Business

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Chiquita Sued over Terrorist Allegations

March 18, 2008 02:03 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Five women claim Chiquita aided in their husbands’ murder by funding FARC. It would not be the first time the company bargained with guerrillas.

30-Second Summary

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Last week, five women filed a lawsuit against Chiquita Brands International. Each stated that the company contributed to her husband's death by financing the leftist guerilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Chiquita spokesman Ed Loyd says the charges are “categorically untrue” and that the company plans to “vigorously defend” itself.

Nonetheless, the incident highlights the troubled South American record of Chiquita, once known as United Fruit.

The banana distribution company was established in 1899. Over the decades, it grew to own more than 1.7 million acres of land in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. Employing 60,000 people, the company’s influence grew to such an extent that people began to refer to the countries in which it operated as “banana republics.”

However, United Fruit has, over the years, been criticized for engaging in controversial practices.

For example, it is public knowledge that the CIA backed the 1954 coup in Guatemala that ousted democratically elected President Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. United Fruit played a role in that coup.

According to a 1982 New York Times review of Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer’s book “Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala,” Arbenz drew the ire of the Boston-based company after he began redistributing uncultivated land owned by United Fruit.

“United Fruit had powerful friends in Washington ... and its officials gained a sympathetic hearing from the Eisenhower State Department ... Together, they created a ‘liberator’ out of a 40-year-old army colonel and Arbenz enemy named Carlos Castillo Armas,” who would later take control of the country, the Times writes.

More recently, last year Chiquita had to pay a $25 million fine after admitting to paying off a different Colombian guerrilla group in order buy the safety of its employees.

Headline Links: A lawsuit and a new book

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Blood bananas’

Related Topics: Chiquita admits to paying terrorists and the Cincinnati Enquirer pays Chiquita

Background: United Fruit/Chiquita’s history and FARC

Historical Context: United Fruit in Guatemala and its 1913 anti-trust violations

Reference: A banana industry timeline

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