I just finished reading a rather fascinating book. “The Fish That Ate The Whale” by Rich Cohen.
A book with many facets. On one hand an american sucess story. A tale of the american dream. And on another a tale of american colonialism. The corruption of corporations. The corruption of governments by corporations.
The story of Sam zemurray. A Russian Jew who emigrated to the US in the 20’s. Who went from poverty to starting a business selling the bannanas essentially thrown away by United Fruit. A man who rose to power, first in Costa Rica, then throughout the central american isthmus. Building a company smaller, but more efficient then UF, who ultimately took control of his larger rival. A man who overthrew the government of Honduras, in direct defiance of orders from the US Government, with a small band of mercenaries when it didn’t give him the concessions he demanded. A man who not only helped fund, but helped obtain the votes for the establishment of Israel. A man, who, shortly after his retirement saw his former company, United Fruit, in cohorts with the CIA in the overthrow of a supposed communist leader in Guatemala- an event which shaped Che Guervara. Whose company, and it’s abuses, played a major role in shaping Casto. A man, whose original company, Cuyamel Fruit, none locally as “El Pulpo”, is to this day derided by Hugo Chavez and many throughout central america.
And a story that still has a lot to say about today, despite occuring in the first half of the 20th century. On the one hand a hard working self made man who went from poverty to one of the richest men in the nation. A man who saw oppurtunities others missed. And on another the corruption and abuses that were part and parcel of this sucess. A man who could manipulate both markets and governments- including his own.
A fascinating read that at times defies the partisan simplicity we put to many of these issues. And a book that is much about failures- personal, social, political, and spirtiual, as it is about the incredible success of this man.