8 Apr 2011

Bloodstained bananas

Chiquita is a brand to boycott but the point is time after time peasants and indigenous people are killed and repressed to run our extractive economy.

Contrary to claims by Chiquita Brands International that its payments to Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups over more than a decade were extorted, internal company documents released here Thursday strongly suggest that the transactions provided specific benefits to the banana giant.

The documents, which were published by the National Security Archive (NSA), an independent research group, raised questions about the factual basis for a 2007 plea agreement between Chiquita and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) under which the company was fined $25mn for paying the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), which was designated a terrorist group by the State Department in 2001.

Under the agreement, which capped a four-year investigation, government attorneys accepted the company's contention that the payments to the AUC paramilitaries, which began in 1997, amounted to "protection" money and that Chiquita never received any actual services in exchange for them.

But some of the documents released by the NSA appeared to contradict that contention. They detail Chiquita's handling of what the company referred to as "sensitive payments" from 1990, when it was paying left-wing guerrilla groups active in Uraba, to 2003 when a PowerPoint presentation obtained by the NSA presents options for how to conceal improper payments.


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