In March of 1951, Jacobo Arbenz came to power in Guatemala after having been resoundingly elected by the people. A little more than three years later, he was forced to resign in the midst of armed intervention.
His reforms to redistribute unused land to poor peasants had fallen afoul of the United Fruit Company, which owned and warehoused vast tracts of Guatemalan land.
The American corporation solicited the US government to overthrow the populist president and the Eisenhower administration delivered with the help of the Department of State and CIA, which happened to be led by the Dulles brothers, who had strong ties to the company. Arbenz’ ousting put an end to democracy in Guatemala for decades and replaced it by military rule. A civil war followed several years later, resulting in the deaths of over 200,000 people. The country remains one of Latin America’s most impoverished to this day.
And Guatemala is but one of a myriad of countries whose fates have been catastrophically dictated by America’s imperialist interventions. In this film, American author, journalist, and academic Stephen Kinzer explores the formula and rationale the US uses to overthrow governments it doesn’t like, as well as its real motives. As illustrated in Guatemala, Libya, and Hawaii, the people whose governments were toppled by US-engineered coups are still dealing with the aftermath many years later