Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's Wrong With Chiquita

Chiquita, as you may know, is one of the largest sellers of bananas in the United States. They allow you to buy cheap bananas daily at grocery stores around the country. What you may not know, however, is that they have a history rooted in imperalism and terror.

Please note as you read, Chiquita is a faction of the United Fruit Company, which includes other brands like Dole and Fresh Express. While I will focus on Chiquita -- bananas, in particular -- what I describe goes for all United Fruit Company products.

The United Fruit Company was the primary financer of United States colonization of Latin America in the 1800's. As a result, the company owns the majority of the land there, turning many natives into landless peasants. The UFC exploits the land and the people to get you bananas, but at what price?

Take Guatemala, where 70% of the land is owned by 2.2% of the population (most of which is United Fruit plantations). The UFC owns the country's telephone and telegraph facilities, the only important Atlantic harbor, and has established a monopoly over all the banana exports. This is very problematic, given that the UFC also has ties to the Dulles brothers, State Department officials, congressmen, and the American Ambassador to the United Nations. Ruling Guatemala economically, while maintaining good relations with so many political insiders in the U.S., United Fruit can get away with almost anything.

In the 1950's, Guatemala democratically elected a new leader, Arbenz. Arbenz sought land reform, under which the land would be redistributed to the peasants. Arbenz was willing to compensate United Fruit for the land they would lose, but the company requested a whopping $16 million, infinitely more than the land originally cost them. Meanwhile, the CIA had marked Arbenz as a communist, setting him up as a target to take down. When the CIA arranged to send arms to right-wing officers in the Guatemalan army, the UFC donated $64,000 -- cash. This ultimately led to a military coup followed by years of mass-murder in Guatemala - all for your bananas.

If you're still not convinced, let's look at Colombia. United Fruit paid the right-wing United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) -- considered a terrorist organization -- around $1.7 million for protection from left-wing militias. This was recent, too: the payments started in 1997. United Fruit also smuggled in thousands of weapons for paramilitaries to fund operations against peasants, union workers and rivals. The AUC, now financed by Chiquita (which is financed by you), is responsible for killing as many as 10,000 Colombians over a period of 10 years. Between 1997 and 2004, the AUC was behind the 2,700 murders in the banana growing reigon that supplied Chiquita with $49.4 million dollars. The AUC was also found to have siezed vast amounts of land for the Chiquita corporation.

Chiquita -- and the United Fruit Company as a whole -- has a history of taking land by force, leaving its victims poor, landless, or dead in a ruthless pursuit for profit and monetary gain. When you buy a banana, you are supporting this murder and oppression. Still want that banana?

Get Involved

Now that you've educated yourself on the horrors of United Fruit, what will you do with your new found consciousness?

Step One: Boycott the United Fruit Company.
Supporting a corporation is the same as supporting their politics. By buying and eating United Fruit Company products, you are supporting the company's policies regarding Latin America. So if you disagree with their business tactics, tell them! Start by boycotting the brand. United Fruit encompasses all Chiquita, Dole, and Fresh Express brands. This includes more than just bananas: pineapples, Dole "fruit cups," avocados and all other products under the brand name are equally corrupt.

P.S. Stop putting banana stickers on your forehead. You look dumb.

Step Two: Write the Company
Make your voice heard. Tell Chiquita directly what you think of their imperialism. Write to the corporate headquarters at:

Chiquita Brands International, Inc.
250 East Fifth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202 USA

Step Three: Join the Protest
Educating others is extremely important. Raising consciousness about the unethical practices of Chiquita and all associated brands is the first step to change. Using the image below, print out stickers (either print an entire sheet and cut out the ovals, or buy precut stickers and print as directed). Take these stickers to the store and stick them right where they belong: on the corrupt product itself. Think it won't work? Hey, you saw it, didn't you?

Reference Links & Further Reading

Chiquita case puts big firms on notice Article in the Christian Science Monitor
Banana Republic: Chertoff, Chiquitia and Right-Wind Death Squads Editorial by Chris Floyd
In Terrorism-Law Case, Chiquita Points to U.S. Article in the Washington Post
Chiquita in the dock for murder Editorial by W. T. Whitney Jr.
Guatemala: While the World Watched An exerpt from the book Killing Hope by William Blum

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