The Minimum Wage, Bananas, and Coups

In an interview with journalist Nikolas Kozloff, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now exposes some interesting insights into the ousting of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. While still in office, Zelaya raised the minimum wage in Honduras. According to,
On Dec. 23 [2008], Zelaya announced an increase in the minimum monthly wage, from 157 to 289 dollars, as of Jan. 1, except in the “maquiladora” plants that operate in duty-free zones for the assembly of exports, which he left free to negotiate with their workers.
This represents a substantial increase that threatened the viability of many businesses throughout the country. Still, this move illustrates Zelaya's commitment to the poor of his country. Again from the article:
According to Zelaya, the hike in the minimum wage “will force the business oligarchy to start paying what is fair.” He added, however, that “I am aware it must be raised even further.” “This is a government of great social transformations, committed to the poor,” he stated. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with a poverty rate of 70 percent according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Interestingly, Chaquita, an international corporation previously known as United Fruit Company, has significant holdings in Honduras and spoke out against the wage increase. According to Kozloff in the Democracy Now interview,
We know that prior to the coup d’├ętat in Honduras, Chiquita was very unhappy about President Zelaya’s minimum wage decrees, because they said that this would cut into their profits and make it more expensive for them to export bananas and pineapple. And we know that they appealed to the Honduran Business Association, which was also opposed to Zelaya’s minimum wage provisions. And we also—and what I find really interesting is that Chiquita is allied to a Washington law firm called Covington, which advises multinational corporations. And who is the vice chairman of Covington? None other than John Negroponte, who your previous guest mentioned in regards to the rampant human rights abuses that went on in Honduras throughout the 1980s. So I think that’s a really interesting connection.
Kozloff goes on to discuss Chaquita's (and United Fruits') shady history in Latin America including its role in a coup in Guatemala and the funding of paramilitaries in Colombia. He further details connections between the Chaquita corporate elite and the U.S. government, raising into question the actual role and aims of Hillary Clinton in the negotiations to end the current crisis. Also disturbing in the piece is Amy Goodman's note that Costa Rican president Arias is worried that the situation could deteriorate into a civil war in Honduras.

Or listen to/watch the video below - Kozloff's interview starts at about 19 minutes in.

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:40 PM

    So what is actually changing in Latin America? Is U.S. policy really any different under the Obama administration? This is one example of why skepticism is justified.


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