By JIM N. TAYLOR, Special to the Star
My wife and I lived in Honduras as I was there as local CEO for an international corporation based in Minnesota. My position there required me to deal with the Honduran government and US government agencies and the Consulate/ Embassy frequently. I was a director in company branches in other Central American countries. Our 15 years there (1967 -1991) were during large parts of both the Carter and Reagan administrations. My comments are provoked by those published in the March 24 editions of the VMS. I did not work for any banana company but knew their people well.
The U.S. banana companies were never allowed ownership of the large acreage that they farmed in Honduras, since such land’s ownership was prohibited ownership to foreigners.
They did have a long term arrangement for use of the land for growing/exporting bananas, but each box of bananas exported was taxed $1.00 or more.
There were other strings attached, but I was not informed on such. These companies provided for schools for employee’s children and were heavily involved in contributing to the International School of San Pedro Sula where my son went through high school.
They were also contributors to the Agricultural College at Zamorano. Local jobs for natives with banana companies were highly coveted.
Banana companies did not take land from local farmers nor prevent their use/ownership of neighboring lands of equal quality.
There were Land Reform Laws enacted by local governments to appease the U.N. and U.S. observers whereby any land above certain acreage under a single owner could be invaded by the local would-be farmers for subsistence-sized farming. Banana land was protected. The pressures put on Central American governments by communist infiltration of the area through Castro’s Russian-schooled Cuban indoctrinators/organizers in those years required that the U.S. government either counteract the communist influence or stand by while these countries were systematically subverted by the communists as was Cuba, then Nicaragua, now Venezuela.
At the request of U.S. governments, the military government in Honduras then stepped aside, allowed elections and Democratic/ Republic governments.
These governments had the support of the U.S. governments to counter communist influence financed by Russia. These arrangements still continue but to a lesser degree. The amount of money mentioned in the comment ($210 million/yr.) in Central America is a paltry sum (unrealistic) if it is effective as foreign aid. The humanitarian work done in Honduras by our paramilitary and military personnel, while they served as a deterrent to communist infiltration, is not as expensive as it would be for America to be surrounded by enemy states intent upon the demise of freedom.
The banana companies were instrumental in advancing the genetics, propagation and growing of bananas for about 100 years but have withdrawn their hands-on people and now buy their bananas from independent local farmers.
They left behind the railroads they had built for moving bananas to the ports; railroads which now have little function, if any.
Without the influence of the scientific and management personnel of the banana companies, the farming of bananas in the Americas will, in the not too distant future, be slowly erased by disease and genetic degeneration. These companies no longer are involved there in banking or education either. The maquila industries have mostly replaced them economically.
The main reason for many companies leaving Central America has been politics. The local military were once involved in law enforcement, which has been discontinued because of communist influence through the U.N. and U.S.
Democrat politicians. Order and protection is no longer adequate to protect leadership personnel for these companies or to justify continued investment.
Some few companies remain and continue to invest, but this is now more limited. Since law enforcement has been curtailed, Honduras has become the murder capital of the Americas, once the position of Chicago. Central American governments could and would maintain law and order, were it not for the interference from Washington and the U.N.
The do-gooders know how to use the name of human rights against American influence; against capitalism. It is not entirely correct to say that the U.S. is to blame for the invasion of the U.S.
by immigrants from Central America. The U.S. is not obligated to invest sufficiently in Central America to give everyone there a job; nor are we obligated to police their population for them. They produce more children than they can employ or properly care for, but this would be more a problem caused by the Catholic Church and ignorance than by the U.S. What the U.S. does wrong is to encourage the migration by not deporting uninvited immigrants as fast as we can while taking care of all their bedroom mistakes that cross our southern border.
Build the wall!
Jim N. Taylor is a Harlingen resident who regularly contributes to the Valley Morning Star.