Capitalism has been good to David Tepper, who raked in $3.5 billion last year. That’s what 232,000 minimum-wage workers earn, if they’re lucky enough to work full time the whole year.
On the other hand, capitalism hasn’t been good for 4 million people in Central America who depend on the coffee crop for their livelihoods. Coffee rust fungus has spread, destroying coffee trees. Capitalist climate change has spread the disease to the highlands, where coffee rust had previously been unknown. In Guatemala alone, an estimated 100,000 jobs have been wiped out.
In Central America, those who pick coffee beans earn a few dollars a day. Tepper, in contrast, picks stocks for his hedge fund for nearly $10 million a day. Millionaires and billionaires invest in hedge funds, which require a minimum investment of at least $100,000.
Tepper and the other 24 top U.S. hedge fund managers collected $21 billion in 2013. That’s almost as much as the gross national product of Nicaragua, a country with 6 million people.
Arnulfo Téllez Aguilera, a sugar cane cutter, died two months ago in Nicaragua. He suffered from “chronic kidney disease of unknown causes.” At least 20,000 people in Central America have died of this kidney ailment over the past decade, wrote the May 8 New York Times.
Different explanations have been given about why sugar cane cutters’ kidneys are being destroyed. Among the possible sources of this tragic illness are pesticides, heat stress and dehydration, all of which come from Wall Street’s superexploitation of sugar workers.
Same old imperialism
There’s no natural reason why Guatemala’s economy should still be tied to a few crops or that Aguilera was only 49 when he died.
The brilliant Mayan civilization in Central America was erased 500 years ago by European invaders. Four centuries before Nazis burned books written by Jewish, Marxist and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender authors, the Inquisition burned 50,000 Mayan books. Only four remain.
The capitalist world market was jump-started by the African Holocaust, and the exploitation and extermination of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. U.S. banks and corporations continued this genocide in the 20th century.
Boston banks controlled the United Fruit octopus that turned entire countries into banana plantations. This banana monopoly owned shipping lines and railroads throughout Central America.
Guatemala tried to free itself 60 years ago from United Fruit’s stranglehold. Under the leadership of democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, United Fruit’s uncultivated land was given to landless peasants.
This was too much for then President Dwight Eisenhower and the Pentagon. The capitalist media yelled that it was communism to allow families to farm land so they wouldn’t starve. The CIA organized a coup called Operation Success against the Árbenz government. Among the plotters was future Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt.
Former President Bill Clinton admitted the gorilla regimes that followed Árbenz’s overthrow murdered at least 200,000 Guatemalan people (The Guardian, March 11, 1999). Under U.S.-backed dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt in the 1980s, Mayan peasants were doused with gasoline and set on fire.
At the same time, the Reagan administration was waging undeclared war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. U.S. mercenaries and “contras” who supported former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza killed at least 50,000 Nicaraguans.
Late journalist Gary Webb charged in his book, “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion,” that the CIA and “contras” started the U.S. crack epidemic to finance their dirty war.
Socialism is the answer
Socialist Cuba harvested nearly 2 million tons of sugar last year. Yet the Times was not able to comment that Cuban sugar cane workers were dying from “chronic kidney disease of unknown causes.” That is because 97 percent of Cuban workers belong to unions that protect them against pesticides and heat stroke. Additionally, Cuba’s socialist health care system includes nine kidney transplantation centers. All treatment is free.
Before 1959, Cuba was exploited as a giant sugar plantation and nickel mine for Wall Street. The Cuban Revolution with Fidel Castro’s leadership broke this stranglehold. Previously, under U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, hundreds of thousands of sugar cane cutters were jobless for months every year. Education for their children was often a distant dream.
Despite a vicious U.S. economic blockade, there are now 300,000 college students among Cuba’s population of 11 million. None of them have to pay back student loans, unlike U.S. college students, who owe an estimated $1 trillion to loan sharks. Education in Cuba, like health care, is free and considered to be a basic human right.
There are no hedge funds in Cuba. And no billionaire parasites like Tepper. Working and poor people around the world will fight for what Cuba has — a socialist revolution.