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Holding American Corporations Accountable for Their Murderous Actions Abroad

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Well now, this is interesting:

A Florida court has ordered Chiquita Brands International to pay $38m to the families of eight Colombian men murdered by a paramilitary death squad, after the US banana giant was shown to have financed the terrorist organisation from 1997 to 2004.

The landmark ruling late on Monday came after 17 years of legal efforts and is the first time that the fruit multinational has paid out compensation to Colombian victims, opening the way for thousands of others to seek restitution.

It also marks the first time a major US corporation has been held liable for such rights abuses in another country and could lead to a series of similar lawsuits involving rights violations across the world.

“This verdict sends a powerful message to corporations everywhere: profiting from human rights abuses will not go unpunished,” said Marco Simons at EarthRights, one of the law firms representing the families of those killed by the paramilitaries.

Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to funding “a specially designated global terrorist” for secretly paying the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) $1.7m over seven years at the height of Colombia’s brutal conflict, but had never before been ordered to pay compensation to victims.

The rightwing AUC sprang up in the 1980s to protect landowners from leftist rebels such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), but went on to become the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the south American nation – and one of the country’s largest drug-traffickers.

Until it disarmed as part of a 2004 peace process, the AUC was responsible for most of the civilian lives lost in Colombia’s brutal, six-decade-long conflict, which left 450,000 people dead and millions displaced.

Chiquita has argued that it was extorted by the AUC and that the payments were necessary to protect its employees from armed Marxists.

Court documents show that Chiquita continued paying the AUC after it had been designated an international terrorist organisation in the US in 2001 and that executives saw the payment as the “cost of doing business in Colombia”.

New evidence presented to the Florida courts also showed that Chiquita allowed the AUC to use its ports to import automatic rifles and its banana boats to smuggle cocaine across the seas, human rights lawyers at International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates) said.

And in case you didn’t already know, Chiquita is the renamed….wait for it….United Fruit. Let’s say there’s juuuuuuuuust a few more crimes against humanity in that company’s past.

All this said, I highly doubt Chiquita ever pays a cent given what is going to happen as this gets appealed up the line. Still, it’s important to at least try and hold these evil companies accountable for the deaths they have caused.

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