Colombia is a world-leading banana exporter, alongside Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Philippines. Chiquita, one of the world’s largest banana firms tracing its roots back to 1870, is a major operator in Colombia.
In 2007, Chiquita admitted to paying about $1.7 million to the right-wing paramilitaries (namely the AUC, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia) and to the FARC for the “protection” of its workers.
The U.S. considers the AUC and the FARC to be foreign terrorist organizations, FTO’s, and Chiquita was guilty of engaging in financial transactions with them. The AUC demobilized in 2004—though other groups have risen from its ashes and there are claims the demobilization was a charade.
Lawyers have sued Chiquita for damages on behalf of 4000 people who were killed by either the AUC or the FARC. The claim is that by engaging with the AUC and the FARC, Chiquita paid to have people killed off. Chiquita has long denied responsibility for the murders, claiming that the company was itself a victim of extortion by both groups.
Chiquita sold the Colombian arm of its business.
This coming Thursday, Paul Wolf will be a guest blogger here. Paul Wolf is a human rights and international lawyer based in Washington, D.C. He represents most of the plaintiffs in the mass tort case, In re Chiquita Brands International.