Just up the street from the Carolina Panthers football stadium where they’re playing today here in Charlotte is the new headquarters of Chiquita Brands, the huge fruit company. Just up the road from us in Davidson, NC today is the final round of the Chiquita Golf Classic. This time 60 years ago in Central America a plot was being hatched that would forever, indelibly rebrand this company as complicit in a grave injustice.
In the early 1950’s the duly elected president of Guatemala was Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. He didn’t like the idea too much that 42% of the arable land in his country was out of production and off limits to indigenous farmers because it was owned by the United Fruit Company. Arbenz created a law, Decree 900, that gave farmers access to that land. That in turn pissed off United Fruit, but more importantly their private army known as the CIA.
Within 2 years of Decree 900, Arbenz was forced out and military dictators began a 40+ year ruthless, bloody rule. The misery unleashed, in large part, by the illegal and immoral overthrow of a foreign government by the U.S. government is well documented. When I visited there in the early 1980’s the military junta had recently been named the most repressive in the Americas. Quite a distinction in that cast of character!
So what did United Fruit Company do to clean its hands after their very dirty role in all this? They rebranded themselves into bright, sunny, smiling, squeaky clean Chiquita seen above. Gradually, over time, the world forgets these small atrocities, but they continue unabated as we speak today, all over the world. Let’s end with this quote:
William Blum, in Killing Hope
… the educated, urbane men of the State Department, the CIA, and the United Fruit Company, the pipe-smoking men of Princeton, Harvard, and Wall Street, decided that the illiterate peasants of Guatemala did not deserve the land which had been given to them, that the workers did not need their unions, that hunger and torture were a small price to
pay for being rid of the scourge of Communism.