Chiquita found liable in paramilitary financing case

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Chiquita found liable in paramilitary financing case

After more than six weeks of trial, a West Palm jury found banana giant Chiquita liable for the deaths of eight of the nine victims of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). The company is slated to pay $38.3 million in damages.

EarthRights International, the company representing the 16 plaintiffs, all families of the deceased, called the verdict a “great victory for human rights,” Law360 reported.

“We hope that this sends a message to Chiquita and other corporations that lives should not be the cost of doing business," Marco Simons of EarthRights told Law360. "Unfortunately, the language that many corporations understand best is money, so significant verdicts can change corporate behavior."

This is the first time that an American jury has held a major U.S. corporation liable for complicity in serious human rights abuses abroad, according to EarthRights.

The global banana company was found by the courts to have made several payments from 1997 to 2004 to AUC, listed as “security services”. 

Chiquita argued that said payments were extortion in response to violent threats against workers and the firm’s property in Colombia.

Former head of Chiquita Colombia operations Charles Keiser doubled down on these claims in a late May examination, where he emphasized the company had no choice but to comply.

However, attorneys representing the affected Colombian families argued that Chiquita took advantage of the war situation to purchase cheaper farmland.

Chiquita went on to buy 35 farms and more than 10,000 acres of land in Santa Marta and Urabá, northern Colombia. The farms were consolidated under its subsidiary Banadex, through which the firm was accused of making the payments.

Chiquita said in a statement that it intends to appeal the verdict.

Related articles: Chiquita case: AUC victims rebuke extortion claims


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