The Hemisphere: How to Rob a Bank

In the last, desperate days of his government, President Jacobo Arbenz summoned Finance Minister Raúl Sierra Franco to the presidential offices and told him: "I must have 2,000,000 quetzales* right away; a friendly government has agreed to sell us fighter planes for cash." Sierra Franco, a dutiful and upright functionary, replied that there was probably only a million in cash available, but offered to get that.

He made out a voucher to the director of the government-run Agrarian Bank, who in turn filled out two checks for 500.000 quetzales each to Alfonso Martínez (boss of the agrarian-reform program) and Colonel Carlos Enrique...

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