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Chiquita: Behind the Banana Republic

chiquita-bananas
The banana company Chiquitawas founded in 1870 by Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, and since then it has become the largest banana producer in the world. Underneath their popularity and production lies many controversies surrounding the company.

In 1998, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a piece about Chiquita’s business practices, which included the company using illegal pesticides, destroying villages to use their land and even using their transport ships to smuggle cocaine.

The Cincinnati Enquirer later recalled the articles and announced they would pay more than $10 million to avoid being sued by the company. Whether or not their information was true and obtained legally is still under question.

In 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was sent into exile and a coup took place. John Perkins and other activists believed there was a link between Chiquita and the coup.

Recently, the company has been sued by about 4,000 Colombians, who stated that the United Self Defense Forces (AUC), a parliamentary group that has gained funding from Chiquita,  has killed many of their family members. Because of Chiquita’s association with the group and the group’s work, family members of the deceased want the company to take responsibility.

Between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita gave $1.7 million to AUC, a group that the US and EU consider a terrorist organization, and has been held responsible for the torture and death of thousands of Colombians.

Between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita gave $1.7 million to the United-Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a group that the U.S. and EU consider a terrorist organization, and has been held responsible for the torture and death of thousands of Colombians.

Chiquita has already paid a $25 million fine for their work with the AUC, but it is also believed that they were paying a “banana bribe” in order to use their relationship with AUC to control Colombia’s banana industry.

“Chiquita has great sympathy for the Colombians who suffered at the hands of these Colombian armed groups, but the responsibility for the violent crimes committed in that country belongs to the perpetrators, not to the innocent people and companies they extorted,” said Chiquita spokesperson Ed Lloyd.

The United States Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the decision was “outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.”

While the company managed to escape the claims against them since their inception, with this new lawsuit gaining attention, it is hopeful that Chiquita will think twice before getting their hands dirty again.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: BBC News, The Wire, Chiquita, Democracy Now!, Ethical Consumer, FundingUniverse, Gawker, NBC News
Photo: BBC News