Saturday, March 31, 2007

United Fruit by any other name...

David Seaton's News Links
"Why do they hate us?" Americans ask. Well, in Latin America its this cheerful-killer, "oh what fun" thing; a huge toothy grin mixed with a murdering greed which stops at nothing... kind of like if Genghis Khan could tap dance... for a start.

Amy Goodman's "Chiquita Banana" story here below, is a rather perfect example of this phenomenon. "Chiquita" is the cute new name of United Fruit, which really was in need of some serious re-branding. In United-Chiquita's case it's as if Count Dracula had himself re-branded as "Vladdy-Daddy". Still out for blood, but
cute. DS

Amy Goodman: Chiquita slips money to terrorists - Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Abstract: What do Osama bin Laden and Chiquita bananas have in common? Both have used their millions to finance terrorism. The Justice Department has just fined Chiquita Brands International $25 million for funding a terrorist organization -- for years. Chiquita also must cooperate fully with ongoing investigations into its payments to the ultra-right-wing Colombian paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia. Chiquita made almost monthly payments to the AUC from 1997 to 2004, totaling at least $1.7 million. The AUC is a brutal paramilitary umbrella group, with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 armed troops. It was named a terrorist organization by the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001. Among its standard tactics are kidnapping, torture, disappearance, rape, murder, beatings, extortion and drug trafficking. Chiquita claims it had to make the payments under threat from the AUC to protect its employees and property. Chiquita's outside lawyers implored them to stop the illegal payments, to no avail. The payments were made by check through Chiquita's Colombian subsidiary, Banadex. When Chiquita executives figured out how illegal the payments were, they started delivering them in cash. Chiquita sold Banadex in June 2004 when the heat got too intense.(...) Chiquita has had a long history of criminal behavior. It was the subject of an extraordinary exposé in its hometown paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, in 1998. The paper found that Chiquita exposed entire communities to dangerous U.S.-banned pesticides, forced the eviction of an entire Honduran village at gunpoint and its subsequent bulldozing, suppressed unions, unwittingly allowed the use of Chiquita transport ships to move cocaine internationally, and paid a fortune to U.S. politicians to influence trade policy. The lead reporter, Mike Gallagher, illegally accessed more than 2,000 Chiquita voice mails. The voice mails backed up his story but his methods got him fired. The Enquirer issued a front-page apology and paid Chiquita a reported $14 million. The voice-mail scandal rocked the Enquirer, burying the important exposé. Chiquita was formerly called the United Fruit Co., which with the help of its former lawyer, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and his brother Allen Dulles' Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, in 1954. And you can go back further. Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Márquez wrote in his classic "One Hundred Years of Solitude" about the 1928 Santa Marta massacre of striking United Fruit banana workers: "When the banana company arrived ... the old policemen were replaced by hired assassins." While the U.S. is seeking extradition of Colombia-based Chiquita executives, the administration of President Alvaro Uribe in Colombia, with its own officials now linked to the right-wing paramilitaries, has countered that Colombia would seek the extradition of U.S.-based Chiquita executives. Colombian prosecutors are also seeking information in Chiquita's role in smuggling 3,000 AK-47 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition to paramilitaries in November 2001. READ IT ALL

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