Jury In Florida Finds Chiquita Funded Violent Colombian Paramilitary Group

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Banana big Chiquita Manufacturers should pay $38.3 million to 16 members of the family of individuals killed throughout Colombia’s lengthy civil warfare by a violent right-wing paramilitary group funded by the corporate, a federal jury in Florida determined.

The decision Monday by a jury in West Palm Seaside marks the primary time the corporate has been discovered liable in any of a number of comparable lawsuits pending elsewhere in U.S. courts, attorneys for the plaintiffs stated. It additionally marks a uncommon discovering that blames a non-public U.S. firm for human rights abuses in different international locations.

“This verdict sends a powerful message to corporations everywhere: profiting from human rights abuses will not go unpunished. These families, victimized by armed groups and corporations, asserted their power and prevailed in the judicial process,” Marco Simons, EarthRights Worldwide Normal Counsel and one plaintiff’s lawyer, stated in a information launch.

Chiquita bananas are piled on show on the Heinen’s grocery retailer in Bainbridge, Ohio on this Aug. 3, 2005 file picture.

“The situation in Colombia was tragic for so many,” Chiquita, whose banana operations are primarily based in Florida, stated in an announcement after the decision. “However, that does not change our belief that there is no legal basis for these claims.”

In response to court docket paperwork, Chiquita paid the United Self-Protection Forces of Colombia — recognized by its Spanish acronym AUC — about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004. The AUC is blamed for the killings of 1000’s of individuals throughout these years.

Chiquita has insisted that its Colombia subsidiary, Banadex, solely made the funds out of worry that AUC would hurt its staff and operations, court docket information present.

Reacting to the ruling on social media, Colombian president Gustavo Petro questioned why the U.S. justice system may “determine” Chiquita financed paramilitary teams, whereas judges in Colombia haven’t dominated in opposition to the corporate.

“The 2016 peace deal … calls for the creation of a tribunal that will disclose judicial truths, why don’t we have one?” Petro posted on X, referencing the 12 months the civil battle ended.

The decision adopted a six-week trial and two days of deliberations. The EarthRights case was initially filed in July 2007 and was mixed with a number of different lawsuits.

“Our clients risked their lives to come forward to hold Chiquita to account, putting their faith in the United States justice system. I am very grateful to the jury for the time and care they took to evaluate the evidence,” stated Agnieszka Fryszman, one other legal professional within the case. “The verdict does not bring back the husbands and sons who were killed, but it sets the record straight and places accountability for funding terrorism where it belongs: at Chiquita’s doorstep.”

In 2007, Chiquita pleaded responsible to a U.S. prison cost of participating in transactions with a international terrorist group — the AUC was designated such a bunch by the State Division in 2001 — and agreed to pay a $25 million advantageous. The corporate was additionally required to implement a compliance and ethics program, in keeping with the Justice Division.

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