install a pro-American right-leaning authoritarian, military leader who would restore the glory and monopoly of economic control and land holdings to the American-owned United Fruit Company, and support the Americans thereafter in any endeavor, seemingly of the new President’s own will. Upon his installation, the new President would deliver an American-penned speech announcing the liberation of Guatemala from the evil Arbenz—that very man who had himself liberated it just a decade before.
While these elements were being realized by the CIA operatives in Guatemala, the leftist government of Arbenz quietly surrendered, with President Arbenz resigning. Once Arbenz had stepped down, he was replaced by five more leaders, each lasting less than a day and coming to power by various juntas. Once the CIA-led rebel army had executed the five new leaders, they made it look as though Armas had been the ringleader behind the whole coup and that he was the victor of it all. The key personalities of the Arbenz government were exiled, as he had been, or executed. In the interim between Arbenz and Armas, the democratic institutions of the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary had each been frozen in their powers, except the Executive, which under the newly-installed Armas seemed to practice all three roles simultaneously, but with a militaristic and authoritarian flare. Laws were not passed, but rather unwritten and originating from Armas’—or, more accurately, the United States’—lips. Outlawing political parties, reducing the electoral franchise, and establishing a grim death penalty for all strikers and opponents, Armas rules puppet-like with his American, iron fist—a fist which unclasps to grab back all of the land nationalized by Arbenz and which hands it back to the United Fruit Company.
Essentially a police state, Armas’ Guatemala was a nation where citizens who showed any dissent toward the right-wing leader or tried to incite any sort of change, whether democratic or violent, were usually immediately arrested, then held for lengthy periods of time, or executed without trial. Such constituted the Judiciary of Guatemala under the new, American-approved regime. Respecting the numerous human rights abuses, minimal amounts of Guatemalans died during the actual coup, but recent United Nations inquiries decades after the fact have revealed that under Armas in his 30-year term, over 100,000 Guatemalan citizens are killed under his militant rule. Naturally, external support is furnished by the Americans, while domestically, every citizen wishing to remain alive reluctantly but definitely shows support for Armas’ dictatorship. In order to make the coup-required shift to a quasi-democracy, Armas institutes various pointless government offices and positions, reduces the eligibility of the electoral franchise, as noted previously, and holds scarce elections to fill such vanity posts.
Since the coup in Guatemala, the CIA has undertaken a brief operative known as Operation President Board History, in which the objective was to gather as much documentary evidence of Guatemalan-Soviet connections prior to and during the coup as possible. After stealing 150,000 pages of Guatemalan government files, the CIA found insufficient support, and with the fall of the USSR in 1990, had made its efforts, though frantically, in vain. Also since the 1954 coup, Guatemala has elected another civilian government—the first, and freely elected, since that of Arbenz—in 1986. The official and noticeably-undertaken priorities of this government, under President Vincizio Cerezo, have been to end political violence, enforce laws, introduce the new laws of habeas corpus and court protection, a law creating a human rights committee, while the Supreme Court has sought the investigation of governmental corruption and legal system improvement. Genuine, actually-democratic elections for the President of Guatemala were again established by another homegrown coup in 1982, and have been strong ever since. The military has been completely removed from a governing role and now serves the quiet role of protecting internal interests, while the economy has been moderately stabilized. Freedom of speech readily exists now and opposing political parties and every society, and association imaginable for citizens now exists. It would seem though, the United States-stage coup of 1954 had no step in bringing Guatemala to a harmonious state of expanding prosperity, and rather, set the nation back—for the 1954 coup was met with no less than a dozen juntas, coups, and civil wars, each resembling the same outcome as the 1954 orchestration: right-wing, authoritarian military puppet-governments and failures. As evidenced by the October Revolutionaries back in 1944, Guatemalans know what they want and can so easily obtain it, and have shown in the last two decades that they can now do so without the shedding of any blood, though the Americans tried the application of the Monroe Doctrine again in a Latin American country it suspected of Soviet ties: Chile was, in two decades after Guatemala had been, to be under the yoke of American intervention.
Preceding the coup in Chile was, as in the case of Guatemala, a homegrown coup. Led by General Luis Altamirano in 1924, it was this uprising which instigated the political and social unrest which lasted in Chile until 1932—a period of 8 years which was so unstable it produced no less than 10 different, yet equally-inefficient governments. During those turbulent 8 years, each government had ruled as a dictatorship. Restored in 1932 and lasting two decades, the recognition of Chile’s constitution was to be a steppingstone to administer economic growth. In 1964, an absolute majority elected the Christian Democrat leader, Eduardo Frei, whose policies were not dissimilar to those of Guatemalan President Arévalo in that they focused intensely on the promotion of labor unions and agrarian reform, though Frei had been receiving mounting criticism from leftist organizations, many of which cited Frei’s reforms as excessive. Eventually, Frei was defeated by the leftists, and in 1970, Marxist and Socialist Salvador Allende gained a victory—historical not only for the left-wingers in Chile, but also for the Western Hemisphere and American paranoia: he had become the first freely-elected Socialist leader in the world (all other Communist and Socialist nations on earth had been brought about by coups or full-scale revoltuions, particularly the USSR and The People’s Republic of China). Allende was the leader of Chile’s Popular Unity party and had gained his office by a very, very slim plurality of just over a third of the total vote. This was Chile’s first leftist government and the one which would garner the destructive attention of the United States, just as Guatemala had nearly 20 years earlier.
Among the policies of Allende’s leftist government which ultimately led to the coup of 1974 were his continuation and expansion of his predecessor, Frei’s land reforms (not dissimilar to Arbenz’s continuation and expansion of his predecessor, Arévalo’s land reforms), which in this historical instance focused on United States interests which were not fruit plantations (as it had been in Guatemala), but copper mines. Much like the United Fruit Company—though in this instance comprising several American companies as opposed to one major multinational—the American copper mining operations quickly grew displeased at an action which eerily and quite identically paralleled that of Arbenz: the nationalization of foreign (American)-owned tracts of land. While in Guatemala Arbenz had ensured that the United Fruit Company was paid the full, official—official relating to the amounts stated on tax returns—value of their land being expropriated, Allende had not with the American copper corporations. Instead, Allende nationalized entire copper mines, stating that the metal, which Chile was richest in, rightfully belonged to his nation, not the American one. Already expressing its disapproval of Allende’s leadership prior to his expropriations, the United States was completely outraged for the second time that its dear monopoly in yet another Latin American nation had been jeopardized by some—as they viewed him—petty, Communist leader. To combat the loss of their copper mines, the Americans placed various economic sanctions against Chile, cutting off aid and investments there, while the CIA already began taking action to incite another Latin American coup, with the Intelligence Agency funding and leading at least three opposition groups in Chile.
Now already trying its hardest to covertly incite a coup within Chilean borders, the American government through the CIA began to channel all of its resources and energies into planning an operation mirroring that seen in Guatemala decades prior. In 1973, the efforts of the CIA-led opposition groups had successfully created a division in Chile, and had managed to half about half of the population against Allende’s government, while most of the other half of the citizens remained leftist in their views. Allende’s government saw massive inflation cripple Chile and too, noticed that opposition was growing. Now officially a Soviet-allied leader, Allende endured an unsuccessful non-CIA-led coup in the summer of that year, but did not realize there would be a defining, American-orchestrated one that fall which would bring Chile to its knees. Within Chile’s legislature that same summer, the two opposition parties—the Christian Democrats and the National Party—passed a resolution which beseeched the Chilean military to immediately and if necessary, forcibly cease the operation of Allende’s left-leaning government, which the legislature deemed to be in constitutional violation. The Chamber of Deputies Resolution was responded to by Allende as being an unrealistic and unworthy attack on his government, and he stated that the Resolution served no other purpose than to incite suspicion, paranoia, and fear in the Chilean people and in the governments of nations abroad, particularly the United States (one should note that this is similar to Guatemalan President Arbenz’s declaration that the United States was planning to attack him, and though Allende did not have an identical suspicion as of yet, his accusation that the Resolutions’ accusations against him would incite a violent response from the Americans is an unsettling in its historical comparison). Summoning the national support of “all worker, democrats, and patriots”, Allende aimed to defend his left government using the Chilean Constitution—the very document which the two opposition parties had cited Allende as being in breach of.
Within less than a month of the delivery of the Chamber of Deputies Resolution, a violent coup had displaced Allende permanently and reduced Chile to an unnerving, authoritarian state—just the type of state which the Resolution had claimed Allende was creating and which that document sought to prevent. The key personalities of the CIA-led coup were Augusto Pinochet, Gustavo Leigh Guzmán, José Toribio Merino Castro, and César Mendoza Durán; of these individuals, all four led the military junta which overthrew Allende’s leftist government and this consortium had within its ranks four members of each of the four branches of Chile’s armed forces: Pinochet representing the army (which, being the oldest Chilean defense body, made Pinochet de facto leader of Chile and the coup in accordance with an agreement made by the members of the junta); Leigh being from the air force; Merino from the navy; and Mendoza from the national police force. Commencing with a ceremonial grasp of Allende’s power through a rebel bombing of the Presidential Palace, while the capital was stormed by former-British fighter jets overhead.
Allende famously refused to surrender, and despite widespread reports of fighting off the rebels who had stormed his Palace until his death at their hands, Allende—as Pinochet’s junta officially declared—had committed suicide using an AK-47 machine gun presented to him as a gift by fellow leftist leader Fidel Castro of Cuba. While the cause of Allende’s death has been disputed, especially that offered by the men who overthrew him, three autopsies confirm that Allende died in the way Pinochet ultimately described: by firing at himself with a machine gun which delivered numerous shots to his skull, neck, and chest. What cannot be confirmed, however, is that the machine gun actually bore the gold plate engraved with kind wishes from and the name of Fidel Castro. Regardless, on September 11, 1973 the Chilean Presidential Palace was seized by rebel officers within the national military who had been banded together by the same political views, supported financially and philosophically by the CIA (United States), and had convinced the remainder of the official Chilean military to remain immobile during the coup. Once Pinochet and his junta had seized the residential symbol of Chile’s national identity, it proceeded to disrupt communication and transport by closing all of the nations’ airports to travellers and instead using them for his junta’s launch of military efforts, closing all borders to any crossing, and by instituting an intense curfew, under which any detractors were usually immediately executed by patrolling coup guards. The remainder of Allende’s leftist government, with him now dead by suicide before the coup could even kill him, was finished off by being arrested and transferred to the National Stadium in the nation’s capital, which that year held over 40,000 citizens and political opponents—i.e., supporters of Allende’s leftist government. Over the following three years, more than 130,000 people were to be arrested and held in the concentration camp of the National Stadium. Any citizen expressing dissident views toward Pinochet’s regime was automatically arrested and either made to disappear or held indefinitely and tortured.
Respecting the democratic institutions of Chile during the coup, Pinochet dissolved the National Congress on September 13, 1973 and thereby suspended all activities formerly performed by the legislature and opted to, as nearly every dictator does, rule by decree (which, interestingly, the Resolution of that summer had accused Allende of doing). The Judiciary was also suspended and the junta’s disgusting policy of disappearing people, arbitrary arrest and torture replaced it; there was essentially only one law enforced under Pinochet and that was to in all circumstances obey the will of his regime. The Executive was entirely dismantled, with all government offices being suspended and cleared of all employees; the junta of four was the violent conglomeration of all three branches of government, and it blended each into a single, mutilated mass of disgusting apolitical fervor.
The human rights abuses were numerous, as noted, and torture, rape, arbitrary arrest, and execution were commonplace following the coup. Methods of torture included hooding, humiliation, the removal of nails, starvation, mock execution, and electrical manipulation and abuse of the genitals. Political opponents were kept alive only briefly, being determined as useless if they had not divulged any information or had made any pro-Pinochet conversion within a set period of a few hours, then ultimately killed (if the torture itself had not already killed them).
As was the case with Guatemala’s dictatorship years, Chile enjoyed the favor and support of the American government, which itself had actually orchestrated the coup which placed the right-wing, maniacal junta of Pinochet into power. Quickly, Pinochet assigned to himself total control over the nation and its authoritarian government, deeming himself President and the remaining three of the junta useless except in exercising support and attempting to boost national morale. Internally, many more were killed and the Caravan of Death traveled Chile, executing people randomly. Pinochet’s self-promotion to President of Chile was hoped by citizens to in some way herald the advent of some sort of quasi-democracy in Chile following the coup, but ultimately it did not. Unlike Guatemala in that respect, Chile’s new right-wing government did not slowly ease into a democratic mould, but rather saw the banning of all political parties and political opponents and fascinatingly, Pinochet, upon getting rid of and replacing the other three original members of the junta, perpetrated a pseudo-plebiscite which claimed to show the nation’s support of the new Chilean constitution he had drafted and proposed.
Following the seemingly lawful adoption of this hastily-written constitution was a promise of a similar plebiscite (each ending up being as orchestrated and fake as the first) every 8 years, which would ask the citizens to determine whether the one candidate offered by Pinochet’s junta as a possible replacement to lead the nation would be elected, in a sense. Needless to say, Pinochet was the only-ever candidate during these crude and false forms of elections, and when during the second such plebiscite the Chilean public actually managed to outnumber the false plebiscite-voting figures tallied by the junta, Pinochet—the one candidate—actually lost by 55% of the vote! Amusingly, Pinochet was forced to step down, not at the hands of another violent coup, nor at the hands of a rebelling junta, but in obligation to abide by the very law he wrote into his new national constitution. Following his defeat, in 1989 a Christian Democrat named Patricio Aylwin was elected under yet another new constitution (actually, Pinochet’s new constitution, but with democratic revisions made to it to ensure the return of Chile to the traditional electoral process), and became Chile’s first lawfully-elected President since Allende. During this new government, Allende remained in Chile and actually retained a government post within the military, having the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Army until the spring of 1998. Upon retiring from the military and from government, Pinochet was made an honorary senator (through a provision he included in his new constitution during the coup) and as such, was legally immune—as diplomats are—from all legal prosecution, until he was arrested in the autumn of 1998 in London, England under an international arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge. Following his arrest, Pinochet, who is still living (Arbenz travelled the world in exile after the Guatemalan coup and died mysteriously in a bathtub in Mexico in the 1970s, while Armas was assassinated not long after being installed by the Americans as President of Guatemala), has been attending mandatory trials held by the International Court of Justice, answering charges of human rights violations and international tax fraud.
Since Pinochet’s indirect self-defeat, his democratic replacement Aylwin has been succeeded by fellow democratically-elected Presidents Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Lagos, and Bachelet who each made such forward-thinking contributions to Chile as constitutional reform, opening the doors of the Presidential Palace to the public, and the creation of a Minister of Security, respectively. As can be seen, Guatemala and Chile endured startlingly similar violent—and frequent—changes of government which each oftentimes bordered on the extreme of having no government at all; both have slowly, but with much temerity and wealth of determination managed to mobilize the wheels of democratic return. The comparison of the American-led struggles in each of these two Latin American nations is not limited to general upheavals of government structure and type, oh no, but are each versed in the didactic lessons offered by plans formulated by the Central Intelligence Agency; Twentieth Century timeframes of socio-political conditions and novel thoughts; the potential controversies and dangers that may come of having American-owned financial interests in ones nation; implications of the Monroe Doctrine and the terror it—in particular, its interpretations—can give birth to; allowing the existence of Communist and leftist parties which have a viable chance of winning an election (not necessarily a malady for the nation concerned, so much as it is for the paranoiac government of the United States which is a neighbor to it); among notable others tallied throughout this work.
It is undeniable today that the United States did execute, though covertly (until the release of recently-declassified documents officially attest), the coups in Guatemala and Chile, and it is also undeniable that each coup generally caused a greater disruption—political and social—in each nation than the regimes in place prior to each being overthrown had ever initiated. It is also undeniable that a great parallel may be drawn between the two coups and the precepts of the lascivious of the American Monroe Doctrine—a legal declaration that the United States may and will intervene militarily, covertly or overtly, in the affairs, societal and political of any nation within the Western Hemisphere it deems to be either of a threat to its own national security, or of being in alignment and support of any Old World country that the Americans deem to be volatile; essentially, a statement which authorizes the use of American force to prevent the evolution (which is purportedly deemed by the United States to be imperialistic in nature) within its geographic vicinity. It is this parallel between these horrific events and that piece of wonderful, executive (American) authority that demonstrates why the United States was not justified in destabilizing the countries that it viewed as threats to its national security during the Cold War era.
Monroe’s Doctrine philosophically acts as a double-edged sword for the United States, and may be used both as the main support for America destabilizing nations it labeled as threats, and and as reinforcement for the belief that the United States was not justified in doing so. To the Monroe Doctrine there are three main points, virtually as they were when it was introduced in 1823, the first being that no European countries may colonize anymore in any of the Americas; secondly, it maintains provision for the enforcement of George Washington’s foreign policy that the United States will only ever be involved in European (and European colonial) affairs if Americas’ rights are somehow disturbed by those affairs (directly or indirectly, at the discretion of the States); thirdly and finally, it states that the United States will consider any attempt at colonization or political conversion within the Americas as a threat to the national security of the United States. Furthermore, to repair any infractions which any other nation—especially one in connection with or one actually in Europe—has brought in contravention of the Doctrine, the United States government has ensured they can under their own laws (namely, by invoking the Doctrine itself) act maliciously—covertly or overtly—toward the offending nation or nations. It is the third concept of this document—that regarding the loose term of colonization—that many socio-political theorists cite as the particular invocation of the document by the American government in both the Guatemalan and Chilean coups of 1954 and 1973, respectively.
This is also the theory of the present writer, who, in analyses of the Monroe Doctrine has found its archaic language to be of an intrinsic, though probably unplanned value: the ambiguity of archaic diction. One may agree that when in 1823 the speech was drafted and delivered which had contained in its structure the paragraph which became the Monroe Doctrine the term colonization must have literally meant the formal subversion of a non-European nation under the laws and customs of that European nation in order to make some sort of cultural and political transition (and acquisition), but one must merely acknowledge this example of context and fast forward to the relative present, during which such a term—no less a legal one—as colonization has lost its original cultural meaning of one nation overtaking and adapting another, and has now, in that loss of its original meaning, gained the deafening power of silent, malignant ambiguity: since colonization in the historical sense is quite extinct within our modern era, and the undeniably archaic Doctrine is still a decree within legal enforcement, one must come to the conclusion that colonization is now a grammatical portal leading the interpreter of the document into that realm of Governmental Manipulation. Could Arbenz’s beseeching of European—especially Soviet—military assistance be seen legally under the Doctrine as an exercise in colonization? Well, by damn it seems that is how the United States under Eisenhower had conveniently and quite legally interpreted it. As is often the case with legal prosody—especially with laws and decrees remaining in force but having been written in centuries prior—Time lends to Interpretation that wonderful garment of endless and many colors: Context. It seems that James Monroe—who, as it has been noted wrote what became the Doctrine in a speech as an example of American thought and had never intended it as legislative bill or policy—also never realized that his words would be capable over the changing social, political, and cultural climate that flows fourfold with Time simultaneously, of having their meanings and applications changed, too.
Since the United States recognizes Monroe’s Doctrine as officially legal as it would a full-fledged law, despite its contradictory origins, it was quite justified in the context of American (its own) law of using it—whether implicitly or expressly—to stage the coups it did which have been herein this work discussed. So if from its point of domestic law it was justified in destabilizing Guatemala (for Arbenz could loosely and by virtue of the ambiguity by then attached to the term colonization have been said to been aiding in and supporting the colonization, or conversion of his nation to a European nation’s—Czechoslovakia’s—way of political thought), then so, too could Chile if a leftist government had arisen there…which did happen. This writer agrees that the United States was justified in initiating its destabilization of these two Latin American nations—but only in consideration of the United States legal and constitutional system. To relay a good example of similar action historically taken by other governments, one may look at the case of Frobisher’s expedition of the latter part of the 1500s for a Northwest Passage to China; his journey, though not successful and often overlooked by modern chroniclers, did take him to what is today the Territory of Nunavut in Canada’s north. There, Frobisher, at first dismissing the icy seclusion as a wasteland, soon noticed the Inuit natives and realized there was a big potential there for colonization if these natives had been living there; so, before any hostile acquisition of the territory ensued, Frobisher patiently yet with diligence ordered his crew to withdraw from his ship the English flag of the time and while installing it on its pole into the icy ground, read aloud a standard legal declaration of take-over which had long been issued to English explorers on behalf of the Crown, stating to the citizens (or, in that case, natives) of the nation to be colonized that that is what was happening. There was no bother in translating or making understood the heavy legal implications just set down, nor in feeling guilt over killing those citizens (natives) who had not understood the legal declaration and had obviously been in disobedience of it. So long as Frobisher obliged his nations’ laws in reading the formal declaration which claimed the land for England, he was in the good books of the British law courts, and why would he worry about being the same within the legal system of the nation he was overtaking?
The United States, as Frobisher was, had been legally adherent in their hostile international interventions. But socially, culturally, neither ever have been. The United States was not right in interfering with the perfectly legal affairs of the nations it invaded during the Cold War, regardless if the invasions ranged from covert document-gathering smear campaigns or orchestrating coups and revolutions. No other nation in the Western Hemisphere possesses legislation or doctrines even remotely similar to that which is the Monroe one possessed by America. As such, since no other nation in the Western Hemisphere belongs to the United States (with the debated exceptions of Puerto Rico and the like), none are subject to the enforcement of its laws. Interestingly, from a legal standpoint on both sides of the table, the Americans were both fully justified in destabilizing countries that appeared to be obtaining assistance in Communist Colonization, while simultaneously under the pre-existing laws of the destabilized nations they were not. But to return to the ethics of the whole affair, nothing, no quality, no possession gives the American government—nor any government—the right or privilege of disrupting and destabilizing the governments of another. While the Monroe Doctrine does in a sense lay territorial claim on behalf of the United States to the entire Hemisphere it is situate in, it is quite illogical to assume that such a claim could ever be legitimate or rationally accepted.
Dirt tricks by the CIA may have worked well to destabilize Cold War threats but being covert, for starters, were not plausible nor ethical at all. Every dispute, particularly of a political nature, should be addressed in the open, and with the fostering of as much diplomacy (literal and figurative) as possible. Such is a virtually universally-accepted moral value. Continuing with the moral dissection of American-exercised international destabilization, another widely-held value of societies universally is that of (both literal and figurative) territorial respect. Logically, one does not invade the space of another, nor seek to alter another’s emotional and personal state, so why should one attempt to unsettle another’s life out of mere suspicion, and shatter their state? If one we are acquainted with seeks the assistance of another acquaintance with whom our relations are quite awry, do we have an obligation—a right, a privilege—to stop at all costs, our acquaintance from associating with the other we do not favor? Have we the right and privilege to the hostile and non-requested reversal of another’s choices? Or another’s (democratic) destiny? In a philosophically harmonious society, definitely not; none of these moral examples are justified in a societal context. Naturally, there are those who do abuse these accepted notions, and on a national and political level, the United States is a foremost example. Legally (but only within the laws of its own state) was the United States justified in destabilizing nations it seen as threats during the Cold War, but practicably and ethically, it was never justified, and the ethics of the situation—those thresholds of human governance which the inhabitants particularly of the Western Hemisphere hold so dear—far outweigh the legal technicalities. It would seem that during the Cold War, the United States sought out these two banana republics in particular merely, in the end, to maintain the supply of Power’s Liquor—that champagne of any politician—flowing trickily in the veins of those mercurial, American statesmen. And obviously, Nixons’ perceptions of just what a free state consisted of were to say the least, quite off; when sent to congratulate the Guatemalan President his superior had recently installed covertly under the guise of a national coup, old Dick must have been blinded by the light of American Democracy…you know, that flame which burns at the end of the just, and free cigarette which those two Latin American nation-victims have been forced to smoke. For no political systems are grand which are by developing nations, absorbed and troubled, as smoke, second-hand…