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Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, Revised and Expanded (Series on Latin American Studies) [Paperback]

by Stephen Schlesinger, Stephen Kinzer, John H. Coatsworth, Richard A. Nuccio
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 29, 2006 067401930X 978-0674019300 Revised
Bitter Fruit is a comprehensive and insightful account of the CIA operation to overthrow the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954. First published in 1982, this book has become a classic, a textbook case of the relationship between the United States and the Third World. The authors make extensive use of U.S. government documents and interviews with former CIA and other officials. It is a warning of what happens when the United States abuses its power.

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Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, Revised and Expanded (Series on Latin American Studies) + I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen Schlesinger is Director of the World Policy Institute.

Stephen Kinzer is a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.


John H. Coatsworth is Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and former Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

Product Details

  • Series: Series on Latin American Studies (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; Revised edition (January 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067401930X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674019300
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Schlesinger's and Kinzer's classic study examines one of the more disgraceful chapters in the history of American foreign policy: the CIA-sponsored overthrow in 1954 of the democratically elected government of Guatemala. The long-term repercussions of this unprovoked excursion are still felt today; many Latin American countries still do not trust United States intentions because of our actions in both Guatemala and, two decades later, Chile.

"Bitter Fruit" explodes some cherished myths that apologists for the coup have proffered over the years. First, it's clear that Roosevelt rather than Stalin provided the inspiration to the presidencies of Juan Jose Arevalo (1945-1951) and Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1951-1954). Both Arevalo and Arbenz were motivated by the policies and practices of the New Deal; their support for labor and their actions towards American businesses must be viewed in this light and were never any worse than the laws passed during the Depression in the United States. Regardless of whatever tolerance Guatemalan Communists may have enjoyed, or influence they may have had--and it's clear that they didn't have much--the Eisenhower administration was motivated as much by scorn of the Roosevelt and Truman years as by anti-Communism. (Tellingly, those who cite Che Guevera's presence in Guatemala often fail to note that his arrival, at the age of 25 in early 1954, postdated the planning of American intervention and predated by many years Guevera's notoriety.)

Second, the succession of American puppets who succeeded Arbenz were certainly not supported by the people of Guatemala: the ragtag opposition "army" never exceeded 400 troops in number, and none of the dictators during the next four decades could have survived a freely held election.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do yourself a favor . . . read this book! September 23, 2007
By Dan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whether you're a connoiseur with a PhD in international relations, a high-school dropout looking to enhance their missing education, or someone who just wants to read an engrossing book with a little intellectual flare to it, one can be both entertained and appalled by the story contained in "Bitter Fruit".
Kinzer and Schlesinger's writing is impeccable, and somehow manages to stay apolitical. The authors do an excellent job of not flaunting the miscues of the American overthrow of Guatemala's democratically elected government, but merely let the facts from all angles tell their own story. In addition, the writing is quite fast-paced in style but pays attentive detail to fact and exhautively denotes the sources behind the writing. I purchased this for reading as part of a class assignment - and then cited it in two places in my senior essay!
So instead of buying a FICTIONAL thriller or adventure or spy novel for your downtime reading, why not pick up a book where the plot . . . actually happened?! In addition, despite being originally published a quarter century ago, the book is amazingly relevant to issues in today's foreign policy (*cough* Iraq *cough*). Also, I HIGHLY recommend for history buffs like myself - but this book can be enjoyed by anyone. Well, "enjoyed" isn't really the word - after reading this book, I felt a sense of anger towards our government for their selfish actions 50 years ago, and a sense of pity toward the people of Guatemala, who had no idea what hit them. But the feelings weren't on the level as to wish that I had never read the book - on the contrary, it made me feel more enlightened both about the Cold War era as well as today's international climate.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great blunder for the US December 28, 2006
Format:Paperback
America has staged many coup's throughout the years but this one will always hold a special place in history. Feeling good from our overthrow of the Mosaddegh and our installation of the Shah; we attempted to put our own government in Guatemala and entered a botched attempt that would lead to disaster. America's involvement in Latin America has always been tenuous with the natives but this account really shows why they fear and hate us at times. It is very well written and covers the information clearly. Highly recommend.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meticulously researched AND well-written August 17, 2010
By Matt
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Schlesinger and Kinzer did indeed write a classic. The book is well-written and very readable. While it is certainly an academic work and may be considered a textbook, it is not as dry as such the connotation suggests. On the contrary, the story at times feels like a best-selling espionage novel or a Hollywood conspiracy-theory movie, but much better in my opinion.

More importantly, Bitter Fruit is supported by excellent sources - many Freedom of Information Act documents and also many memoirs and interviews of people involved in the events. This is comforting and assures that while the book is almost written in the style of a fictional thriller, the authors did not take any liberties of rewriting or embellishing history to make the book more fun to read.

Schlesinger and Kinzer also do an excellent job of providing the background of the parties involved and the historical context in which the revolution and coup took place. They also wrap up the book well in their 'Aftermath' final chapter and provide much needed closure to the story, in which they discuss the fates of the major players since the coup.

Highest recommendations.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enough to anger you
Shameful account of the CIA's involvement in overthrowing an elected government. The injustice of it makes you angry. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary backgound on how & why Central America has been worked over...
If you're wondering how we totally messed up Central America, particularly Guatemala, this is required reading.

Think of this book the next time you have a banana.
Published 4 months ago by llane
3.0 out of 5 stars Left Wing Historical Perspective with Anti American Bias.
This book is the story of the overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala as told from the left wing perspective. Read more
Published 5 months ago by James J. Varela
5.0 out of 5 stars very very interesting
So you know that the US stages all these coups to topple governments it doesn't agree with, right? Well, do you know HOW they do it? Now you can! Seriously fascinating. Read more
Published 9 months ago by charles boyd
5.0 out of 5 stars History to know
This sheds some light from a different perspective on a very important issue, American politics, and the influence the country has on other places in the world.
Published 10 months ago by K. Klaverkamp
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and easy to read
I ordered this book because I had to give a conference in Guatemala and was confused about the beginning of the country's long armed conflict. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Adelina Vaca
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter Fruit a Revelation
I first heard of the book, Bitter Fruit, when I was traveling in Guatemala. Our half Mayan guide told some stories of his country's recent history, of massacres and bombings, and... Read more
Published on April 11, 2012 by John R
5.0 out of 5 stars quick ship - good representation
easy - need a book - search - pick - order! This was easy and arrived quickly. Best part - the person who wanted it is HAPPY!
Published on February 14, 2012 by pedrph
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book
This book is so refreshing in regards to the American Government and our meddling within all countries south of our border. Read more
Published on December 14, 2011 by Cody Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious Work
I think that "Bitter Fruit", by Stephen C. Schlesinger, is a very serious and competent work in the rich field of Latin American History studies made by north-american authors. Read more
Published on November 26, 2011 by Alberto R. Cavalcanti
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