Photo: EFE / teleSUR
Posted by Alexandra Valiente on 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 Self Defence Forces 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 agrichemicals, 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. . .