Bananas of Terror; Blood Bananas

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/14/2007 10:47:00 PM
The Chiquita Banana Company (CQB) has an exceedingly controversial history. It is rare that Halliburton's misadventures pale in comparison with another firm's when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), but Chiquita is on another level altogether. Perhaps its troubles stem from operating in Latin America where brutal dictatorships are rife (hence the term "banana republic"). Chiquita is the corporate name of the former United Fruit Company, at whose behest it is widely believed that the CIA was enlisted to overthrow left-leaning Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. An entire website is dedicated to the travails of the United Fruit Company in Latin America, including the Arbenz episode:

[Guatemalan coup leader Carlos] Castillo received a strong financial and logistic support from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to prepare his Army in Honduran territory to attack Guatemala. The CIA's involvement had been approved by Eisenhower as a way to stop what they considered a spread of Communism in the Americas. CIA's director was Allen Dulles, brother of the American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. In June, 1954 the troops of Carlos Castillo crossed the Honduran-Guatemalan border and began their attack against the Arbenz government.

The United Fruit Co. changed its name in 1984 to Chiquita, presumably to dissociate itself with its controversial history. Yet, Chiquita has hardly turned the page. It was a key figure in the infamous banana wars at the WTO.

Just today, Chiquita has been convicted of paying $1.7M worth of protection money between 1997 and 2004 to the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) paramilitary organization. Prosecutors claim that Chiquita also paid off the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas which too engage in the illegal drug trade that figures prominently in banana-growing regions. While the rest of us would call the AUC a guerrilla movement, the US has classified it as a "terrorist" organization--just like almost every other insurgent or revolutionary group outside the US (call it a marketing ploy for the "war on terror.") The company has set aside $25M to cover potential damages arising from this case. What more is there to say? Old habits die hard.

March 16 Update: Despite having sold its wholly-owned Banadex Colombian subsidiary in 2004 for $43.5M, Chiquita stands accused of ferrying weapons to paramilitaries by the Colombian prosecutor's office. The prosecutor seeks extradition of Chiquita executives -
The chief federal prosecutor's office said it would ask the U.S. Justice Department for information on Chiquita's role concerning a report that a Banadex ship was allegedly used to unload 3,000 rifles and more than 2.5 million bullets in November 2001 for use by Colombia's paramilitaries. The shipment was revealed in a 2003 report by the Organization of American States.