Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Top Banana

Ah, I live for this kind of story: Reinventing the Banana. Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre:

Who would have thought a few years ago before Starbucks started that we would be paying four or five bucks for a cup of coffee What we used to pay 50 cents for, we are paying 10 times more for now. I think if someone could do that for coffee, we ought to be able to do it with bananas.

The friend who sent me the story link used the subject line "adding value where there is no value to add." Tsk, tsk. I'm shocked at his lack of faith in the creative powers of the free enterprise system. Frankly, I look forward to the $2 banana, samples of which would be savored in some ootsy-cutesy chain-boutique setting, perhaps a booth set up in the produce section. We'd call it "My Little Chiquita" - why, a name like that alone ought justify at least a doubling in banana prices. Branding is all, is it not?

Evidence for creative ferment is slim, but the excitement is almost palpable. Just listen to Gary Stibel, described as "another former P&G executive who now runs the New England Consulting Group":

In a business that hasn't changed for thousands of years, [Aguirre] is aggressively attacking every aspect and will do more for the banana category in the next five years than we have seen in our lifetime .... Successful marketing is about changing the entire experience for consumers in new and unexpected ways, and Aguirre is trying to change the entire banana experience from a mundane category to one of excitement and adventure.

Changing the entire experience! Yes. What might one do with a wireless internet connection per banana, one wonders? And forget the mouth - what new orifices to conquer! Integral vibrators suggest themselves immediately.

Stick it in your ear, replies a friend of my friend. As he notes, buried in the article, the lone zinger question does not go quite unanswered:

[Aguirre] acknowledged that some of the progress in transforming the company has been slowed by having to deal with the company's admission in May that one of its subsidiaries made payments to groups in Colombia that the United States designated as foreign terrorist organizations.

Clearly irate, my unnamed correspondent writes:

Why is there no death penalty for corporations? No Guantanamo Bay prison? No scarlet letter requirement: "The product or products in this advertisement are offered by a company that has contributed to the murders of Americans around the world."

Indeed, as Seattle Times story notes:

The company operates in areas where there is a heavy presence of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a far-right paramilitary army known by the Spanish initials AUC, which has been blamed for thousands of killings over the years and is classified as a "terrorist" organization by the United States.

But is AUC the unnamed "foreign terrorist organization" to which Banadex, Chiquita's Colombia subsidiary, paid protection money? No, AUC doesn't count. They are merely a "terrorist organization." So who does that leave?

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest rebel group, in 2000 announced a "peace tax" requiring payments from individuals and companies with a net worth of more than $1 million. The United States also has identified FARC and the smaller insurgent National Liberation Army as foreign terrorist groups.

So, you see, AUC is one of those comparatively benign domestic terrorist groups. It's not a foreign terrorist group. Aren't you relieved? Not that there isn't still some embarrassment entailed in dealing with them, mind you. According to a story today from Reuters, Colombia Officials, Warlords Hold Peace Ceremony:

Ambassadors from Europe and the United States failed to take up invitations to attend -- a sign of the deep misgivings surrounding a peace process with a group that has used chainsaws to massacre villagers. Lack of international support could hamper costly efforts to re-integrate fighters into society.

Especially considering that these ultra-right militias seeking "re-integration" are insisting on total amnesty. Yes, seems to be the message, hack people to death with impunity, as long as they aren't Americans, and as long as you don't send the video to CNN. But if you give money to FARC - whose bombings of oil pipelines in Colombia are counted by the U.S. Department of State as part of "global terror" even as bombings of oil pipelines in Iraq are not - well, shame on you. You'll be fingered by the U.S. government for your sins, and your stock price could tumble a whole 5 points.


At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But is AUC the unnamed "foreign terrorist organization" to which Banadex, Chiquita's Colombia subsidiary, paid protection money? No, AUC doesn't count.


At 3:58 PM, Anonymous lawrence said...

Do you give money to la FARC, Michael? La FARC buys land mines with your money and children tend to find them, some of them die, some lose limbs and others are burned beyond recognition. People that work on farms also find these land mines and their lives are destroyed. I've been to colombia several times and my wife is from colombia. People are sick of idiots that give money to la FARC.

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