/** headlines: 198.0 **/
** Topic: Chiquita Aims to Wipe Out Banana Farmers in Caribbean **
** Written 9:47 AM Jun 19, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 5:39 PM Jun 18, 1997 by jclancy@peg.UUCP in reg.carib */
/* ---------- "Cuba,Chiquita,Economics" ---------- */
Subject: Cuba Chiquita Economics
Detail From: "Workers World News Service" by Deidre Griswold
Where the lush green hills meet the aqua sea, millions of people are worrying how they'll survive if a U.S. move to cut the European market for bananas takes effect. Bill Clinton's recent visit to Barbados only confirmed the seriousness of the situation. There are 16 independent nations in the Caribbean, providing a home to 32 million people. This lovely area has been intensely exploited ever since European colonizers exterminated the Native peoples and set up sugar plantations worked by slaves kidnapped from Africa.
Since decolonization, many of the smaller islands have depended largely on bananas for an income. In St.Lucia, Dominica, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, for example, one-quarter of the labor force works in the banana industry, either growing, processing or shipping the fruit.
This industry is not dominated by large plantations, as with sugar production. Rather, the bananas are raised by small growers and the national income is distributed more equally.
A special agreement with the European Union allows current or former British and French colonies in the Caribbean a guaranteed share of the European market. It also puts a limit on banana imports from Central and South America, where workers earning as little as $2 a day process the fruit on huge plantations dominated by U.S. companies like Chiquita Brands and Dole Food.
But in March the U.S. government got a preliminary judgment from the World Trade Organization that, if made formal, would cut down the European quota system on which much of the Caribbean banana industry depends.
Why has Washington been so aggressive in taking this issue to the WTO? No bananas are produced in the U.S. The ruling won't create jobs here. But it will boost the profits of Chiquita and Dole. Chiquita is the cutesy name some advertising agency thought up for United Brands, earlier known as United Fruit. That name became especially hated after 1954, when United Fruit employed the Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow the progressive Arbenz government in Guatemala. Arbenz had tried to nationalize vast tracts of land that United Fruit held idle while Guatemalan peasants went hungry.
Carl Lindner and his family control a $13-billion empire that includes Chiquita, an insurance company and a financial holding company. The Lindner family gave $2.4 million in the past four years to candidates of both large capitalist parties in the U.S. Lindner is one of those contributors who's slept at the White House and had "coffee" with Clinton.
Lindner has much to gain from the government's intervention. But the Caribbean banana growers have much to lose. "What do the Americans want to do--reduce us to another Haiti?" asked Rupert Gajadhar, chair of the St.Lucia Banana Growers Association. Back in the 1980s, when the U.S. military invaded the small island of Grenada to destroy a leftist government there, Washington was making all kinds of promises to the Caribbean countries. The Caribbean Basin Initiative was going to open a new day of development and prosperity for the islands.
U.S. aid to the region in 1985 was $226 million. But it's less than a tenth of that now, leading St. Lucia's Prime Minister Vaughan Lewis to say, "We have dropped off the geopolitical map." So it's no wonder that Clinton's visit to Barbados to meet the leaders of CARICOM, the Caribbean trade group, went over like a lead balloon. So did Washington's anti-Cuba preachings.
Cuba's valiant efforts to maintain its sovereignty and dignity in the teeth of nearly 40 years of U.S. economic war strike a deep chord among the Caribbean peoples. So does the aid Cuba gave Grenada and continues to give to other Caribbean countries, despite its own difficult conditions.
This explains why the present conservative leader of Grenada recently visited Havana to discuss trade and cultural cooperation over U.S. objections. Many in the region can see now that all the U.S. promises about development aid were only meant to stifle movement toward true independence in an area where revolutionary sentiment and a respect for socialism's achievements had been growing among the masses.
Now that much is being said about the Americas Free Trade Area, from which Cuba is excluded as part of Washington's aggressive policy, the Latin American Economic System (SELA) has just published a report entitled "Notas Estrategicas" (Strategic Notes) which issues an urgent warning and alert concerning the acute contradiction between Pres.Clinton's interest in promoting that Institution and the legal possibilities of negotiating it, as long as US legislators remain divided on the issue.
SELA identifies four sensitive points that must be worked out in the medium term.
First is the need to clarify support for what the smallest economies require, given the huge differences among the 34 countries which make up the Free Trade Area. One can easily grasp the abyss which lies between the US economy, one of the largest in the world, and those of countries like HAITI and HONDURAS, considered to be among the poorest on the planet.
Secondly, the report points to the connection between free trade and the treatment of other political, economic and social issues which have been ignored so far. In 1994 the Miami Summit agreed to initiate solid mechanisms for the promotion of investments, development and integration of capital markets, the creation of a hemispheric structure, recognition of the burden posed by the foreign debt, and progress in cooperation related to energy, telecommunications, science, technology and tourism. These priorities for Latin Am and the Caribbean have been lacking serious efforts, SELA states, compared with those of free trade.
The Third warning concerns the contribution amount expected from each country, and, what they will get in return.
Finally, SELA wants to hear about the bilateral, subregional and multilateral commitments to the future norms on the part of the 34 nations, which implies strategic decisions taken by each of the participating States
The document also analyses the differences existing among US legislators concerning the free trade area, which have blocked congressional approval of the fundamental trade initiatives. Also President Clinton has no authority to negotiate without the authority of Congress. Extreme care is paramount. The smaller countries may be easily deceived, as were the native peoples by Chris. Columbus' trinkets." (Cuba is needed here also! JC)