The Banana File Part VI : Bananas and Politics

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed; Politics & History; “About the EU tour
that this minister in Panama wants to take is just highly dangerous
. . “And I was saying that we should, if we could politely do it
without ruffling too many feathers, get that minister’s trip
cancelled. So that would be exactly my program.” – Keith Lindner,
Chiquita vice chairman, on canceling the trip of Panamanian foreign
minister; Contributions buy influence

Publication: Cincinnati Enquirer
Date: May 3, 1998

Carl Lindner is well known in this town as a big contributor to both
Democrats and Republicans.

What is he getting for his money?

Mr. Lindner, chairman of the board and CEO of Chiquita Brands
International Inc., is buying the power of the White House and
Capitol Hill, according to advocates of campaign finance reform and
opponents of Chiquita’s trade battles with Europe.

“Although he has given more to Republicans, he has also been a
double giver. And double giving is the clearest evidence that this
money is not about elections, it’s about buying influence,” said Ann
McBride, president of Common Cause, the non-profit group leading
the campaign for finance reform. “The way Carl Lindner has given has
been to give to both parties so that no matter who wins, he’ll have
a place at the table.”

Mr. Lindner, a registered Republican who has spent at least two
nights at the Clinton White House, certainly has a place at the
table of the Democratic administration as well as both sides of the
aisle in Congress.

Mr. Lindner has made large contributions – totaling millions of
dollars – to Republican and Democratic candidates over the years.
But that largesse has come under scrutiny since 1993 when the
European Union established trade preferences limiting how many
bananas Chiquita could bring to Europe. Chiquita began asking the
White House to intervene while also making large donations to the
Democratic Party.

In 1995, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office of the White House
took the company’s cause to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the
first case by the United States brought before the newly created
international body.

The U.S. decision to take up an international case on behalf of one
multinational company contributed to the recent debate about
campaign finance reform.

Dole and Del Monte, the two other large U.S. banana producers, did
not file requests with the White House. Dole proposed a compromise
in 1995 to avert the WTO action, but it was turned down.

Mr. Lindner and other Chiquita officials declined repeated requests
to meet with the Enquirer to discuss campaign contributions or any
other subject. Through attorneys hired to deal with the Enquirer,
Chiquita issued the following written statement:

“Neither Carl Lindner Jr. nor any other Chiquita, United Brands, or
American Financial official has ever asked for or received any
promises in return for political contributions related to the WTO
(World Trade Organization) proceeding or any other matter, nor have
any such promises or quid pro quos (things given in exchange for
something else) been anticipated or expected by Mr. Lindner or

The White House also firmly denied any improper support for
Chiquita’s case because of Mr. Lindner’s donations.

“It’s absolutely not true and has no foundation in reality,” said
Jay Ziegler, spokesman for the White House’s trade office.

But the Enquirer has obtained, through the Freedom of Information
Act, correspondence between the White House, members of Congress and
Chiquita dealing with the European banana issue beginning in 1994.
Though many portions of the letters have been blacked out by the
government, the correspondence demonstrates the influence that
Chiquita exerts on the U.S. trade office.

The correspondence shows that:

Powerful congressional leaders sent letters to the White House
pressuring the administration to support Chiquita’s position.
Chiquita supporters included U.S. Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, U.S. Sen.
Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, U.S. Rep. and Speaker of the House Newt
Gingrich, R-Georgia, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, U.S. Sen. and
Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-
Conn., and others who had received donations from either the
Lindners, their controlled companies or company officials.

Chief support appears to have come from Bob Dole, while he was still
the senior Republican senator from Kansas. Many of these letters
were faxed to the trade office by Carolyn Gleason, Chiquita’s trade
attorney, registered lobbyist and key liaison to the Clinton
administration on this issue. On one letter from Mr. Dole dated June
21, 1995, then U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor scrawled a
note to his staffers: “Please give me a way to proceed. Pressure is
going to grow. MK”

Chiquita’s lobbyist, Ms. Gleason, sent faxes to the trade office –
at the office’s request – providing policy position papers on the
banana issue for U.S. embassy staff around the world. Other faxes
show Ms. Gleason writing legislation on this issue for the trade
office to submit to the Federal Register.

Staff of the White House’s trade office discussed how to manage the
press to Chiquita’s advantage. In an e-mail message sent June 14,
1996, Ralph Ives, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative and the
Clinton administration’s point man on the banana issue, wrote about
a segment on the trade dispute that was being planned by public
television’s News Hour.

“Chiquita is urging that we either try to kill this (preferable, but
not sure how) or either Peter (Allgeier, a trade office staffer) or
I agree to be interviewed….I will find out more after talking with

The segment never ran. Producers at the News Hour told the Enquirer
that they did some initial reporting on the subject but never
planned to air a segment on the dispute.

Mr. Lindner held at least two meetings with high-level staff of the
White House. In addition, Chiquita’s lobbyist, Ms. Gleason, had
frequent contact with the office.

In one letter, dated July 19, 1995, Mr. Lindner, and his son, Keith,
wrote to Mickey Kantor that they hoped to meet soon to discuss “our
larger case strategy and to discuss our mutual efforts in greater
detail.” They had meetings before and after the letter. Senators,
including Mr. Glenn, also met with Mr. Kantor on Chiquita’s behalf.

Tape-recorded internal Chiquita voice-mails, provided to the
Enquirer by a company source, also show the influence that Chiquita
has with the White House’s trade office. In a Jan. 30 message from
Keith Lindner, Chiquita’s vice chairman, to Steven G. Warshaw,
company president and chief operating officer; Robert Olson, chief
counsel; Ms. Gleason and others, Mr. Lindner recommended that
Chiquita try to cancel the trip of Panamanian Foreign Minister
Ricardo Alberto Arias to the European Union.

“About the EU tour that this minister in Panama wants to take is
just highly dangerous,” Keith Lindner said, adding later, “And I was
saying that we should, if we could politely do it without ruffling
too many feathers, get that minister’s trip canceled. So that would
be exactly my program.”

Later that day, Ms. Gleason called Mr. Olson and others with a
voice-mail message stating the trip had indeed been canceled.

A Chiquita consultant met with the Panamanian minister and convinced
him that the U.S. trade office could not meet with him on Monday,
but only later in the week, she said. The later meeting meant the
minister would not have time to travel to the EU.

Ms. Gleason then learned that the U.S. trade office had scheduled a
meeting for Monday.

“USTR (the trade office) went ahead and scheduled a meeting on
Monday,” she said. “That has since been corrected.”

The trade office moved the meeting with Mr. Arias from Monday to
Wednesday, meaning the minister would not have time to visit Europe,
according to Ms. Gleason’s voice-mail message.

In a statement issued through its attorneys, Chiquita stated,
“Chiquita never asked the United States Trade Representative to
reschedule meetings with the Panamanian foreign minister.”

Minister Counselor Fernando Eleta at the Panamanian Embassy in
Washington, D.C., said he could not believe “Chiquita would do
something like that.” He said he would withhold comment, however,
until he had a chance to review the Enquirer article.

Today, Chiquita plays a major role in formulating U.S. banana trade
policy. At the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
ba-nana conference in Rome last May, the U.S. delegation consisted
of three U.S. trade diplomats and four other people listed as

The advisers were Michael O’Brien, president of European Offices of
Chiquita; Manuel Rodriguez, Chiquita’s assistant general counsel
from Cincinnati; Ms. Gleason; and Robert Moore, the head of a banana
trade group that represents the entire industry. No one from Del
Monte or Dole was represented on the U.S. delegation. According to
the head of the FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Bananas, delegation
advisers are chosen by the individual governments.

Through Ms. Gleason, a partner in the law firm of McDermott, Will &
Emery, Chiquita presents its views in meetings and telephone calls
with Amy Wynton, chief of Agriculture for the State Department and
other top Clinton officials.

The Chiquita-State Department connection extends even further. When
an Enquirer reporter called the U.S. Embassy in Honduras to ask
about a former embassy staffer now working for Chiquita, embassy
staff said they could not provide the information. According to an
internal, tape-recorded voice-mail message obtained by the Enquirer
from a company source, embassy staff informed Chiquita of the call
later that same day.

Washington favors

Opponents of Chiquita’s actions in Washington, D.C. say Chiquita has
bought White House support for a cause that will hurt U.S. allies
only to help the bottom line of the Cincinnati company.

“It’s a clear issue of buying trade favors,” said Randall Robinson,
the head of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying
group for African and developing world issues. “The President ought
to be ashamed of himself.”

Mr. Robinson, initially a supporter of President Clinton, and his
wife, Hazel Ross-Robinson, have taken up the trade issue because
they feel that if Chiquita can remove Europe’s banana protections,
developing economies in the Caribbean and Africa will be severely

Ms. Ross-Robinson, who lobbies for Caribbean countries in
Washington, D.C., has organized visits by several political leaders
to the Caribbean islands to meet with farmers and has brought
farmers from the Caribbean and Africa to lobby Congress.

Mr. Robinson, the leader of the successful boycott effort of
apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, has twice dumped bananas as a
protest in Washington, D.C. to call attention to what he sees as the
White House sellout. At his urging, prominent black Americans,
including Bill Cosby and Jesse Jackson, have written the White House
to express concern about the Clinton administration’s support for
Chiquita’s position.

Mr. Robinson and other Chiquita opponents point to April 1994, when
Mr. Lindner and his associates contributed hundreds of thousands of
dollars to numerous state Democratic parties, shortly after then
U.S. Trade Representative Kantor took the banana case to the WTO.
The money was donated to state parties and did not have to be filed
with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), making it harder to
track because the donations were spread among many offices.

Caribbean leaders saw the connection as a payback by President
Clinton to Mr. Lindner.

“There was no reason for them to go to the WTO,” said Jamaican
Ambassador to Washington, D.C. Richard Bernal. “We were given
assurances by Ambassador Kantor that the U.S. wanted to resolve
this. It was a breach of faith with the Caribbean.”

Recently, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a non-profit research
institute focusing on Latin American issues, called on the Federal
Election Commission to investigate Mr. Lindner’s donations because,
they said, Mr. Lindner has “bought himself a U.S. foreign policy.”

According to a Common Cause analysis of soft money donations, Mr.
Lindner, relatives and officers of his companies gave a total of
$3,164,460 in “soft money” donations to Republican and Democratic
national fund-raising committees from 1988 through the first six
months of 1997. Most of the money went to Republicans.

Soft money donations can be given in an unlimited amount to
political committees. Contributions to individual candidates for
national office are restricted.

In March 1998, Common Cause ranked American Financial Group and
related companies as the fourth largest giver in soft money to both
parties in 1997. (Tobacco firm Philip Morris was the top giver.) The
group reported that American Financial, its subsidiaries and
executives gave $310,000 in soft money to Republicans and $75,000
to Democrats in 1997 alone.

Soft money donations are legal, but they have become the focal point
in the debate about campaign finance reform.

Ms. McBride said Mr. Lindner was “one of the biggest soft money
givers and one of the pioneers in double giving.”

Mr. Lindner’s donations have favored Republican candidates, but he
also has given millions to Democrats, and stayed in the Lincoln
bedroom twice at the invitation of President Clinton.

Mr. Lindner was called by Vice President Al Gore in October 1994
while the White House was considering diplomatic action against the
European Union on the trade issue. White House records reviewed by
the Associated Press show that in the following weeks, Lindner
companies and associates donated $250,000 to the Democratic National

A Dec. 2, 1994, White House memo referred to the October calls made
by the Vice President from the White House. Mr. Lindner, one of the
persons named in the memo, was listed as giving $150,000, apparently
part of the $250,000, according to the Associated Press.

Another memo indicates that Mr. Lindner invited Vice President Gore
to stay at his Florida estate. According to the White House, Mr.
Gore did not take Mr. Lindner up on his offer.

Mr. Lindner’s and Chiquita’s reach in Washington, D.C. goes beyond
campaign contributions. Chiquita also has hired the influential
lobbying group Public Strategies Washington, Inc., paying it
$279,402.08 in 1996 alone.

“Carl Lindner and Chiquita are giving hundreds of thousands of
dollars to both Democrats and Republicans and are getting people to
support them,” said E. Courtenay Rattray, executive director of the
Jamaican banana exporting company Jamco. “This is just money

But as Mr. Lindner’s supporters have pointed out in the past, Mr.
Lindner was involved in money politics long before the banana trade
issue in Europe. He was a major contributor to Richard Nixon. He
contributed heavily to Ronald Reagan’s candidacy, and helped fund
both of his inaugurations. He also gave heavily to George Bush’s
1988 and 1992 campaigns.

The Center for Public Integrity, a public interest group, stated in
a report that Mr. Lindner was one of the major “career patrons” of
Sen. Bob Dole. Mr. Lindner and Chiquita officials heavily supported
Mr. Dole’s 1996 presidential bid. Mr. Dole was also a frequent
passenger on Mr. Lindner’s private jet.

Despite recent calls for campaign finance reform, Mr. Lindner still
makes large contributions.

According to FEC reports on 1996 election cycle donations, Mr.
Lindner and other leading Chiquita and subsidiary officials gave to
the congressional and Senate campaigns in at least 35 states. They
also gave “soft money” contributions to political committees on both
sides of the aisle.

The bulk of the donations were given to Republican candidates, but
substantial funds went to Democratic “soft-money” organizations. For
example, Mr. Lindner himself gave money to the National Republican
Senatorial Committee and also to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee. The Clinton – Gore campaign, the Democratic National
Committee, the “DNC Services Corporation” and other soft money
groups also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr.
Lindner, his family and officials of his companies, according to FEC
records stored on the computers of a non-partisan public interest
group, the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the 1997-1998 election cycle, FEC records show that as of April
1, Mr. Lindner’s American Financial Group has given $150,000 in soft
money to various committees, making the company the largest soft
money contributor in Ohio. The second largest soft money contributor
in the state is Mr. Lindner himself, with $125,000 in donations.

Mr. Lindner, his relatives and company officials also have given
thousands to various candidates and political action committees.
Candidates receiving money so far in the 1997-98 election cycle
include Mr. DeWine, Sen. Alphonse D’Amato, R-New York, Rep. Rob
Portman, R-Ohio, Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Rep. John Boehner,
R- Ohio.

Gary Ruskin, who runs the Congressional Accountability Project, a
Washington, D.C.-based interest group that tracks financial
contributions in Congress, said that he sees Mr. Lindner’s name
repeatedly when reviewing campaign finance filings.

“The guy is fascinating,” he said. “He shows up all the time.”

Mr. Lindner’s name often comes up in Capitol Hill discussions about
campaign finance reform.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, planning hearings on
campaign finance reform, issued subpoenas to Mr. Lindner and
Chiquita for documents regarding campaign contributions last August.
But the hearings were dropped in November, when chairman Sen. Fred
Thompson, R-Tenn., announced that his committee would not pursue the
issue, citing lack of cooperation from other politicians and

The majority of Sen. Thompson’s committee had first-hand knowledge
of Mr. Lindner’s political giving. Both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Glenn,
the ranking Democrat, had received direct contributions from Mr.
Lindner. So had five of the other 10 committee members.

The World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization was created in January 1995 to
implement the goals set out in several world trade agreements,
particularly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The
objective of GATT is to reduce trade barriers among countries that
have signed the accord so that eventually nations can trade as
freely as possible. The United States, the European nations and most
of the major industrial economies of the world are members of GATT.

One of the key functions of the WTO, headquartered in Geneva,
Switzerland, is to resolve trade disputes between nations. A nation
that feels another GATT member is not trading fairly can ask for a
special WTO panel to investigate and resolve the matter. Only
nations can bring this request to the WTO, so Chiquita had to enlist
the help of the United States and several Latin American governments
to present its case against the European Union’s banana trade

(Copyright 1998)

Chiquita SECRETS Revealed; Politics & History; “If Chiquita come in,
we are no way, they will do us in . . . We don’t know who to
believe anymore, and we don’t know the future.” – Humbert Nicholson,
small banana farmer in Grande Rivere, St. Lucia.; Island economies
on the line

Publication: Cincinnati Enquirer
Date: May 3, 1998

Chiquita’s efforts to end European trade protections for bananas
grown in the Carribean could devastate a string of tiny island
nations whose economies depend on small independent farmers who know
nothing else.

“We afraid, but we are still planting bananas because that is all we
know,” said Nicholas Espirit, 42, who farms four acres in the north
island village of Bells. “We scared about this Chiquita business.
It’s a pressure, man, it’s a pressure.”

Mr. Espirit worries about how to feed his five children if the
banana business – the vast bulk of the region’s exports – goes bust.
That scenario could happen if Chiquita gets its way in a world trade
dispute with the European Union (EU).

Currently, several developing nations – including the tiny Caribbean
islands of Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent- receive preferences
for their bananas because they were former colonies of Europe.

Since 1993, the European Union has imposed an elaborate importing
system that granted preferences to former colonies that export
bananas while limiting access to the European market for banana
exporters with large operations in Central and South America.
Chiquita, backed by the Clinton administration, wants to end those

Both Chiquita and the Clinton administration, which has formally
taken Chiquita’s objections to the trade dispute panel of the World
Trade Organization (WTO), have stated repeatedly that their argument
is with the Europeans, not the Caribbean. But farmers on these
islands are convinced that if Chiquita gains a larger share of the
highly profitable European market, their tiny economies will be

Through its attorneys, Chiquita issued a statement that the banana
regime set up by the European Union benefitted mainly “European
banana distributors, rather than Caribbean or African nations.”

Removing the European protections won’t just hurt these small
islands. It would have a severe impact on at least 10 independent
nations and European territories, from the Caribbean to Africa, a
combined population of almost 35 million.

The island nations of the Eastern Caribbean-Dominica, St. Lucia and
St. Vincent – would be among the hardest hit if the WTO’s ruling
stands and the system is dismantled.

“I’m not a very emotional man,” Peter Carbon, Dominica’s minister of
agriculture and environment, told the Enquirer. “But if we lose
bananas, there will be no country.”

The islands provide only a small percentage of bananas to Europe’s
protected market – at most 3 percent annually. All the countries and
territories that receive the protections account for only about 15
percent of all the bananas that go to Europe, according to the EU.

If Chiquita were to grab this market share, the European consumer
probably would notice little change at the local grocery. But the
business loss would have catastrophic implications for nations like
Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

“The worst case scenario is you have increased poverty, increased
hunger, educational opportunities for children declining,” said
Lawrence Grossman, an expert on the Eastern Caribbean banana
industry and an associate professor at Virginia Tech. “What Chiquita
will gain compared to what will be lost in the Caribbean, well, it
truly creates a tragic situation.”


Bananas were introduced to the Eastern Caribbean by the British at
the turn of the century. The crop did extremely well on the
mountainous, humid islands. For the first time, farmers had a large
export crop that would grow easily on the hillsides. Banana plants
could not survive a hurricane, but they would grow back after only
nine months or so. For small farmers, bananas have become a perfect
crop because they can be farmed year-round.

Today, the government of Dominica estimates that at least 20,000
people out of a workforce of 35,000 depend on the banana, or “le
fig” as it is known in the patois of that part of the world. The
estimates on St. Lucia and St. Vincent are considered about as high.

While bananas help the region’s economy, poverty still reigns. The
per capita gross domestic product on Dominica is estimated at about
$2,100, less than one-tenth the almost $25,000 per capita gross
domestic product of the United States. Signs of poverty are visible
everywhere on these islands, from the open sewers in the capital to
the shack homes of villages.

However, internal Chiquita documents obtained by the Enquirer show
that the company has made major political efforts in the islands
since 1994. That year the company sent representatives to St. Lucia
to make the offer of a joint venture with local growers. Under the
deal, Chiquita would have become the exclusive European distributor
of these islands’ bananas.

Chiquita hired G. Philip Hughes, former ambassador to the islands
under the Bush Administration, to meet with government and banana
industry officials in the Eastern Caribbean, according to company
records. His mission was to persuade them to create a joint venture
with Chiquita and transfer the island’s special banana export
licenses to Chiquita. Those licenses allow growers to ship a certain
number of bananas duty free to Europe.

Mr. Hughes said he was hired by Chiquita as a consultant for about
nine months.

“I knew the leaders in the governments intimately and I knew the
issues that they confronted economically,” said Mr. Hughes, who
currently is an executive for the Association for International
Practical Training, based outside Washington D.C.

Chiquita had a lot to gain from the venture, as it listed in one of
its executive summaries on the issue:

It would get the islands’ European banana trade licenses, allowing
Chiquita to send up to 2.5 million more tons of bananas to the
lucrative European market.

It would save money in shipping and in sending bananas to southern
Europe while shipping its Latin American bananas to the wealthier
markets of Northern Europe.

In its documents sent to island officials, Chiquita stress-ed that
it would provide the islands with technical support, offer slightly
more for bananas and other benefits.

Mr. Hughes, the former ambassador, had “reconnaissance meetings”
with government officials in the Eastern Caribbean as well as
Washington and New York. But despite lobbying efforts by Mr. Hughes,
officials on St. Lucia and other islands turned down Chiquita’s

“Chiquita was offering a terrific deal,” Mr. Hughes said. “But they
had one problem: the mind-set of the Caribbean leaders… The
leaders really had a negative mind-set about Chiquita. They really
considered it almost their enemy.”

When the island governments rejected the offer, Chiquita’s agents
went to the growers’ associations and in some cases to the farmers
themselves. The banana growers associations refused the offers
because they didn’t trust Chiquita’s intentions, according to
Rupert Gajadhar, chairman of the St. Lucia Banana Growers

Mr. Gajadhar said the offer from Chiquita agents was attractive to
some farmers and caused a split in the farmers movement. Tensions
between some farmers and the government led to violence, strikes and
riots. In 1993, two farmers were shot and killed and another 25 were
wounded when police opened fire on a roadblock set up by the Banana
Salvation Committee, a grassroots group of banana farmers.

Mr. Gajadhar said he believed the salvation committee today is
supported by Chiquita and that the group’s leader, Patrick Joseph,
meets regularly with Chiquita officials.

Mr. Joseph, a newly elected senator for the Labour Party, told the
Enquirer that he has met many times with Chiquita, but denied the
company was funding his operation.

“I always maintain that if Chiquita had given me money, and it means
that it would help the cause that I am fighting, I would accept the
money,” he said. “But so far they haven’t offered me money. Neither
am I asking them for any.”

Mr. Joseph said he and his supporters see the Caribbean banana
industry as a lost cause. Chiquita will destroy West Indian banana
production because it can grow bananas cheaper in Central America.
He said the government should focus its energies on helping banana
farmers find some other work.

“We do live in a capitalist society, and in capitalism the strong
eat up the weak. Basically, that’s what it is about,” he said.

Mr. Hughes said the company was simply trying to obtain island
licenses so it could sell more bananas under the banana protection
scheme created by the European Union.

But many banana farm leaders on St. Lucia see Chiquita as a sinister
force out to crush West Indian banana growers for the sake of
profit. Elias John, president of the St. Lucian National Farmers’
Association, said farmers initially thought the Chiquita agents
simply wanted to buy their bananas. But then farmers began to
believe Chiquita wanted to get control of the islands’ banana import
licenses to Europe.

“When we begin to get the truth, things were coming out about the
amount that they used for the American (presidential) campaign and
all that. We lost our faith and began to realize they were just
after us to destroy us,” he said.

Gripping a rusty cutlass while propping himself next to a banana
plant, farmer Humbert Nicholson surveyed his 15-acre hillside farm
in Grande Rivere, St. Lucia.

“If Chiquita come in, we are no way,” said the 53-year-old farmer.
“They will do us in.”

Standing in worn rubber boots caked with mud, wearing grimy pants
and a shirt so old the armpits have worn out, Mr. Nicholson is a
typical Eastern Caribbean banana farmer – hard working and poor.

“We don’t know who to believe anymore,” Mr. Nicholson said. “And we
don’t know the future.”

Decision could devastate islands

If the Caribbean banana industry collapses, the problem also could
hit the United States in a powerful way: a dramatic increase in
illegal drugs coming through the region.

“At the end of the day, when you have destroyed the economies of the
islands and other countries, what is the fallback position? Crime,
drugs, mass migration, insecurity of property,” said Grayson
Stedman, 56, the owner of a Dominican banana plantation and former
chief financial officer of a local banana farmers’ cooperative.

This view isn’t just being espoused by citizens of the Caribbean. In
1996, U.S. Gen. John Sheehan, commander of the U.S. Atlantic Command
responsible for drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean, told a
Washington, D.C. policy forum that the Caribbean banana industry
must be maintained for U.S. interests.

“If you start deteriorating the economic infrastructure in the
region, it is going to become my problem,” he told the group.

The Caribbean islands are strategically located along key drug-
shipment points from Colombia. Drug Enforcement Agency officials
report that Colombia supplies most of the cocaine and much of the
marijuana for the U.S. illegal drug market. Desperate farmers with
empty fields and hungry children could make eager recruits for the
drug cartels, officials say.

Caribbean Islands worry about enonomic future, farms

The economies of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean have
been dependent on bananas for much of this century. If European
Union banana protections opposed by Chiquita are overturned, the
islands expect their already weak economies to collapse. Below are
two islands that will be hit the hardest.


Population: 83,000

Size: 290 square miles

Top crops: bananas, citrus, mangoes

A former British colony, Dominica has been independent since 1978.

St. Lucia

Population: 159,639

Size: 238 square miles

Top crops: bananas, coconuts, cocoa

A former british colony, St. Lucia has been independent since 1979

Economies threatened

Other countries and territories that would be impacted if their
preferential access to the European Union was overturned include:

Jamaica (Caribbean)

population: 2.6 million

crops: sugar, coffee, bananas

Ivory Coast (West Africa)

population: 15 million

crops: coffee, rubber, bananas

Cameroon (West Africa)

population: 14.7 million

crops: cocoa, coffee, cotton, bananas

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean)

population: 120,000

crops: bananas, coconuts

Martinique (Caribbean)

population: 403,000

crops: bananas

Guadeloupe (Caribbean)

population: 412,000

crops: bananas, sugar

Canary Islands (Atlantic)

population: 1.6 million

crops: bananas

(Copyright 1998)


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