Food Riots Analysis, DN!

April 17, 2008 at 7:25 am Leave a comment

From Raj Patel interview, 16 April 2008:

But at the same time, there’s a political story here, and it’s a longer-term political story about how countries have been forced to abandon their support for farmers and to abandon things like grain supplies and grain stores. And this is a longer-term story, and it involves organizations like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization that have a fairly iron control over the economies of most of the poorest countries in the world. And what the World Bank and what the WTO and, to some extent, the International Monetary Fund have done is force these countries to tie their hands behind their back, effectively, and to bind them very firmly to an international economy in food. And the consequence of that is that when the price of food goes up, these economies have very little recourse and very little possibility of defending themselves economically.

I mean, to some extent, there’s a lot of creative denial about the suffering that these organizations cause. I mean, certainly within the World Bank, when I worked there, there was a banner, sort of five stories high, as you enter into the World Bank building, with a beautiful African child on it and beneath it the slogan, “Our dream is a world free of poverty.” And certainly, there’s a sort of myth-making enterprise within the World Bank that everything they were doing was for the benefit of the poor, whether the poor liked it or not. So I certainly think that there’s a sense that when things are tough, it’s tough love that comes from the World Bank.

But in the twentieth century, the poster child for corporate malfeasance is the United Fruit company. The United Fruit Company controlled vast swathes of Central America, and it’s for their control of that part of the world for growing bananas that we have the term “banana republic.” And “banana republic” is a sort of abject case of blaming the victim. These banana republics existed because the tin-pot dictators who ran them were in the thrall and responsible to the United Fruit Company, rather than actually to the people over whom they ruled. Now, the United Fruit Company found itself in Guatemala, where a democratically elected president wanted to institute just a basic fair system of taxation. And so, he wanted—this was Jacobo Guzman, I believe, who wanted to tax the land at a fair market value. Now, rather than allow that, the United Fruit Company called its friends in the CIA, who instigated a coup. And as a result of that coup, there was a bloody civil war for forty years; 200,000 people died; and also, we could have cheap bananas. Now, that kind of utter manipulation of international economies is something that isn’t just happening in the global south; it’s happening right here in the United States.


Entry filed under: southern energy network.

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