Speaking before the 10th Inter-American Conference, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles warns that “international communism” is making inroads in the Western Hemisphere and asks the nations of Latin America to condemn this danger. Dulles’s speech was part of a series of actions designed to put pressure on the leftist government of Guatemala, a nation in which U.S. policymakers feared communism had established a beachhead.
Dulles was stern and direct as he declared that there was not “a single country in this hemisphere which has not been penetrated by the apparatus of international communism acting under orders from Moscow.” Communism, he continued, was an “alien despotism,” and he asked the nations of Latin America to “deny it the right to prey upon our hemisphere.” “There is no place here,” he concluded, “for political institutions which serve alien masters.” Though he did not mention it by name, it was clear to most observers that Dulles was targeting Guatemala.
The United States had been concerned about political developments in Guatemala since 1944, when a leftist revolution overthrew long-time dictator Jorge Ubico. In the years since, U.S. policymakers were increasingly fearful that communist elements were growing in power in Guatemala and deeply troubled by government policies that seemed to threaten U.S. business interests that nation. By 1954, Dulles and President Dwight D. Eisenhower were convinced that international communism had established a power base in the Western Hemisphere that needed to be eliminated. As evidence, they pointed to Guatemala’s expropriation of foreign-owned lands and industries, its “socialistic” labor legislation, and vague allegations about Guatemala’s assistance to revolutionary movements in other Latin American nations.
Dulles’s speech did get some results. The Latin American representatives at the meeting passed a resolution condemning “international communism.” As Dulles was to discover, however, the Latin American governments would go no further. In May, Dulles requested that the Organization of American States (OAS) consider taking direct action against Guatemala. The OAS was established in 1948 by the nations of Latin America and the United States to help in settling hemispheric disputes. Dulles’s request fell on deaf ears, however. Despite their condemnation of “international communism,” the other nations of Latin America were reluctant to sanction direct intervention in another country’s internal affairs. At that point, Eisenhower unleashed the Central Intelligence Agency. Through a combination of propaganda, covert bombings, and the establishment of a mercenary force of “counter-revolutionaries” in neighboring Nicaragua and Honduras, the CIA was able to destabilize the Guatemalan government, which fell from power in June 1954. An anti-communist dictatorship led by Carlos Castillo Armas replaced it.