[News] Chiquita Lauded for Human Rights Abuses

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 12 13:52:16 EST 2010


January 12, 2010

Super Criminals

Chiquita Lauded for Human Rights Abuses


In its most recent edition, the magazine, "Super Lawyers," gave its 
cover story to the General Counsel of Chiquita Brands International, 
praising him for navigating the complex and difficult waters of 
Colombia. What it failed to mention is the trail of tears in Latin 
America left behind by Chiquita (formerly United Fruit, the architect 
of the 1954 coup in Guatemala as well as the 1928 massacre of 
striking banana workers in Cienaga, Colombia memorialized in One 
Hundred Years of Solitude). The following letter, by union labor 
lawyer, Dan Kovalik highlights the contradictions in the applause 
given to Chiquita. We note that, just after this letter was written, 
Chiquita also received (quite ironically) a "sustainability award" 
for its business abroad.

Re: Super Criminals

Dear Mr. White,

I just had the unfortunate experience of reading the cover story of 
your recent publication, "Super Lawyers," which lauded the atrocities 
of Chiquita (formerly, United Fruit) -- a company with a laundry list 
of atrocities to its name, to be sure.

Your publication, which purports to highlight "not just the 'Usual 
Suspects,'" actually did focus on one of the "Usual Suspects" for war 
crimes in this issue. In this particular issue, you chose to applaud 
the General Counsel of Chiquita for what he claimed to be Chiquita's 
"extra-difficult decisions to save lives" by paying murderous 
paramilitaries over $1.7 million over a 7-year period. Nothing is 
said of the lives lost due to these payments, nor is there mention of 
the cache of arms provided to the paramilitaries by Chiquita's 
Colombian subsidiary (another count Chiquita pled guilty to).

According to Colombia's Attorney General, Mario Iguaran, Chiquita's 
payments to the paramilitaries were "not paid for protection, but 
rather, for blood; for the pacification of the Uruba banana region." 
Iguaran, hardly a liberal, having been appointed by President Alvaro 
Uribe, estimates that around 4,000 civilians were killed as a result 
of the assistance Chiquita gave to the paramilitaries. Moreover, 
Iguaran has opined that the very phenomenon of parmilitarism which 
has gripped Colombia for years and which has led to countless 
murders, rapes and other atrocities, would not have been possible 
without this assistance by companies like Chiquita.

Yet, notwithstanding these facts, you chose to give Chiquita's 
General Counsel your cover story to spew his apologies for his 
company's support for war crimes. Of course, I should not be 
surprised, the law, after all, being an instrument created and 
maintained to protect the rich and strong from the poor and 
oppressed. I might just suggest that, to keep up the facade of a 
justice system blind to the pocketbook of the parties coming before 
it, you might not want to be so obvious in your publication in 
highlighting the legal profession as a guardian of those who amass 
profit through acts of massive violence.

I guess Bob Dylan said it best when he wrote, "All the criminals in 
their suits and their ties, are free to drink martinis and watch the 
sun rise . . . ."

I could end my note here, but a bit more is worth saying. Thus, even 
if we take Chiquita and Mr. Thompson at their word, their conduct 
hardly warrants congratulations. First, even by their own admissions 
to the Justice Department and to your magazine, it allegedly took 
them over 2 years to realize that the paramilitaries they were paying 
and providing arms to were designated by the U.S. State Department as 
"terrorists." Is this a mark of great lawyering? Most of us would be 
fired for taking so long to realize our client was engaged in such a 
high crime. Indeed, what you call "super lawyering" would simply be 
called "malpractice" by most reasonable observers. And, even if they 
were paying "protection" to these killers to grow and profit from 
bananas as they claim, is that also a reason for praise? The Justice 
Department, which certainly let these folks off quite easily (they 
should all be in jail), certainly didn't think this excused them from 

I will end this by asking that you please refrain from ever sending 
me your publication again. You should be ashamed of yourself and your 
magazine. But, of course, we live in a world largely without shame, 
where petty criminals spend years in jail and the big criminals rule 
the world, thanks to the law you claim to be so dedicated to.

Dan Kovalik

Dan Kovalik is a labor lawyer. He can be reached at: 
<mailto:DKovalik at usw.org>DKovalik at usw.org.

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