Rebel Armed Forces
(Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes—FAR)
Revolutionary Movement - November 13 (MR-13)
October 20th Front
Announcing that they intended to end corruption in the army and the government and to erase the strain on national honor caused by Ydigoras' "becoming a puppet of the United States," dissident officers attempted a coup d'etat on November 13, 1960. The rebels achieved some early successes, capturing army bases in Guatemala City and Zacapa and taking control of the port of Puerto Barrios. Faced with the possible collapse of the Bay of Pigs preparations in Guatemala, President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched United States warships to Guatemalan waters to discourage the rebels, whose newly won bases were already undergoing bombing attacks by aircraft flown by Cubans of the exile force. Lacking the necessary depth to carry on the revolt, the insurgent officers sought sanctuary in exile in neighboring countries.
Two young rebel lieutenants, Marco Antonio Yon Sosa and Luis Augusto Turcios Lima, returned clandestinely from exile and began organizing other army deserters and peasants for guerrilla activities. At the time Yon Sosa was 22 years old and Turcios Lima, 19. Both were graduates of the Escuela Politecnica, and both had received training at United States service schools. Yon Sosa had attended courses in counterguerrilla warfare at Fort Gulick in Panama, and Turcios Lima had completed ranger training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Guerrilla actions started in February 1962 with attacks on army posts in the department of Izabal. The guerrilla leaders at that time evidently thought of their effort as a temporary movement, the goal of which was the rapid overthrow of the government. The tactics were to be much the same as in November 1960, that is, attacks on military posts through which they expected to gain support and undermine the oligarchy.
They called their organization the Revolutionary Movement Alejandro de Leon-November 13 (better known as MR-13) in double commemoration of a companion who had been captured and shot and of the date of their abortive coup attempt. In March a second guerrilla movement, calling itself the October 20th Front in commemoration of the 1944 revolution, became active in the same general area.
MR-13 began negotiations with the Guatemalan Labor Party (Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo—PGT), as the communist party was known, and a student group known as the 12 April Movement to form the Rebel Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes—FAR), which was to be the planning and coordinating center for the various guerrilla groups.
The alliance between the guerrillas and the PGT was frequently stormy, not only because of differing ideas on tactics but also because of personality clashes. Despite inherent differences between many of the officers-turned-guerrillas and their new communist allies, all opposition forces were branded "communist" by Guatemala's leaders.
For reasons never satisfactorily explained, as presidential elections approached in 1963, Ydigoras allowed Arevalo to return from Mexico, and the former president quickly became a likely prospect for another term in office if a fair election were allowed. To forestall that prospect, the right wing in the person of Colonel Enrique Peralta Azurdia, the defense minister, deposed Ydigoras and took over the government.
The Peralta coup convinced the guerrilla leaders that their way, i.e., fighting, was the only way to restore the government to the governed, as they claimed had existed from 1944 until 1954. They also acknowledged that a quick victory was not within their grasp, and they began to think of their insurgency as a long-term movement. Turcios Lima was killed in an automobile accident in September 1966. This had been a devastatr ] blow to the movement, and Montes, who lacked the military talents and the charisma of Turcios Lima, had great difficulty in taking over the leadership role.
Yon Sosa, badly wounded, was forced to flee to Mexico for treatment; although he returned later, his Alejandro de Leon Front was defeated, and the survivors were dispersed by the Arana offensive. By the end of 1967 the insurgency in Zacapa and Izabal was over. No longer able to evade the government forces, most of the remaining insurgents fled to Guatemala City, where they hoped to find hiding places. Soon, however, they left hiding to join the urban insurgents who had been active at low levels since the beginning of the 1960s.
In the mid 1960s the FAR, the November 13 Revolutionary Movement, and FAR-PGT guerrillas operated effectively only in the capital and fewer than five departments, mostly in eastern Guatemala. Never numbering more than 300 to 500 armed guerrillas, never operating in a column of more than thirty, and never taking a department capital, their most destructive attack against the military was the 1966 ambush and killing of twelve soldiers in Zacapa.
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