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Although Rockefeller is best remembered for his oil money and his political family – his grandson was Vice President, he had interests in other monopolies too, copper, tobacco and perhaps least recalled – bananas.

He was the money in The United Fruit Company which appeared on the surface to be a fairly anodyne, if not stultifying boring firm engaged in trying to persuade the children of 50’s America in the health giving properties of milk and bananas.  Not exactly world shaking stuff.

Unless you had the misfortune to live in Central America.

The United Fruit Company had plantations in Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Santo Dominica and most infamously Guatemala.  A number of these states have had problematic relations with the USA ever since.  At the height of its powers The United Fruit Company owned a staggering 42% of the entire country of Guatemala and paid not one cent in tax on any of it.

The company also owned the railways, the telephone system, the ports and a large fleet of ships build by some of the finest shipyards in the world.

Not unsurprisingly the people of Guatemala took against this foreign domination, and when offered the opportunity in an election in 1951 to voice an opinion – voted in their droves for Jacobo Arbenz.  Arbenz had suggested the not overly revolutionary idea of buying out some of the lands that the Company was not actually using so that landless people might grow food to eat.  It wasn’t even appropriation.  Arbenz said he would pay them the agreed value The United Fruit Company stated on their own returns.  Cute!  I mean an American company would never ever undervalue its own assets for tax purposes now would it?

The company took umbrage at the utter impertinence of this jumped up peon and aided a coup of disaffected Guatemalan army officers who invaded from Honduras with covert assistance from the CIA in an operation known as PBSUCCESS.  They had persuaded Truman and Eisenhower that Arbenz was going to take the country over to the dark side and ally the country to the USSR.

So, who were these business men?  Well at the time of the Guatemalan coup we find the following closely connected with the board of United Fruit.

John Foster Dulles and the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, had been legal council for the UFC for decades and John Foster Dulles was also a major shareholder in UFC.  And at the time John Foster Dulles was also the Secretary of State under President Dwight D Eisenhower.  Dulles’s grandfather had also been Secretary’s of State in the time of President Ben Harrison.

Allen W Dulles the brother of John Foster Dulles was also a major shareholder of the company and whiled away his empty hours being the Director of the CIA.

General Robert Carter, head of the National Security Council was a former Chairman of the Board of United Fruit.

Thomas G Corcorran, everyone’s “Mr Fixit” – an appalling man whose biography would be a true adventure story- and who was often accused of corrupt behaviour back home, worked for the CIA was a paid consultant for United Fruit.

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge jun. was the son of the Henry Cabot Lodge who had so hated the League of Nations.  His family went as far back as President Adams.

Ann Whitman the wife of Edmund Whitman, United Fruit Company’s publicity director was President Eisenhower’s personal secretary.

John Moor Cabot of the same ancient group of Bostonian families that the Dulles’s and the Cabot-Lodges came from, was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter American Affairs and was also a major shareholder in United Fruit.  And his brother Thomas Dudley Cabot was a Director of International Security in the State Department who had been -hold on now- a President of United Fruit.

John McCoy the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was a former member of the Board.

Walter Bedell Smith the Director of the CIA until 1953, and Robert Hill an Undersecretary of State, were both given seats on the board when they retired.

A luminary group of men in any context – but all this for a firm selling bananas?

Well no of course not.

The oligarchy had long seen that the route to Political power is having a steady stream of money and made certain that they stood with feet in both camps or had trusted and able members in the money side.  Foreign arenas where trust controls were weak appealed.  And if the locals objected, then any old tarrydiddle could be invented as an excuse for the oligarchy to wield the might of the United States into supporting these foreign adventures.  By 1953 the oligarchy had managed to control entire countries.  In Guatemala the American Financial and Commercial interests had tried to swallow a country whole.

Could never happen now could it?

Copyright David Macadam 2010

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