McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
John J. Dwyer
Holly A. Mayer
CIA, Jacobo Arbenz, PBSUCCESS, Propaganda, SHERWOOD
In 1954, the United States rescinded its Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America when it conducted a covert operation, known as PBSUCCESS, in Guatemala that forced the resignation of democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz. Since then, scholars have written a wide array of books and articles pertaining to the subject. While most authors have focused attention on who was to blame for the coup, this research project takes a new approach by examining the roles of religion and entertainment in facilitating Arbenz's overthrow. Instead of investigating causes or motives of U.S. intervention, this project seeks to answer questions about the operation itself. It focuses on the role of culture in covert operations and combines political, economic, technological, religious, and cultural history to set scholarship on this event in a new direction.
From April-June 1954, the CIA employed psychological intelligence and propaganda to quickly destabilize Guatemalan politics. The CIA intelligence gathered before the psychological warfare campaign was used two ways: first by Catholic priests in Sunday homilies and second by a clandestine radio station (codenamed SHERWOOD). Together these forms of propaganda helped sway an ambivalent public (sixty percent of the Guatemalan population was indifferent toward its leader less than a month before the launch of the radio station) to support an "invasion" by a band of approximately 1,500 Guatemalan exiles led by Castillo Armas against the sitting government.
Thearle, S. (2012). "Freedom of Speech and Religion?": Psychological Intelligence that Overthrew a Guatemalan Government, 1952-1954 (Master's thesis, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1274