Assassins or Asilados? Anticommunism and the Politics of Asylum in Cold War Mexico: The Case of Jaime Rosenberg and Rogelio Cruz Wer

Sunday, January 10, 2016: 11:20 AM
International Ballroom A (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Ashley Black, Stony Brook University
When the government of Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in July 1954, Mexican officials granted political asylum to hundreds of displaced Guatemalans fleeing the newly installed regime of Coronel Carlos Castillo Armas. Among those who sought the protection of the Mexican state were two high-ranking police officials of the Arbenz regime, Jaime Rosenberg and Rogelio Cruz Wer. Accused of murder by Guatemalan officials, their status as political refugees was challenged by Mexican anti-communists. Under the leadership of Jorge Prieto Laurens, Mexico’s Popular Anti-Communist Front denounced the two officers in a propaganda campaign carried out with the assistance of the Guatemalan government. This paper examines the case of Rosenberg and Cruz Wer, using the politics of asylum to shed light upon anti-communist activities in Mexico during the 1950s. Recent years have seen an increasing effort by historians of Latin America to deepen our understanding of right-wing movements during the Cold War. Scholars of Mexico have been at the forefront of this shift, revealing the motives and actions of conservative groups during this period, yet work remains to be done on the role of right-wing organizations in both the domestic and transnational spheres. The case of Rosenberg, Cruz Wer, and the Popular Anti-Communist Front draws attention to the relationship between foreign governments, civil society, and the political refugees who sought asylum within Mexico’s borders. Finally, it raises questions about the role of such varied actors in shaping PRI policy during a period of shifting national and international priorities.