Role Play Cards

These are to be given to students so they can play their roles better.

Jacobo Arbenz:
I am the second president in Guatemalan history to be elected democratically . I am trying to find a way to help the Guatemalan people break free of their poverty. To do this, I want to redistribute land from wealthy landowners to landless people so rural Guatemalans can grow their own food. I do not like that the United Fruit Company has so much power in Guatemala. This and other foreign companies paid little to no taxes in the past under the various dictators who preceded me. All of the profits from these companies go back to the U.S. where they do not help my people. These big landowners use a small proportion of their land. I want to give that unused land to peasants who can really use it. I will compensate the landowners with the amount they claimed on their taxes the land was worth. These companies also treat my people badly. They do not pay workers well, they force workers to work seven days per week, and they provide substandard housing for workers. I encourage my people to unite and organize in unions so they can improve their situations.

Sam Zemurray:
I am the Managing Director of the United Fruit Company. I worked hard to make the company the success it is today. I believe in capitalism and the right of a business to succeed based on savvy business decisions. It was my brilliant idea to invest in Guatemala. I realized the American people would love bananas, and I am able to provide them with this delicacy. Without the United Fruit Company, the Guatemalan people would have no work. We provide thousands of jobs to people who otherwise be unemployed. Our workers live in better conditions and get paid better than other people in the Guatemalan countryside. Our land is worth millions of dollars. The Guatemalan government has no right to expropriate our land for a ridiculously small sum of money. All of our business practices have been accepted by past leaders. Why is Arbenz causing this big disruption now? We would lose so much money from the land expropriation that it would no longer be economical for us to invest in Guatemala. This would be very bad for the Guatemalan people. The Guatemalan economy relies on UFCO to provide jobs and stability. Also, our stockholders in the U.S. expect a certain profit margin. We can not let our stockholders down. We can not allow the land redistribution to occur!

Carlos Castillo Armas:
I am a colonel in the Guatemalan army. I came to power in 1954 with the backing of the CIA. After leading a group of rebels over the Honduran border and into Guatemala, I was flown into Guatemala City aboard the plane of U.S. Ambassador Peurifoy. I took the presidency from Arbenz in a coup that was planned by the U.S. government. Once I took office, I suspended the Guatemalan constitution and ruled by decree, meaning whatever I commanded was the law. I established the Committee of National Defense Against Communism and encouraged citizens to turn in neighbors they suspected of being communists. This committee had unlimited powers to arrest people without warrants. I repealed land reform measures enacted by my predecessors and destroyed labor unions. These represented a communist influence. I also banned rural literacy programs because they were a means of spreading Communist ideology.

President Eisenhower:
I am president of the United States. In this position, it is my responsibility to defend democracy in all parts of the globe. I believe that Arbenz's government is a threat to democracy in Central America. His actions in favor of land reform and labor unions impede the free flow of capitalism in Guatemala. He has recognized the Communist Party as an official political party in Guatemala and allows two outspoken Communists to remain in the Guatemalan congress. Also, Arbenz recently accepted arms from Czecholslovakia indicating his alliance with the Soviet Union. Arbenz's actions are too serious to ignore. If we do not suppress the fire of Communism in Guatemala, it will spread throughout Latin America. Pretty soon, the Russians will be marching through Mexico straight for the U.S. border! We must stop Arbenz!

Guatemalan campesinos:
We are indigenous Guatemalans. We are farmworkers who take whatever work we can find. Most of the time, we work on the large fincas picking coffee or bananas for a few cents per day. We work long hours and often have to work seven days per week. Our salaries do not even pay us enough to buy food for our families. It is especially difficult to buy meat, eggs, and milk, so our families can not get enough protein and are malnourished. Also, there are times when we can not even find corn or beans to buy. This is because most of the rich farm land in Guatemala is used for export crops like bananas. If we had access to land, we could grow our own food. Corn, beans, onions, carrots, and cabbage are all crops that grow well here, yet the government often has to import these foods because not enough is grown here to sustain the people. We support President Arbenz's efforts to redistribute land to campesinos. All we want is adequate food and shelter, and the ability to organize into labor unions to gain fair compensation for our work.

1 Floater:
This person can take on whatever role the group needs. Possible uses of the Floater are: props and stage direction, CIA representative, union organizer, member of Eisenhower's foreign policy team, etc.

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