FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Newark, New Jersey, March 25, 2020 — Today, more than 200 Colombian plaintiffs, whose family members were murdered or who themselves suffered violence by paramilitary death squads, filed a new lawsuit against Chiquita Brands International, seeking redress from the banana company that spent years supporting those paramilitaries. Chiquita has admitted to illegally funding the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and already faces several lawsuits.
EarthRights International originally filed a class-action suit on behalf of victims in 2007. That lawsuit and several others are currently being heard by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach, Florida. Last year, Judge Marra denied class status for the case, and then dismissed a handful of individual plaintiffs’ cases, which are currently on appeal. The new claims are brought by victims who would have been members of the class action.
“We are not backing away from accountability for Chiquita,” said Marco Simons, General Counsel for EarthRights. “In its desire to maximize profits, the company chose to do business in a conflict zone and then financed death squads as part of a strategy to protect those operations, contributing to the murder, rape, and torture of thousands of Colombians. Given the sheer magnitude of violence, we believed that this case should be tried as a class action, but the judge did not agree. We will, therefore, seek justice for our individual clients.
In 2007, Chiquita paid a $25 million fine to the U.S. Department of Justice for illegally providing more than $1.7 million in financing to the AUC. In early 2018, it settled lawsuits brought by the families of Americans killed in Colombia by armed groups that Chiquita paid. But the company has been unwilling to provide any compensation to the thousands of Colombian families harmed by its admitted conduct, which helped the AUC to engage in a campaign of violence against communities in Colombia’s banana-growing regions, including trade unions, political opponents, and community advocates.
Kate Fried, EarthRights International