Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies to Host Groundbreaking Public Forum on U.S.-Led Coup in Guatemala

Sep 15, 2011, 10:10 ET from David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

Arbenz Family and other Notables to Give First Formal Statements on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies will be hosting a groundbreaking public forum on the 1954 U.S.–led coup of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala on Friday, October 7, 2011.

(Photo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20110915/NY67901 )

At this event, the Arbenz family and other experts will speak out publicly on the matter in the U.S. for the first time.

In related news, the government of Guatemala will be giving the Arbenz family an official apology for human rights violations at a ceremony at the National Palace of Culture in Guatemala City on Thursday, October 20.  The government has also agreed to revise textbooks in Guatemala to include Arbenz' historic influence on the country, and will also name a national highway after him, among other reparations.  

As of yet, the U.S. government has not issued an apology for its actions in Guatemala (although it did recently issue an apology for conducting medical experiments with syphilis on Guatemalan citizens, resulting in 83 deaths).  

For more information on this subject and how to help the people of Guatemala rebuild from the terror and violence that resulted from the CIA-led coup, go to www.guatemalaspring.org, a non-profit philanthropic and advocacy organization aimed at making positive change in Guatemala.


In 1954, in the height of the McCarthy era, the U.S. (through a secret CIA mission) led an overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz a democratically elected leader in Guatemala, based on trumped-up charges of communism.

The main reason for the American-led coup was that American officials at the CIA and Department of State and other high key government agencies had financial interests in Guatemala that had been put at risk. The Boston-based United Fruit Company (now called Chiquita Banana) owned most of the land in Guatemala in a deal made with the dictator which gave them 100 years of free taxes and much arable land in Guatemala.  Several American companies' financial position had been threatened by reforms Arbenz had introduced which had been approved by the Guatemalan Congress, including:  an agrarian land reform which threatened the land owned by United Fruit Company; the construction of a highway to avoid high tariffs charged by the American-owned International Railways (the only means to the port for export); and the building of a hydroplant to be free of  the electric grid owned by American-owned Bond and Share.

Backed by the Eisenhower administration, and the Dulles Brother from the CIA and Department of State, the coup forced Arbenz into exile and the U.S. imposed a junta government. As a result, for the next 50+ years, there has been more violence and civil bloodshed than most countries have ever seen. More than 200,000 of students, workers, professionals, farmers and non-combatants were killed, and more than one million people became refugees.  The country has never been the same since.


Friday, October 7, 2011, 2:00pm - 4:15pm EDT


1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, Concourse level, Belfer Case Study Room (S020), Harvard University


The Legacy of the Guatemalan Coup: Human Rights and the US-Latin American Relations (Made possible by Dr. Sergio Silva-Castaneda and DRCLAS)

Panel 1, 2 - 3pm: The Coup and US-Latin American Relations Now and Then.

  • Featuring Professor Stephen Kinzer ( Boston University), Professor Rick Wilson, Esq. ( American University College of Law) and Professor John Coatsworth (Columbia University)

Panel 2, 3:15 - 4:15pm. The Coup in Guatemala: Family Stories

  • Featuring anesthesiologist and internist. Erick Arbenz, MD, and Professor Margarita Arevalo, Video memories by Jacobo Arbenz Vilanova (son of deposed leader Jacobo Arbenz)

Panel discussions followed by Q & A, also present for this Q & A will be Stephen Schlesinger co-author of Bitter Fruit. http://www.stephenschlesinger.com/


Dr. Erick Arbenz, grandson of deposed Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz – will talk about the impact of the coup on Guatemala and will make a formal statement to the US government

Professor John Coatsworth, Dean of School of International Public Affairs, Columbia University – will talk about the importance of the coup for the future of US-Latin American relations

Steven Kinzer, award-winning foreign correspondent; author of Overthrow:  America's Century of Regime Change and co-author of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala – will talk about the details of the 1954 coup

Rick Wilson, attorney who took the case of the Arbenz overthrow to the OAS (Organization of American States) – will talk about why this case is important now and its implications

Margarita Arevalo, daughter of former Guatemalan President Juan Jose Arevalo

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.

Erick Arbenz


Stephen Schlesinger


SOURCE David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies