Árbenz

I’m reading Vargas Llosa’s recent novel about the destruction of Guatemala’s attempt at creating a functioning democracy in the 1950s.

For those who don’t know, in the first half of the twentieth century Guatemala was an actual, real banana republic. The United Fruit company needed Guatemala to remain a backwards, feudal shithole to keep growing its stupid bananas on the country’s soil, displacing crowds of indigenous people and paying no taxes.

Jacobo Árbenz, a democratically elected president of Guatemala, wanted to bring real democracy to the country. But United Fruit didn’t want democracy. Its shareholders included Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles, and with their help the company started a campaign against Árbenz accusing him of being a Communist. Árbenz was a Communist like I’m Donald Trump but that wasn’t the point. The point was to get him removed and any possibility of a democracy in Guatemala squashed.

Vargas Llosa describes poignantly how poor Árbenz was trying to convince the Americans that he was for democracy and capitalism but nobody cared. The leading US newspapers – New York Times, Washington Post, the usual – did the bidding of Big Business and helped destroy democracy in Guatemala by spreading vicious, ridiculous lies.

Of course, Árbenz was thrown out and instead of a democracy Guatemala has had a 30-year civil war in the second half of the twentieth century.

And it’s funny how little things change. The same newspapers are still actively battling democracy on orders of Big Business by spreading insane lies. It’s Bezos instead of United Fruit but so what? It’s still the same thing.