General José Miguel Ramón Ydígoras Fuentes (17 October 1895 – 27 October 1982) was the conservative President of Guatemala from 1958 to March 1963. He was also the main challenger to Jacobo Árbenz during the 1950 presidential election.
In the government of dictator Jorge Ubico, Ydígoras served as a colonel in the army, and also as the governor of the province of San Marcos. During the government of Juan José Arévalo, Ydígoras was linked to several of the 25 attempted coups during 1945-51. In the 1950 Guatemalan presidential election, Ydígoras was the main opponent of Árbenz. The elections were broadly free and fair, except that women who could not read were still disenfranchised. Although Ydígoras had the support of landowners, he lacked popular support, and did not have the backing of major political parties as Árbenz did. Árbenz eventually won the election with 258,987 votes to 72,796 for Ydígoras, out of a total of 404,739.
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) considered Ydígoras as a candidate to lead the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, because he had support among the Guatemalan opposition. However, he was rejected for his role in the Jorge Ubico regime, as well as his European visage, which was unlikely to appeal to the mostly mixed-race mestizo population. Carlos Castillo Armas was chosen instead. Ydígoras later claimed that in 1953, he had been introduced to two CIA agents by Walter Turnbull, an official of the United Fruit Company, and offered support to overthrow Árbenz. Ydígoras said he refused their terms, which included favoring the United Fruit Company, abolishing the railway worker's union, and establishing a dictatorship similar to that of Ubico. Ydígoras later agreed to help Castillo Armas in his own coup attempt, a fact which came to the attention of the Árbenz government before it fell.
Carlos Castillo Armas was assassinated in 1957, and elections were held immediately afterwards by a military junta. These elections were so fraudulent that popular outcry forced a fresh ballot. Another election was held in 1958, in which Ydígoras was elected. His administration saw continual corruption scandals. There was significant social turmoil following his election, and demonstrations and protests against the government and against electoral fraud were common during his administration. These protests eventually grew into the Guerilla group MR-13.
In July 1958 a senior CIA Chief described Ydígoras as, "known to be a moody, almost schizophrenic individual" who "regularly disregards the advice of his Cabinet and other close associates". The beginning of the leftist insurgency led to Ydígoras being accused of being "soft on communism" by other figures within the army. Several coups were attempted against him in the early 1960s, but they all failed. In 1963, Ydigoras's defense minister Colonel Enrique Peralta Azurdia eventually toppled Ydigoras. Azurdia claimed that the entire government had been infiltrated by communists, abrogated the constitution, and took over as the head of state. Azurdia's coup had the backing of several opposition parties, who wished to end the possibility that former left-of-center civilian president Juan José Arévalo would return to Guatemala and run as a candidate in the upcoming elections.
|President of Guatemala