United Fruit Co.

“United Fruit Co.: U.S.-based fruit company. It was founded in 1899 in the merger of the Boston Fruit Company and other companies that sold bananas grown in Central America, Colombia, and the Caribbean. Minor C. Keith, its principal founder, gained extensive land rights in Costa Rica in return for constructing railroads. United Fruit became the largest employer in Central America, developing vast tracts of jungle lands and building one of the largest private merchant navies in the world. Attacked in the Latin American press as el pulpo (‘the octopus’), the company was widely accused of exploiting workers and influencing governments during the era of ‘dollar diplomacy’ in the early to mid-20th century. It later policies were more enlightened, and it transferred portions of its landholdings to individual growers. In 1970 United Fruit merged with AMK Corporation to form United Brands Co., which changed its name in 1990 to Chiquita Brands International, Inc.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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