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The Communist Insurgency Movement in Guatemala
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8
Tho Communist Insurgency Movement in Guatemala
Guatemala's Communist insurgency movement, which distinguished itself onugust bythe only assassination in historyS ambassador, survives after nearly seven years of fluctuating fortunes ranging from near impunity to near annihilation. The direct threat of theis to public security. But the insurgents also lessen government stability, by underminingconfidence in the ability of the authorities to maintain order. Communist insurgent strength,weakened by internal factionalism, was decimatedo-holds-barred government thrust7 and The movement is stilleriod of retrenchment and reorganization, under severerepression, and subjectedontinual loss of experienced leadership through the security forces' actions. Nevertheless, it continues to carry out well-planned and professionally executed hit-and-run operations. Tentative indications of growing Cuban support for the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) and the FAR's proved durability suggest the prospect ofinsecurity in Guatemala.
^ote_: THie memorandum uae produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of Current IntelUgenc, and coordinated with the Office of national Eetimate, the Central Reference Service, and the Clandestine services.
No Fot^gn Dissem SECRET
roup of youngtried unsuccessfully to overthrow the The group gradually developed abasedountainous jungle area inDepartment of Izabal and called tha
ovember Revolutionary Movement. Mith somefrom Cuba, the small band, under theof Marco Antonio Yon Sosa, engaged in sporadic terrorist acts, including harassment oflines, buses, and railroad tracks, pillaging of military supply points and plantations for money and arms, assassination of army collaborators, and attacks on commercial and official installations.
The outlawed Guatemalan Communist Party (PGT) made contact with the guerrillas, supplied them with food and medicine, and propagandized for them. Some PGT members worked with the guerrillas,ew became highly critical of the party for not giving the guerrillas more support. Thesewithin the party were strengthened by thecoup that ousted Ydigoras in With its relative freedom of political action curtailed under the military government, the PGT gave more emphasis to armed struggle andilitary commission to undertaXe guerrilla warfare and urban terrorism. The issue in the party now became whether or not violence should be the major form of struggle, with the activists in the hills chafing under what they saw as unrealistic subservience to the Soviet line.
Byhe party had managed toa united guerrilla front called the Rebel Armed Forces (PAR). Included were Yon Sosa's
ovember grouppril" youth group,ctober" group. The PGT's attempt to control the movement was resented by Yon and other revolutionaries, and its domination was also undercut by the ability of the guerrillas to secure funds, equipment, andon their own.
this time, counterinsurgency undergovernment was relatively ineffective in
the northeastern area. The security forces, however, achieved some important success in Guatemala City, and left the PGT there demoralized and weakened. The party continued to be divided. The dissidents rejected the thesis of some high-level members who insisted that wholesale commitment to violence was an error. Further confusion came4 with the emergencerotskyist or pro-Chinese element among the guerrillas.
the international meeting ofin Havana in4 that calledamong the "liberal" forcesoreon the part of the orthodox parties inincluding Guatemala, theovemberthe PGT appeared to reconcile, but onlyanalyzing the fall of Khrushchev innabashedly praised the Chinese. ItPGT's supportourgeois nationalistYon Sosa withdrew his group from the FAR. he MRplit of its ownTurcios, the chief of the "Edgar Ibarra"attacked "Trotskyist" control of the guerrillas.
Ine placed his group under the direct command of the PGT's central committee. Members of the various revolutionary factions, particularly those in the hills, were confused and demoralized. The PGT's adoptionarder line and its espousal of armed struggle were too little and too late for some high-level members. Some of them, disgusted with the indecision and weakness of PGT policy, pulledroup headed by central committee member andRicardo Ramirez de Leon reportedly intended toew party.
this dissension and division,
the PGT-aligned FAR under Turcios brought insecurity in Guatemala to its highest level Thekidnaping campaign terrorized the public and netted an estimatedillion in ransom.
turning point was reached6 as aof two unrelateddeath ofOctober, whicherious leadership crisis
for the FAR, and the government's adoption ofcounter terrorism. FAR members, especially recent returnees from Cuba, stridently opposed the PGT old guard leadership, and disunity intensified within the Communist guerrilla movement.
organizational flux andbecame even more intense fromo ertain degree,stemmed from terminology. Thefor example, included the Edgargroup, PGT elements, and the Leaders from each of these combinedthe Revolutionary Leadership Center was designed to provide the movement with
a single, unified command. Because the Edgar Ibarra group was, in fact, almost the entiremilitary and guerrilla forces of the FAR, however, the term "FAR" more often referred to just that group.
of the PGT by the activeseemed by6 to point to anseparation. Documents from thatthat guerrilla reversals were relatedgovernment's new offensive, but thatcause for failure was miscalculationPGT leadership, particularly aftercivilian government took The guerrillas claimed that thefor legal political status led thethe error of demilitarizing the movement.
A paper signed by three leaders of the hard line or "red guard" of theMaria Ortiz Vides, Gabriel Salazar, and Ricardo Ramirez deflatly that the old-lineleaders were incapable of understanding the concept of political-military leadership and that they were unable to direct theprocess. Expressions of FAR disagreement with the PGT were publisned regularly by the Cuban press and radio,
"PAR Declaration" dated Januarythat the FAR guerrilla leadersover the leadership of the revolutionsharing it with Von Sosa's MRand,been inactive for nearly two years. InYon Sosa and Cesar Montes stated thatNovember Movement would return to the FAR. announced formationew militaryof its ownlightly adjusted nameRevolutionary Armed Forces (FAR/PGT) . The
FAR and the FAR/PGT were seriously damaged by the effective military campaigns againstnd neither has fullyfrom its internal splits. The FARuban-oriented movement whose structure reflects pure commitment to guerrilla warfare. The FAR/PGT is an adjunct of the Soviet-oriented Communist Party, which recognizes violence as cnly part of the long-terra revolutionary struggle. Because of the underground nature of both, their continualin reorganizing, the usual lack of timely access to documents, and the frequent changes caused by internal disruption or police action, there is relatively little information available which can be relied on asompletely valid picture of the insurgency today.
is clear, however, is that theto carry forward its campaign ofand violence is undiminished. Reportspoint to strong resistance withineven to temporary lulls designed to permitresupplying, and revising strategy. the FAR has suffered heavy lossesmay be experiencing dissension within itsmay still have both the intention andexternal support, to mobilize for acampaign of rural insurgency on twofronts, with simultaneous urban terroristin more than one rural front whereand logistics will not support overlandthe government forces would significantlythe FAR's ability to damage security and,,indirectly, political stability.
The FAR Under Yon Sosa
FAR includes aninto guerrilla fronts, an urbanfront, and support sections, all undercommand (commandancia). Yon Sosa isman, and Cesar Montes is numberchart). The personnel changes in theArmy during March which signaled apullback from its extralegalreinforced the FAR's decision toand to organize well beforeguerrilla war. Throughouthere
the offensiveeas^un til the end of the rainy season in November. They now plan to rob for funds and medicines, to engage in action to test training and weaponry, and totargets of opportunity.
the spring, information
preparations were continuing. The assignment of command personnel was often temporary, andcombinations of guerrilla bands were tried. By May, two "regionalwestern andbeen dissolved, with the personnel transferred to the northern departments of Huehuetenango and El Quiche (Gee map). Thein the western zone was reported to be army pressure, and in the south there were difficulties between the FAR and the PGT.
continual movement of units andsuggests that tho guerrillas werearea familiarization and were caching foodin anticipated areas of operation. Itthat plans to operate with tacticaland mobility are being^
tions of guerrilla cair.psJ ii |
camp in San Marcos reportedly had no tents or permanent shelters. Sheepskin sleeping bags, small propane stoves, and lanterns shielded to avoid their being sighted from the air, and short-range transceivers, probably for camp contact with guardposts
were being used. The logistical aim is to achieve maximum self-sufficiency while on the move. Ely storing food in strategic places, the guerrillas hope to avoid the problem that arose56 when they fell prey to army attacks after they were forced from their strongholds in the mountains and their rural supply nets were destroyed.
FAR often repeats its commitment"single command" for purposes of discipline
and coherence, but an effective single commandfiction than- fact. There are continualof considerable autonomy on the partof the guerrilla leaders, andrs of dissent and cal^^for immediate action.7 | Jhe FAR lacked funds because
ocation of the reserve funds was known only to Cesar Montes, who was outside Guatemala, and to the acting,chief, who had been killed. It is not clear whether such secrecy signifies security-coni-sciousness, or distrust and rivalry.
The FAR's aims, as stated in capturedare to builduerrilla army whilecommercial interests and sabotaging public installations in order to upset the economy, to push the militaryoup, or to cause US It is unclear whether the psychological vulnerabilityilitary regime is considered more important domestically, or internationally.
From all indications, the FAR move against Ambassador Meinugust was intended to secure himostage to obtain the release of Camilo Sanchez, the high-level FAR leader whom thehad captured four days earlier. There'is no information to suggest that the action,airly long period of relative quiet,eeper significance in terms of FAR
Last March, Yon Sosa was I
ready tohis own men had been
captured. He reportedly said that if the government refused to release the guerrilla, he would "send the gringos back in pieces." The reported capture, however, proved toalse alarm.
18. The Communist Party remains anrecognized orthodox party oriented towardUnion. The PGT itself is organizedCommunist party lines and is The PGT's commitment to violencethe context of Marxist-Leninistdefinitions of the national "condition" orfor revolution. Political theses,party integrity andmore important to the PGTguerrilla action. The PGT isinternational Communist circles for itsof the government in theits subsequent survival under very difficult The partyCommunist exiles act as liaisorirorj/^ralso has important members in Europeancountries for training, meetings, or Like the FAR, the PGT has sufferedfrom the government campaigns, has lostand is trying to retrench.
the FAR's breakaway inthe PGT contended that guerrilla warfareone of several revolutionary developments. conference of its regionalNational Conference of thedecision was made to retain the initials "FAR"
to identify the action arm of the PGT. ropaganda bulletin entitled "FAR" affirmed armed struggle as the only valid and correct means to achieve the revolution.
National Command, selected by theConference, is the unit responsible fordirection of the FAR/PGT. The FAR/PGTregional committees to effect the armedin their own areas.will bo the olu
^rfeparty is said to be forming resistance unitsCity and to be providing somebut the organizationuerrilla
Cuba began providing materialthe Guatemalan guerrilla movement in earlySosa received guerrilla training in Cuba,is estimated that attherreceived similar training Emissaries from Cubahave,
delivered supplies and funds to the guerriTlan addition. Communist propaganda media in Europe and Latin America have given considerable attention to the revolutionary movement in Guatemala, and the guerrillas have been in contact periodically with outside journalists who have publicized their cause widely.
Cuba hasrincipal source ofand guidance to the guerrillas. As noted above, the temporary reconciliation between the FAR and the Communist Party may have stemmed from nudging at the Havana ireeting in Following the reconciliation, the PGT reportedly received word from Fidel Castro that if the FAR's revolutionary activity was intensified and sustainedavana would give the party complete financial Other information also suggested that Cuban funds were largely contingent on an increase of violence and terrorism.
the conference of the LatinOrganization (LASO) in Cuba, inone of those FAR members attending waspresident of the permanent organization. there have been several reports that fundspassed to Guatemalan guerrilla representatives
members of the Cuban diplomatic staff in
January, the FAR wasach month from Cuba via this pjJJ^pjJJJchannel. Other reports early this year indicated that several Cuban guerrilla instructors were operating with the FAR and that at least one FAR member had recently returned from training in either North Korea or North Vietnam. Again, confirmation is lacking.
extensive unguarded frontiers ofpermit the guerrillas to move back and forth with
ease, and the transshipment of arms andfrom outside the country takes place with only minimal threat of interdiction by Guatemalan security forces. Early last May,uatemalan Army unit clashed with FAR elements near the Honduranwhere they were alleged to be pickingarge arms shipment. Yon Sosa was then in Honduras tothe weapons delivery. There have also been^re-
'm that the guerrillas have bought arms fron( smugglers to be infiltrated across the bordt^^TTTo sparsely inhabited northern jungles. Some supplies destined for the guerrillas have been captured from time to time, but the flow probably has not beeninterrupted.
The Context ForOverview
25. At least part of the population that fared well in the revolutionary period, can be presumed in sympathy with the idea of revolutioneturn to the "good times." Some of thosein Mendez' "third government of theprobably see the only hope for "progress" in the armed struggle being waged by the Communists. How manyatter of speculation. The portion of the population is very small. The presumably moderate majority among this segment are probably not favorably impressed with the merits of the elected government. Under the constitutional Mendez administration, insecurity has been high, and tangible public benefit and national progress have hardly been spectacular. Even so, the number of revolutionary sympathizers is probably relatively lowesult of public disgust and fear of the war in miniature represented by the confrontation between theand the security forces.
o the revolutionary ncwement and makeubstantial portion of the guerrilla bands.
27. The Communists can also secure somethough not sympathy, by extortion and threats.
28. An assessment of the raw appeal of the revolutionaries must also take into account the pervasive primitivism of the Guatemalan political system, in which the precedence of party, position, or nation over personal interest is at best rare. The comparatively "enlightened" liberal element in the society suffers no dearth of examples ofmaldistribution of wealth, exploitation, and lack of freedom or opportunity. The seriousat all levels and in all fields and the absence of promiseubstantially different future provide would-be revolutionaries withexploitable material. The relativelyprogress that the insurgents have made in seven years speaks for the basic conservatism, apathy, and unawareness of most of the Guatemalan society, as well as for the occasional effectiveness of the government's campaigns against them.
No Foreign Dissem SECRETOriginal document.