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Banana Wars: Wikis


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For the 1934‚Äď1935 Banana war against U.S. monopolies and Central American countries see Union of Banana Exporting Countries.
For the mob war waged in New York known as the "Banana War," see Joseph Bonanno.
US Marines with the captured flag of Augusto César Sandino in Nicaragua in 1932.

The Banana Wars were a series of occupations, police actions, and interventions involving the United States in Central America and the Caribbean. This period started with the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the subsequent Treaty of Paris, which gave the United States control of Cuba and Puerto Rico. It ended with the withdrawal of troops from Haiti and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy in 1934.

Reasons for these conflicts were varied but were largely economic in nature. The term "Banana Wars" arises from the connections between these interventions and the preservation of American commercial interests in the region. Most prominently, the United Fruit Company had significant financial stakes in production of bananas, tobacco, sugar cane, and various other products throughout the Caribbean, Central America and the northern portions of South America. The United States was also advancing its political interests, maintaining a sphere of influence and controlling the Panama Canal, critically important to global trade and naval power.



  • Panama, where American military intervention was allowed as far back as the 1846 Mallarino-Bidlack Treaty (with the Republic of New Granada), and intensified after the so-called Watermelon War of 1856. In a state speech in December 1903, President Roosevelt put the number of "revolutions, rebellions, insurrections, riots, and other outbreaks" in Panama at 53, within the space of 57 years. The Panama Canal Zone created at that time included a permanent U.S. military presence that lasted until the year 2000. (see also: Banana massacre)
  • Nicaragua, which, after intermittent landings and naval bombardments in the previous decades, was occupied by the U.S. almost continuously from 1912 through 1933.
  • Cuba, occupied by the U.S. from 1899 to 1902 under military governor Leonard Wood, and again from 1906-1909, 1912 and 1917-1922; governed by the terms of the Platt Amendment through 1934.
  • Haiti, occupied by the U.S. from 1915 through 1934, triggered by the threatened business interests of the Haitian American Sugar Company
  • Dominican Republic, action in 1903, 1904, and 1914; occupied by the U.S. from 1916 through 1924.
  • Honduras, the original model for the Banana republic, where the United Fruit Company and Standard Fruit Company dominated the country's key banana export sector and associated land holdings and railways, saw insertion of American troops in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924, and 1925.
  • Mexico, including the Tampico Affair, the occupation of Veracruz in 1914, the 1916-1917 border incursions and the Battle of Carrizal. Mexico was in a period of internal turmoil and the actions of the United States strained Mexican-American relations almost to the point of war.

Other Latin American nations were influenced or dominated by American economic policies and/or commercial interests to the point of coercion. Theodore Roosevelt declared the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904, asserting the right of the United States to intervene to stabilize the economic affairs of states in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts. From 1909 to 1913, President William Howard Taft and his Secretary of State Philander C. Knox asserted a more "peaceful and economic" Dollar Diplomacy foreign policy, although that too was backed by force, as in Nicaragua.

American military

These military interventions were most often carried out by the United States Marine Corps. The Marines were called in so often that they developed a Small Wars Manual, The Strategy and Tactics of Small Wars in 1921. On occasion, U.S. Naval gunfire and U.S. Army troops were also used.

Perhaps the single most active military officer in the Banana Wars was U.S. Marine Corps Major General, Smedley Butler, 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 while "crush(ing) the Caco resistance" in Haiti in 1915. In 1935, Butler wrote in his famous book War Is a Racket:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Other notable U.S. veterans of the Banana Wars include:

See also


  • Langley, Lester D. (1983), The Banana Wars: An Inner History of American Empire, 1900-1934, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 0813114969 


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