Two lawsuits were filed Tuesday against Chiquita Brands International for their alleged role in supporting the massacre and torture of 931 people in Colombia’s banana growing region.
The two cases, filed before a federal court in Washington, relate to the killing of 254 people by the FARC and another 677 by paramilitaries respectively.
According to the victims’ attorney, Paul Wolf, Chiquita has made the admission before tribunals that they began paying the FARC for protection of its plantations from the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) in 1987. However, as Wolf stated, “The situation changed drastically in Uraba [Colombia's central banana growing region] in the mid 90s when drug traffickers and large plantation owners began using the AUC to protect them from the FARC.”
Roughly 500 of the cases regarding the paramilitary killings were carried out between 1995 and 1996 by the AUC. Former AUC commander Ever Veloza Garcia, alias “H.H.” has stated that Chiquita made payments that were unaccounted for within the company’s own finances, instead being made under the guise of so-called “front organizations.”
Another former AUC commander, Freddy Rendon Herrera, alias “El Aleman,” has also testified before the Justice and Peace Commission that his bloc received training and personnel from the multinational.
The remaining paramilitary cases relate to killings that took place after 2004 when Chiquita is alleged to have been paying the criminal groups “Aguilas Negras,” and “Los Paisas.” During this period, the banana multinational was also being represented by the current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Chiquita was found guilty in 2007 of paying paramilitaries $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004. They were fined $25 million.
A separate lawsuit was also filed on March 10 from the family of an American geologist murdered by the FARC in Colombia who also accuse the banana giant of supporting the guerrilla group.
In total, at least 10 other lawsuits currently exist against the company, having been filed on behalf of both American and Colombian victims of FARC killings.
The two most recent lawsuits will be transferred to a court in Florida and combined with others to form one sole case against the company that will involve more than 4,000 homicides and numerous law firms.