Extortion, Private and Public: The Case of Chiquita Banana
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Lefties have protested against Chiquita Banana for so long that most activists probably forget why they are supposed to hate the company. The company does have a spotty history, especially when it was United Fruit. For decades after the turn of the 20th century, US military interventions in Latin America were inspired by the goal of protecting its investments in Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico. This is why these wars are called the Banana Wars, and why these countries have been variously dubbed Banana Republics (though the main purpose was always to raise taxes for the NY investment banks that held government bonds).
On the other hand, what these critics don’t often point out are the fantastic blessings that the company has brought to the region. It helped eradicate malaria, has dramatically raised living standards, and its interest in protecting its lands and trade relationships has actually served as a brake on socialistic tendencies toward the looting of private enterprise in the region. It has also been a victim of mass theft during revolutions, as happened after Castro’s.
More recently, the company has been in the news because of an unjust attack by the US Justice and State Departments. Following 9/11, the US government made a list of groups around the world that it considered purveyors of terrorism (a list that conspicuously excludes any cells within the world’s largest military-industrial complex). As a means of balancing out the many “Islamic fundamentalists” on the list, the US included known para-military groups in Latin America.
Two of the groups so named were the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist group, and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right wing group. FARC was famous for abducting Chiquita workers and killing them, as well as aerial bombings of Chiquita lands. The right-wing used similarly violent methods to bring about political instability. Both are pro-dictatorship, and both resent the role that private corporations have in limiting their political ambitions.