This Day in History

June 27, 1954: Guatemalan Elected Leader Overthrown in CIA-Backed Coup

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Environment & Food, US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

On June 27, 1954, democratically elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was deposed in a CIA-sponsored coup to protect the profits of the United Fruit Company. Arbenz was replaced by decades of brutal U.S.-backed regimes who committed widespread torture and genocide.

Gloriosa Victoria

This painting by Diego Rivera, “Gloriosa Victoria,” tells the story of the 1954 overthrow of the democratically-elected Jacobo Arbenz government. Coup Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas greets secretary of state John Foster Dulles, who holds a bomb with the face of Eisenhower, surrounded by people who were murdered in the coup. To his left is U.S. ambassador John Peurifoy with military officers and CIA director Allen W. Dulles whispering in his brother’s ear. On the right, the archbishop of Guatemala, Mariano Rossell Arellano, blesses the act, while Guatemalans protest.

Read a description of the coup in an excerpt from the book Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzalez here. Here are resources from Teaching for Change on the history and literature of Central America.