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.

6 thoughts on “Árbenz

  1. “Árbenz was trying to convince the Americans that he was for democracy and capitalism”

    Poor naive bastard… the American ruling class can barely tolerate democracy and capitalism in the US, there’s no way on earth they’ll stand for it elsewhere.

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    1. That’s the tragedy of the story. He kept thinking that if Americans just understood how much he’s for democracy, they’d start supporting him. But nobody cared.

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      1. It goes beyond wanting to establish a democracy, however. The Arbenz of the novel insists that he want Guatemala to be like the USA. I think that the nuance is key.

        Let me know when you are done reading the novel!

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  2. Note: John Foster Dulles was Eisenhower’s Secretary of State. Besides helping to instigate the Guatemalan coup d’ état, he also instigated the coup of Mohammed Mossadegh in favor of the Iranian shah.

    Allen Dulles was head of the CIA. Besides the two coup d’états he was also involved in Project MindK Ultra and the Bay of Pigs invasion.

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