Tuesday, July 21, 2009

By the Way

This may fit somewhere in a review of Eric Holder's ethics.

Between 1997 and February of 2004, Chiquita made $1.7 million in payments to a right-wing paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), in regions where it had banana-growing operations. During that period, AUC conducted a “dirty war” against Colombia’s left-wing FARC guerrillas, marked by widespread murders of union leaders and farmers, as well as trafficking in cocaine and heroin.


AUC was established as an umbrella organization for about a dozen right-wing paramilitary groups in 1997, the same year that Chiquita’s payments began. Its founder, Carlos Castaño was a death squad leader who freely admitted to numerous murders and massacres both in interviews and in his 2001 autobiography. AUC’s victims ranged from a prominent left-wing politician, to a leading Colombian journalist – for whose murder Castaño was convicted in absentia in 2004 – to peasant farmers suspected of supporting the left-wing FARC guerrillas.

Chiquita has never been accused of direct involvement in any of AUC’s crimes and has consistently maintained that it was the victim of extortion. But Chiquita continued making the payments for almost seven years, went to elaborate pains to conceal them, and terminated them only when under threat of federal indictment.


AUC had been designated by the US government as a foreign terrorist organization. Although the designation was widely publicized in both the US and Colombia, Chiquita officials allege that they were not aware of it until an employee brought it to their attention in February 2003.

They then consulted an outside lawyer, who advised them that the payments were illegal, since any claims of extortion had long since been invalidated by their “decision to stay in harm’s way,” and that they should be stopped immediately.

Instead of following this advice, a group of Chiquita executives paid a visit to the Department of Justice to explain the situation. There they were also informed that “the payments were illegal and could not continue.”


According to the Los Angeles Times, Justice Department professionals were “incensed” by Chiquita’s continued payments but were told to back off by political appointees in the department.


No charges were ever brought against any individual Chiquita executives, since the firm’s lawyer, Eric Holder – now the Obama administration’s attorney general – successfully argued that they had been the victims of extortion by AUC.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

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