White House Refuses To Issue Apology To Guatemala

In a recent development, the Biden administration’s approach to Guatemala’s newly inaugurated President Bernardo Arevalo has raised questions about whether an apology for the 1954 coup orchestrated by the CIA will be given. While the White House has made it clear that no apology is on the table, Arevalo and many Guatemalans have long sought acknowledgment for the coup’s role in the country’s subsequent years of military rule and the bloody civil war that followed.

During a White House press briefing, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby responded to inquiries about whether an apology was discussed during national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s meeting with President-elect Arevalo. Kirby stated that he was not aware of any such discussion taking place.

President Arevalo, a progressive leader and the son of Guatemala’s first democratically-elected President, Juan Jose Arevalo, firmly believes that the coup orchestrated by the CIA had significant consequences for his country. He sees it as a catalyst for the subsequent military rule and the prolonged civil war from 1960 to 1996.

Recognizing the sensitivity surrounding this issue, the Biden administration has expressed its firm opposition to any attempts by political adversaries to obstruct President Arevalo’s assumption of office earlier this month.

During the 1954 coup, the Eisenhower administration justified its intervention by claiming it supported a popular uprising against President Arbenz, who they believed was moving towards Communist dictatorship. Vice President Richard Nixon even cited this event as an example of people rising against a “Communist dictator” during a televised debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960. The CIA’s involvement in the coup was not officially acknowledged until years later, although rumors had circulated widely.

President Arbenz, a progressive leader who served as defense minister under the elder Arevalo, did have some Communist members in his government. However, he consistently maintained that he was not a Communist and that his primary objective was to implement land reforms that would benefit peasants and provide them with more opportunities. Following the coup, Arbenz was exiled to Mexico, while other allies, including the elder Arevalo, sought refuge in different countries. It is worth noting that President Arevalo was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1958, when his father was in exile.

The discussion surrounding the 1954 coup and the possibility of a U.S. apology has gained renewed attention due to the popularity of Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s best-selling novel, “Harsh Times.” The book delves into the historical events surrounding the coup, fueling the ongoing conversation.

While an official apology from the United States seems unlikely, the Biden administration’s engagement with President Arevalo and Guatemala signifies a desire for improved relations and continued dialogue. The focus now shifts to addressing present challenges and working towards a better future for Guatemala and its people.