September 14th 1913: Jacobo Arbenz born

On this day in 1913, the future President of Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz was born in the city of Quetzaltenango. Arbenz first became involved in left-wing politics while in the army, where he witnessed first-hand the brutality of the US-backed Guatemalan dictator Jorge Ubico. In 1944 Ubico was forced out of office and his equally undemocratic successor was soon also removed from power; Arbenz was one of the military figures who supported this revolt. Arbenz was appointed Minister of Defense in the newly elected regime of Juan José Arévalo and was elected President himself by a solid margin in 1950. Upon assuming office in 1951, Arbenz continued his predecessor’s popular democratic and social reform policies, with labour and land reform becoming the focus of his administration. This caused a division between the Arbenz government and the US-based United Fruit Company which was the largest landowner in Guatemala at the time. These policies which threatened US investments and also the Cold War-era fears that Arbenz’s government was too close to communist forces, led to a CIA-backed coup that ousted Arbenz in 1954. He was succeeded by the military junta of Carlos Castillo Armas who immediately undid the reforms of the Arbenz government. Jacobo Arbenz lived in various different countries after his exile, eventually settling in Mexico where he died in 1971 aged 57.