Colombia’s Banana Massacre

banana massacre

OZY

Killing in the name of business. It’s hard to imagine today that this could have been even momentarily something to pass without condemnation, but times have changed. On Dec. 6, 1928, Colombian soldiers shot to death banana workers on strike at the United Fruit Company. The U.S. government’s man in Bogotá, Ambassador Jefferson Caffery, sent a dispatch home a month later, informing Washington: “I have the honor to report … that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military exceeded one thousand.”

Moneymaking could now return to normal after the month-long strike. Back in the U.S., an aging and ailing Minor Cooper Keith, founder of the United Fruit Company, got the news. Years earlier, Keith had been a restless youngster from New York City who bailed on his private schooling, and at 17 tried his hand at cattle ranching in Texas. But Texas wasn’t big enough for young Keith. Two years after Texas, Keith’s uncle and brothers invited him to Costa Rica to build a railroad. Continue reading on OZY…

photo: Keystone-France/Getty

Advertisements

Building Billion-Dollar Businesses in Latin America

wenyi.cai

OZY

Wenyi Cai goes to plop down in a chair in a cramped, bare-bones office with white walls, sticky notes and black scuff marks. I pin her at about 29, but to be polite, I pass over the question. Plus, she’s just jumped off a call with an investor that she admits was stressful. “Do you want this one?” I ask, hastily pushing the more comfy chair toward her. “No, it’s fine, whatever,” she shoots back. “Let’s do this. So, I’ve got like … what? Fifteen minutes.”

Cai, who is actually 30, is in a rush because she and her four other partners are out to build businesses through venture capital, but not Silicon Valley Cool. Her Colombia firm, Polymath Ventures, is all at the unglamorous end of the business, searching for ways to build scalable companies and services in underserved markets for Latin America’s emerging middle class. Continue reading on OZY…

photo credit: Juan Felipe Rubio