When a Cavendish banana was enough to send US troops to invade nations!
US military doctrine was such that American soldiers have been sent to war & to invade nations even for bananas! This was called America’s Banana Wars that involved US troops sent to invade Central America, Mexico & the Caribbean from 1898-1934. US actually occupied 6 nations (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti & Honduras) & invaded Panama & Puerto Rico all to control fruits! The banana wars culminated in successive US invasions for numerous reasons. One US company stands out – the United Fruit Company. How could a company get a national army to invade nations, that too not just any army – but the US army. If these companies could exert influence over the US military, one can imagine the influence they exerted in the countries where they had their ‘investments’. The banana mafia hasn’t changed. 80% of banana market is under a handful of large companies. They enjoy the best of land, transport prices & political privileges. UFC is now known as Chiquita.
United Fruit Company’s by 1916 was an international conglomerate owning more than 1.6m acres of land, employing 67,000 people across 32 countries & worth $100m. The United Fruit Company is synonymous with liberal capitalism, corrupt dictatorship & massacre of thousands. There were no bananas in Americas, bananas were introduced by the Portuguese in early 18th century.
It was these incursions & Banana Wars that prompted the US military to produce Small Wars Operations in 1935 which became Small Wars Manual in 1940 & eventually called Counterinsurgency in 2006.
One may wonder why US commanders did not object to the use of military men for excesses of US companies, well Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler wrote a book War is a Racket calling himself a ‘high-class muscle man for Big Business, Wall Street & the Bankers”. He said he was a “racketeer, a gangster for capitalism”. With all of the illegal occupations that took place since 2001, where US companies were the gainers while the US general public have to pick up bills of trillions in debt.
The banana wars continued from 1898 to 1933 when President Roosevelt introduced the “Good Neighbor Policy” though that friendship did not last too long & proxy wars began from 1950 onwards.
How United Fruit Company used CIA & US Govt
The world is controlled by Big Guns (military industry), Big Green (multinational corporations & investors) Big Graphs (technocrats & tech companies) under whose influence intel agencies work under orders of government leaders who wear the cap of corporates. Yes, its not elected governments or officials who rule the world though some are also part of the corporate lobby.
Honduras was invaded 7 times between 1903 – 1925 (22 years) to ensure US companies held control over banana exports. The term “banana republic’ was used to show the weak & corrupt side of the Honduras govt, though little attention went to presenting the wrongs of the US aggressors.
1930s – UFC helps Honduras President Andino gain power.
Drug trafficking was a big business to which Andino & UFC were involved.
As cocaine’s popularity grew during the 1970s — 1980s, Colombia became North America’s largest supplier.
US forced Cuba to sign treaty permanently leasing 45sq miles land around Guantanamo Bay as a US naval station. This is the venue of illegally kept prisoners following US rendition missions. This seizure was an outcome during the infamous banana wars.
US military invaded & occupied part of Mexico in 1914 when 9 US sailors were arrested after straying into off-limits of the city. Even though they were released, the US naval commander demanded a 21 gun salute alongside an apology, though the apology was given the gun salute was denied. Denying a salute resulted in US President Woodrow Wilson ordering troops to seize Mexico port, US presence lasted 7 months & cost lives as well.
If a salute costed an invasion to Mexico, 10,000 US soldiers were deployed over 9 months to arrest Pancho Villa in 1916 but returned empty handed – he was eventually assassinated in 1923.
About the same period, US decided to link the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans by building a Nicaraguan Canal but was abandoned after US forced the Panama govt to cede control over the Panama Canal from France in 1914.
1915 – Haiti – US troops land to protect US sugar company & stay behind.
1916 – Dominican Republic – US troops take over Fort Ozama castle & set up military presence to protect US corporates
Honduras – United Fruit Company & Standard Fruit Company result in US troops landing on 7 occasions.
The United Fruit Company ultimately owned or leased property in Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, and numerous other Central American, South American, and West Indian countries.
1928 – United Fruit Company got Colombian military to massacre 2000 people
Workers at UFC went on strike to oppose UFC working conditions. Civil unrest was met by Govt ordering military force primarily because it thought US would intervene pretending to side with the protestors. The attack was known as the “United Fruit Company Massacre”
1930 – UFC ships transporting cocaine / Colombia
UFC was also known to be associated with cocaine trade. Colombia becoming the largest supplier to North America. In 1997 a ton of cocaine was seized from 7 Chiquita ships. Nothing happened to UFC as they were funding a terrorist group in Colombia that were using the UFC/Chiquita ships. Chiquita is also accused of carrying weapons & ammunition.
1952 overthrow elected govt of Guatemala
United Fruit Company was allowed to invest by President Urbico. In 1944 he was replaced by President Bermejo & his social welfare policies became reason to oust him by branding them “communist”. He was replaced by another nationalist Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz wanted to secure 1.5m acres of land back from UFC who had acquired land from 100,000 local farmers. Arbenz Govt offered $1,185,000 for the land. UFC demanded $19,355,000. Arbenz refused.
Naturally UFC was unhappy with Arbenz reforms & launched campaign presenting Arbenz as a “communist dictator” & US media joined the bandwagon. The impression given was that agrarian reforms was Soviet inspired to sabotage US economy. That was enough to task CIA to hire locals from Honduras into Guatemala & begin a proxy war. UFC got President Eisenhower to threaten Arbenz primarily because Eisenhower & other govt bigwigs had stocks in UFC. Arbenz resigned, Honduran militia head Castillo Armas was propped as Guatemala’s President & Armas was a puppet of UFC. Land taken by Arbenz & given back to farmers were confiscated & givne to UFC. UFC used media to present Armas as a “liberator” & “war hero”. The power of paid media is can be seen.
The company sparked civil war that lasted 36 years claiming 200,000 civilian lives.
1997-2004 Chiquita Brands executives paid $1.7m to Colombia’s terrorist group United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) to protect a farming region.
Chiquita admitted funding Colombian terrorists & had paid a $25m fine in 2007. Further investigations revealed Chiquita had paid National Liberation Army (ELN), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) justifying that they did so to protect their employees (source: US national security archives)
UFC/Chiquita use pesticides harming workers & environment in Guatemala, Costa Rica & Honduras
Environmental degradation, deforestation, toxic pesticides that were carcinogenic & use of chemicals banned in US, Canada & Europe. Pesticides used on banana & chemicals used in one factory sickened hundreds in Costa Rica.
UFC’s Legal Teams linked to US Govt
President Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, Foster Dulles was an attorney of UFC during 1930s. His brother Allen, also a lawyer was head of CIA. President Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, worked with Chiquita Brands & negotiated a $25m payment to the Justice Dept for allegations that Chiquita financed terrorist groups.
1994 Chiquita Brands International uses Honduran military to evict people from their lands
This was done by presenting land as not being fertile & designating as “abandoned” & UFC offered monetary compensation which they refused. They were assaulted & their harvest destroyed. In 1996 the Honduran President ordered troops to drive out the natives. For bananas, people were chased out of their lands by UFC influencing the local govt. This was the cost of the Cavendish banana.
UFC even hired scientists to write positive reviews about the nutritional value/health benefits of bananas. We have to really wonder how far we can trust even scientific journals.
Advertising tactics are such that tourists were taken on tours to show the good side of workplaces so tourists promoted bananas. UFC also pitted racial groups against each other, a carry-forward from colonial practices. The whites would get prestigious jobs while others were laborers. Some of these practices continue without fanfare still. Clothing was also racial-oriented. The top members were always in white, the lower rungs were made to wear black.
The merger of Chiquita Brands International with Irish fruit company Fyffes in 2014 meant that the new entity would control over 29% of the world’s banana market. Interestingly, both companies were owned by United Fruit Company till 1986. Both companies continue the autocratic & social manipulation & political influence but more subtly than UFC.
Shenali D Waduge