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Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala Paperback – August, 1999

46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674075900 ISBN-10: 0674075900 Edition: Expanded

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Editorial Reviews


The reappearance of this small classic is most welcome and important. It helps us understand the disasters that misshaped U.S. and Central American relations after 1954, especially into the 1980s and 1990s.
--Walter LaFeber, Cornell University

From the Publisher

With an introduction by Harrison Salisbury and a new foreword for the 1990 edition, the authors have written a history which reads like a thriller, detailing the dirty tricks, the manipulation of public opinion, and the corrupt foreign policy which characterized U.S. involvement in Guatemala. They show that this covert action became a blueprint for later incursions by the U.S. into Central America. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: David Rockefeller Center Series on Latin American Studies (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; Expanded edition (August 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674075900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674075900
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 104 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on June 7, 2006
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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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Elderbear VINE VOICE on March 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Well, OK, Watergate actually triggered the erosion of my faith in the US government. But I was barely a teenager as that story broke. I was in my early 20's when I read Bitter Fruit, prior to meeting Stephen Schlesinger at a university function.
This is the story of how the United States Government plotted against and overthrew the first democratically elected government in Guatemala. It clearly demonstrates how our government became an instrument, not of Democracy, but of oppression for the benefit of the wealthy. The right-wing coup, planned and supported by the CIA, led to other covert operations, many of which succeeded in enriching American corporations at the expense of Democracy.
Jacobo Arbenz, elected to the presidency of Guatemala was faced with a crisis of poverty. Most of the nation's land belonged to a very few rich, and to United Fruit Company. Much of that land lay fallow. Arbenz instituted a land reform package which called for turning over fallow land to the country's impoverished campesinos. Land would be purchased by the government from the owners at the value THE OWNERS had declared for property tax purposes. Sounds fair enough, right? Honest landowners would receive fair recompense for unused land. Dishonest landowners would get their just desserts.
Nevertheless, United Fruit Company, using its pull with John Foster & Allen Dulles, Secretary of State & CIA Director, respectively, managed to have their own revolution created and funded by the US Government, wrapped in a shroud of anti-communism. The dictator they instated continued the tradition of repression that Guatemala had known for decades before.
The only real winners of in this story were the stockholders of United Fruit.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dan on September 23, 2007
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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