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Blood Bananas: Chiquita In Columbia Case

3708 words - 15 pages

Chiquita's history in Colombia is more than a century old. Its roots grow out of the United Fruit Company, notorious in Latin America as a U.S. Army backed opponent to agrarian reform and agricultural workers' unions. Though later known as United Brands in 1970, and then Chiquita in 1989, business in Latin America has continued in similar veins. In 1928, several thousand workers of Colombia's banana plantations began a strike demanding written contracts, eight-hour days, six-day weeks and the elimination of food coupons. Military forces murdered thousands of United Fruit Company Workers who were protesting. [1]

Throughout the 20th century, the company was infamous for using a combination ...view middle of the document...

The investigation found Chiquita to be the secret owner of "dozens of supposedly independent banana companies." The writers found cases of worker and union suppression on Chiquita-controlled farms, though the "employee pamphlet" assures worker that they have the right to unionize. [5] In one case the company used the Honduran military to "evict residents of a farm village; the soldiers forced the farmers out at gunpoint, and the village was bulldozed. [6] When Chiquita does face competition, they prove to be similarly ruthless. A federal lawsuit filed by a competitor's employee filed charged that Chiquita-hired thugs attempted to abduct him in Honduras. [7]

The investigation also found that Chiquita was aerially spraying workers, despite its pact with the Rainforest Alliance since November of 2000, which forbids aerial spraying. [8] Furthermore, in defiance of the "Better Banana" pact to abide by pesticide safety standards, Chiquita subsidiaries have used pesticides in Central America that are banned in the U.S., Canada, and the European Union, such as Bitertanol sold as Baycor, Chlorpyrifos, sold as Lorsban, Carbofuran, sold as Furadan and five other dangerous pesticides and fungicides. [9] In Costa Rica, a coroner's report attributed a worker's death to toxic chemicals released into farms by the company. Despite probably well-funded articles and a book green-washing Chiquita's transformation in 2004, it's questionable if Chiquita has really changed its practices. [10]

While the company claims that it was strong-armed into making payments to paramilitaries in Colombia in order to protect its employees, human rights groups accused the company of paying the paramilitaries not only to 'protect' workers, "but also to target union leaders and agitators perceived as going against the company's commercial interests," and to force communities off farming land. [11]

Reportedly, Chiquita made over 100 payments totaling over US$1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC by its initials in the Spanish language). [12] In fact, beyond simply paying the AUC, local human rights groups claimed the company used its company-controlled ports to smuggle weapons into the country for the AUC. [13] This is not the first time that Chiquita's ships have been used to transport something other than bananas. The Enquirer's expose also found that in 1997, authorities seized more than a ton of cocaine from 7 Chiquita ships, though the shipment was attributed to lax Colombian security and not the company. [14] A 2003 report by the Organization of American States stated that a Banadex ship could also have been used illicitly in November 2001 to ship 3,000 rifles and 2.5 million bullets to the paramilitary groups. [15]

Statements from Federal Prosecutors indicated that the Chiquita Company itself did business with the AUC, that senior executives in the company's Cincinnati headquarters approved the payments and kept corporate books to hide...

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