Going Bananas Over Land Ownership

In order to grow a lot of bananas, companies need a lot of land.

Their methods of attaining said land vary, but inevitably it is impossible to have a large banana plantation and a local community of land owners.

Sometimes the companies build entire villages for the purpose of growing bananas. As it is on many plantations in the world, when the company decides to pick up and move, or when it fires workers, the people living in the village are no longer able to stay on the plantation’s land, not even the small shopkeepers.

In fact, in most cases, when the company leaves, they demolish the town completely.

More often, companies use their lobbying power, subcontractors, political ties and large amounts of money to pressure people to leave their land. For most families, leaving is harder than it might sound. Their lives are tied to the soil of their region, and they know everything about raising food there. It is the home of their ancestors, their friends and families. To move means to relearn how to live.

In Colombia, and no doubt in other countries, the issue of banana land has become fatal. Banana companies have admitted to paying leftist guerrilla groups to kill land squatters who were taking up space needed for the plantations.

In case you’re not familiar with leftist guerrilla groups, they do not ask kindly first. They dragged the heads of household out into the yard and killed them in front of their families. It is what guerrillas do.

Just to make matters worse, the banana companies paid one group in particular: FARC – a terrorist organization known for the persecution of Christians in Colombia – who then used the money to kill missionaries.

It is no surprise that such corruption breeds refugees. The question becomes how an American company is allowed to do such terrible things to people who, before they showed up, were just minding their own business growing a garden and trying hard to make enough money to send their children to school.

It could be the political power the banana lobbies have in the United States. It could be the tremendous amounts of money involved.

Call me an optimist, but the answer just might be that they won’t be allowed to continue this kind of behavior for much longer.

Banana countries that allowed Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, etc., to use their land are growing up and refusing to be silent for much longer. Many suits have already been filed, some to no avail. But some have had success. There has been talk of extradition of executives to the banana countries (something that will most likely never happen), and of mass civil cases being filed in the United States against the companies (much more likely).

But whatever the method of bringing banana crimes to justice, we can expect a lot more to come.

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