Despite some efforts by Chiquita to clean up its act in recent years, its long history of human rights abuses is coming back to haunt the company. Chiquita is being sued by the families of more than 4,000 Colombians murdered by illegal armed groups funded by Chiquita. More than 100 lawyers have filed the suits for different groups of victims, but are all working together, according to Colombia Reports, to make one giant case against the company.
The Irish Times writes, "The civil cases follow Chiquita's admission in 2007 that it paid $1.7 million (€1.2 million) to the AUC between 1997 and 2004 and acknowledged previous payments to other groups."
That admission was preceded by a secret Justice Department investigation, at which time Chiquita was represented by Eric Holder—yes, the current Attorney General. Chiquita was fined $25 million.
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"They just considered these payments part of the business of growing bananas. Chiquita had a policy of paying whoever it was they had to pay off and to this day still consider themselves the victims in all this," says Paul Wolf, the human rights lawyer representing many of the families.
Mr Wolf says Chiquita's involvement with the AUC went beyond paying them to protect its plantations and included granting the group access to Chiquita facilities for the illegal shipment of thousands of weapons into the country.
In a 2009 interview with Al Jazeera, the former commander of the AUC's "banana bloc" admitted murdering 70 union members in 1995 alone. "One of my tasks was to make people work and to avoid strikes against the bosses. There were so many murders already in the area, they wanted to bring the banana region under their control," said Ever Veloza.
Chiquita denies the allegations, but the evidence and accusations are mounting. From Colombia Reports:
The current cases expand the scope of the alleged "genocide" perpetrated on behalf of the multinational banana company based on new evidence that has come to light, including records of payments Chiquita made to the illegal armed groups and the testimonies of demobilized AUC members to Colombia's Commission of Justice and Peace.
In additional to the some 4,000 cases which have already been filed, Wolf said he has about 500 more than he hasn't yet filed and he suspects other lawyers have more cases too. According to his estimations, some 10,000 people were killed in the north-Colombian banana growing region of Uruba alone.
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