Chiquita paid paramilitaries for security services and intelligence on guerilla groups, with full knowledge of who and what they were funding and with the intention of receiving their support services, according to a trove of documents recently made public by the the National Security Archive. Many of these documents, which the NSA – cooperating with the Public Justice Clinic at the George Washington University School of Law – obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, directly contradict claims Chiquita has made that it paid the AUC paramilitaries under duress and received no benefits from those payments.
The NSA plays a critical role in U.S. civil society: it uses governmental public disclosure laws to their fullest effect, to shed light on dark spots in national and world history and expose truths that the U.S. government would often prefer to remain hidden. To obtain these documents, NSA’s Mike Evans and his GW student partners tangled with several federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the FBI – and in some cases took them to federal court – in order to prevent them from witholding public documents. As a result of their efforts, we now have a valuable window into the role of U.S. businesses in the ebbs and flows of the Colombian civil war over the past two decades. Moreover, the plaintiffs in ERI’s case against Chiquita have new ammunition to prove that Chiquita was knowingly and intentionally complicit in state-sponsored human rights abuse by Colombian paramilitaries.