Carlos Castillo Armas Edit Profile
He was a colonel in the Guatemalan Army in 1950 when the assassination of Colonel Javier Arana apparently convinced him of then-President Juan José Arévalo Bermejo’s Communism. Arana was the leading opponent of Arevalo’s hand-picked successor, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman,and the murder was widely believed to have been instigated by leftist elements. Castillo Armas attempted an unsuccessful coup before the 1950 elections, spent some time in prison, and then left Guatemala.
In Honduras, Castillo Armas was approached by the Central Intelligence Agency, then organizing an exile army to invade Guatemala and overthrow the Arbenz government. In May 1954 Castillo Armas led a ragtag, but fairly well- equipped, force of some 500 men into Guatemala. Thanks to air raids by American pilots and to the reluctance of the Guatemalan armed forces to support Arbenz, the government collapsed.
Castillo Armas dismantled Arbenz’ reforms. Land that had been expropriated and distributed to Indian peasants was returned to its former owners. The United States, anxious to prove the wisdom of its intervention, poured money into Guatemala—$80 million in the three years of Castillo Armas’ rule. Few of these funds reached the country’s poor. Castillo Armas disbanded all political parties. He attempted to legitimize his rule through oral plebiscite, without a secret, written ballot. With no one opposing him, Castillo Armas was “elected” president and welcomed to the United States as such.
Numerous scandals and several attempted coups characterized the Castillo Armas years. The “Liberator,” as he had designated himself, had to declare a state of siege and intensify repressive measures. Unemployment was rife despite the government’s persistent anti-unionism. The members of the oligarchy and foreign investors were content to recoup their losses rather than stimulate the economy.
In 1957 a member of Castillo Armas’ palace guard shot him at close range and then committed suicide.