Why do we fight?
This writing will weave some personal experiences through the story and modern history of Latin America. Then we will look at Cuba, where a former DIA analyst Ana Belén Montes was imprisoned for 20 years because she shared intelligence with Cuba, and recently received her freedom. We will take a look at why she did that, in a current exemplar of the brutal exploitation of Latin America, after it was exploited by the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores.
During the 1990s, my company did an information technology project in the Caribbean and Latin America. The purpose of this project was to bring information systems up to modern standards, in order to be able to export, as a group, a bloc, organic produce. It was longer term, as workers had to be educated and trained on new systems right through the bloc or group, and this included the full Monti, all business and production processes. The base knowledge of the workers and users was very low but eventually, the project was successfully completed. *We will pick up at this point a little later.
During this time I re-educated myself on the Monroe Doctrine as I visited those areas where the United Fruit Company (chronology) ruled the roosts and obtained their fruit and produce by exploiting local landowners and smaller fruit exporting companies, as well as bringing in the US military where-ever one of these countries showed displeasure as to their tactics. If that did not work and the death rate became too high, there was a coup d’état quickly arranged, and another paid strongman was installed. It was a free for all as the military came in as the muscle to enforce the United Fruit Company and the locals were simply deprived of any business. This included Guatemala, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Honduras, and smaller islands such as the Dominican Republic. This has never stopped in Haiti. In fact, I cannot think of any one country that was excluded. The hatred of Cuba is explained because eventually through revolution, and tossing out the United Fruit Company, Cuba threw off the yoke of imperialism. The story of the United Fruit Company is the modern story of Latin America. And then, we are not touching the mining companies.
(Keep the chronology handy as you will need it while reading. It starts in 1848 and is not complete yet. The story of Why We Fight is long and a single article cannot refer to everything in the almost 200 years post-conquistador era, of the fight in LatAm and we can only hope to touch on the processes and the main events. Kindly read the chronology for much more detail.)
Reading through the chronology of the United Fruit Company, and knowing the Monroe doctrine, it is very clear why the USA controlled the Latin Americas. And it was not only business. It was business directly and openly supported by its military. And it was not only that, it was a series of installing strongmen, referred to as “oligarchic elites” as leaders of countries so that those paid strongmen could fulfill the function of local control. The USA installed brutal mob leaders. In addition, while there is not as much overt racism, there is a classism. The families of the old conquistadors still consider themselves above the indigenous and native populations. Yes, it was the backyard of the US who literally employed the equivalent of an erstwhile mob as enforcers. Refer Guido – that was the playbook but time had moved on and countries have built a resistance to these cheap old strongmen, coups, and similar tactics. These days it is special forces and alphabet agencies that are the enforcers. And if the special forces and alphabet agencies cannot keep countries in total submission, most readers here would have read the John Perkins book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, which says it all in terms of the tactics of forcing odious debt on Latin American countries with no import substitution methods allowed. It is here that we refer to Argentina, having been given the largest loan in the history of the IMF. From memory, something like 50 Billion dollars. A debt that cannot be paid. These days it is not only the fruit route of exploitation but any money made via any other means is exploited via the enforcement of odious debt.
The history of this Continent does not stand alone from the history of the United Fruit Company. It is one history. The violence, poverty, and inability of countries to produce agency and strength internally are fully entwined with USAmerican business and military, and economic policies. Yet, we have to read scholarly pablum talking about violence and elites, without one word said about who is the instigator and why the violence is instigated. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/101622/1/Pearce_elites_and_violence_in_latin_america_published.pdf
It is the young men they say. But young men deprived of agency will go their own way, and will be sold to the highest bidder. This is a design, and not an error or a bug.
In 1870 Captain 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 in Boston.
A series of brilliant marketing moves followed in the USA. United Fruit subsidiary Fruit Dispatch Company published 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. Dr. Sidney Haas talks it up 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.
April 1899 saw the incorporation of the United Fruit Company who then acquires seven independent companies that have been operating in Honduras.
Yes, we have no bananas! became a children’s song. The American people wanted their produce and never asked what was involved in the supply chain. They eat their vegetables on the backs and sometimes the lives of others, innocently and unknowingly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cqj2cM_2CU
In the mean time, the The United States Army intervenes in Honduras during elections and in 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 Salvador.
Worker’s unions or any worker’s rights were not allowed. The 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.
We still hear the story from the USAmericans that ‘things are communistic’. Nothing has changed on that level. Up to today very few USAmerican people actually ask how the business is done. They are only interested in their rights and they have a right to good produce from their backyard. Catherine Austin Fitts says that USAmericans only want to be told that ‘they are good’ and ‘where is my check?. (Read her Red Button Story).
To be true, people eventually started asking questions only to immediately be romanced by wonderful songs such as the Banana Boat Song (Bellafonte and The Tarriers). The backbreaking piece-work of the pickers and packers were made into popular songs of the era. United 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 advertisement campaign the company was preparing for when the 2nd WW 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.
From mid 1945 and throughout the 1950’s strikes and demands from the agricultural workers increased in all the countries and not even strongmen could keep the peace any longer.
In 1950, 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.” A month later the communist party in Chile falsely imprints the book and publishes a clandestine first Chilean edition of Neruda’s stunning epic poem. Neruda had officially joined the Communist Party of Chile in 1945 and served as campaign manager for the radical party’s presidential candidate Gabriel Gonzalez Videal in 1946. Once in office, Gonzalez Videla turned against the Communist Party and Neruda was forced into hiding and later exile in Buenos Aires to avoid arrest. “Canto General” (“General Song”) consists of 15 sections, 231 poems, and more than 15,000 lines. It is the stunning epic of an entire continent and its people. The Canto speaks of the destiny of Latin American peoples and the life of the poet himself. Without question, this is one of the most important and powerful long poems written in the previous century. “Neruda was a kind of King Midas. Everything he touched turned to poetry,” says Gabriel García Márquez, who also considers the Chilean Nobel laureate “the greatest poet of the twentieth century, in any language.”.
An English translation of one poem:
United Fruit Co.
When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca‐Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.
It rebaptized these countries
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.
With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.
Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.
Fidel Castro begins his agrarian reform and seizes the sugar properties of United Fruit in that country during 1959 and court cases start against The United Fruit company, which was then bought out or restructured in some way or another, benefitting Big Ag’s such as Dole and Chiquita and Del Monte over a period of years.
The capstone of this era, was the Allende Years and the Pinochet Coup, 1969–1973. Relations between the United States and Chile deteriorated in the 1960s due to U.S. concerns regarding the Chilean Left and the rise of Chilean nationalization of certain industries, especially copper. The Alliance for Progress, signed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, was designed to prevent the spread of socialism throughout the hemisphere. These brutal overthrows leave social generational scars on a population. It is only with its previous election that Chile is trying to become an independent country again, but they are struggling on this road and there is much social discord and strife and strikes.
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 housewife.
And forward … 2004 …
Feb.: 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 into 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 on 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.
Slowly we see the region making progress. It is one step forward and one step back because these countries are smashed down with coups on a whim of the USA.
* Picking up on my project. I looked forward to the project, as I expected to see progress from those old days of the United Fruit Company and I knew we could install a new knowledge base so that people and workers could depend on their new knowledge economy and thrive.
To my very surprise, things had remained more or less the same. Business was focused on exploiting agri-workers, poisonous substances were enforced, and workers without any protective clothing were responsible for it, and well, who really cared if that fruit ended up in the packaging on the boat organic or not? I was flabbergasted but met with this journalist who knew the scene. So, I said to him I’ll supply the information (the dirt) and asked if he would write it up. He said .. No Way José! Both of us will be dead in a very short period of time.
This almost came true for a friend of ours. He knew the industry and how it worked, and he tried very hard to establish a small new produce delivery route to New York, based on fair treatment to the growers and producers. He had organic buyers, finance in place and a supply chain organized. When his first shipment arrived at New York harbor to go to the market, the big Ags dropped their prices to below his purchase price of the produce. They broke the market and could keep it up indefinitely. Up to today, we do not know how they even knew, and to be true, this level of business was in no way a threat to Big Ag. It was too small and too boutique.
Let’s use Cuba for further detail and color.
Cuba suffered fiercely, but remained free of hegemonic control for 60 years now, as best they can. Partly because of brave people and one of those is Ana Belén Montes.
Ana was arrested in 2002 for giving secret information to Cuba, in order to help it protect itself against US destabilization. At her trial in 2002, Ana Belén Montes said: “I obeyed my conscience rather than the law… giving [Cuba] classified info to help it defend itself” “Our government’s policy towards Cuba is cruel… I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself.”
And this is only little Cuba. Now add in all the other countries where the policy is clearly cruel over a period of +- 200 years.
The video below, from Ben Norton is perhaps the clearest explanation of the USAmerican imperial nature. Its hatred never stops. It is not only appointing local strongmen or mob, it is not only suppressing business for anyone else, it is not only creating one coup after another, but it is also the clear wish to create a systematic process of denying money and supplies, decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and the overthrow of the government. This is only 60 years of the Cuba story. Ben Norton talks about this but this is what it looks like in written words.
Why do we fight? We fight because we do not want any more false flags, coups, or disrespect for humanity and life. We do not want to live with more lies, we want to be free of war in order to participate in a productive, healthy, and happy existence. We fight because we are not, I repeat not, uncivilized and barbaric like the imperial master.
So, you may ask, what happened to my project? Well, it started humming and shortly thereafter was sold to a mega Big Ag. One cannot win for losing.
I’ve seen lots of comments that readers do not really understand what is happening in Latin America. I hope now that you understand better.