Banana Company Held Accountable for Funding Terrorists

( — A federal jury in Florida last Monday ordered American banana company Chiquita Brands to pay more than $38 million to the families of people killed by a right-wing paramilitary group it had been paying during Colombia’s civil war.

The verdict is the first to hold a private American company responsible for human rights abuses elsewhere and marks the first verdict among multiple pending lawsuits against Chiquita that found the company liable.

EarthRights International’s Marco Simons, who represented one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a June 10 news release that the verdict sent “a powerful message” that corporations that profit from human rights abuses would not go unpunished.

The plaintiffs accused Chiquita Brands of paying roughly $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia (or AUC) between 1997 and 2004. During that time, AUC was reportedly responsible for killing thousands of people.

The banana company argued that the payments were made by its Colombian subsidiary, Banadex, out of fear that the rebel group would harm its workers and operations.

Chiquita said in a statement following last Monday’s verdict that while the situation in the Central American country was “tragic for so many,” it did not change the company’s position that the plaintiffs had “no legal basis for these claims.”

In response to the verdict, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro questioned how the American courts could determine that Chiquita funded paramilitary groups when Colombian judges had not ruled against it.

Petro said in a post on X that the 2016 peace deal that ended the civil conflict had called for a tribunal to “disclose judicial truths” and suggested the country should set it up.

EarthRights International initially filed a lawsuit in July 2007 that was eventually combined with several other civil cases against Chiquita. Earlier that year, the banana giant pleaded guilty in federal court to engaging in transactions with a foreign terror organization for paying AUC and agreed to pay a $25 million fine.

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