Precursor of change : failed reform and the Guatemalan coffee elite, 1918-1926
Kit, Wade A.
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The intent of this thesis is to present a brief historical survey of the republic of Guatemala between 1918 and 1926. This study will focus on the internal dynamics of Guatemalan society beginning with the post-World War I rise of opposition to the presidency of Manuel Estrada Cabrera and concluding with the December 1926 presidential victory of General Lázaro Chacón. The main purpose of this thesis is to examine the political, social, and economic forces that emerged in the wake of the overthrow of Cabrera. Special emphasis will be placed on the incipient student movement and the labour activity in the capital that called for a number of reforms following the dictator's removal. These urban forces coupled with the support of the traditional Conservative Party and the majority of Liberals were the major contributors to the Unionist movement that ousted the unpopular dictator. However, this thesis will propose that the forces of reform were unable to achieve their objectives primarily because of their unwillingness to cultivate the support of the peasantry, the staunch resistance of the nation's agro-export elite and the increasingly autonomous nature of the military. Evidence shows that the moderate reforms advocated by students and other urban politicians could not wrest control from the nation's social, economic, and political actors without the active support of labour and, more importantly, Guatemala's large, isolated peasantry. Reformers' unwillingness to forge a political alliance with urban labour and rural workers enabled the Guatemalan coffee elite and the military to re-assume control of the government. The presidential election of 1926, in which the traditional Liberal Party rallied under the leadership of Chacón to defeat a small group of disgruntled Liberals and university students, marked the end of attempted reforms in the 1920's.