Bananas and Blood: Chiquita Ordered to Pay Colombian Families $38 Million for Backing Death Squads


In a landmark case in Florida, a federal jury has ordered Chiquita Brands International to pay over $38 million in damages to the families of eight Colombian men who were killed by paramilitaries the banana giant funded. Chiquita previously pleaded guilty to paying the far-right United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia paramilitary group, or AUC, $1.7 million from 2001 to 2004. Though Chiquita argued the payments were meant to protect company employees, the AUC has been found responsible for committing mass human rights abuses and murdering civilians from 1997 to 2006. “Chiquita essentially had a partnership with the paramilitaries,” says Marco Simons, general counsel for EarthRights International. “They voluntarily paid these groups in order to protect Chiquita against left-wing guerrillas and essentially to pacify the operating environment in the banana-growing region of Colombia.” Chiquita is one of the world’s largest banana producers and says it plans to appeal the jury’s verdict. The company is due to face a second so-called bellwether trial starting July 15. “For the past 17 years, we have been trying to get justice,” says Simons. “This is only the start of the judicial reckoning for Chiquita.”

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