Date: Thu, 26 Sep 1996 18:49:26 CDT
Via Workers World News Service
How United Fruit robbed and killed the people of Central America
By Stephen Millies, in Workers World, 3 October 1996
"It's important that I don't get too knowledgeable about the past."
So spoke Wallace Booth on becoming president of United Brands back in 1975. Booth had plenty of reason to wish for amnesia.
After all, he had just succeeded Eli Black who left United Brands by jumping through his office window on the 44th floor of the old Pan Am Building in New York.
Black was just about to be exposed for giving a $1.25-million bribe to the president of Honduras.
United Brands was then the new name for the notorious United Fruit banana monopoly. Now it's got another new name: Chiquita Brands International.
For decades this ruthless corporation dominated the economies of the countries of Central America.
Chiquita still owns or rents over 267 square miles of farmland in Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras. It operates a fleet of 42 refrigerated ships and hundreds of miles of railroad.
ALL THE NEWS FIT TO PRINT?
In mid-September an agreement was signed in Guatemala between the government and guerrilla commanders. News is finally coming out about the grisly background of the long war there.
In the 1980s alone, the Guatemalan military and its death squads killed over 100,000 people. Entire Indian villages were massacred.
A front-page article in the Sept. 20 New York Times made a rare admission. It said that "the conflict had its roots in a 1954 coup sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency."
The Times then went on to claim that "most of Guatemala's 10.5 million people can no longer remember what started it."
But United Fruit--now Chiquita--remembers.
What brought down the wrath of this company and of the CIA was President Jacobo Arbenz Guzm n's attempt to distribute uncultivated lands owned by United Fruit to landless peasants.
The big Boston banks behind United Fruit were determined that Arbenz must go. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the order for a CIA-staged invasion that toppled the elected Guatemalan government.
Among the coup's first victims were 45 assassinated leaders of the banana workers on United Fruit's plantations.
Seven years later, United Fruit paid back its debt to the CIA by donating two of its ships to the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
The Cuban people--under the leadership of Fidel Castro-- remembered well the tragedy of Guatemala. They defeated the CIA invasion. And they took back all the land that United Fruit owned in Cuba--land that today's Helms-Burton Law is meant to return to U.S. corporate owners.
WHERE'S THE WAR CRIMES TRIAL?
The U.S. capitalist establishment has recently been trying to organize a so-called war-crimes trial in the Netherlands. Its aim is justify U.S. intervention in Bosnia, once part of socialist Yugoslavia.
Where's the war-crimes trial for the massacres in Central America?
For the 100,000-plus victims in Guatemala? For the thousands of victims of Oliver North's Contra war against Nicaragua? And the countless victims of the death squads in El Salvador and Honduras?
U.S. government money paid for this terror. And it was the U.S. Army that trained so many of these assassins at the School of the Americas in Panama--a country itself left with unmarked mass graves and many missing after the U.S. invasion in 1989.
But the U.S. government just did the bidding of United Fruit. United Fruit really should be in the dock.
United Fruit sold its properties in Guatemala to Del Monte in 1972 for $20 million.
Under its new name of Chiquita Brands, it still maintains its empire in the rest of Central America. It's controlled by the Lindner family in Cincinnati through the American Financial Group--a big insurance company.
Just one of these Lindners--Stephen Craig--owned 23,809,445 shares of Chiquita Brands stock in April 1992. Their market value was $351,809,445 at the time.
Meanwhile Del Monte has been gobbled up by RJR Nabisco-- the huge cancer-stick and cookie conglomerate.
Another big player is Castle & Cooke, which owns the Dole brand. (No relation to Bob Dole.)
These are the criminal companies that have benefited from the CIA wars that have left the people of Central America bloodied and impoverished. How can there be justice in Guatemala, or Honduras, or El Salvador, without at the very least a major reparations program paid for by those who became multi-millionaires off the suffering of the people?
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