United Fruit’s Taxes

Jacobo Arbenz became president of Guatemala in 1951.  On June 27, 1952, he signed Decree 900, which allowed the government to expropriate uncultivated land owned by large plantations.  The largest landowner in the country at the time was United Fruit, the banana company, who lost land valued at $15 million, or the equivalent of over $130 million today.  In compensation, they received a paltry $627,572 from the Guatemalan government.

When United Fruit protested, they were dismissed with the statement that United Fruit itself had valued the land at that value in its tax filings, a move the company had made to reduce its tax burden in the country, and for which it was now paid the price.

United Fruit had long tentacles, though, and used its CIA connections to encourage the launch of Operation Success, a CIA-led coup that replaced Arbenz.  One witness to this imperialist interference was a young Ernesto Guevara, later to become world famous as Che.

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