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The United States staged a coup in 1954 to protect the United Fruit Company. We overthrew a democratically elected leader.

In 1954 the United States government, led by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, staged a coup to oust President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. For what reason? To help the United Fruit Company.

United Fruit was a giant company, capturing over 90% of the market in its heyday. The juggernaut found President Arbenz to be a nuisance when his agrarian reform meant they would be paid for some of their unused land, which would be given to peasants. With the help of powerful friends like Allen Dulles (the Director of the CIA), the United States staged a coup, installing Castillo Armas in his place.

All of this took place while the USA was busy framing itself as a Christian nation. What does that mean for the Christian Church today? Are we a nation that supports that kind of behavior?

Our special guest for this episode is Stephen Schlesinger, co-author of the excellent book “Bad Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala“.

Discussion Questions:

  • What threat did President Jacobo Arbenz pose to United Fruit?
  • United Fruit owned many utilities in Guatemala from the trains to telephone lines. How would you feel if our utilities were owned by foreign entities? If they controlled our natural resources?
  • Do you think the land reform deal was a good one for their country?
  • Were people like John Foster Dulles right to overthrow Arbenz?
  • How might it have benefited them to do so?
  • In what way could the actions of the US in the 1950s reflect poorly on Christianity domestically and abroad?
  • It has been argued that American consumers benefit when Latin American and African countries are thrown in disarray. It means cheaper diamonds, gold, rubber, and more while also stranding the people in those countries in poverty.
  • Does it bother you that you may be benefiting from unbalanced countries?
  • Do you find the assumption that we are benefiting to be offensive? Why?
  • Is there anything we can do about it?

Sources:

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