Major Businesses: United Brands Company Part 3

About the major world business United Brands Company, history, headquarters, size, and leader.


United Fruit Company's public relations department was the principal force behind the campaign in the media that prepared the U.S. public for the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954. United Fruit encouraged newspapers and magazines in the U.S. to write articles praising the company as an enlightened employer in Central America and attacking the Guatemalan governments of Arevalo and Arbenz as dominated by Communists.

Important U.S. officials in the decisions to intervene in Guatemala had close ties to the United Fruit Company. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Spruille Braden made repeated calls for armed intervention while he served as a public relations consultant to the company.

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had helped write the company's contracts with Guatemala in the 1930s. When the Arbenz government seized most of the company's property in 1953 and 1954, Dulles's State Dept. demanded that the company be compensated at the rate the company determined was fair.

Former CIA Director and then current Under Secretary of State Gen. Walter Bedell Smith was one of the principal planners of the 1954 invasion. In 1955 he joined the board of directors of United Fruit Company.

In January, 1954, the Arbenz government published details of an intervention plot that accused United Fruit of hiring a former U.S. Army colonel to train an invasion force that would use arms supplied by the company and smuggled into the country on the company's railroad.

After the June, 1954, U.S.-backed invasion, when Castillo Armas became president of Guatemala (having been elected by the ruling junta), the Guatemalan government returned the seized United Fruit Company lands.

In 1974 Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, and Colombia formed the Union de Paises Exportadores de Banano (UPEB) and declared a $1.00-per-box tax on bananas. Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama accounted for over 60% of United Brands' bananas. Chairman Eli Black authorized a $1.25 million bribe to the Honduran president, Gen. Oswaldo Lopez Arellano, to get the tax reduced to 25 cent a box. Half of the bribe was deposited in a numbered Swiss bank account opened by Honduran economics minister Abraham Bennaton Ramos. In February, 1975, as news of the bribe was about to become public, Black jumped or fell to his death from the 44th floor of the Pan Am Building in New York. His death has officially been termed a suicide.

The United Fruit Company supplied two of its freighters to the CIA to use to transport men, materials, and munitions during the April, 1961, Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

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