Saturday, July 28, 2007

North American Media outlets have a tendency to ignore the goings on in Latin America. Other then the occasional story about border crossers or the always dramatic and sexy drug trade wars little well researched articles come from the various Latin America Bureaus. Often when articles do appear they are decontextualized and lack the critical analysis that allows the reader to understand and appreciate the sinister role of US foreign policy in this region of the world.

One such example is the ongoing controversy implicating Chiquita banana with "terrorists" groups in war torn Columbia. While the article does an excellent job of drawing out the history and scope of Chiquita paying right wing paramilitary group Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) for "protection" it overlooks the political subtext behind who was being killed. Local human rights organization have know for years that the AUC has been identifying labor organizers who for decades have tried to organize the workers of the banana plantations. Chiquita claims that they were unaware of this particular political aspect. They reiterate that they were only paying the AUC so that they would not harm their workers. Observations from the ground as reported by groups such as Human Rights Watch argue that Chiquita was complicit in the murders happening on their behalf. In essence the AUC served as hired thugs to keep workers inline, keep labor costs minimal and continue to line the pockets of Chiquita executives. Basically, Columbia is out of control and Chiquita recklessly handing over millions of dollars helps to exacerbate the devastation inflicted upon workers receiving poverty wages.

Chiquita itself and other fruit companies such as its predecessor United Fruit Company have a long and uneasy history in Latin America. United Fruit Company was directly involved in the overthrow of Democratically Elected President of Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz in the 1940's. Arbenz was attempting to expropriate land to benefit poor Guatemalans and also developed the political space for labor unions to proliferate and grow in strength. As a result of the coup thousands were detained and killed in order to sustain subsequent dictatorships.

This is my first blog. More to come!!! I promise to be more coherent!!

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