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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Bananas ! - Florida Courts orders compensation

Its history began back in 1870, when ship's captain Lorenzo Dow Baker purchased 160 bunches of bananas in Jamaica and resold them in Jersey City eleven days later. In 1878, Baker partnered with Andrew Preston to form the Boston Fruit Company. United Fruit Company was founded in 1899, when the Boston Fruit Company and various fruit exporting concerns controlled by Keith merged.  In 1903, United Fruit Company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and became the first company to use refrigeration during open sea transport.

Robusta, Dwarf Cavendish, Rasthali, Poovan, Nendran, Karpooravalli, Monthan, Virupakshi, Sirumalai, Manoranjitham , Kathali ……. – simple varieties of banana, that delicious fruit.  Banana, that delicious fruit is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa ~ interestingly, bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rizhome.  


Chiquita Brands International S.à.r.l.   formerly known as United Fruit Co., is a Swiss-domiciled American producer and distributor of bananas and other produce.   Chiquita is the leading distributor of bananas in the United States.

It is no Bananas – as 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 American banana giant was shown to have financed the terrorist organisation from 1997-2004.  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.

The civil cases were brought by the family members of trade unionists, banana workers and activists who were tortured, killed and disappeared by paramilitaries as they sought to control the vast banana-producing regions of Colombia.  Some victims were forcibly disappeared by the AUC merely for being suspected of sympathising with the rebels, the rights firms said.  Among the victims who presented evidence was the widow of a union leader who was tortured, decapitated and dismembered by the AUC in 1997.

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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