American Banana Giant Held Liable for Funding Paramilitary Groups

( – A court in Florida has ruled that Chiquita Brands International is forced to pay eight families of Colombian men who were killed by a paramilitary death squad $38 million. The U.S. banana giant was found to have funded the terrorist organization from 1997 to 2004.

The landmark ruling came after 17 years of legal efforts. This is the first instance where the fruit multinational has compensated Colombian victims, paving the way for thousands more to pursue restitution. It’s the first instance of a major U.S. corporation being held accountable for such human rights abuses in a foreign country. This could trigger a wave of similar lawsuits addressing rights violations worldwide.

In 2007, Chiquita admitted to funding a global terrorist group by covertly paying the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) $1.7 million over seven years during Colombia’s intense conflict.

The right-wing AUC emerged in the 1980s to defend landowners from leftist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). However, it became the worst violator of human rights in Colombia and one of the country’s biggest drug traffickers. Before disarming in a 2004 peace process, the AUC was responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Colombia’s brutal six-decade conflict, which resulted in 450,000 fatalities and millions displaced.

Fresh evidence presented in Florida courts showed that Chiquita allowed the AUC to utilize its ports for importing automatic rifles and its banana boats for smuggling cocaine across the seas. The civil lawsuits were initiated by family members of activists, trade unionists, and banana workers who were subjected to torture, killings, and disappearances by paramilitary groups. These paramilitaries sought to exert control over Colombia’s profitable and extensive banana-producing regions.

Some individuals were abducted by the AUC simply on suspicion of supporting the rebels. One of the victims who testified was the wife of a union leader who was brutally tortured, beheaded, and dismembered by the AUC in 1997. One victim stated that they owe it to their families to fight this.

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