Gone fishing (metaphorically)

Atlantic guitarfish

Atlantic guitarfish

I am again putting the blog on hiatus (as if it wasn’t already de facto). I expect to be swamped with work, submissions and field visits in the next few months.

Before I do, I leave you with an unposted photo from Panama’s Bocas del Toro from 2012. Hello guitarfish, a ray that looks like a shark. This one might be an Atlantic guitarfish, which is near threatened, though IUCN geographic extent data suggest it doesn’t get that far south.

I’ll fire it up again when I have something more to say (I’m sure either of my governments will do something silly to rile me up into punditry) or when I decided to develop a better rhythm to blog.

Tags: , , , ,

Get on de boat, de banana boat!

Ships headed for the Panama canal

Earlier this month the banana giant Chiquita filed a lawsuit attempting to block the release of documents pertaining to the various payments it made to paramilitary groups that the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. That sounds like a tale out of a different, era, yeah?

Unfortunately, it’s all too current. Chiquita paid a $25-million fine just six years ago after admitting that it had funneled money to multiple Colombian groups. That’s part of a larger phenomenon where multinationals essentially operate above the level of governments in many parts of the world — often engaging in illegal shenanigans — precisely because the corporations have so much economic clout.

A development professor on mine has labeled countries like Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica essentially a “dessert” economies. It’s a fitting moniker given the number of bananas and pineapples they produce. What large-scale industrial fruit-culture has done to the landscapes and social organization of these countries is hard to fully comprehend without visiting. And I note that Global North citizens — particularly Americans — are complicit, what with our year-round demand for exotic fruit of uniform shapes at cheap prices. That consumer demand leads precisely to Chiquita acting like, well, Chiquita.

Fruity boat

If you think capitalism’s rising tide lifts all boats, you’ve got the wrong metaphor. Capitalism’s tsunami wave overwhelms most anything that lacks the political or financial power to get out of the way. And to understand just how far back this goes, check this history of the United Fruit Company, Chiquita’s predecessor.

You can see today just how enmeshed corporate agriculture is in the economies of Costa Rica and Panama; these images are just from my bus/boat/taxi/plane rides there in 2012 but vast swaths of the land look just like this — plantations, pesticides and underpaid workers all in the name of foreign export. It’s the same in a number of other countries in Latin America. Certainly some things have changed, but control remains highly concentrated in the hands of a few.

Where your bananas come from

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,