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Colombians win lawsuit against banana company Chiquita Brands and will be compensated

Published By Desantos Rocky | Jun 11, 2024 9:22 a.m.

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Note Descr: The first of the trials in the United States against Chiquita Brands concluded. The multinational must compensate the victims....

Chiquita Brands' main market is the United States, but it is a world-renowned brand for exporting its product. It is a fact: the million-dollar financing of the banana multinational Chiquita Brands, with up to US$1.7 million dollars to the Colombian paramilitaries, is connected with the homicides committed by these criminal groups in the middle Urabá and Magdalena, between 1997 and 2004. The Court of the Southern District of Florida has just declared Chiquita Brands responsible for the consequences of its relations with the Self-Defense Forces of Carlos Castaño and ordered the world-renowned company to pay a millionaire compensation to a first group of eight national victims. In context: This was the trial reserved in the United States against the banana company Chiquita Brands. In 2007, the United States Department of Justice, after the confession of senior company executives, found proven financing of the paramilitaries, who were then considered a foreign terrorist group. Since then, thousands of Colombians filed complaints with the North American justice system, explaining that having filled these criminal coffers was a source for committing homicides, displacements, massacres and forced disappearances. The Court of the Southern District of Florida collected nine symbolic cases, out of thousands of victims, and sentenced Chiquita Brands. As El Espectador learned, the jurors and the judge of the Court of the Southern District of Florida came to the conclusion that eight of The nine victims, of these emblematic cases, managed to prove that their loved one was murdered by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, just at the time when Chiquita Brands was financing this paramilitary group. Now, the banana multinational will have a month to decide whether to appeal this first ruling against it, with which compensation was ordered to the victims, the amount of which this newspaper refrains from publishing for the safety of the national plaintiffs. Read: “I lost my freedom, and that of my harasser is still intact,"says university doctor. "This verdict sends a strong message to companies around the world that profit at the expense of human rights: their actions will not go unpunished. These families, who suffered siege by armed groups and corporations, demonstrated their strength and managed to triumph in the judicial system,” said Marco Simons, legal director of EarthRights International, one of the human rights organizations that accompanies the plaintiff families. ¿ Why is the case in the United States? In 2007, the American justice system verified that Chiquita Brands transferred more than one and a half million dollars to paramilitary groups between 1997 and 2004. The evidence that was presented and recognized by the multinational showed that They financed the paramilitaries after a private meeting in Medellín between Carlos Castaño and a senior executive of Banadex, which was the most profitable subsidiary of Chiquita Brands in the country at the time. Read also: What you should know about the trial against Chiquita Brands for crimes in ColombiaThe center of the controversy is that, while Chiquita Brands delivered the money, in 2001, the United States government designated the paramilitaries as a foreign terrorist organization. “Like any criminal enterprise, a terrorist organization needs a stream of financing to support its operations,” said then-Attorney General of the National Security Division, Kennet Weinstein. Despite this, Chiquita Brands continued to make the payments for three more years. The United States Department of Justice concluded that “what makes this conduct so morally repugnant is that the company continued month after month, year after year paying the same terrorists. It did so knowing full well that, even though its farms were protected and its workers were protected while they were literally on them, Chiquita was paying money to buy the bullets that murdered innocent Colombians outside its farms.” How has Chiquita Brands defended itself? The main argument that Chiquita Brands has used in its defense is that, although it gave the money to the paramilitaries, it was all by force and the result of extortion. Even the US government has always maintained that in the meeting between Carlos Castaño and the banana company executives, the paramilitary implied that failure to make payments “could result in physical damage to Banadex personnel and property.” Read also: The unprecedented indigenous prison that will be built in the heart of CaucaKey testimonies of the trialThe jury heard the testimony of Ovidio Núñez Cabrales, alias El Indio, a former security worker for Chiquita who over time joined the paramilitaries and has been key in Justice and Peace processes in Colombia. His testimony detailed that the banana multinational had even delivered weapons and gasoline to those led by Carlos Castaño, and had planned selective murders at the hands of criminals. He also assured that Charles Keizer himself, another of the witnesses and who directed Chiquita's operations in Colombia between 1987 and 2000, received direct security from the AUC. You may be interested in: Prosecutor's Office occupies premises of a renowned sushi chain for links to drug traffickingHermes Hernández, who was Chiquita's security chief in Urabá and Santa Marta, detailed the criminal activity against the banana company by the FARC, the EPL and the ELN, and that Banadex employees were forced to participate in raffles by the paramilitaries, with money that was deducted from their salaries. Then, the victims' lawyers read a statement previously taken from Raúl Hasbún, alias Pedro Bonito and former paramilitary commander of the Banana Block. He noted that Chiquita executives met periodically with AUC leaders to discuss financial and security issues. Even so, he clarified that there was no extortion: “I never forced them to contribute anything to us,” he concluded. What's next? According to Marco Simons, general counsel of the international human rights organization Earth Rights, which represents victims in this trial , the recent decision will be taken by the American justice system as an example case for the other lawsuits that come. It is a mother ruling from which others in the future may be based, before that court and others in North American jurisdiction. The victims are thousands and this path of truth and justice has just begun, related to the criminal hand of white-collar criminals.**jcote@elespectador.com@SebasCote95To learn more about justice, security and human rights, visit the Judicial section of El Spectator.By Jhoan Sebastian CoteSocial communicator with emphasis on journalism and radio production from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Training as a judicial journalist, with skills in culture, sports and history. Podcast creator, narrative journalism and current news. Recommended topics: