Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 02, 2007

Justice Department Supports Colonialism

Chiquita paid terrorists and the U.S. Justice Department didn't really mind.

In Terrorism-Law Case, Chiquita Points to U.S.

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.

The 'voluntary disclosure' by Chiquita only happened AFTER its subsidiary in Columbia, Banadex, was under local investigation. A Justice Department investigation only started AFTER the Columbian government intervened.

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.

According to this Justice Department statement, Chiquita made 100 payments to the AUC, a rightwing terror gang, amounting to $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 through Banadex. The U.S. government designated the AUC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on Sept. 10, 2001. From Sept. 10, 2001 through Feb. 4, 2004, Chiquita made 50 payments to the AUC totaling over $825,000.

But Chertoff didn't mind.

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.
...
Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.

Chertoff, Mr. Complicated, doesn't comment because there is an 'ongoing investigation'.

[T]here was a genuine debate within the Justice Department about the seriousness of the crime of paying AUC. For some high-level administration officials, Chiquita's payments were not aiding an obvious terrorism threat such as al-Qaeda; instead, the cash was going to a violent South American group helping a major U.S. company maintain a stabilizing presence in Colombia.

Chiquita had a 'stabilizing presence' in Columbia that required 'genuine debate'. How did such 'stabilizing' look on the ground?

Dec. 21, 1999

Description: Seven civilians from five different peasant areas of Concepcion Municipality were killed by United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries who accused them of collaborating with guerrillas.

Sept 9, 2000

Description: The United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) killed Carlos Jose Restrepo Rocha, a journalist from the Tolima Department, who they accused of being a blackmailer in the guerrillas' service. Rocha was shot eleven times in the neck and chest. Note: Incident date is approximate.

Oct. 2, 2001

Description: Octavio Sarmiento, an opposition congressman, was assassinated near his ranch. No group has claimed responsibility, but Colombian authorities suspect gunmen from the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are responsible.

Here is a long list of the AUC's crimes and this is how Chiquita helped:

An Organization of American States report in 2003 said that Chiquita participated in smuggling thousands of arms for paramilitaries into the Northern Uraba region, using docks operated by the company to unload thousands of Central American assault rifles and ammunition.

Iguaran, whose office has been investigating Chiquita's operations, said the company knew AUC was using payoffs and arms to fund operations against peasants, union workers and rivals. At the time of the payments, AUC was growing into a powerful army and was expanding across much of Colombia and, according to the Colombian government, its soldiers killed thousands before it began demobilizing.

"What is not to like here?" Chertoff might have asked.

There are hundreds of U.S. companies who behave like Chiquita in South America, Africa and elsewhere. Maybe they disclose this to the Justice Department, maybe not - it doesn't matter, it never did.

Some history via Amy Goodman:

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 García 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.”

This time Chiquita got caught when the OAS stepped in and local investigators published their findings. Still, Chertoff thought the case to be 'complicated'.

How would Chertoff, now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, decide if Chiquita paid an illegal and deadly rightwing militia in the U.S.?

Would he tell them to stop, or to go on and 'wait for more feedback'?

Posted by b on August 2, 2007 at 7:56 UTC | Permalink

Comments

From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned.
~Emile Durkheim

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 2 2007 8:14 utc | 1

"The days are young, the nights are long and we are unafraid."

- jonku

Posted by: jonku | Aug 2 2007 8:28 utc | 2

"...see what is at the end of that long newspaper spoon"
-- William Burroughs [quote from memory]

Yikes -- and now when we look under the banana peel, we see black centipedes scurrying out!

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Aug 2 2007 9:13 utc | 3

"Justice Department Supports Colonialism"

OK - any other news?

Posted by: rapt | Aug 2 2007 12:48 utc | 4

Seriously though b, it is a nice informative piece and very interesting.

Posted by: rapt | Aug 2 2007 12:50 utc | 5

"They hate us for our freedom."

Freedom to exploit the rest of the world. Freedom to kill those who stand up for their rights. Freedom to have one rule for me, another for the rest of you.

Posted by: Peter VE | Aug 2 2007 15:48 utc | 6

Reminds us that the term "terrorist supporter" is a very subjective one, and also one that can quickly be interpreted as "somebody we don't like and want to shut down".

Posted by: ralphieboy | Aug 2 2007 16:15 utc | 7

Another fine example of colonism

http://www.guardian.co.uk/colombia/story/0,,2140797,00.html">Mining giant accused of profiting from abuse by Colombian army

The British mining giant Anglo American has been accused of profiting from the persecution, intimidation and killing of miners in Colombia who oppose the company's operations.

The international charity War on Want says in a report released yesterday that Anglo American and its subsidiaries benefited from army operations in areas where the company is prospecting, which have forced families off their land and intimidated community leaders. It is part of a "pattern of global abuse" in countries where Anglo American operates, it says.
...
In Colombia, Anglo American's subsidiary AngloGold Ashanti is registered as Kedahda SA. The company is exploring several areas in the conflict-ridden San Lucas mountains, north-central Colombia, which hold one of South America's richest gold deposits.
...
Teófilo Acuña, president of a miners' association in the San Lucas mountains, was arrested by the army in April and held for 10 days on what turned out to be trumped-up charges that he was a member of leftist guerrilla groups that operate in the region. "It's no secret that the rebels are there," said Mr Acuña. "But the army doesn't go after the guerrillas. It persecutes the community."

The soldiers of the Nueva Granada battalion have publicly told the communities their mission was to protect the interests of Kedahda, said Mr Acuña. The charge of "terrorism" against him was based on the fact that he presided over meetings to oppose Kedahda's presence in the area and because he organised a march to protest at the killing by soldiers of Alejandro Uribe, also a miners' leader, last September.
...
Mike Faessler, Kedahda's director of security, acknowledged that the company had two platoons from Colombia's army's 5th brigade "on loan" to protect an exploration operation in the region because the "security situation is pretty dicey".

Posted by: b | Aug 3 2007 7:30 utc | 8

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