HomeNewsBriefDismissal of Chiquita Banana Case Major Blow to Colombia Victims
BRIEF

Dismissal of Chiquita Banana Case Major Blow to Colombia Victims

AUC / 25 JUL 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

A US appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Colombian families against banana giant Chiquita for allegedly colluding with paramilitaries, dealing a major blow to attempts by Colombia’s conflict victims to hold companies responsible for their links to illegal armed groups. 

In a 2-1 decision on July 24, a Miami appeals court ruled that US courts lack the jurisdiction to handle the case since the activities in question occurred outside the country, reported the BBC. The decision was based on a Supreme Court ruling that limited foreigners’ ability to use US courts to seek compensation from corporations. 

The 2011 mass lawsuit included some 4,000 claims by victims’ family members that Chiquita subsidiary Banadex funded United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries operating in northwest Colombia, who were responsible for the deaths and disappearances of their loved ones.

In 2007, the US banana producer admitted to paying $1.7 million to the AUC between 1997 and 2004, and was fined $25 million. However, the company claimed they only paid the money as extortion fees and received no benefits from the exchange. 

Chiquita has strongly denied any liability, arguing the lawsuits failed to draw direct connections between the company and the violence perpetrated by the paramilitaries. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The sheer number of claimants and the heavy international press coverage of the Chiquita case has given it symbolic importance to the process of seeking reparations for the victims of Colombia’s conflict. The US decision is not only a huge disappointment to the thousands of victims who saw this as their chance to gain recognition and compensation from the company, it also sets a precedent for other cases in which corporations allegedly colluded with illegal armed groups. 

Despite Chiquita’s attempts to distance itself from the AUC’s activities, evidence points to the contrary. In 2011, the company’s internal documents revealed attempts to disguise the payments and indicated Chiquita received security on their plantations in exchange for the fees. Testimonies collected for the lawsuit against the company claim this “security” included local managers providing death lists of union troublemakers to paramilitaries. Meanwhile, 2001 invoices revealed Chiquita received a shipment of 3,000 AK-47 assault rifles, allegedly destined for the AUC. 

SEE ALSO: AUC Profile

The results of the case highlight the impunity enjoyed by foreign corporations operating in Colombia. In spite of the proceedings against them, Chiquita has continued doing business through back doors in Colombia, first through Banacol — which until recently was Chiquita’s biggest supplier — and now through Fyffes, which merged with Chiquita this year and operates in Colombia. Various other companies accused of paramilitary ties — including coal giant Drummond, Coca Cola and Nestle — all continue to do business in Colombia.

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 13 MAR 2018

The mafia in Colombia today is comprised of a maelstrom of localized groups, shadowy power brokers and sub-contracted labor that…

COLOMBIA / 26 JAN 2016

One of Colombia's most powerful criminal organizations could be moving into new territory in the eastern part of the country…

BOLIVIA / 5 JUL 2016

Growth of cocaine use in South America is outpacing any other region in the world and creating an emerging…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …