Chiquita Requests Court Block Suits Blaming Banana Giant For Deaths In Colombian Civil War

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Chiquita Brands International is in damage control mode, requesting a federal appeals court block lawsuits filed against it in the U.S. by Colombians whose relatives were killed in that country's decades-long civil war. The produce giant has admitted to paying a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group $1.7 million over a seven-year period, but insists it was blackmailed into doing so, and only agreed on the payments to protect workers from the group's violence. In 2007 Chiquita pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges that it had supported terrorists, and paid a hefty $25 million dollar fine. Now, families of those killed by the group Chiquita supported are filing lawsuits against the company that could amount to over a billion dollars.

The lawsuits request that Chiquita be held responsible for thousands of deaths at the hands of the AUC, the Spanish acronym for the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Chiquita wants 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the lawsuits on the grounds that each murder cannot be tied specifically to the company. Chiquita argues that in no way did they know about each individual killing, and the money paid was in no way a support of these actions, the plaintiffs lawyers see it differently.

"It does not make a lot of sense because then the people who gave the orders, but did not know the victims' names, are not responsible, and only the actual trigger-pullers have done something wrong," said Paul Wolf, who represents several thousand Colombian plaintiffs.

Chiquita acknowledges the acts carried out by this group they were found guilty of supporting are horrific, they point to the fact that the Colombian family members "do not allege a single fact that links Chiquita to any of the acts of violence at issue, much less that suggest Chiquita wanted the violence to happen." "High levels of generality are all that plaintiffs have offered," Chiquita says in the filing.

Lawyers representing the Colombians counter that U.S. criminal law normally makes the high-level decision maker in a conspiracy more liable than someone who was simply following those orders, and in this case they believe the produce giant holds direct responsibility because they knew the AUC was murdering civilians, even if they did not order or know about each specific case.

"It does not make a lot of sense because then the people who gave the orders, but did not know the victims' names, are not responsible, and only the actual trigger-pullers have done something wrong," said Paul Wolf, who represents several thousand Colombian plaintiffs.

AUC was formed in 1997, and has since been linked to over 50,000 mostly civilian deaths. The group is supported by top Colombian political leaders, as the group is meant to unite several right-wing militias in battle against the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and its supporters.

Chiquita is the largest banana seller in the United States, and first began banana growing operations in Colombia in 1899. The company sold its Colombian subsidiary Banadex in 2004.

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5 comments
Maysol Losada
Maysol Losada

Those bastards never buying them #boycottchiquita everyone!

Alex Anico
Alex Anico

How much has the US given to rebels throughout the world?

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