by MAX RIVLIN-NADLER
Chiquita Brands International, giver of bananas and well-known supporter of Colombian death squads, is trying to get a federal appeals court to block a lawsuit brought against it by the families victimized by their paid mercenaries. And they might just get away with it.
Chiquita has long had large banana plantations in Colombia, and admitted in 2007 that it funded a para-military organization to the tune of $1.7 million over a seven-year period in the 1990’s. The group, AUC, was supposed to defend Chiquita against the extortion of the guerrilla group FARC, but instead began massacring civilians and engaging in the same type of terrorism practiced by those they were supposed to be fighting against. Essentially, a Charlotte-based company paid for the deaths of at least 4,000 civilians.
Chiquita paid a $25 million fine to the U.S. government in 2007 for their involvement in supporting a terrorist group. Now, the families of the Colombians killed want the fruit conglomerate to pay for the deaths of their loved ones, and Chiquita is fighting against it tooth and nail.
The Associated Press describes one of the plaintiffs:
One of the women, a 48-year-old who makes a small income sitting for a neighbor’s baby, said paramilitary troops descended on her home in 2000 while her husband and a friend were working in their garden. The troops requested identification papers and demanded to know whether there were weapons for the leftist guerrillas hidden in the home. She said they ransacked the home and found none, and she fled with the couple’s infant child.
“When he let me go, I ran with my girl and jumped over the (garden) wall. I don’t even know how I did that. I’d never done it before,” the woman said between sobs.
When she returned to her home with neighbors, she found her husband shot dead on their kitchen floor. Now, she said, the Chiquita lawsuit gives her some hope for justice and a better life for herself and her two children.
“I am fighting for my children, so that they can have some help after all this time,” the woman said.
Chiquita is claiming that a U.S. judge has no standing to issue a decision in the case. A recent 11th Circuit court ruling found that a Bolivian official (under direction from U.S. forces) who gave orders for men to fire on civilians could not be held liable in their deaths.
In their court filing, Chiquita says the case “involve allegations that Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups tortured and killed Colombians in Colombia,” and that they had nothing to do with it. Even though they paid for all of it.