President George Bush's policy on terrorism has been repeated more than once. It couldn't have been stated more clearly. "Anyone financing a terrorist organisation should be prosecuted as vigorously as the terrorists."
In numerous news reports today, it was reported that, "Banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine and will admit to paying a Colombian terrorist group for protection in a volatile farming area."
It seems like some of the big-wigs at the Chiquita head office, based in Cincinnati, OK-ed about $1.7 million in payments to the United Self-Defence Forces of Columbia, more commonly known as AUC, between 1997 and 2004. These payments were purposely disguised in the company books. The problem is that the AUC was designated as a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. government in September 2001.
It is commonly believed that the AUC was responsible for some of the biggest massacres in Colombian history. A history the United States Government was quite aware of. Combine that with the AUC's massive drug dealings and it becomes clear why the right wing organization was presented with the "terrorist" name-badge. According to Wikipedia, "Former AUC supreme leader Carlos Castano Gil in 2000 claimed 70 percent of the AUC's operational costs were financed with drug-related earnings, the rest coming from "donations" from its sponsors."
"I'M CHIQUITA BANANA AND I'M HERE TO SAY....
Chiquita, previously known as, "The United Fruit Company" has been around since the beginnings of the banana trade in the late 1800's. Over the years, the varied owners of Chiquita have earned a reputation for "fomenting wars, overthrowing governments and using bribery in their real estate acquisitions". (Jan Bauman, "Third World Traveler")
In 1975, "Bananagate" emerged as a story, when the SEC discovered that the banana firm had bribed the Honduran President to cut the export tax in half. It was also discovered that they had also been paying off a top Italian official to prevent restrictions on imports. The chairman and president of the United Brands Company (Chiquita), Eli M. Black had jumped to his death from his 44th floor Manhattan office earlier that year causing the SEC investigation.
"EAT A BANANA EVERY DAY."
There were no Federal indictments, the Justice Department filed a "document of criminal information", a procedure that is geared to making a settlement, rather than a criminal trial. The Chiquita company, one of the biggest food companies in the world, and its executives, will walk away clean with a fine paid by its shareholders. Chiquita will cop to one charge of "doing business with a terrorist group" and receive no further sanctions.
"The information filed today is part of a plea agreement, which we view as a reasoned solution to the dilemma the company faced years ago," Chiquita's chief executive, Fernando Aguirre, said in a statement. "The payments made by the company were always motivated by our good faith concern for the safety of our employees." (Associated Press)
Chiquita has been accused by human rights groups of paying paramilitary groups to target unions and potential agitators.
In journalistic fairness, I must report that the Chiquita Company is an equal opportunity employer. It was also reported that the company made similar payments to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, (FARC). This company is not one to allow politics to interfere with it's agenda.
So, my question is this. Is it the United States's position, that terrorism for the sake of "capitlism" is acceptable behaviour?
"The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means"
Georges Bernanos quote.
Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press
Jan Bauman, ("Third World Traveler")