The first emotion I feel whenever I hear about the united fruit company is one of disgust; how could a corporation be allowed to be so aggressively expansive and so disrespectful in its treatment of the population it essentially controlled? One of the many monikers for the company was “el pulpo,” or “the octopus,” referencing the way it seemed to have endless grasping arms. A fitting name, if you consider the many ways in which it was able to exert its influence on the region; bullying, manipulation, propaganda campaigns… Even more abhorrent, in my opinion, is the direct US intervention in favour of the foreign multination corporation. As Simon Bolivar wrote in his Letter from Jamaica: “Is it not an outrage and a violation of human rights to expect a land so splendidly endowed, so vast, rich, and populous, to remain merely passive?” While he is referencing another time and place, the sentiment holds true- it was not only unreasonable, but unrighteous to expect Guatemala to not take action against the united fruit and nut company. And yet, when they did, the United States, defender of freedom and liberty for all men, rebuked them in the form of a calculated governmental overthrow. Yes, it is true that the America’s mission was motivated by fears of a communist threat, but that propaganda was in no small part propagated by the united fruit company. In any case, the united states own declaration of independence states that “that [all men] are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness]…[That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” But when the Guatemalan people attempted to do this they were purposefully sabotage by the American government. “All men” includes everyone in the Guatemalan population. Arguments for and against communism aside, it is hard to argue that Guatemala’s pursuit of happiness was not at least a little damaged when their democratically elected president was replaced with an authoritarian, and when their country went from being on progress to become a more modern, liberal society to 36 years of continuous civil war, eventually resulting in the death or disappearance of between 140,000 and 200,000 people, and preventing any chance at social reform. When I think of the United States of America’s legacy in Latin America, that is what comes to mind; exploitation of democracy to serve outside, selfish, or fear driven motives.
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