United Fruit Company
The United Fruit Company was an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit (primarily bananas), grown on Central and South American plantations, and sold in the United States and Europe. The company was formed in 1899, from the merger of Minor C. Keith's banana-trading concerns with Andrew W. Preston's Boston Fruit Company. It flourished in the early and mid-20th century, and it came to control vast territories and transportation networks in Central America, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and the West Indies. Though it competed with the Standard Fruit Company (later Dole Food Company) for dominance in the international banana trade, it maintained a virtual monopoly in certain regions, some of which came to be called banana republics, such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.
United Fruit had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism, and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the banana republics. After a period of financial decline, United Fruit was merged with Eli M. Black's AMK in 1970, to become the United Brands Company. In 1984, Carl Lindner, Jr. transformed United Brands into the present-day Chiquita Brands International.
Corporate history 1
- Early history 1.1
- United Fruit (1899–1970) 1.2
- United Brands (1970–1984) 1.3
- Chiquita Brands International 1.4
- Reputation 2
History in Central America 3
- Environmental Effects 3.1
- Guatemala 3.2
- Cuba 3.3
- Banana massacre 4
- Aiding and Abetting a Terrorist Organization 5
- The Great White Fleet 6
- In popular culture 7
- Footnotes 8
- References 9
- Further reading 10
- External links 11
In 1871, U.S. railroad entrepreneur Henry Meiggs signed a contract with the government of Costa Rica to build a railroad connecting the capital city of San José to the port of Limón in the Caribbean. Meiggs was assisted in the project by his young nephew Minor C. Keith, who took over Meiggs's business concerns in Costa Rica after his death in 1877. Keith began experimenting with the planting of bananas as a cheap source of food for his workers.
When the Costa Rican government defaulted on its payments in 1882, Keith had to borrow £1.2 million from London banks and from private investors in order to continue the difficult engineering project. In exchange for this and for renegotiating Costa Rica's own debt, in 1884, the administration of President Próspero Fernández Oreamuno agreed to give Keith 800,000 acres (3,200 km2) of tax-free land along the railroad, plus a 99-year lease on the operation of the train route. The railroad was completed in 1890, but the flow of passengers proved insufficient to finance Keith's debt. On the other hand, the sale of bananas grown in his lands and transported first by train to Limón, then by ship to the United States, proved very lucrative. Keith eventually came to dominate the banana trade in Central America and along the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
United Fruit (1899–1970)
In 1899, Keith lost $1.5 million when Hoadley and Co., a New York City broker, went bankrupt. He then traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, to participate in the merger of his banana trading company, Tropical Trading and Transport Company, with the rival Boston Fruit Company. Boston Fruit had been established by Lorenzo Dow Baker, a sailor who, in 1870, had bought his first bananas in Jamaica, and by Andrew W. Preston. Preston's lawyer, Bradley Palmer, had devised a scheme for the solution of the participants' cash flow problems and was in the process of implementing it. The merger formed the United Fruit Company, based in Boston, with Preston as president and Keith as vice-president. Palmer became a permanent member of the executive committee and for long periods of time the director. From a business point of view, Bradley Palmer was United Fruit. Preston brought to the partnership his plantations in the West Indies, a fleet of steamships, and his market in the U.S. Northeast. Keith brought his plantations and railroads in Central America and his market in the U.S. South and Southeast. At its founding, United Fruit was capitalized at $11,230,000. The company at Palmer's direction proceeded to buy or buy a share in 14 competitors, assuring them of 80% of the banana import business in the United States, then their main source of income. The company catapulted into financial success. Bradley Palmer overnight became a much-sought-after expert in business law, as well as a wealthy man. He later became a consultant to presidents and an adviser to Congress.
In 1901, the government of Guatemala hired the United Fruit Company to manage the country's postal service and in 1913 the United Fruit Company created the Tropical Radio and Telegraph Company. By 1930 it had absorbed more than 20 rival firms, acquiring a capital of $215,000,000 and becoming the largest employer in Central America. In 1930, Sam Zemurray (nicknamed "Sam the Banana Man") sold his Cuyamel Fruit Company to United Fruit and retired from the fruit business. In 1933, concerned that the company was mismanaged and that its market value had plunged, he staged a hostile takeover. Zemurray moved the company's headquarters to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was based. United Fruit went on to prosper under Zemurray's management; Zemurray resigned as president of the company in 1951.
United Brands (1970–1984)
Corporate raider Eli M. Black bought 733,000 shares of United Fruit in 1968, becoming the company's largest shareholder. In June 1970, Black merged United Fruit with his own public company, AMK (owner of meat packer John Morrell), to create the United Brands Company. United Fruit had far less cash than Black had counted on and Black's mismanagement led to United Brands becoming crippled with debt. The company's losses were exacerbated by Hurricane Fifi in 1974, which destroyed many banana plantations in Honduras. On February 3, 1975, Black committed suicide by jumping out of his office on the 44th floor of the Pan Am Building in New York City. Later that year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission exposed a scheme by United Brands (dubbed Bananagate) to bribe Honduran President Oswaldo López Arellano with $1.25 million, plus the promise of another $1.25 million upon the reduction of certain export taxes. Trading in United Brands stock was halted and López was ousted in a military coup.
Chiquita Brands International
After Black's suicide, Cincinnati-based American Financial Group, one of billionaire Carl Lindner, Jr.'s companies, bought into United Brands. In August 1984, Lindner took control of the company and renamed it Chiquita Brands International. The headquarters was moved to Cincinnati in 1985.
The United Fruit Company was frequently accused of bribing government officials in exchange for preferential treatment, exploiting its workers, paying little by way of taxes to the governments of the countries in which it operated, and working ruthlessly to consolidate monopolies. Latin American journalists sometimes referred to the company as el pulpo ("the octopus"), and leftist parties in Central and South America encouraged the company's workers to strike. Criticism of the United Fruit Company became a staple of the discourse of the communist parties in several Latin American countries, where its activities were often interpreted as illustrating Vladimir Lenin's theory of capitalist imperialism. Major left-wing writers in Latin America, such as Carlos Luis Fallas of Costa Rica, Ramón Amaya Amador of Honduras, Miguel Ángel Asturias and Augusto Monterroso of Guatemala, Gabriel García Márquez of Colombia, Carmen Lyra of Costa Rica, and Pablo Neruda of Chile, denounced the company in their literature.
The business practices of United Fruit were also frequently criticized by journalists, politicians, and artists in the United States. Little Steven released a song called "Bitter Fruit" in 1987 in which lyrics referred to a hard life for a company "far away", and whose accompanying video depicted orange groves worked by peasants overseen by wealthy managers. Although the lyrics and scenery are generic, United Fruit (or its successor Chiquita) was reputed to be the target.
The integrity of John Foster Dulles's "anti-Communist" motives have been discredited, since Dulles and his law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell negotiated the land giveaways to the United Fruit Company in Guatemala and Honduras. John Foster Dulles's brother, Allen Dulles, also did legal work for United Fruit and sat on its board of directors. Allen Dulles was the head of the CIA under Eisenhower. In a flagrant conflict of interest, the Dulles brothers and Sullivan & Cromwell were on the United Fruit payroll for thirty-eight years. Recent research has uncovered the names of multiple other government officials who received benefits from United Fruit:
John Foster Dulles, who represented United Fruit while he was a law partner at Sullivan & Cromwell – he negotiated that crucial United Fruit deal with Guatemalan officials in the 1930s – was Secretary of State under Eisenhower; his brother Allen, who did legal work for the company and sat on its board of directors, was head of the CIA under Eisenhower; Henry Cabot Lodge, who was America's ambassador to the UN, was a large owner of United Fruit stock; Ed Whitman, the United Fruit PR man, was married to Ann Whitman, Dwight Eisenhower's personal secretary. You could not see these connections until you could – and then you could not stop seeing them.
History in Central America
The United Fruit Company (UFCO) owned vast tracts of land in the Caribbean lowlands. It also dominated regional transportation networks through its International Railways of Central America and its Great White Fleet of steamships. In addition, UFCO branched out in 1913 by creating the Tropical Radio and Telegraph Company. UFCO's policies of acquiring tax breaks and other benefits from host governments led to it building enclave economies in the regions, in which a company's investment is largely self-contained for its employees and overseas investors and the benefits of the export earnings are not shared with the host country.
One of the company's primary tactics for maintaining market dominance was to control the distribution of banana lands. UFCO claimed that hurricanes, blight and other natural threats required them to hold extra land or reserve land. In practice, what this meant was that UFCO was able to prevent the government from distributing banana lands to peasants who wanted a share of the banana trade. The fact that the UFCO relied so heavily on manipulation of land use rights in order to maintain their market dominance had a number of long-term consequences for the region. For the company to maintain its unequal land holdings it often required government concessions. And this in turn meant that the company had to be politically involved in the region even though it was an American company. In fact, the heavy-handed involvement of the company in governments which often were or became corrupt created the term "Banana republic" representing a "servile dictatorship". The term "Banana Republic" was coined by American writer O. Henry.
The United Fruit Company's entire process of creating a plantation to farming the banana and the effects of these practices created noticeable environmental degradation when it was a thriving company. Infrastructure built by the company was constructed by clearing out forests, filling in low, swampy areas, and installing sewage, drainage, and water systems. Ecosystems that existed on these lands were destroyed, devastating biodiversity. With a loss in biodiversity, other natural processes within nature necessary for plant and animal survival are shut down .
Techniques used for farming were at fault for loss of biodiversity and harm to the land as well. In order to create farm land, the United Fruit Company would either clear forests (as mentioned) or they would drain marshlands in order to reduce avian habitats and to create "good" soil for banana plant growth. The most common practice in farming was called the "shifting plantation agriculture". This is done by using produced soil fertility and hydrological resources in the most intense manner, then relocating when yields fell and pathogens followed banana plants. Techniques like this destroy land and when the land is unusable for the company, then they move to other regions.
UFCO had a mixed record on promoting the development of the nations in which it operated. In Central America, the Company built extensive railroads and ports and provided employment and transportation. UFCO also created numerous schools for the people who lived and worked on Company land. On the other hand, it allowed vast tracts of land under its ownership to remain uncultivated and, in Guatemala and elsewhere, it discouraged the government from building highways, which would lessen the profitable transportation monopoly of the railroads under its control. UFCO had also destroyed at least one of those railroads upon leaving its area of operation.
In 1954, the democratically elected Guatemalan government of Colonel Central Intelligence Agency (see Operation PBSUCCESS). The directors of United Fruit Company (UFCO) had lobbied to convince the Truman and Eisenhower administrations that Colonel Arbenz intended to align Guatemala with the Soviet Bloc. Besides the disputed issue of Arbenz's allegiance to Communism, UFCO was being threatened by the Arbenz government’s agrarian reform legislation and new Labor Code. UFCO was the largest Guatemalan landowner and employer, and the Arbenz government’s land reform included the expropriation of 40% of UFCO land. U.S. officials had little proof to back their claims of a growing communist threat in Guatemala; however the relationship between the Eisenhower administration and UFCO demonstrated the influence of corporate interest on U.S. foreign policy. United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was an avowed opponent of Communism, whose law firm Sullivan and Cromwell had represented United Fruit. His brother Allen Dulles was the director of the CIA, and a board member of United Fruit. United Fruit Company is the only company known to have a CIA cryptonym. The brother of the Assistant Secretary of State for InterAmerican Affairs John Moors Cabot had once been president of United Fruit. Ed Whitman, who was United Fruit’s principal lobbyist, was married to President Eisenhower's personal secretary, Ann C. Whitman. Many individuals who directly influenced U.S. policy towards Guatemala in the 1950s also had direct ties to UFCO. The overthrow of Arbenz, however, failed to benefit the Company. Its stock market value declined along with its profit margin. The Eisenhower administration proceeded with antitrust action against the company, which forced it to divest in 1958. In 1972, the company sold off the last of their Guatemalan holdings after over a decade of decline.
Even as the Arbenz government was being overthrown, in 1954 a
- United Fruit Historical Society
- "Our Complex History", from the Chiquita Brands International 2000 Corporate Responsibility Report (via Archives.org)
- United Fruit Company Photograph Collection, 1891–1962
- Chiquita Banana Protest Information on the company's corruption
- From Arbenz to Zelaya: Chiquita in Latin America – video report by Democracy Now!
- United Fruit Company Photograph Collection at Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School
- United Fruit Company Photographs at the University of South Florida
- Banana-Express animadoc about interactions between United Fruit Company's railroad in Costa Rica and the country development
- The Fleets—United Fruit Company (TheShipsList)
Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
- McCann, Thomas P (1987). On the Inside. Beverly, MA: Quinlan Press. (1976). An American Company Revised edition of
- McWhirter, Cameron;
- "La United Fruit Co."
- Striffler, Steve (2002). In the Shadows of State and Capital: The United Fruit Company, Popular Struggle, and Agrarian Restructuring in Ecuador, 1900–1995. Durham, NC; London:
- Vandermeer, John; Perfecto, Ivette (2005). Breakfast of Biodiversity. Oakland, CA: Institute of Food and Development Policy.
- Maritime Administration. "Tivives". Ship History Database Vessel Status Card. U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration.
- Bucheli, Marcelo (November 2005). "Banana War Maneuvers".
- Bucheli, Marcelo (2005). Bananas and Business: The United Fruit Company in Colombia: 1899–2000. New York: New York University Press.
- Bucheli, Marcelo; Jones, Geoffrey (2005). "The Octopus and the Generals: the United Fruit Company in Guatemala". Harvard Business School Case (9-805-146).
- Bucheli, Marcelo (Summer 2004). "Enforcing Business Contracts in South America: the United Fruit Company and the Colombian Banana Planters in the Twentieth-Century". Business History Review (The President and Fellows of Harvard College) 78 (2): 181–212.
- Bucheli, Marcelo (2006). "The United Fruit Company in Latin America: Business Strategies in a Changing Environment". In Jones, Geoffrey; Wadhwani, R Daniel. Entrepreneurship and Global Capitalism 2. Cheltenham, England:
- Bucheli, Marcelo; Read, Ian (2006). "Banana Boats and Baby Food: The Banana in US History". In Topik, Steven; Marichal, Carlos; Frank, Zephyr. From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500–2000. Durham, NC:
- Bucheli, Marcelo (2003). "United Fruit Company in Latin America". In Moberg, Mark; Striffler, Steve. Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas. Durham, NC:
- Bucheli, Marcelo (2006) . "United Fruit Company". In Geisst, Charles. Encyclopedia of American Business History. London:
- Bucheli, Marcelo (2004). "United Fruit Company". In McCusker, John. History of World Trade Since 1450. New York:
- Chapman, Peter (2007). Jungle Capitalists.
- Bucheli, Marcelo (July 2008). "Multinational Corporations, Totalitarian Regimes, and Economic Nationalism: United Fruit Company in Central America, 1899–1975". Business History 50 (4): 433–454.
- Bucheli, Marcelo; Kim, Min-Young (July 2012). "Political Institutional Change, Obsolescing Legitimacy, and Multinational Corporations: The Case of the Central America Banana Industry". Management International Review 52 (6): 847–877.
- Bucheli, Marcelo (2005). Bananas and Business: The United Fruit Company in Colombia: 1899–2000. New York: New York University Press.
- Schoultz, Lars (1998). Beneath the United States.
- Stanley, Diane K. (1994). For the Record: The United Fruit Company's Sixty-six Years in Guatemala. Guatemala City: Editorial Antigua.
- Opie, Frederick Douglass (July 2009). Black Labor Migration in Caribbean Guatemala, 1882–1923. Florida Work in the Americas.
- "Minor Cooper Keith (1848–1929)". United Fruit Historical Society. 2001.
- Cohen, Rich (June 6, 2012). "The Birth of America’s Banana King: An excerpt from Rich Cohen’s The Fish That Ate the Whale".
- "Samuel Zemurray (1877–1961)". United Fruit Historical Society. 2001.
- "Little Stephen – Bitter Fruit". YouTube. Archived from the original (video) on October 19, 2013.
- Cohen, Rich (2012). The Fish that Ate the Whale. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. p. 186.
- Ayala, Cesar J (1999). American Sugar Kingdom. Chapel Hill, NC:
- Frasinetti, Antonio M (1978). Enclave y sociedad en Honduras (in Spanish). Tegulcigalpa.
- MacLean, Malcolm D (1968). "O. Henry in Honduras". American Literary Realism, 1870–1910 1/3. pp. 36–46.
- Tucker, Richard P. (2000). Insatiable Appetite: The United States and the Ecological Degradation of the Tropical World. University of California. pp. 43–78.
- Putnam, Lara (2002). The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa, 1870-1960. pp. 35–111.
- Chapman, Peter (2007). Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World.
- Schoultz 1998, p. 343.
- Schoultz 1998, p. 340.
- Schoultz 1998, p. 337.
- Schoultz 1998, p. 342.
- Schoultz 1998, p. 338.
- Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the USA, episode 6 after 6 minutes and 38 seconds: "[...]Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, in an embarrassing prequel to Colin Powell's performance at the UN over Iraq in 2003, showed a photograph of a plane supposedly flown by a Cuban defector, but quickly exposed as belonging to the CIA. The assault has begun on the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Almost 1600 Cuban exiles arrived at the Bay of Pigs in 7 ships, 2 of them owned by United Fruit.[...]"
- US Bogotá Embassy (5 December 1928). "Telegram from US Bogotá Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated December 5, 1928". icdc.com. Colombia. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
- US Bogotá Embassy (7 December 1928). "Telegram from US Bogotá Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated December 7, 1928". icdc.com. Colombia. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
- US Bogotá Embassy (29 December 1928). "Dispatch from US Bogotá Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated December 29, 1928". icdc.com. Colombia. Archived from the original on 26 July 2002. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
- US Bogotá Embassy (16 January 1929). "Dispatch from US Bogotá Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated January 16, 1929". icdc.com. Colombia. Archived from the original on 6 June 2002. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
- Carl, Robert, Capt. USNR (December 1976). "The Banana Navy".
- TivivesMARAD Vessel Status Card: .
- "SS Tivives (+1943)". Wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
- Silverstone, Paul H (1968). US Warships of World War II. New York:
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- In 1950 Gore Vidal published a novel Dark Green, Bright Red, in which a thinly fictionalized version of United Fruit supports a military coup in a thinly fictionalized Guatemala.
- The United Fruit Company is satirised in the Tropico series of videogames as Fruitas Ltd. The Tropico games focus on tropical economies and banana republics, Fruitas plays a similar role in many campaign missions as United Fruit did in many Latin American countries.
- The company plays a main part in the novel Das grüne Ungeheuer published in 1959 by East German author Wolfgang Schreyer as the "Green Monster".
In popular culture
- Admiral Dewey, Admiral Schley, Admiral Sampson and Admiral Farragut (1899) were United States Navy vessels declared surplus after the Spanish–American War. Each carried 53 passengers and 35,000 bunches of bananas.
- Venus (1903) United Fruit Company's first refrigerated banana ship
- San Jose, Limon and Esparta (1904) first banana reefers built to United Fruit design. San Jose and Esparta were sunk by U-boats in World War II.
- Atenas (1909) class of 13 5,000-ton banana reefers built in Ireland
- Tivives (1911) 4,596 GRT fruit carrier built by Workman, Clark & Company of Belfast, changed from British to United States registry 1914 when war broke out in Europe, served briefly as commissioned transport for U.S. Navy in World War I, and was again in service for World War II under U.S. Army charter then as War Shipping Administration transport. Torpedoed and sunk October 21, 1943 by German aircraft off Algeria in Convoy MKS-28.
- Pastores (1912) 7241-ton cruise liner became USS Pastores (AF-16)
- Calamares (1913) 7,622-ton banana reefer became USS Calamares (AF-18)
- Toloa (1917) 6,494-ton banana reefer
- Ulua (1917) 6,494-ton banana reefer became USS Octans (AF-26)
- San Benito (1921) 3,724-ton turbo-electric banana reefer became USS Taurus (AF-25)
- Mayari and Choluteca (1921) 3,724-ton banana reefers
- La Playa (1923) banana reefer
- La Marea (1924) 3,689-ton diesel-electric banana reefer became Darien 4,281-ton turbo-electric banana reefer in about 1929–31
- Telda, Iriona, Castilla and Tela (1927) banana reefers
- Aztec (1929) banana reefer
- Platano and Musa (1930) turbo-electric banana reefers
- Chiriqui (1932) 6,963-ton turbo-electric passenger and cargo liner became USS Tarazed (AF-13)
- Jamaica (1932) 6,968-ton turbo-electric passenger and cargo liner became USS Ariel (AF-22)
- Veraqua (1932) 6,982-ton turbo-electric passenger and cargo liner became USS Merak (AF-21)
- Talamanca (1932) 6,963-ton turbo-electric passenger and cargo liner became USS Talamanca (AF-15)
- Quiriqua (1932) 6,982-ton turbo-electric passenger and cargo liner became USS Mizar (AF-12)
- SS Antigua (1932) Turbo-electric passenger and cargo liner providing two-week cruises of Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia, Honduras and the Panama Canal Zone.
- Oratava (1936) banana reefer
- Comayagua, Junior, Metapan, Yaque and Fra Berlanga (1946) banana reefers
- Manaqui (1946) bulk sugar ship
The Great White Fleet
Despite calls from Colombian authorities and human rights organizations to extradite the U.S Citizens responsible for war crimes and aiding a terrorist organization, the U.S. Department of Justice has refused to grant the request citing 'conflicts of law'. As with other high profile cases involving wrongdoing by American companies abroad, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Justice are very careful to hand over any American citizen to be tried under another country's legal system, so for the time being Chiquita Brands International avoided a catastrophic scandal, and instead walked away with a humiliating defeat in court and eight of its employees fired.
This most recent episode in the history of what used to be the United Fruit Company highlights the staying power and influence of large international agricultural monopolies in the governance and politics of a small developing nation. As seen elsewhere in Central and South America, American business interests have swayed enough power to determine the outcome of presidential elections, regional elections, even how the country's laws are enforced and against whom. In this latest federal trial Chiquita Brands admitted to paying AUC operatives to silence union organizers, to intimidate farmers into selling only to Chiquita Brands, and even providing weapons (3,000 AK 47's) to this terrorist organization in order to carry out their objectives. On the plea agreement, Chiquita Brands were allowed to keep secret the names of the U.S Citizens who brokered this agreement with the AUC, by the Colombian Government, in exchange for relief to 390 families.
 In March 2007 Chiquita Brands pleaded guilty in a United States Federal court to aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, when it admitted to the payment of more than $1.7 million to the
Aiding and Abetting a Terrorist Organization
The Banana massacre is said to be one of the main events that preceded the Bogotazo, the subsequent era of violence known as La Violencia, and the guerrillas who developed in the bipartisan National Front period, creating the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia.
The Dispatch from U.S. Bogotá Embassy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated January 16, 1929, stated: "I have the honor to report that the Bogotá representative of the United Fruit Company told me yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military exceeded one thousand."
The Dispatch from U.S. Bogotá Embassy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated December 29, 1928, stated: "I have the honor to report that the legal advisor of the United Fruit Company here in Bogotá stated yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military authorities during the recent disturbance reached between five and six hundred; while the number of soldiers killed was one."
The telegram from Bogotá Embassy to Secretary of State, date December 7, 1928, stated: "Situation outside Santa Marta City unquestionably very serious: outside zone is in revolt; military who have orders 'not to spare ammunition' have already killed and wounded about fifty strikers. Government now talks of general offensive against strikers as soon as all troopships now on the way arrive early next week."
The telegram from Bogotá Embassy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated December 5, 1928, stated: "I have been following Santa Marta fruit strike through United Fruit Company representative here; also through Minister of Foreign Affairs who on Saturday told me government would send additional troops and would arrest all strike leaders and transport them to prison at Cartagena; that government would give adequate protection to American interests involved."
General Cortés Vargas, who issued the order to shoot, argued later that he had issued the order because he had information that US boats were poised to land troops on Colombian coasts to defend American personnel and the interests of the United Fruit Company. Vargas issued the order so the United States would not invade Colombia. This position was strongly criticized in the Senate, especially by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who argued that those same bullets should have been used to stop the foreign invader.
One of the most notorious strikes by United Fruit workers broke out on 12 November 1928 on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, near President Miguel Abadía Méndez's Conservative Party being voted out of office in 1930, putting an end to 44 years of Conservative rule in Colombia. The first novel of Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, La Casa Grande, focuses on this event, and the author himself grew up in close proximity to the incident. The climax of García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is based on the events in Ciénaga.
Company holdings in Cuba, which included sugar mills in the Oriente region of the island, were expropriated by the 1959 revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro. By April 1960 Castro was accusing the company of aiding Cuban exiles and supporters of former leader Fulgencio Batista in initiating a seaborne invasion of Cuba directed from the United States. Castro warned the U.S. that "Cuba is not another Guatemala" in one of many combative diplomatic exchanges before the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961.Cuba