Families of victims in Colombia’s civil war are suing the biggest banana importer in the United States for its role in funding illegal armed groups in the country’s conflict. Relatives of 931 people killed by left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries want compensation after Chiquita Brands admitted paying the groups at various times during the conflict to protect its banana plantations in the Caribbean Urabá region.
Chiquita paid the guerrilla movement between 1987 and 1999 to defend its plantations from attack by a rival guerrilla force, the Popular Liberation Army. These latest filings bring to over 4,000 deaths in Colombia for which families of victims are suing Chiquita for civil damages. The civil cases follow Chiquita’s admission in 2007 that it paid $1.7 million (€1.2 million) to the AUC between 1997 and 2004 and acknowledged previous payments to other groups.
In a 2009 interview with Al Jazeera, the former commander of the AUC’s “banana bloc” admitted murdering 70 union members in 1995 alone. “One of my tasks was to make people work and to avoid strikes against the bosses. There were so many murders already in the area, they wanted to bring the banana region under their control,” said Ever Veloza.
Despite having pleaded guilty to the criminal charges made against it by the US justice department, Chiquita is fighting the Colombian families’ claims.
Title: Relatives sue banana firm over killings in Colombia
Source: www.irishtimes.com, 3/24/11
Student Researcher: Taylor Wright, Sonoma State University
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