IS OR IS NOT THE MULTINATIONAL CHIQUITA BRANDS
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective

Viernes 30 de marzo de 2007, por Prensa - Colectivo

It is paradoxical that the current Attorney General, Mario Iguarán Arana, is seemingly unaware of the investigations being carried out against Chiquita Brands International. In this regard, Attorney General Iguarán promised to request information from the U.S. Department of Justice in order to establish -as reported in the newspaper El Tiempo on Saturday, March 17, 2007- “if assault rifles were obtained and massacres were carried out in northwestern Colombia with the money from this multinational.” Nevertheless, ever since this banana transnational first admitted to having carried out these acts in 2004, the communities as well as international and national human rights organizations have been documenting this case.

It is paradoxical that the current Attorney General, Mario Iguarán Arana, is seemingly unaware of the investigations being carried out against Chiquita Brands International. In this regard, Attorney General Iguarán promised to request information from the U.S. Department of Justice in order to establish -as reported in the newspaper El Tiempo on Saturday, March 17, 2007- “if assault rifles were obtained and massacres were carried out in northwestern Colombia with the money from this multinational.” Nevertheless, ever since this banana transnational first admitted to having carried out these acts in 2004, the communities as well as international and national human rights organizations have been documenting this case.

However, it is even more paradoxical that the Office of the Attorney General has already initiated investigations, but not against the transnational, rather in which this enterprise appears as the “aggrieved Chiquita Brands International.” In effect, according to the information obtained through the writs of protection lodged due to the lack of response to the rights to petition initiated by the Lawyers’ Collective to the then Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio, it was learned that -by way of the anti-kidnapping force Gaula Rural Antioquia- the Office of the Attorney General had undertaken preliminary investigation No. 2432 SIJUF 958.570.

After this admission was made by the president of the multinational Chiquita Brands International in June 2004, it is almost inconceivable that the Office of the Attorney General did not officially initiate an investigation for the grave crime of financing such illegal armed groups as the paramilitary groups, whose responsibility for countless crimes against humanity has been well documented.

In this regard, it should be remembered that even Cesar Gaviria, then Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), opened an investigation specifically on this case. This came about after requests were made by Nicaragua and Panama, countries that had been involved in the entry of weapons to Colombia. Likewise, in an interview with the newspaper El Tiempo on June 30, 2002, paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño recognized that the greatest achievement of the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) was precisely the introduction of this arsenal into Colombia. In turn, Gaviria appointed to the investigative team Morris Busby, the ambassador of the United States in Colombia at the time of the transaction, and the argentine Sergio Caramagna, currently chief of the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia, among other experts.

According to federal prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice, Chiquita Brands did not only collaborate with paramilitaries by entering weapons into Colombia, but the multinational also financed these groups with payments previously reviewed and approved by the Chiquita senior leadership in Cincinnati (Ohio). These payments had been made since 1997, after paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño met with the manager of Banadex, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands.

It was specifically the hundreds of crimes committed in this area -which increased in the 1990’s- and the irrefutable evidence of the financing of paramilitary groups by Chiquita Brands and other transnational enterprises, which brought the Permanent People’s Tribunal in April 2006 to accuse this enterprise for the “grave and mass violations to labor rights, and specifically to the freedom of union association, for disregarding dignity and the life of the workers and their communities, as well as for supporting economic policies that contribute to the dramatic deterioration of the conditions of life and health of an increasing amount of the Colombian population.” The Permanent People’s Tribunal also held Colombian State institutions responsible as the authors or accomplices of the documented crimes against humanity.

Seventy-nine years after its establishment in Colombia as the United Fruit Company, Chiquita Brands International should finally respond economically, legally, and politically for its history of violating rights in Colombia. Furthermore, the affected workers and peasants should be recognized as the real victims, instead of the victimizers being presented as the aggrieved.

The Office of the Attorney General should also admit to its responsibility for the lack of serious investigative action to bring about the historical clarification of the facts, as well as the determination of the criminal responsibilities of the transnational’s leadership, of the State agents implicated through act or omission, and of the judicial authorities whose inactivity perpetuated the impunity and denied the rights to truth and justice for the victims, their family members, the affected communities, and Colombian society.

Afiliaciones

Afiliado a la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos
y la Organización Mundial contra la Tortura
Estatus Consultivo en la OEA

José Alvear Restrepo

Nace en Medellín el 1 de julio de 1913 en el seno de una familia de profundas convicciones religiosas y bajo los parámetros de la ideología del partido conservador. Realiza sus estudios en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Antioquia, donde se gradúa de Abogado con una brillante tesis titulada: "Conflictos del trabajo: la huelga"

Ed. Avianca: Calle 16 No. 6-66 Piso 25 - Bogotá DC - Horario de Atención: Martes a Viernes, 2 a 5 pm - PBX: (571) 7421313 - FAX: (571) 2824270 - Apartado Aéreo: 33035