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Guatemala: Bitter white-washing of U.S. role in Guatemala by author of “Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala”

In a recent article in The Nation, Stephen Schlesinger - co-author with Stephen Kinzer of “Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala” - wrote that the U.S. government, by recognizing the 2023 elections that brought the new Guatemalan government to power, “has commendably made up for its cruel intervention of 1954, helping Guatemala enter a new democratic age.”

This is a mind-boggling conclusion for anyone to make, in my view, particularly someone who co-authored such an important book. Somehow, simply by respecting the democratic will of the Guatemalan people, the U.S. has “made up” for the U.S.-orchestrated coup in 1954 and all the followed.

The U.S. has never come close to ‘making up’ for the 1954 coup that ousted Guatemala’s last (until now) democratically elected government and returned to power the traditional economic, political and military elites.

The U.S. has not ‘made up’ for the decades of U.S.-backed repression that increased exponentially through the 1950s, 60s, 70s against a growing social movement and small armed insurgency

Genocides against Mayan peoples
The U.S. has not ‘made up’ for its complicity with scorched earth massacres, the forced disappearances of over 45,000 people, the forced displacement of over 1,000,000, and the planning and carrying out of the crime of genocide in four Mayan regions from 1978-1985. Estimates of how many civilians were killed and massacred, the majority being Indigenous people, run well over 250,000.

And the harmful role of the U.S. continued from there.

After the signing of the so-called “Peace Accords” in 1996 right through to the 2023 elections, the U.S. maintained full military, economic, political relations with 27 years of - in varying degrees - repressive, corrupt, anti-democratic governments known in Guatemala as the ‘Pacto de Corruptos’ (pact of the corrupt).

The U.S. (and Canada) called them “democratic allies” the entire time.

From the 1954 coup through to today, the U.S. has been, with some short-lived exceptions, absolutely consistent in its policies and actions that undermine democracy and the rule of law while maintaining full relations with its natural allies, i.e. the repressive, corrupt, anti-democratic traditional economic, military and political elites.

Schlesinger’s white-washing of the policies and actions of the U.S. continued as he refers to President Biden as “a vocal pro-democracy advocate.” Yet where in Latin America has the U.S. government actually ever been a force for real democracy?

Drug-trafficking trial of former President of Honduras
When Joe Biden was Vice-President, the Obama administration ‘legitimized’ the June 27, 2009 military coup in Honduras that ousted the democratically elected government of President Mel Zelaya. The Canadian government of Prime Minister Harper took the same position.

Then, as in Guatemala after the 1954 coup, everything in Honduras got worse.

From 2009-2022, Honduras was ruled by a series of military-backed, corrupt, anti-democratic regimes that the U.S. and Canada called “democratic allies” the entire time. Quality of life for a majority of Honduras was thrown off a cliff. The country experienced its worst indices of poverty and destitution, violence and repression, corruption and impunity. More Hondurans were forced to flee the country during this period than at any time in its history.

As Schlesinger was writing this article for The Nation, an extraordinary trial against former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (“JOH”) was wrapping in New York City.

On Friday, March 8, JOH – for close to 13 years a staunch “democratic allie” of the U.S. and Canada - was found guilty on all three charges he faced: conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S., carrying “machine guns and destructive devices” to help in cocaine shipments, and conspiring to use those weapons to pursue his aims.


Schlesinger’s article completely misrepresents how deadly and destructive the role of the U.S. has been in Guatemala from 1954 through to today.

It misrepresents, I suspect and fear, the actual interests of the U.S. in Guatemala in the future.