A bunch of bananas
Chiquita, the company known for the popular Chiquita bananas brand, is being sued by the families of victims of terrorists funded by Chiquita. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Chiquita banana company has allegedly been increasing the supply of more than dietary potassium around the world. The company has been named in an enormous lawsuit, alleging that the Chiquita company has been funding terrorists in Colombia. The company is said to have made regular payments to far-right guerrillas.

International fruit conglomerate could dole out billions

The Chiquita company, the enormous fruit conglomerate best known for the brand Chiquita bananas, has been hit with a billion dollar lawsuit, according to MSNBC, for allegedly funding terrorism in Colombia. A lawsuit with more than 4,000 plaintiffs was filed against Chiquita Brands International, claiming that the company’s policy of paying off paramilitary groups was tantamount to directly funding terrorism and that the funds resulted in the guerrillas being funded enough to terrorize the countryside and kill people.

Currently, the complaints are not one lawsuit, but a large number of similar suits that are being conglomerated in a federal court in Florida. The potential damages that could be awarded are estimated to reach into the billions, if the lawsuit succeeds. Foreign nationals, according to CBS, can sue Americans or American companies under the Alien Tort, but it’s difficult to successfully bring cases to trial.

Second terrorism case in half a decade

Similar charges in 2007 resulted in Chiquita pleading guilty to funding terrorist groups and paying the Department of Justice $25 million in fines. Chiquita, however, maintains that terrorist groups will massacre people that work on farms belonging to companies that haven’t paid up, and therefore has little choice but to pay.

Chiquita was discovered to have been making payments for years to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, the radical left-wing organization that has been terrorizing Columbia for decades. The company also made payments and shipped weapons to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colomiba, or AUC, a far-right guerrilla organization that opposes FARC and the Colombian government. Chiquita paid AUC upward of $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004, during which time the organization said it would ensure Chiquita’s interests in the region. The U.S. government declared AUC a terrorist organization in 2001.

The current suit against Chiquita alleges massacres were carried out by the AUC using weapons and ammunition obtained with funds from Chiquita.

Rotten fruit

Chiquita is a remnant of the United Fruit Company, the American fruit import-export company that held a virtual monopoly in Latin America for decades, and is said to have been behind decades of brutal economic and political oppression in numerous countries. For instance, the United Brands Company, previously United Fruit and later Chiquita, was embroiled in scandal in the 1970s when United Brands was found to have bribed the finance minister of Honduras to keep banana export tariffs low, according to the New York Daily News.

However, Chiquita is known to have some friends in high places in the U.S. government. One person who helped to broker the $25 million settlement between the Justice Department and Chiquita for making payments to FARC guerrillas, according to The Guardian, was Eric Holder, currently the Attorney General of the United States.

Sources

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43221200/ns/world_news-americas/

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/31/national/main20067475.shtml

New York Daily News: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-22/news/29588588_1_chiquita-banana-united-fruit

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2008/nov/25/attornery-general-eric-holder-chiquita

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