Friday, August 03, 2007

Chiquita Supported Terrrorism

I was contacted by Immigration Orange which is a blog that focuses on Immigration issues. Immigrant Orange focuses on migration countries and the inequality that forces people to leave their homes and loved ones for the hope of a better life in the United States. For many this journey is a matter of life and death.

Each country has its own set of problems that force its poor citizens to cross our borders illegally. I do not condone illegal immigration but I also do not blame the immigrant. I blame the home country where corruption and inequities have made daily life unbearable. There will never be an end to the problem of illegal immigrants within the United States until our government tries to understand why they come and takes diplomatic steps to change the economic policies of our southern neighbors. It must also tackle the massive corruption that is so pervasive in these countries. The problem is how do you tackle corruption there when it is also rampant right here.

Unfortunately United States firms help to destabilize countries to our south by not providing fair wages or decent working conditions. The North American Free Trade Agreement's only winners are the corporations. Citizens in both Mexico and the United States have not benefited. Manufacturing jobs that were once the backbone of the American Middle Class are now low wage jobs in Mexico under awful working conditions that have contributed to ever growing corporate profits and ever growing human misery.

Chiquita Brands International took this even further and funded terrorist activities within Colombia. I was stunned when I read this article.
Colombia's attorney general said Tuesday that his office would try to seek the extradition of eight executives from Chiquita Brands International, the Ohio banana company that last week admitted to paying $1.7 million to right-wing death squads that have killed thousands in this country's long civil conflict.

In a deal with the Justice Department, Chiquita last week agreed to plead guilty to doing business with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a coalition of paramilitary groups whose members have massacred peasants and murdered leftist activists for years. In agreeing to pay a $25 million fine, the company characterized the payments as extortion that helped protect banana workers in the northwest Uraba region near the border with Panama.
On its face those claims are bad but when you know the rest of the story you realize that the company didn't just pay extortion they helped arm this very group of killers.
Iguaran said that among the issues the attorney general's office is investigating in the Chiquita case is the November 2001 unloading of Central American assault rifles and ammunition at the Caribbean dock operated by the firm's Colombian subsidiary, Banadex. The smuggling operation was detailed in a 2003 report by the Organization of American States.

The Justice Department did not deal with the smuggling operation in its plea deal. Chiquita admitted making payments to the paramilitaries from 1997 to 2004, which Iguaran said violated Colombian law. On Sept. 10, 2001, the State Department declared the AUC, as the paramilitary coalition is known, an international terrorist group, making it a violation of U.S. law for a U.S. company to conduct business with the organization.

"This was a criminal relationship," Iguaran said. "Money and arms and, in exchange, the bloody pacification of Uraba."
According to the most recent article on this subject there were high level meetings between attorneys for Chiquita and then Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff.
On April 24, 2003, a board member of Chiquita International Brands disclosed to a top official at the Justice Department that the king of the banana trade was evidently breaking the nation's anti-terrorism laws.

Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that Chiquita was paying "protection money" to a Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations. Hills said he knew that such payments were illegal, according to sources and court records, but said that he needed Chertoff's advice.

Chiquita, Hills said, would have to pull out of the country if it could not continue to pay the violent right-wing group to secure its Colombian banana plantations. Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting.

Justice officials have acknowledged in court papers that an official at the meeting said they understood Chiquita's situation was "complicated," and three of the sources identified that official as Chertoff. They said he promised to get back to the company after conferring with national security advisers and the State Department about the larger ramifications for U.S. interests if the corporate giant pulled out overnight.
After reading this, my question was why the Justice Department went so easy on Chiquita and did not include the smuggling of arms to terrorists but instead just focused on doing business with this group. Could the answer to that question be found in the political donations of Chiquita Executives? Carl Lindner, the former chairman was a Bush pioneer in 2004 which means he raised over $200,000.00 and Cyrus Friedheim, the former CEO, has donated extensively to Republican causes. Check out Open Secrets and see for yourself.

Do you think that the situation would have been called "complicated" if the one paying the money was Muslim and the one receiving it was either Hamas or Hezbollah? It is incidents such as these that take away any credibility our country has on terrorism issues. We do nothing about Saudi Arabia which funds terrorism worldwide and more specifically funds the Sunni insurgents within Iraq. We do nothing while Pakistan harbors al-Qaeda and in the end we will do very little to Chiquita who helped arm a violent terrorist group within Colombia.

Chiquita claims they paid this to protect their workers but I think we all know they paid to protect their profits.

1 comment:

MO said...

I would strongly sugggest thaqt it is not a need for the U.S. to inform any Latin country to solve the problems in the economic life of their countries. The economies of Latino countries would change dramatically if the U.S. simply followed international law and instituted fair trading policies, instead of giving exporters huge tax subsidies.
See the Oxfam site on the disaster to the corn agriculture of Mexico, the direct result of corn subidies of $10 billion in U.S. tax payers' subsidy going to American corn producers (80% of annual 10billion goes to just three conglomerates, Cargill, Monsanto & Archer Midlands Daniels) that enable them to dump their surplus in Mexico at a cost lower than it cost the Mexican consumer to buy Mexican corn, thus destroying the rural economy and causing mass migrAtion to the cities and El Norte.