Extortion at Acre

In 1291, the last major Christian city in the Holy Land, Acre, fell to the Muslims during the Third Crusade.  Yet even in the midst of tragedy and death, some found business opportunities.  One Templar, Rutger von Blum, managed to acquire a small fortune just before the city left, by seizing a galley.  He then charged ruinous rates to the wealthy women of Acre to take them from the city before it fell to the army outside.  Those not fortunate or wealthy enough to escape could look forward to nothing less than rape, mutilation, slavery, and death.

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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.