Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
James F Siekmeier
David M Hauser
Michelle M Stephens
In 1954 the CIA aided in the overthrow of Guatemala's democratically elected president. Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, a leftist leader intent on improving the quality of life for Guatemala's lower class population, nationalized tens of thousands of acres of private land for redistribution to the peasantry as part of an agrarian reform law, which was also supported by Guatemala's small communist party. The United Fruit Company (UFCo), a US company which dominated Guatemala's agricultural export market, had thousands of unused acres expropriated. UFCo, with ties to high-level government officials, appealed to the US State Department for resolution to this injustice. President Eisenhower and many in his Cabinet felt the land reform legislation and Arbenz' nationalist policies were likely backed by Moscow and decided to use covert action to ensure communism was rolled back from the hemisphere.;President Eisenhower saw covert action as a low-cost, low-visibility method to achieve U.S. policy objectives abroad. Having seen covert action produce legitimate results in World War II with the Office of Strategic Services, during the Italian elections in 1948, and in Iran in 1953, the president came to trust in the effectiveness of covert action and its practitioners. The CIA, in addition to providing the covert action experts who carried out the president's foreign policy objectives, also provided the president with expert analysis about the ever changing situation in Guatemala. From 1950 until Arbenz' overthrow in 1954, CIA analysts provided the president and his advisors with a number of reports which supported some of the judgements that Eisenhower's advisors were already making. My study seeks to demonstrate the nature of CIA analytic assessments and will show Eisenhower's affinity for intelligence and covert action. This thesis will also review the types of information available to Eisenhower and his decision-making strategy. Ultimately, I argue that the 1954 Guatemalan coup cannot be fully understood without looking at what CIA analysts were telling high-level policymakers, how that intelligence integrated with other sources available to those policymakers, and how this combination of information emboldening Eisenhower to authorize covert action to overthrow Arbenz.
Weber, William R., "In Darker Shadows: Intelligence Analysis and Decision-Making behind the Overthrow of Guatemalan Democracy" (2017). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6928.