Though initially Guatemala did not seem like a direct threat to the United States, it was believed that the country provided a front in the western hemisphere for Soviet influence. From the CIA memorandum titled “Guatemalan Situation,” the agency describes the popular opinion of the communist government, stating that “The growing Communist tendencies of the Guatemalan Government have alienated the majority of Guatemalans to such an extent that a popular uprising to overthrow the government is to be expected as a normal reaction” (“Guatemalan Situation”). Whether this information was true or not, it still demonstrates the paranoia against Communism, making it the most prevalent reason for action. Another excerpt from the document reacts to the reform act, claiming that “The recent passage of the Agrarian Reform Act… is expected to win further adherents to the government although it is opposed by the landowning class whose influence will wane as the Act takes effect.” This shows that the CIA was more concerned with the landowners who were being robbed rather than the fruit company, which is not mentioned in the document at all.
The purpose of CIA action in Guatemala was to establish a pro-US democratic government. The first operation drafted was PBFortune, authorized by Truman in 1952. This initiated CIA collaboration with Colonel Castillo Armas in Honduras with support from President Somoza in Nicaragua and President Galvos in Honduras. The plan included memos that designated assassination targets, including a list of 58 military leaders and other important figures, and probably Arbenz himself (Doyle and Kornbluh). Later, the CIA distributed “A Study of Assassination,” which explicated targeted clandestine murder in great detail, including diagrams and instructions such as the “Conference Room Technique.” The handbook justifies assassination by stating that “Killing a political leader whose burgeoning career is a clear and present danger to the cause of freedom may be held necessary” (“A Study of Assassination”). The operation eventually ended because of its compromise.
A general plan of action for Guatemala was drafted in September 1953. The CIA still believed that Russia held a base of operations in the country and that it presented a direct harm to American interests. The plan concluded that the revolutionaries within Central America would not be able to fight the Communists without American help and that due to the growing power of the Communist government and the deteriorating power of the resistance, the CIA should act quickly. The means through which overthrow would be accomplished included economic pressure and military aid to other Central American nations. Covert economic warfare was to be used against oil supplies and shipping vital exports and imports. They also planned to disrupt the Guatemalan coffee industry. Financial aid to other countries was estimated to cost just under $3 million (“Guatemala – General Plan of Action”) Psychological warfare was intended to be used in the coup; however, it was deemed unnecessary due to unsatisfactory effects.