[News] New 'Chiquita Papers’ Expose How Banana Execs Fueled War and Terror in Colombia for Decades

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 25 17:29:12 EDT 2017


  New 'Chiquita Papers’ Expose How Banana Execs Fueled War and Terror in
  Colombia for Decades

April 25, 2017

A new release 
of the sensitive internal records of Chiquita Brands International, the 
U.S. banana giant that funded right-wing paramilitary death squads 
in Colombia, dubbed the “Chiquita Papers,” reveals new information about 
the exact role individual Chiquita executives played in bankrolling 
terror in the South American country.

The new records reveal, for the first time, the identities and roles of 
Chiquita executives like Robert F. Kistinger, head of Chiquita’s Banana 
Group based in Cincinnati, Ohio, who both approved and oversaw years of 
payments to groups such as the now-defunct far-right paramilitary 
organization the United 
of Colombia, 
better known by its Spanish acronym AUC.

The investigation found that Kistinger viewed the payments as a “normal 
expenditure” and, like the purchase of things such as fertilizers or 
agrochemicals, saw them as “an ongoing cost” of the company’s business 
operations. The investigation also identified the exact members of 
Chiquita’s board of directors, the corporate security team, regional and 
country operations manager, accountants and internal auditors, attorneys 
and third-party agents who carried out the payments over the years.

The AUC was responsible for years of violent terror, leading a 
coordinated campaign of assassinations and massacres aimed at unionists, 
political activists, public officials and others perceived as guerrilla 
supporters. By Chiquita’s own account, between 1997 and 2004, the 
company issued at least 100 payments to the AUC 
totaling some US$1.6 million.

The collusion between the right-wing death squad and Chiquita is being 
increasingly uncovered as families of the victims of paramilitary 
violence seek justice through the latest lawsuit 
against the corporation.

One of the documents 
also reveals that Chiquita, through its Colombian affiliates, not only 
made payments to the AUC and other paramilitary groups but also to the 
country's two largest rebel armies, the FARC and the ELN, between 1989 
and 1997. The finding, the result of a Special Litigation Committee 
report investigating whether Chiquita violated the U.S. anti-terrorism 
statute, underlines the fact that the company financed Colombia's war 
from all sides for decades in order to protect its bottom line.

According to the report, Chiquita began payments to the FARC and ELN 
around 1989, but later slowly phased them out as right-wing paramilitary 
groups gained strength. The payments to guerrilla armies ended around 
1997, but the company continued payments to death squad groups until 2004.

The details revealed in the investigation may prove key in providing 
evidence to prosecute third-party actors responsible for funding 
Colombia's civil war as part of the country's transitional justice 
process put in motion by the historic peace deal signed last year by the 
government and the FARC.

Colombia's Attorney General's office has stated that voluntary financing 
of paramilitary groups in the context of the internal armed conflict 
will be treated as a crime against humanity, putting multinational 
corporations like Chiquita on the hook for prosecution.

“It is clear that the banana business, voluntarily financed an illegal 
armed group with the specific purpose of ensuring security regardless of 
the price or method used,” the attorney general's office said in a 
statement in February.

The revealing new documents have been brought to light by an 
investigation by the National Security Archive, which filed a Freedom of 
Information lawsuit to gain access to the records, together with the 
Colombian media outlet Verdad Abierta, which have partnered to publish a 
series of articles 
exposing a number of revelations, the first of which was posted Monday.

The National Security Archive and Verdad Abierta assessed nearly 400 
pages of the secret testimony Chiquita executives gave to the Securities 
and Exchange Commission, a U.S. financial crimes watchdog, in the early 

While Chiquita, the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC attempted to 
conceal the identities of executives and managers who authorized and 
carried out the “sensitive payments” program, the National Security 
Archive and Verdad Abierta have revealed some of their identities in 
their first report of the new records.

The next installation of the reveal will examine the stories of these 
corporate officials and their collusion with the paramilitaries.

Many of these Chiquita executives are currently being prosecuted, as a 
U.S. court in December gave the green light for a trial launched by 
victims’ family 
members to move forward against the company and its top executives.

A Florida federal judge, Kenneth Marra, threw out Chiquita’s arguments 
that the case should be dealt with in Colombia 
instead of the United States, where the company is headquartered in 
Charlotte, North Carolina. After more than a decade of legal battles, 
the ruling paved the way for a historic shot at justice 
in an international court for foreign and corporate-funded political 
violence carried out in the context of Colombia’s more than 
five-decade-long civil war.

In addition, in February, Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office 
announced that around 200 local and international companies will face 
for crimes against humanity for financing paramilitary death squads in 
northern Colombia. Paramilitary groups are said to be responsible for at 
least 80 percent of civilian deaths in the country’s more than 
half-century-long civil war that has claimed the lives of some 260,000 
people and victimized millions more.

Along with Chiquita, other multinational fruit companies including Del 
Monte and Dole Food Company voluntarily financed right-wing 
paramilitaries in order to benefit from protections provided by the 
so-called “Banana Block,” 
which served as an umbrella organization for the AUC and maintained 
control of certain banana-producing stories.

Chiquita Brands, in particular, formerly the United Fruit Company, has a 
long and sordid history in Colombia and throughout the rest of Latin 

In one notable incident in 1928, banana workers at a United Fruit 
Company plantation near Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast 
suffered a brutal massacre at the hands of the military 
after the company and other U.S. officials in Colombia painted a labor 
strike as a threat of a communist uprising.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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