A Jury in Florida Says Chiquita Brands is Responsible for Deaths in Colombia and Must Pay $38.3m to the Families of the Victims

A Jury in Florida Says Chiquita Brands is Responsible for Deaths in Colombia and Must Pay $38.3m to the Families of the Victims

Chiquita Brands, a big banana business, has to pay $38.3 million to 16 families of people who were killed during Colombia’s long civil war by a violent right-wing paramilitary group that the company funded.

The jury’s decision on Monday in West Palm Beach is the first time the company has been found guilty in any of the similar cases that are still going on in other U.S. courts, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said. For the first time, a private U.S. company has been blamed for violating human rights in other countries.

“This verdict sends a strong message to all corporations: making money off of violating human rights will not get you off the hook.” “These families, who were hurt by armed groups and corporations, used their power and won in court,” said Marco Simons, EarthRights International General Counsel and one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in a news release.

“So many people were hurt by what happened in Colombia,” Chiquita, whose banana business is based in Florida, said in a statement after the decision. But that doesn’t change our minds about the fact that we think these claims have no legal basis.

Court records show that between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita gave the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which is also written as AUC, about $1.7 million. People say that the AUC killed thousands of people during those years.

Court records show that Chiquita has said that its Colombian subsidiary, Banadex, only paid because it was afraid that AUC would hurt its workers and business.

On social media, Colombian President Gustavo Petro responded to the decision by asking why the U.S. justice system could “determine” that Chiquita gave money to paramilitary groups while Colombian courts have not yet found the company guilty.

“The peace deal from 2016 calls for the creation of a court that will reveal judicial truths. Why don’t we have one?” Petro wrote something on X that talked about the year the Civil War finished.

The decision came after a trial that lasted six weeks and two days of deliberations. The EarthRights case was first filed in July 2007 and was merged with several other cases.

“Our clients put their lives at risk to come forward and hold Chiquita responsible. They believed in the justice system in the United States.” Another lawyer in the case, Agnieszka Fryszman, said, “I am very thankful to the jury for taking the time and care to look over the evidence.” “The verdict doesn’t bring back the husbands and sons who were killed, but it clears the air and holds Chiquita responsible for funding terrorism, where it belongs: at its door.”

It was charged with a U.S. crime in 2007 that Chiquita did business with a foreign terrorist organization (the AUC was named a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2001), and the company agreed to pay a $25 million fine. The Justice Department also said that the company had to set up a safety and ethics program.

Source: AP News

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