In 1934, under Jorge Ubico Casteñada, a vagrancy law was commissioned in Guatemala forcing 150 eight hour days of farming on all workers as a minimum. It provided seemingly endless labor to enrich American landowners and started something in Guatemala similar to sharecropping, with the farmers making the minimum profit and landowners getting rich. At this point, United Fruit began to climb to it’s peak.
In 1947, United Fruit split into many smaller corporations including Chiquita (Which stayed in Guatemala.) and Dole, with hopes of expansion, and resolving some issues over power within the corporation.
In 1952 , under a new President, Jacobo Arbenz, the Agrarian law reform was commissioned, distributing land to the poor. The Vagrancy law was smashed. Arbenz became a figure similar to the Hong-Wu of Latin America, favoring and assisting the farming class rather than the wealthy elite.
In 1954 Chiquita and Eisenhower, the US president (who wanted the US to retain control over the Guatemalan banana industry with his use of rich tycoon owners) retaliated with the “people’s liberation army” a Guatemalan militia supported behind the scenes by the CIA, and led by an undercover former US colonel who happened to be of Latin American descent. It restrained Arbenz’s thinking, who soon resigned. Guatemala soon returned to an oppressive state under corporate control. The vagrancy law was reinstated, and the people were forced to work again. Although they only had to work under the law 150 days a year, they were making little if not any money and had to spend the rest of the year working to make up for the time lost farming. 25,000 people depended on bananas for income, but all profits went to rich American corporate honchos- robber barons. For a long time, Guatemalan laborers fell silent.
In 1998, as soon as everyone had forgotten about Chiquita, a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer, published an article titled “Chiquita Secrets Revealed”, bringing Chiquita’s questionable history with taxes and government officials under the spotlight, not only in Guatemala, but in Honduras too. He exposed 3 ringleaders, nameless monkeys in suits. They were in charge of Chiquita which denied all the allegations presented, claiming that none of them were even realistic. Photographic evidence, text messages, and phone recordings were brought fourth, and one of the monkeys was subtly discharged.
Finally, in 2001 , an agreement was signed between Chiquita’s unions and Chiquita promoting equal labor rights, but many violations have been reported.
In March 2008 the head of a banana farming labor union, Marco Portela, was assassinated, his body found in the street, 4 weeks after his daughter was raped by armed men, and about 5 weeks after he insulted the rights of American corporations in Guatemala.
To this day, Chiquita has not shut up every whistle blower; Mike Gallagher is still alive, and Marco Portela didn’t just disappear quietly. In addition, Chiquita now has over 36,000 employees (receiving something like ¼ of the profit) and operates in 40 countries. Just imagine how many officials may still be bribed so that taxes and people disappear. The banana unions have recently gone so far to request UN intervention, which was denied.
Last January, yet another agreement was signed allowing workers to stay at the table; they have no where else to go, and Chiquita knows it. Their only remaining bargaining chip is the fact that they are competent workers. Today, Chiquita is not only maximizing profit in Guatemala, but minimizing pleasure and creativity hours. It is forcing Guatemala into a hole of corporate oppression, restraining the nation’s expansion in all areas as the citizens are devoting their lives to putting food on the table. Every Chiquita banana purchased fuels this machine, and it is our responsibility as global citizens to let it run out of gas, to dismantle this oppression.