THE UNITED FRUIT COMPANY
The history of
banana growing in
is closely tied to the history of politics in the same area from the
1880's through the 1970's. Prior to 1870, bananas were unknown in the
. The first bananas were imported to the U.S. in 1870 and just 28 years
later, Americans in the U.S. were consuming over 16 million bunches a
year. The story begins in 1871 with the construction of a railroad in
by an industrious 23 year old from
named Minor Keith. The project cost hundreds of lives, including the
lives of his two brothers. Keith was a man who would do anything to
advance his own interests. He even married the daughter of the Costa
Rican President. His efforts paid off and eventually he earned the title
"The Uncrowned King of
While Keith was
building the railroad in
he was also executing a much bigger plan. As construction progressed, he
planted bananas on the land easements to either side of the tracks. The
bananas flourished and with the railroad completed it was possible to
economically transport the bananas to eager markets in the
. Ten years later, Keith owned three banana companies. Keith then joined
up with a Cape Cod sailor, Captain Lorenzo Baker and a Boston
businessman, Andrew Preston. Together they raised the money to found the
Boston Fruit Company. In 1899, the Boston Fruit Company and the United
Fruit Company (UFCO) merged, thus forming the largest banana company in
the world with plantations in Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica,
Nicaragua, Panama and Santo Domingo. They also owned eleven steamships,
known as the Great White Fleet plus 30 other ships rented or leased. The
company also owned 112 miles of railroad linking the plantations with
In 1901, Guatemalan
dictator, Manuel Estrada Cabrera granted to UFCO the exclusive right to
transport postal mail between
This was UFCO's first entry into
. Ruled by a right-wing dictator who would do anything UFCO wanted,
Minor Keith judged
to have "an ideal investment climate". He formed the
Guatemalan Railroad Company as a subsidiary of UFCO and capitalized it
at $40 million. He contracted with Cabrera to build a railroad between
and Puerto Barrios. UFCO also obtained permission to purchase lots in
Puerto Barrios at a nominal price and received a grant of land one mile
long by 500 yards wide on either side of the municipal pier. Keith also
negotiated the contract to build telegraph lines from the capital to
Other countries in
Central and South America also fell under the thrall of the mighty UFCO,
also called "yunai" or "La Frutera" or "El
Pulpo" (the octopus) in Latin America, but none were more under
UFCO's thumb than
. United Fruit's Guatemalan operation generated about 25 percent of the
company's total production. In
, United Fruit gained control of virtually all means of transport and
communications. United Fruit charged a tariff on every item of freight
that moved in and out of the country via Puerto Barrios. For many years,
the coffee growers of
paid very high tariffs and the price of Guatemalan coffee on the world
market was high because of this.
The capital of the
United Fruit Company empire was in
, in the town of
, where it made its headquarters. From here it master-minded its empire
and corrupted every level of government and politics in
. United Fruit also managed to exempt itself from virtually all taxes
for 99 years. UFCO had its fingers in almost every pie in
. UFCO had the unconditional support of right-wing dictators who
maintained their power by terrorizing the people and arresting prominent
citizens who were either killed on the spot or tortured in prison to
extract confessions. During one wave of repression under Jorge Ubico,
hundreds were killed in just two days.
In 1944, the people
overthrew the right-wing dictator then in power, Jorge Ubico.
held its first true elections in history. They elected Dr. Juan Jose
Arevalo Bermej to the presidency. A new constitution was drawn up, based
Constitution. Arevalo was a socialist and an educator who built over
6,000 schools in
and made great progress in education and health care.
At this time in
, just 2.2 percent of the population owned over 70 percent of the
country's land. Only 10 percent of the land was available for 90 percent
of the population, most of whom were Indians. Most of the land held by
the large landowners was unused. Arevalo was succeeded in another free
election by Jacobo Arbenz who continued the reform process begun under
Arevalo. Arbenz proposed to redistribute some of the unused land and
make it available for the 90 percent to farm. Here is where the problem
arose: United Fruit was one of the big holders of unused land in
. The pressure mounted against UFCO and finally the company complained
to the many friends it had within the U.S. government including
President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, saying
that Guatemala had turned communist.
State Department and United Fruit embarked on a major public relations
campaign to convince the American people and the rest of the
was a Soviet "satellite".
[United Fruit] began with enviable connections to the Eisenhower
administration. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his former
law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell, had long represented the company. Allen
Dulles, head of the CIA, had served on UFCO's board of trustees. Ed
Whitman, the company's top public relations officer, was the husband of
Ann Whitman, President Eisenhower's private secretary. (Ed Whitman
produced a film, "Why the Kremlin Hates Bananas," that
pictured UFCO fighting in the front trenches of the cold war.) The fruit
firm's success in linking the taking of its lands to the evil of
international communism was later described by one UFCO official as
"the Disney version of the episode." But the company's efforts
paid off. It picked up the expenses of journalists who traveled to
Guatemala to learn United Fruit's side of the crisis, and some of the
most respected North American publications - including the New York
Times, New York Herald Tribune, and New Leader - ran stories
that pleased the company. A UFCO public relations official later
observed that his firm helped condition North American readers to accept
the State Department's version of the Arbenz regime as
Communist-controlled and the U.S.-planned invasion as wholly
Guatemalan." (Quoted from Inevitable Revolutions - The
by Walter La Feber, 2nd ed. 1993, pp. 120-121.
succeeded and in 1954 the
Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated a coup, code-named
"Operation PBSUCCESS". The invading force numbered only 150
men under the command of Castillo Armas but the CIA convinced the
Guatemalan public and President Arbenz that a major invasion was
underway. The CIA set up a clandestine radio station to carry
propaganda, jammed all Guatemalan stations, and hired skilled American
pilots to bomb strategic points in Guatemala City. The
replaced the freely elected government of
with another right-wing dictatorship that would again bend to UFCO's
The history of
since the Spanish conquest is one of continuous domination and
repression. For a brief ten years from 1944 to 1954,
experienced the fresh air of democracy. However, with a right-wing
dictatorship back in power,
was thrown back into the dark ages and the stage was set for the next 30
years of repression and killing. As part of their efforts in the coup,
the CIA made a list of 70,000 "questionable individuals".
's 36 year civil war that just came to an end this year (1996), the
government often referred to this list originally put together by the
As is always the
case, opinions can be found on both sides of the question of whether
United Fruit was a benefit or a scourge to
. The company certainly brought a great deal of economic development and
organization to a region that had very little of either. The United
Fruit Company paid its full-time employees better than any other, built
housing and schools for the children of its employees, built hospitals
and research laboratories. From early on the company embarked on
vigorous research projects to conquer tropical diseases such as malaria
and dengue fever. Their laboratories also worked very hard to conquer
the specialized diseases of the banana plant. In
, whole areas of bananas were wiped out by disease and the laboratories
of United Fruit developed specialized insecticides and fungicides to
halt the problem. Some of these laboratories are still at work today.
United Fruit brought
tangible benefits to the countries where it operated, but also brought
problems or perpetuated existing ones. For the legions of seasonal
workers in the fields, life was very hard. Conditions were physically
dangerous and the toxic chemicals used on the banana plants were a
constant hazard. Malaria and dengue fever were a constant danger as
well. The field workers for UFCO were paid more than on other farms but
the work was seasonal and annually amounted to very little. United Fruit
staunchly opposed any attempts at the formation of unions. It would
abandon entire areas if unionism started to gain a foothold. When it
abandoned an area it would tear down the housing and schools it had
built leaving the area destitute. The company also practiced
institutionalized racism. In company towns like Morales/Bananera and
Puerto Barrios non-whites were forced to yield right-of-way to whites.
The whole concept of a "banana republic" was exemplified by
the conditions in
from 1920 through 1944. The government worked very closely with United
Fruit to maintain the highly stratified, fiefdom-like social structure
so as to provide a plentiful supply of cheap labor. UFCO didn't create
this social structure but worked to amplify it and perpetuate it.
United Fruit later
changed its name to United Brands and then ran into financial
difficulties during the 1970's. UFCO's lands were bought by the Del
Monte Corporation which now operates the former holdings of United Fruit
but no longer engages in the political and social manipulations of the
Landmeier © 1997
additional reading on the history of the United Fruit Company: click
more information and declassified documentation of
, see the following:
CIA involved in Guatemala coup, 1954
The National Security Archive (George
INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT BOARD,
REPORT ON THE GUATEMALA REVIEW - JUNE 28, 1996
Anthony S. Harrington, Chairman; General Lew Allen, Jr., USAF (Ret.);
Ann Z. Caracristi; Harold W. Pote [ed. this is a detailed article but
will give an idea of what the CIA has been up to more recently]
CIA's drug smuggling reason enough to
Is the CIA necessary?
Ernesto Ché Guevara
Ernesto Ché Guevara
Jorge Eliécer Gaitán
Jorge Eliécer Gaitán
Minor Cooper Keith
Minor Cooper Keith
Thomas E. Sunderland
Thomas E. Sunderland
Ian William Read
Ian William Read
Copper Keith is born in Brooklyn, New York
Lorenzo Dow Baker buys 160 bunches of bananas in Jamaica for
a shilling per bunch and sells them in Jersey City for $2
each. After this success he and the Bostonian entrepreneur
Andrew Preston join efforts to develop a banana market
Keith travels to Costa Rica to work on a railroad
project his uncle Henry Meiggs was building for the national
Keith, when looking for cheap food for his workers,
plants banana trees adjacent to his railroad tracks.
Extremely difficult working conditions pay a high toll on
Keith's workers. Nearly 5,000 men die, including Meiggs.
Keith takes charge of the project.
Zmurri is born in Besarabia, Russia. When immigrating to the
United States he changes his name to
Preston establish the Boston Fruit Company as Americans
increase their demand for fruit.
Preston takes charge of tropical enterprises while Baker
controls management in Boston.
facing incredible difficulties,
Keith finishes the railroad from San Jose to Puerto
Limon. However, the low number of passengers using the train
made it unprofitable.
Keith decides to use it to export bananas from the
plantations he had created in the early 1870s. The first
shipments proves to be a great success.
Samuel Zemurray arrives to the United States from
Besarabia. He settles with his family in Selma, Alabama
Zemurray enters in the banana business marketing the
fruit in Mobile, Alabama
Keith purchases a 50% of the share in the Snyder Banana
Co. which produces bananas on 6,000 acres at Bocas del Toro,
April-December: Spanish-American war. The United States
defeats Spain and occupies Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Keith's bank, Hoadley and Company, goes bankrupted.
Keith loses $1.5 million. In order to solve his
difficult financial situation,
Keith goes to Boston and arranges with Andrew
Preston a merger of his company and the Boston Fruit
Company. Prior to the negotiation
Preston, Baker, and
Keith control 75% of the banana market in the U.S. In
March 30th, they establish the United Fruit Company.
April. The newly already incorporated United Fruit Company
acquires seven independent companies that have been
operating in Honduras.
The Sicilian immigrant
Joseph, Luca, and Felix Vaccaro and Salvador D'Antoni begin
importing bananas to New Orleans from La Ceiba, Honduras.
Vaccaro Brothers import 6,000 stems of bananas into New
Orleans beginning a successful banana import business
independent from United Fruit.
government of Guatemala hires United Fruit Company to manage
the country's national post service.
Elders & Fyffes Co. is established in Great Britain with the
purpose of shipping and distributing of Jamaican bananas
within the United Kingdom. With British government support,
the company becomes a formidable competitor.
Company is established in New Orleans.
After a series of weather
catastrophes and financial problems, plus strong competition
from United Fruit, the directors of Elders & Fyffes decide
to sell part of its stock to the American company. United
Fruit eventually acquires 50% of Elders & Fyffes stock
opening and opens a door to the European market.
The plant disease known
as "Panama Disease" appears for the first time in United
Fruit's plantations in Panama. The disease attacks the
plant's trees roots cutting off the water supply. Thousands
of acres of banana plantations had to be abandoned.
United Fruit launches the
S.S. Venus, the first refrigerated produce boat.
November. Separatist groups in the Colombian state of Panama
declare independence. The US government, in support of the
separatists, sends part of its Navy to prevent the Colombian
government from recovering the state. As soon as Panama's
independence is assured, the US obtains sovereignty of a
strip of land in which it plans on building an interoceanic
United States troops intervene in Honduras.
United States troops intervene in the Dominican Republic.
Guatemalan dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera grants United
Fruit a ninety-nine year concession to construct and
maintain the country's main rail line from Guatemala City to
Zemurray goes to Honduras to study the possibility of
creating his own banana export corporation.
United Fruit purchases 50%
of the shares of the Vaccaro Brothers Company which had
operated in Honduras. Vaccaro had organized export
plantations in that country as part of a contract to build a
railway between La Ceiba and the interior of the country.
The United States Army invades Cuba. The American occupation
government remains until 1909.
The Vaccaro Brothers
incorporate their banana import business in New Orleans.
United States troops invade Nicaragua and establish a protectorate in the country.
United States troops land in Honduras during the war with
the Anti-trust legislation the American government forces
United Fruit to sell its Vaccaro shares.
United States Army invades Nicaragua.
With a loan of two thousand
Zemurray buys five thousand acres along the Cuyamel
River in Honduras to establish plantations. Soon after
Zemurray purchases the land, he discovers that the
Honduran President, Miguel Davila, would not grant him the
tax, land, and transportation concessions that he was
seeking. With this disappointment in mind,
Zemurray decides to organize and finance a military coup
that would replace Davila with Manuel Bonilla. Slipping past
US agents sent by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox,
Zemurray's expedition sails from New Orleans. The
expedition is composed of one small ship captained by Lee
Christmas and Guy "Machine Gun" Molony and one box of arms.
Within weeks after Christmas and Molony arrive at the port
of Trujillo, the government falls and Davila is replaced by
Bonilla. The new President awards
Zemurray generously and grants him the contracts he
needs to incorporate the Hubbard-Zemurray
Company in Honduras. The new company would soon become a
serious competitor to United Fruit..
United Fruit buys the remaining Elders & Fyffes stock.
Elders & Fyffes acquires 8,000 acres of banana lands in the
"Panama Disease" appears in the banana plantations of
Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.
Company changes its name to Cuyamel Fruit Company
Keith's Guatemala Railroad Company becomes The
International Railways of Central America (IRCA)
After a fierce price competition against the United Fruit
Company, the Atlantic Fruit Company declares bankrupcy.
Atlantic had been United Fruit main competitor in Costa
Rica; after the bankruptcy United Fruit takes control of the
country's banana exports.
The United States Army sends troops to Cuba.
The United States marines land in Panama during the
The United States Army intervenes in Honduras.
United Fruit gets two
railway and land concessions in Honduras. They are managed
by the company's subsidiaries the Tela Railroad Company and
the Truxillo Railroad Company. These concessions allow the
company to begin to produce bananas in large scale in
Honduras. Concessions include 162,000 hectares of land from
which 71,000 were granted in change of the railroad
Senate Finance Committee of the United States includes
bananas in the proposed Underwood-Simmons Tariff. Bananas
would be taxed at five cents a bunch. This initiative faces
strong opposition from the New York Times, the Tariff Reform
Committee of the Reform Club, The Banana Buyers' Protective
Association, and the Housewives' League. The lobby made by
these organizations eventually succeeds and the US
government permits the tax free import of bananas to
United States Navy fights against rebels in Santo Domingo,
The United States Army invades Haiti.
Zemurray's company becomes United Fruit biggest
Standard Fruit buys most of the ice factories in New
Orleans. The ice was needed to refrigerate the banana ships.
After this, the company's president Joseph Vaccaro became
known as the "Ice King."
The United States Army invades Haiti.
United States Army invades the Dominican Republic.
The United States Army
invades Cuba. The American occupation lasts until 1933.
The US War Trade Board
proposes a complete embargo on bananas in order to free the
United Fruit and Standard Fruit ships for military purposes.
The embargo plan was eventually dropped.
workers of the banana plantations in Northern Colombia go on
strike. They demand six-day labor week and eight-hour labor
day plus health care. The strike does not succeed.
The United States Army intervenes in Panama and keeps a
police force in the country.
United States marines land in Honduras during presidential
United States Army lands in Guatemala and fights for two
weeks against the so-called unionists.
Improvements in banana-drying technology encourage United
Fruit to promote consumption of dried banana chips. The
company wanted to use this as a way to market discarded
bananas or plantains.
song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" by Frank Silver and Irving
Cohn reaches incredibly high levels of popularity, selling
25,000 copies a day. Afterwards, Silver tours the country
with his Banana Band.
The Vaccaro Brothers
re-organize their old company and establish the Standard
November 7. The Guatemalan government gives a concession to
the United Fruit for all the uncultivated lands in a 100
Dr. Sidney Haas makes it
public that bananas are a good cure for children suffering
from celiac disease. United Fruit used this finding to
promote banana consumption in the following decades.
United Fruit subsidiary
Fruit Dispatch Company publishes a recipe book promoting the
consumption of bananas with dry cereal, suggesting in
particular corn flakes with bananas and milk. This
combination proved to be an incredible success among
consumers. In the following years cereal companies made
deals with United Fruit to advertise this new breakfast. One
of them was to include a coupon for bananas in cereal boxes.
The United States Army intervenes in Honduras during
United States Army lands in Panama during a general strike.
Vaccaros change their company from Standard Fruit Company
into the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company.
Guatemalan government establishes a $14,000 annual rent for
the 100 kilometers it gave to United Fruit in 1924.
United Fruit purchases the California-Guatemala Fruit
Corporation which exported fruit from the Guatemalan Pacific
Coast to Western USA
The workers of the banana
plantations in Colombia go on strike in December. They
demand written contracts, eight-hour days, six-day weeks and
the elimination of food coupons. The strike turns into the
largest labor movement ever witnessed in the country and
radical members of the Liberal Party and members of the
Socialist and Communist Parties participate strongly. The
national labor union bigwigs Carlos Mahecha and Maria Cano
traveled to the banana zone to organize the strike. They
counted with the help of Italian and Spanish anarchist
immigrants for this.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez is
born in Aracataca, a town in the banana zone of Magdalena,
January (Colombia). The
banana worker strike continues and gets national attention
since it is supported by the Liberal Party. The Conservative
Party, which controls the government, decides to send the
Army into the Banana Zone. During a demonstration in the
main plaza of the city of Cienaga the Army, commanded by
Carlos Cortes Vargas fires on the strikers and leaves an
undetermined (and disputed) number of strikers dead. The
government declares a state of siege in the Banana Zone and
the strike eventually ends. One Liberal politician,
Jorge Eliecer Gaitan denounces the government's action
at the National Congress, on the radio, and public speeches.
Gaitan's denounciations help undermine the Conservative
Party's reputation and the party is defeated in the next
May 1st (Honduras): The Communist Party creates the
Federacion Obrera HondureÐa. This federation creates "Action
Committees" among the banana workers.
November: After an unsuccessful price war against
Zemurray's Cuyamel Fruit Company, United Fruit decides
Zemurray out. United Fruit sells
Zemurray $31,500,000 in the company's stocks in exchange
for all Cuyamel stock.
Zemurray becomes the biggest shareholder of United
Fruit's subsidiary, Fruit Dispatch, hires a group of
consultants to do a market research on American banana
consumption. The consultants' results says that bananas were
consumed by a large sector of the country's middle class and
were considered the perfect food for babies. After this
report, United Fruit doubled Fruit Dispatch's advertisement
budget and begins an aggressive campaign in national
newspapers and magazines targeted to middle class families.
establishes the Education Department in addition to the
Advertising Department. The Education Department prints
educational materials for classroom use promoting banana
Louisiana's governor Huey Long denounces Samuel
Zemurray in the U.S. Senate for being involved in
corrupted businesses in Central America
July (Honduras): The Action Committees of the Federacion
Obrera HondureÐa organize a strike in the banana
plantations. The strike has little support from the workers
and is cracked down easily.
(Honduras): The government declares martial law on the north
coast after workers attack military barracks at Trujillo and
Tela. The rebellion is orchestrated by former Secretary of
War General Gregorio Ferrera.
June (Honduras): Ferrera's rebellion ends with his dead in a
skirmish with Government troops.
United Fruit transfers its railroad in Colombia to the
national government which, in turn, leases it to the company
for thirty years more.
Honduras: Labor unrest among United Fruit workers follow the
company's decision to fire 800 workers.
Guatemala: Juan Pablo Wainwright, leader of the 1930 banana
workers' strike in Honduras, is assassinated.
The United States Navy intervenes in the Marti Revolt, El
the first years of the Great Depression the shares' price of
United Fruit fall dramatically and its profits decrease from
$44.6 million in 1932 to 6.2 in 1932. The members of the
board of directors vote to name
Zemurray general director of the company. Two weeks
later the price of the company's stock doubles.
Zemurray's first move is to replace the existing
tropical managers with experienced managers and former
employees of Cuyamel. He also improves transport and
intra-company communication while reorganizing the company
with a clear hierarchy of employeespecialization.
During the 1930s
Zemurray uses his fortune in several philanthropic works
such as a large donation to the New Orleans Child Guidance
Clinic and financial backing of The Nation magazine
Anastasio Somoza takes power in Nicaragua. His family
continues to rule until the late 1970s.
epidemy of Sigatoka (a fungus that attacks the leaves of the
banana plant and causes the fruit to ripen prematurely)
appears in Standard Fruit's Honduras plantations and
threatens to wipe out the entire crop. The companies begin
large-scale spraying programs. The first experiments with
Bourdeaux mixture (made up of copper sulfate, hydrated lime,
and water) prove to be successful at controlling the disease
but extremely expensive.
Fruit Company signs an ninety-nine year concession with
Guatemala President General Jorge Ubico and opens its second
plantation in the country in the region of Tiquisate.
Fruit merges with Minor
Keith's International Railways of Central America (IRCA)
Fruit's Home Economics Department publishes the school
teacher manual entitled "A Study of the Banana: The Everyday
Use and Food Value." The manual gave a detailed description
of the food value of bananas and gave suggestions of
preparation. The success of this manual led the company to
publish other school manuals in the following years for
elementary to high-school students.
Zemurray, President of the United Fruit, establishes the
Escuela Agricola Panamericana in Honduras. The institution
is intended to be a free higher-education school financed by
the company specialized in agricultural research, and
attended by Central American students.
World War II United Fruit reduces its operations to the
minimum level because of the presence of German submarines
in the Caribbean.
Fruit hires cartoonist Dik Browne (the creator of Hagar the
Horrible) to create a cartoon based on the Latin American
singer and movie star Carmen Miranda. The cartoon was
baptized as Miss Chiquita Banana and was part of the
advirtisement campaign the company was preparing for when
the war was over.
Juan Jose Arevalo takes
power as the new President of Guatemala. He pushes United
Fruit to improve the working conditions at its plantations.
The company makes some concessions after a series of strikes
from its workers.
The character of Miss Chiquita Banana debuts in the
technicolor movie advertisement "Miss Chiquita Banana's
Beauty Treatment" in which she sings to revive an exhausted
Guatemalan government establishes a Labor Code. The company
denounces it as "Communistic" and threatens to leave
Guatemala. The code forces the company to make further
concessions to the workers in the strikes that followed.
Zemurray lets one of the company's ships to participate
in the settlement of Jews in Palestine after the war. The
ship was re-baptized with the name of Exodus and carried the
first wave of Jewish immigrants to the Middle East
Senators Claude Pepper (Florida), Alexander Wiley
(Wisconsin), and Mike Mansfield (Montana) accuse the
Guatemalan government of failing to safeguard United Fruit's
businesses in that country.
January (Honduras): After being the dictator of Honduras for
thirteen years, President Juan Vicente CarÕas voluntarily
gives the presidency to his vice-President and former lawyer
of United Fruit, Juan Manuel Galvez. Galvez restores
guarantees to political exiles and begins social reforms.
Many exiles return to the country and this reinforces his
opposition. Yet even under Galvez, the left-wing newspapers
kept criticizing the governmental concessions given to
Honduras: During Galvez's government the Honduran Congress
passes labor regulations for children and women and
establishes an eight-hour working day. This is a monumental
change in Honduras' labor laws.
Nobel-awarded Chilean writer Pablo Neruda publishes his epic
work "Canto General" about the history of Latin America. One
of its chapters is entitled "The United Fruit Company."
Jacobo Arbenz wins the Presidential election in
Guatemala and promises to change the agrarian structure of
Guatemalan Congress approves the Decree 900, the Agrarian
the Agrarian Reform Act
Arbenz government declares that 209,842 acres of
uncultivated lands of United Fruit should be expropriated
and distributed to landless peasants. The Guatemalan
government promises the company an indemnification of
$627,572 in governmental bonds. The value of this
indemnification was based on the company's declared tax
value of the land. During this year
Zemurray hires a public relations company to begin an
aggressive campaign against
Arbenz in the American media.
Standard Fruit introduces the first experimental plantings
and shipments of the Panama Disease resistant Cavendish-type
banana. This type eventually adapted by United Fruit to
replace the Gross Michel type in the 1960s.
April 20. United States Secretary of State John Foster
Dulles sends a protest note to
Arbenz declaring that the idemnification value
calculated by the Guatemalan government was not fair.
Arbenz, however, continued with his Agrarian Reform
Program. Dulles calls John Peurifoy, the American ambassador
in Guatemala, to get detailed information of the Guatemalan
situation. Peurifoy said to the Congress that Guatemala was
spreading "Marxist tentacles" in Central America.
Zemurray approves the publication of a book called
"Report on Guatemala" which claimed that
Arbenz Agrarian Reform had been planned in Moscow. The
book was distributed to Congressmen
March. The Conference of the Organization of American States
in Caracas finishes with a resolution in which the member
countries show their concern about the "Communistic
infiltration" in the continent.
Arbenz proposes a non-aggression treaty to Honduras. The
Honduras government refuses.
June, 18. Using military bases in Nicaragua Guatemalan
Carlos Castillo Armas attacks Guatemala in what his
supporters called "the Liberation war against Communism."
The operation was backed by all the other Central American
governments and the United States.
Castillo succeeded at forcing
Arbenz to go on exile and immediately ended the legal
actions against United Fruit under the Agrarian Reform Law.
Twenty-five year old Argentinean
Ernesto Guevara (later known as el "Che") witnesses the
coup and becomes convinced that radical changes in Latin
America are only possible through an armed revolution.
Guevara is living in Guatemala at the time working as a
doctor and book-seller and he volunteers to organize
resistance militias against
Castillo's army. When facing an inevitable defeat he
later escapes from Guatemala to Mexico where he meets
another political refugee who will become one of his closest
friends: Cuban Fidel Castro.
July 2. A US Court begins legal action against the United
Fruit Company for violating the Sherman Anti-trust Act and
the Wilson Act.
July 13. United States President Dwight Eisenhower gives
official recognition to
Castillo establishes the National Committee of Defense
Against Communism to seek out any remaining of
Arbenz supporters. He also sets back the labor laws
Arbenz begins his long exile in Mexico, France,
Switzerland, Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Uruguay, and Mexico.
May 5. The workers of the United Fruit Company go on strike
demanding higher wages and are followed by the Standard
Fruit workers. This strike paralyzes all banana operations
and peaks with 25,000 striking workers (around 15% of all
the country's labor force)
May 7: United Fruit manager J. F. Aycock declares that the
company would not negotiate as long as the workers are on
strike. That day, the strike expands to La Ceiba, Standard
Fruit center of operations. Contrary to United Fruit,
Standard offers to negotiate with striking workers.
By the second week of May 11,000 Standard Fruit Company
employees join the strike. Simultaneously, laborers in
others sector of the economy go on strike too, including
miners, brewers, and textile workers.
May 16: The strikers present their "pliego de peticiones" to
manager Aycock in La Lima. They quote the Universal
Declarations of the Rights of Man and demand an increase in
wages. At the same time, the workers of Coca-Cola in La
Ceiba and Puerto Cortes strike.
Shortly after the protests began, the Honduran President
Manuel Galvez expels two Guatemalan consuls charging them of
May 9. The American ambassador in Honduras says that the
country's strike had been inspired by Guatemalan communists.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles
suggests that Guatemala
Arbenz's government might be behind the Honduran strike.
May 18: Standard Fruit opens negotiations with the workers
under governmental arbitration. The company agrees to
increase wages and improve working conditions, making this
the first time in Honduran history that a private
corporation negotiates a collective agreement. The workers
committed themselves to go back to work on May 21.
May 21: After the Standard Fruit workers go back to work,
the United Fruit workers harden their position. The number
of strikers increases to 100,000 United Fruit.
May 25: A governmental commission arrives to La Lima and is
accepted as an intermediate by both the workers and
management of United Fruit.
May 31: Breakdown in the talks between United Fruit and the
June 5: The workers try to create a new delegation to
negotiate, but United Fruit tells the Honduran media its
opposition to further negotiations. In the weeks to follow
the strikers' peaceful attitude win them the sympathy of the
Honduran media, politicians, and even Henry Wallace, a
former US Vice-President.
July 9. The banana workers' strike in Honduras ends.
Although the strikers do not manage to get what they
initially wanted, the company does change the working
conditions and the government is forced to create a more
progressive labor legislation. The workers demanded a wage
increase of 72% but only won a 21% raise. The company also
agrees to provide medical care for the workers' families.
A hurricane hits the Honduran plantations and United Fruit
fires 10,000 workers
Between 1955 and 1962 United
Fruit published around 15 million pieces of literature for
students in elementary grades through high school to promote
the learning of bananas and the health benefits of their
consumption. These manuals were also distributed in schools
around the world.
The Senate's Select
Committee on Small Business, undertakes a investigation of
"the problems of small business" and calls on United Fruit
to testify on its commercial distribution of bananas within
the US. The State Department immediately requests that the
Senate hearings be closed to the public and press. It
explains that "distorted or sensational reporting of these
hearings in the Latin American press might reflect
unfavorably on a large American company having extensive
operations in the area, and might easily be used by the
Communists for propaganda purposes to damage the prestige of
the United States." Several days later, however, the State
Department finds "nothing objectionable" and allows the
release of the transcripts to the press.
government's anti-trust against the company is finally
settled. The United Fruit Company agrees to sign a consent
decrees that allows the company to admit to no wrongdoing
but still allows the government to force several important
changes to the structure of the company. The largest change
facing the company is that it has to carve out a competitor,
from its own holding, by 1970, will be one third of its
current size. It begins by selling its Guatemala holdings to
both Standard Fruit and to Guatemalan entrepreneurs. United
Fruit also sells Meloripe and Banana Selling Corporation,
its two large American fruit distributing subsidiaries, to
private banana jobbing firms. The lawsuit, at least
symbolically, marks the decline of the fruit company.
United Fruit does, however, expand its business in other
directions by acquiring the rights to explore petroleum and
natural gas in Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador.
November. Fidel Castro takes power in Cuba after a
successful guerrilla war against President Fulgencio
Batista. Batista leaves the country.
Fidel Castro begins his
agrarian reform and seizes the sugar properties of United
Fruit in that country.
Thomas Sunderland becomes the new President of the
United Fruit Company. His main goals are to reduce cost and
effectively handle the changes brought about by the
increased competition of the Standard Fruit Company and the
Ecuadorian corporations. He also has to handle the drastic
changes following the consent decree.
Sunderland begins to promote the larger sized Cavendish
banana over the Gros Michel, and the company begins to
transport the bananas in cardboard boxes instead of free
bunches. He also pushes the Chiquita brand-name by having
labels placed on the bananas.
The second half of the 1950s witnesses a process of
divestiture of the company. Slowly, the company has removed
itself from directly growing bananas on its plantations and
has concentrated on marketing its bananas.
A lawsuit against the United
Fruit Company is filed in a New York state court. The court
rules that the fruit company had forced its partly owned
subsidiary, International Railways of Central America
(IRCA), into setting prices that had only favored its own
banana transportation. The prices had been set too low,
harming IRCA and its American shareholders. A verdict is
passed in 1959 and United Fruit has to pay $4.5 million in
damages to IRCA's shareholders.
The first serious strike of the banana workers in Panama.
The workers of the Bocas del Toro Division demand higher
wages and better working conditions. Shortly after they are
joined by the Armuelles workers. The strikers paralyze all
the export activities for two months. United Fruit gives
recognition to the elected union leaders as the workers'
of Cuban exiles unsuccessfully attempts to invade Cuba and
depose Fidel Castro.
United Fruit provides
American school teachers with a package that included
student lesson sheets on bananas and the Central American
countries, a folder of banana recipes, a wall chart, a sound
motion picture, a film-strip, and an eight-page teacher's
manual on how to get and use these aids. This educational
material was recommended for geography, history, social
studies, health and nutrition, elementary and general
science and biology classes. The kit had a cost of $4.
United Fruit creates the
individual banana sticker label. The small blue stickers
with the Chiquita logo are affixed to the fruit and the
company makes a strong advertisement campaign to promote the
consumption of its branded banana.
Colombian writer Alvaro
Cepeda Samudio publishes his novel "La Casa Grande" inspired
in the banana workers strike of 1929 in Magdalena, Colombia.
Herbert Cornuelle becomes
the new President of the United Fruit Company. He begins a
process of diversification of United Fruit's investments in
order to reduce its dependence on bananas. During this
process the company acquires A&W Root Beer Company, Foster
Kentucky, celebrates the first International Banana Festival
sponsored by Standard Fruit and Dole (with no participation
of United Fruit), and declares itself the Banana Capital of
the United States. The festival includes cultural and
artistic expressions of banana exporting countries, a
carnival and a beauty contest (the International Banana
Princess). The event is praised by President Kennedy and
President Johnson as an important manifestation of
friendship among the peoples of the Americas and counted on
the active help of the Alliance for Progress.
and Cook buys the Vaccaro family (owner of Standard Fruit).
United States Army sends troops to the Dominican Republic
during its election campaign.
AMK, originally a producer
of milk-bottle caps, acquires a third of the common shares
of John Morrell & Company, a meat packer. By the end of that
year, AMK acquires John Morrell completely. AMK's President
Eli Black begins an aggressive campaign to dominate the
American food market.
United Fruit builds a banana
puree factory in Honduras in order to find a market for
discarded bananas. The factory has a limited success in the
following years, and has to wait until the 1980s to see
acceptable results. Banana puree is used in ice-creams,
eggnog, and yogurt.
After its acquisition of the
West Indies Fruit Company, Del Monte Corporation enters in
the international banana business.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez publishes the first edition of "Cien
AÐos de Soledad" (One Hundred Years of Solitude) in Buenos
Aires, Argentina. Part of the novel is inspired on the
strike of the Colombian banana workers against United Fruit
Castle & Cooke Corporation wholly acquires the Standard
Fruit and Steamship Company.
United Fruit distributes
90,000 full-color illustrated recipe cards for Chiquita
banana and peanut butter sandwiches to schools in the United
States, promoting these sandwiches for lunch.
24. Eli Black makes the third largest transaction in Wall
Street history up to that moment by buying 733,000 shares of
United Fruit in a single day. Black becomes the largest
shareholder of the company.
United Fruit chairman John
Fox and Eli Black negotiate the merger of United Fruit and
AMK-John Morrell. After negotiations with the Federal Trade
Commission they merger and name themselves United Brands
Company in June 30th. The company reports operation losses
of two million dollars. Black cuts the research expenses.
Aldicarb, an insecticide to
control mites and nematodes is introduced in the market by
Rhone-Poulenc. This chemical proved to cause headache,
stomach problems, blurred vision, and disorientation among
the workers who worked with it.
Arbenz dies in exile in Mexico City at the age of
United Brands reports a loss of 24 million dollars; the
highest in its history
December: Alleging violations of the Sherman Acthe U.S
government orders United Brands to divest themselves of a
banana-producing division capable of 9 million stems . The
company sells the division Compania Agricola de Guatemala,
to West Indies Co. (a Del Monte subsidiary)
In an attempt to pay its
high debts United Brands begins to sell several of the
conglomerate's companies and tropical land assets.
An earthquake destroyes
the capital city of Nicaragua, Managua. Black organizes a
United Brands sponsored aid to the victims.
The Black Sigatoka fungus
attacks the leaves of the Cavendish plantations in Honduras.
Black manages $16 million in
profits this year giving the hope of recovery for the
the first time in history, Dole moves to the first place in
United States sales ahead of United Brands, with 45% of the
market, versus 35% for United Brnads.
The governments of Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama sign the
Panama Agreement which imposes banana export taxes of $1 per
40 pound box. United Brands considers this new tax unfair
and confronts the local governments.
July-September: Workers in the United Brands Company go on
strike and refuse to export bananas from Panama unless the
local government ends its consideration to nationalize the
company's Panama assets. This means an interruption of 45%
of the total of Panama's exports.
September 17. The governments of Costa Rica, Colombia,
Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama form the Union de Paises
Exportadores de Banano (UPEB) -Organization of Banana Export
Countries- to defend the interests of the member countries,
raise and maintain high prices, and adopt common policies.
United Brands threatenes unsuccessfully to pull out.
Ecuador, the world's largest producer, decides not to join
September 18. Hurricane Fifi destroys 70% of company's
plantations in Honduras and causes losses of more than $20
million. The hurricane decreases the country's annual
exports from 45.4 million boxes in 1973 to 35.3 in 1974, and
20.4 million in 1975.
Black organized relief teams to help the victims of Fifi.
Financial losses are not recovered.
United Brands' subsidiary John Morrell reports losses of $6
million. The total losses of United Brands that year are $70
In a new attempt to alleviate the company's troubles, Black
sells on December Foster Grant for almost $70 million. The
operation is considered to be a great success
February 3. Black commits
suicide by jumping from his office in Panam building in New
York. The investigations following his death reveal a
bribery scandal in which Black and United Brands are
involved. In April the SEC accused United Brands of bribing
the President of Honduras, Osvaldo Lopez Arellano with $1.25
million, with the promise of another $1.25 million later, in
exchange for a reduction in the export taxes Honduras
committed under the light of UPEB rules. The investigation
also reveals that during Black's presidency United Brands
had bribed European officials for $750,000. The trade of
United Brands stock is halted for almost a week, and some
shareholders bring lawsuits against the company. In the
meantime, the Honduran Army removes the President on
suspicion of participating in the bribe, despite Lopez
allegations of innocence. The scandal also rushes the Costa
Rican President to threaten United Brands with a
cancellation of all contracts if the company did not reveal
all the names of local officials involved in bribes.
Finally, a federal grand jury brings criminal charges
against United Brands in the United States.
May. Wallace Booth, chairman of United Brands Company
succeeds in a series of reforms that include tightening
management control, streamlining banana delivery systems,
and updating meat-packing technology at John Morrell.
The conversion from Gros
Michel to Cavendish is completed in all Latin American
plantations, with the exception of some area in Northern
Ecuador grown for domestic consumption.
Lindner, one of the biggest investors of the company,
becomes the new President.
January. A federal judge grants SEC permanent access to
United Brands records to avoid further violations of the law
from this company.
April. United Brands sells 190 miles of railroad track to
the Honduran government for $0.50 and then leases it back
for $250,000 a year. It also commits itself to the
maintenance and operation of the railroad line.
Brands admits that it had paid a bribe of $2.5 million to
the former Honduran minister of economy, Abraham Bennaton
Ramos. The company is fined with $15,000 and the case is
The United States bans the
use of dibromochloropropane (DBCP) for the effects it has on
human health. DBCP had been developed by Dow Chemical and
Shell Oil as a pesticide to kill nematodes (microscopic
worms that feed on the roots of banana trees). DBCP had used
widely in the Central American plantations since the 1960s
and caused damages in the banana workers' testicles.
Although prohibited in the United States this pesticide
continued being used in the banana-producing countries.
R.J. Reynolds purchases Del
dramatically his stake in the company.
Black Sigatoka begins to
spread from Honduras to all over Central America in this
Strong storms in Panama and
Costa Rica damage the banana crops. United Brands faces this
loss at the same time it was dealing with strong losses of
United Brands loses ground sharing only a third of the
banana market. The other two thirds were in hands of Del
Monte and Standard Fruit.
The Unites States Army invades Grenada.
Lindner takes over as chairman of United Brands. He
transforms the company from its large, diversified
operations into a company with a narrower focus. He works to
With a new team of directors
Lindner doubles the company's cash flow from 1985 to 1988.
Lindner sells some of the company's operations, such as soft
drinks, animal feeds, and international telecommunications.
He moves the company's headquarters from New York to
Lindner widens the use of the name "Chiquita" to other
fruits such as grapefruits and pineapples. He manages to
recapture the first place in banana trade from Dole.
David Murdock buys Castle
and Cook (the owner of Standard Fruit) and re-names the new
company as Dole Corporation. Dole had business in a wide
variety of fruits, vegetables, and elaborated food, besides
workers of John Morrell meat packing houses in the United
States go on strike. The conflict is settled in one year.
Black Sigatoka fungus
The Central American banana growers spend this year $100
million to control Black Sigatoka.
Morrell workers sue the company claiming that they were not
paid for work involving safety equipment that they were
required to perform on their own time. The Labor
Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
levies a fine of $4.3 million.
Lindner decides to change
the name of the company from United Brands Company into
Chiquita Brands International Incorporated. He justified
this by saying that popular name recognition would help the
The United States
Environmental Protection Agency recommends the ban of
Aldicarb, a chemical to control mites and nematodes, in
banana plantations for the bad effects this insecticide had
on people's health. Aldicarb, however, is not banned.
The United States Army invades Panama and arrests President
The collapse of the
Communist regimes in Eastern Europe brings hopes to the
different banana companies of a larger market. Chiquita
begins to invest in buying land again, after a long process
of divestiture that began in the 1950s.
Chiquita recovers the number
one place of the banana companies (33% of the world's market
share), followed by Dole (22%).
Dole reports that 40% of
its food division profits came from banana sales.
United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that
a few bananas imported to the US were tainted with Aldicarb
(a pesticide with proven hazzardous health effects).
Although there were no reports of possible health effects
due to eating bananas with Aldicarb the manufacturer,
Rhone-Poulenc withdraws the product from the market for use
on bananas. Aldicarb had been withdrawn from potatoes
already, but remained in use in citrus, soybeans, coffee
beans, sweet potatoes, sugar beets, pecans, tobacco, cotton,
and alfalfa seeds.
City, Kentucky, celebrates the last International Banana
Festival. The decision to kill the festival was because of a
decreasing interest by the participating countries, the US
government, the banana companies, and the local community.
A Texas court settles out a
multimillion dollar suit filed against several American
companies by thousands of Costa Rican banana workers in the
1980s who claimed that they had been made sterile by
exposure to DBCP, an insecticide.
Facing the possibility of an
international boycott on bananas because of the damage
certain pesticides caused to the workers, the Costa Rican
government and the multinational corporations begin research
on pest-resistant and more enviromentally-friendly banana
varieties. This initiative is promoted by the Banana Amigo
Project and sponsored by the US-based Rainforest Alliance
and the Costa Rican Fundacion Ambio and Tsuli Tsuli/Adubon.
The European Union
establishes a quota system for banana imports giving
preference to those produced in their former colonies in
Africa and the Caribbean. The Latin American growers face
tariffs and no quota in their exports to Europe. The
European Union argues that without this policy the banana
export industry of its former colonies would collapse.
that Chiquita does not have any investment in the the former
European colonies' producing areas, the company accuses the
European Union quota policy as unfair. Senator Robert Dole
says in the U.S. Senate that the European initiative was
going against the most basic rules of free market and
proposed retaliation. During his presidential campaign
against President Bill Clinton, Senator Dole receives a
$155,000 contribution from Chiquita and uses a company's
airplane for his campaign tour around the United States
television show "A Word from Our Sponsor" includes "Chiquita
Banana" among the all-time top-ten advertising jingles.
May: The Cincinnati Enquirer
publishes a series of articles written by Mike Gallagher and
Cameron McWhirter exposing Chiquita's questionable business
practices that included bribery, abusive corporate control
in Honduras and Colombia, the use of harmful pesticides, and
repressive actions against workers. Chiquita's shareholders
sue the company, and Chiquita sues the newspaper claiming
that the reporters illegally obtained voice-mail tapes. The
Enquirer was forced in court to fire the reporters and to
apologyze to Chiquita. The company, however, never
challenged the facts reported by Gallagher and McWhirter.
November: The United States
protests at the World Trade Organization against the new
European policy around bananas, and threatens to slap 100%
tariffs on several European products unless the European
Union stops its preferential treatment for Caribbean,
African, and Pacific producers. The European Union claims
that the American demand does not make sense because its
policies did not affect a single American job. European
Union's trade commissioner, sir Leon Brittan claims that the
sanctions are product of the strong lobby of Chiquita and
November: Hurricane Mitch
destroys 90% of the entire banana industry of Honduras. At
the time, Honduras was the fourth largest banana producer in
the world. Chiquita lays off 7,400 of its workers, but
promises to continue providing the workers with medical
insurance, housing, utility service, two months of financial
assistance, and interest-free loans. Dole contributes with
shipments of food and medicine.
March: Beef joins the banana
war when the European Union bans the imports of genetically
modified beef from the United States. The American
government threatens with more sanctions adding more fire to
an already heated debate. The World Trade Organization finds
the European decision unlawful and sides with the US.
April 7: The World Trade
Organization determines that American commercial interests
had suffered losses of $191.4 million in each of the years
the European Union regime had existed, making a total of $1
billion harm. The European Union refuses to bring its system
into the World Trade Organization conformity and suffers
American retaliation in the form of sanctions against
European businesses directly involved in the banana
In spite of the WTO rule,
the European Union refuses to change the quota system. Sir
Leon Brittan, EU's trade commissioner, insists again that
the whole conflict is orchestrated by Chiquita and Dole who
paid important politicians to lobby on their favor. US Trade
Representative, Charlenne Bershefsky, claims that EU's
policies will hurt poor countries like Honduras or Nicaragua
more than the multinational corporations. Bershefsky says
that the US government is losing its patience and might
impose economic sanctions to Europe.
United States imposes economic sanctions to Europe as part
of the banana war. The sanctions meant heavy tariffs to
luxury goods imported from Europe at the cost of $191.4
April 11: The European Union
and the United States settle their differences and end with
the banana war. United States drops the economic sanctions
and the Europeans drop their first-come-first-served import
system and replace it for a transitional system that will
lead to a tariff-only system in 2006. Under the agreement,
EU import licenses will be allotted based on the way they
were distributed during a 'historical reference period' of
1994-1996. The European Commission will also initiate the
necessary procedures to propose to the EU Council of
Ministers an adjustment to expand access for Latin American
bananas and to secure a market share for a specific quantity
of bananas of ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific) origin.
The final agreement between
the US and the EU is praised by Chiquita who had sued the
European Commission for US$525 million in damages it said it
had suffered due to EU banana restrictions. The agreement,
however, faced the opposition of Ecuador and Dole who saw
this as an arrangement to assure Chiquita a fixed market
share in the protectionist European market. Ecuador
threatens to protest at the World Trade Organization.
March: Chiquita starts
restructuring its debt protected by the US bankruptcy
legislation, permitting it to emerge from Chapter 11.
March: Chiquita sells its
main interests in the US Midwest after selling all its
interests in the Castellini Group.
Chiquita adopts a new code of conduct that follows the
standards required by the Social Accountability
International’s SA8000 labor and human rights standards.
Chiquita has a meeting considered “historic” with members of
the International Labor Federation (ILO) and COLSIBA, a
Latin American-wide banana labor union umbrella. For the
first time in its history, Chiquita sings an agreement with
the labor unions of all its divisions and agrees on
improving workers’ conditions.
Chiquita joins the
Ethical Trading Initiative, an international set of
standards on fair trade and human rights.
The Progressive Investor
names Chiquita one of the top 20 “green stocks” for its
Chiquita acquires the
Atlanta AG Group, a leading banana market company in
Chiquita decides to focus on its fresh fruit market by
selling its processed food divisions to Seneca for $110
million in cash and debt assumption. After this transaction,
fresh produce amounted 98% of all the company’s operations.
Chiquita receives the “Corporate Conscience Award” from
Social Accountability International
Dole Foods acquire the Costa Rican pineapple division of
Maui Land & Pineapple.
David Murdock, Dole’s CEO, acquires Dole and becomes the
company’s sole owner.
Feb. 4: Chiquita announces
its bid to acquire the East Africa Coffee Plantations Co.
May: Chiquita admits that it had paid “protection money” to
different terrorist groups in Colombia, including right-wing
paramilitary groups responsible for several massacres and
murders of union leaders. Thereafter, the US Department of
Justice starts an investigation in this matter.
June: Chiquita stops its
operations in Colombia and withdraws from that country. The
company sells its Colombian division to the local company
Banacol for $52 million. Chiquita says that their withdrawal
is part of its new policy of focusing efforts in African
production. The Colombian unions say that the company’s
policy responds to lower labor costs in Africa and the
European banana policy that favors African producers.
Oct. The European Commission announces an increase of 75
Euros to 230 Euros per ton for bananas imported from places
different from Africa, the Pacific, and the Caribbean (ACP).
The policy is planned to start in January 2006. Chiquita
says this policy puts it at a disadvantage while the ACP
countries propose a higher tax of 354 Euros/ton.
The new European system leads the Latin American producing
countries (Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala,
Honduras and Panama) to request arbitration from the WTO.
Jan.: Chiquita agrees to
acquire Performance Food Group's Fresh Express division for
$855 million and completed the deal in June 2005. Fresh
Express controls 40% of the American packaged salads market.
This operation increases the company’s North American
revenue base from 26% to 44%.
Jan: Chiquita announces that 100% of its Latin American
plantations had been certified by independent auditors to
International Labor Standards and the environmental
standards of Rainforest Alliance.
June: Chiquita accuses itself of violations of the European
quota regime. The company starts and investigation on the
employees involved in the case, avoiding a sue from the
Europeans due to its voluntary acknowledgement of the
problem. Other companies involved included Del Monte and
Jun 10: Wal-Mart, Chiquita’s biggest customer in the United
States, announces a decrease in its banana purchases. This
means a decrease of 33% of Chiquita banana
sales in the U.S. Chiquita blames cheaper bananas from other
Jun 16: Chiquita says that the problems with Wal-Mart were a
result of the extremely low price demands from the retailer.
July: The presidents of the main Latin American banana
producing countries meet in a summit in San Jose (Costa
Rica) to condemn the existing European quota system as
discriminatory and plea for a WTO intervention.
This table was prepared by
Marcelo Bucheli in colaboration with Ian Read. The sources used
can be found in the
Bibliography plus Lisa Mirabile (ed), International Directory of
Company Histories (London: St. James Press, 1990) and John Ingham (ed),
Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1983)
© marcelo bucheli, 2001
© ian read, 2001
contained in this website is absolutely free. However, we request
users to quote this website as their source when using material
©united fruit historical society, 2001-2006
Autobiography of a SPY
Be sure and get to a library and have the librarian locate a book
written by Mary Bancroft. Title: .Autobiography of a Spy 1983 Morrow
Bancroft relates the story of her childhood, her two marriages, her
affair with Allen Dulles, and her work in Switzerland with the Office
of Strategic Services during World War II.
Just a line to get you started: "Two of our Boston friends, Ruth and
Lyman Paine, had moved to New York and gave wonderful parties in their
West Side apartment. We met a lot of their friends, mostly in the
arts. Ruth was a painter. Lyman, an architect, was interested in what
he termed "The Ultimate Reality," which I interpreted as my old
friend, truth. Lyman and I had endless discussions about the ultimate
reality while sipping highballs of bathtub gin and ginger ale that
would have taken the varnish off a table if they had happened to
Mary's first husband was Sherwin Badger who was employed by United
Do some research on the fruit co.. It was owned by John Foster Dulles
brother of Allen Dulles, I'm sure you know who they were. Allen was
CIA Director removed by JFK. Mary also knew Ruth Forbes-
Ruth Paine's mother- Mary said Ruth Forbes was a very good friend of
Mary's son, Sherman, worked for Henry Luce at Life Magazine.
Mary was not only a mistress to Allen Dulles; she was also sleeping
with Henry, husband of Clare Boothe Luce.
Son Sherman Jr. attended Dartmouth University at the same time
that George deMohrenschildt's brother taught Russian and published the
See Columbia University: Oral History of Mary Bancroft, 1972.
Thought you would enjoy!
Would you like to read a poem? Are you out there Ruth?
RUTH AND ROY'S PLACE
The building is the secret- if ya wanna know the truth,
And how they got him in there- ya needa ask Miss Ruth.
The place was full of cub-by-holes and spots where you could hide.
And, you didn't need a stairway- there were many ways outside.
An architect could show you how the dirty deed was done,
And, where man was hiding- the man who shot the gun.
When the policeman came and asked the man to help him find his way,
The guy in charge of everything had only this to say:
"Would you like to see the basement? Or, the stairway would be fun.
The shooter should be out by now- there's no need for us to run."
We know these folks weren't strangers- they knew each other well,
And soon they'll be together to celebrate in HELL.
So , the building is the secret- take a better look.
The secret isn't magic- the answer's in the book.
How 'bout them apples??????????????????????
Allen Dulles knew who Mike Paine was as he (Dulles) was present when
Mike provided his family background. Have you ever seen any evidence
anywhere that Allen Dulles told anyone on the WC staff that he had
From Clark Wilkins, Researcher
United Fruit is a very interesting company. It was actually owned by
the Rockefellers who are cousins of the Dulles family with one of the
Dulles brothers serving as a director of United Fruit. United Fruit
took a huge loss on the stock market when Castro nationalized their
assets in Cuba. It was an enormous financial disaster at the time,
nearly comparable to the ENRON story of today.
Under the Rockefellers and Dulles management, United Fruit was very
friendly towards the CIA as well as several "banana republic"dictators
in Central America. The term "banana republic" refers to United Fruits
major cash crop, bananas. Because bananas quickly spoil, they must be
cut, loaded, transported, and delivered to market in about two weeks
time. If there is any interruption in the delivery process, the
entire crop can spoil and United Fruit would lose a fortune. To make
certain delivery was on time, the dictators of these Central American
countries were put on United Fruit's payroll. They saw to it that the
crops were cut and delivered without any interruption (such as a
strike by the farm workers). So important was speed that United Fruit
often owned its own railroads that carried the crops from the
plantations to the waiting ships. Again, fast ships were required and
there were a number of prestigious ship lines that carried the fruit
to its destination - which was usually New Orleans. Some of the
owners of these ship lines have been mentioned in CT literature.
Once the ships arrived in New Orleans they had to be speedily
unloaded. "Wildcat" strikes by stevedores could not be tolerated.
The bananas could rot in the ships hold in just days and the
stevedores knew this and could easily force a fruit company to cave
into a strike before the cargo spoiled. To prevent "wildcat" strikes,
the fruit companies needed control of the unions and this is where the
Mafia came in, running the longshoremen's union to make sure there
would be no strikes in much the same way that the CIA worked with the
Mafia during WWII to control the waterfronts. Oswald's Uncle Dutz was
involved in the longshoremen's union in New Orleans. Control of the
longshoremen's union extended from beating up the opposition to
"collecting" dues from the union membership. The Mafia's "dues"
collectors were drawn from local boxers. Sylvestor Stallone's
character, Rocky Bilbao, was based on such a collector. Oswald's
uncle Dutz was also a boxer (So was Jack Ruby). The Mafia kept the
ships being unloaded in a timely manner in exchange for "a piece of
the action" of the fruit companies. They became stockholders in the
fruit companies which included Standard Fruit, the company that
initially hired/screened Lee Harvey Oswald for his job at Reily
Coffee. One of the major stockholders in Standard Fruit was the
Vacarro (sp?) family (I can't remember if they were from Sicily or
The president of Standard Fruit also owned most of the boxing gyms
in New Orleans. When the Rockefellers later sold United Fruit, it was
purchased by a suspected Mafia smuggler and, afterwards, Federal
narcotics agencies would attribute United Fruit to the rising
importation of drugs into the US.
The rise of Castro, who nationalized United Fruits holdings in
Cuba, opened the door to possible "copycat" communist revolutions taking
place in other Central American countries and resulting in more losses for
United as well as Standard Fruit. The fruit companies now required the
protection of the US Gov't. This was why the CIA was invited into United
Fruit (The CIA's interest in protecting fruit companies dates back to
their 1954 revolution in Guatemala as well as US Marines in Central
America in the 1930's). To obtain the cooperation of the CIA, the fruit
companies would lobby the US Gov't by making campaign donations and
providing the CIA and State Dept. with "free" intelligence on Central
America. People like Senator Dodd found themselves on the payroll while
others, like William George Gaudet, provided intelligence articles for
lobbying Washington and, in particular, the CIA, on the need to keep
Central America communist free. Gaudet felt he was so close to the CIA he
often described himself as a CIA "agent". Gaudet worked out of the
International Trade Mart in New Orleans which Oswald demonstrated in front
of and from which at least two other companies lobbied Congress and the
CIA. Clay Shaw would run the ITM and use it to provide "conference space"
to Henry Luce's Time-Life which would later buy, and never show, the
Zapruder film (Henry Luce is mentioned in the post below). To fund this
lobbying, the fruit companies used "pretax" dollars - or offshore money
that had yet to reach the US for taxation. They let their "banana
republic" dictators, like Anastasia Somoza, make untaxed donations from
their own treasuries. These donations were illegal and anyone in the US
receiving and distributing these funds was required to register as a
It became important then that the recipient agent of those donations
not be called to testify as to the source of the funds. The agent
selected by Samoza was Dr. Alton Ochsner, his personal physician who
could, under patient client privilege, not be called to testify
against Samoza. Ochsner, along with United Fruit, funded William
Gaudet's intelligence reports being distributed on Capital Hill.
Ochsner also funded Ed Butler's INCA who engaged Oswald in his New
Orleans radio debate. When Oswald appeared on WDSU TV and WDSU Radio,
the managing owner of the station was an INCA member and a director of
the ITM along with an officer of Standard Fruit. Care had to be taken
that agents of Castro did not penetrate this New Orleans operation and
so company employees of Standard and Reily were subjected to
"screening" by a former FBI agent. Such a background check was run on
Lee Harvey Oswald with a falsified result.
So - yes - United Fruit is an interesting company to do
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