Guatemala Declares War on Germany

Like Tinoco, Guatemalan President Estrada Cabrera had his own reasons for declaring war on Germany.

Over the previous twenty years Germany had gained control of the rich coffee lands and introduced scientific methods so that they controlled about 50% of the Guatemalan economy. These investments had meant improvements in utilities, transportation and communications. Cabrera, a ruthless dictator of the old caudillo type, admired Prussianism but wanted to free his country from this German stranglehold. Cabrera had no wish to antagonize the United States because he had seen it remove other Central American presidents who had been so foolish or bold. The excuse was presented by the German Minister, Kurt Lehman. Lehman had been active in plots and intrigues against the United States in all of the Central American countries, seeking to foment a Mexican invasion of Guatemala, and revolts and wars in the rest of the region to divert American attention from Europe to Central America. When these plots were discovered Cabrera broke relations with Germany and offered Guatemalan ports and railroads for the use of the United States. A year later the Guatemalan Assembly voted nearly unanimously that Guatemala was an associate of the United States in the war against Germany.

Of course, these levels of 'involvement' differed hugely. Some countries mobilized millions of troops and fought hard for over four years, some were used as reservoirs of goods and manpower by their colonial rulers, while others simply declared war late on and contributed only moral support. Many were drawn in by colonial links: when Britain, France and Germany declared war they were also committing their empires, automatically involving most of Africa, India and Australasia, while the entry of the US in 1917 prompted much of central America to follow.