The term was popularized in 1983 by writer Lester D. Langley. Langley wrote several books on Latin American history and American interactions including The United States and the Caribbean, 1900–1970 and The Banana Wars: An Inner History of American Empire, 1900-1934. His book on the Banana Wars encompasses the United States tropical empire that overtook the western hemisphere spanning both of the Roosevelt presidencies. The term was popularized through this writing which portrayed the United States as a police force that was sent to reconcile warring tropical countries, lawless societies and corrupt politicians, establishing a reign over tropical trade.
U.S. motivations for these conflicts were largely economic and military. The term "Banana Wars" was coined much later to cast the motivations for these interventions as almost exclusively the preservation of petty U.S. commercial interests in the region.
Panama: U.S. interventions in the isthmus go back to the 1846 Mallarino–Bidlack Treaty and intensified after the so-called Watermelon War of 1856. In 1885 US military intervention gained a mandate with the construction of the Panama Canal. The building process collapsed in bankruptcy, mismanagement, and disease in 1889, but resumed in the 20th century. In 1903, Panamaseceded from the Republic of Colombia, backed by the U.S. government,[a] during the Thousand Days' War. The Panama Canal was under construction by then, and the Panama Canal Zone, under United States sovereignty, was created. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty to negotiate the Nicaragua canal with the United Kingdom and Ireland. and was to ensure no one would have control over the canal and protect the canal. But the death of Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in 1899 allowed the US government to continue to construct and to regulate an isthmian waterway. The new Hay–Pauncefote Treaty also allowed the US full control and management of the canal.
Spanish–American War: U.S. forces seized Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898. The end of the Spanish–American War led to the start of Banana Wars.
Cuba: In December 1899 US president William McKinley deemed Leonard Wood to have supreme power in Cuba. The U.S. liberated Cubans from the Spanish Empire. Occupied by the U.S. from 1898 to 1902 under military governor Leonard Wood, and again from 1906 to 1909, 1912, and 1917 to 1922; subject to the terms of the Cuban–American Treaty of Relations (1903) until 1934. In 1903 the US took a permanent lease on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
Nicaragua: Occupied by the U.S. almost continuously from 1912 to 1933, after intermittent landings and naval bombardments in the prior decades. The U.S. had troops in Nicaragua to prevent its leaders from creating conflict within their country. The bluejackets and marines were there to create peace and were able to do so for about 15 years. The U.S. wanted to teach Nicaragua to elect "good men".
Mexico: U.S. military involvements with Mexico in this period had the same general commercial and political causes, but stand as a special case. The Americans conducted the Border War with Mexico from 1910-1919 for additional reasons: to control the flow of immigrants and refugees from revolutionary Mexico (pacificos), and to counter rebel raids into U.S. territory. The 1914 U.S. occupation of Veracruz, however, was an exercise of armed influence, not an issue of border integrity; it was aimed at cutting off the supplies of Germanmunitions to the government of Mexican leader Victoriano Huerta, which U.S. President Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize. In the years prior to World War I, the U.S. was also alert to the regional balance of power against Germany. The Germans were actively arming and advising the Mexicans, as shown by the 1914 SS Ypiranga arms-shipping incident, German saboteur Lothar Witzke's base in Mexico City, the 1917 Zimmermann Telegram and the German advisors present during the 1918 Battle of Ambos Nogales. Only twice during the Mexican Revolution did the U.S. military occupy Mexico: during the temporary occupation of Veracruz in 1914 and between 1916 and 1917, when U.S. General John Pershing led U.S. Army forces on a nationwide search for Pancho Villa.
Haiti, occupied by the U.S. from 1915–1934, which led to the creation of a new Haitian constitution in 1917 that instituted changes that included an end to the prior ban on land ownership by non-Haitians. This period included the First and Second Caco Wars.
The first decades of Honduras' history is marked by instability in terms of politics and economy. Indeed 210 armed conflicts occurred between independence and the rise to power of the Carias government. This instability was due in part to the American involvement in the country.
The first company that concluded an agreement with the Honduras government was the Vaccaro Brothers Company (Standard Fruit Company). The Cuyamel Fruit Company then followed their lead. United Fruit Company also contracted with the government through its subsidiaries, Tela Railroad Company and Truxillo Rail Road Company.
Contract between the Honduran government and the American companies most often involved exclusive rights to a piece of land in exchange for building railroads in Honduras.
However, banana producers in Central America (including Honduras) "were scourged by Panama disease, a soil-borne fungus (…) that decimated production over large regions". Typically, companies would abandon the decimated plantations and destroy the railroads and other utilities that they had used along with the plantation, so the exchange of services between the government and the companies was not always respected.
The ultimate goal of the contracts for the companies was control of the banana trade from production to distribution. The companies would finance guerrilla fighters, presidential campaigns and governments. According to Rivera and Carranza, the indirect participation of American companies in the country's armed conflicts worsened the situation. The presence of more dangerous and modern weapons allowed more dangerous warfare among the factions.
In British Honduras (modern-day Belize) the situation was slightly different. Despite the fact that the United Fruit Company was the sole exporter of bananas in British Honduras and the company was also manipulating the government, the country did not suffer the instability and armed conflicts its neighbors experienced.
Perhaps the single most active military officer in the Banana Wars was U.S. Marine CorpsMajor General, Smedley Butler, nicknamed "Maverick Marine", who saw action in Honduras in 1903, served in Nicaragua enforcing American policy from 1909 to 1912, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in Veracruz in 1914, and a second Medal of Honor for bravery in Haiti in 1915. In 1935, in his book War is a Racket, he denounced the role he had played, describing himself as "a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers...a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism".[page needed]
^ abcdefghMiguel Cáceres Rivera and Sucelinda Zelaya Carranza, "Honduras. Seguridad Productiva y Crecimiento Econoómico: La Función Económica Del Cariato," Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos, Vol. 31 (2005), pp. 49–91.
^ abcMark Moberg, "Crown Colony as Banana Republic: The United Fruit Company in British Honduras, 1900-1920," Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2 (May 1996), pp. 357–381.