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Chiquita case puts big firms on notice

In Colombia...the Chiquita name has recently come to symbolize the confirmation of a long-suspected relationship between multinational firms and illegal armies...Chiquita...admitted in US court last month that it paid $1.7 million to Colombia's brutal right-wing militias...The company said it did so to protect its employees...[O]fficials [in Bogotá] want to see company executives on trial...Arvind Ganesan...at...Human Rights Watch...[says:]"...[the Chiquita case] should provoke a real rethinking of security arrangements," [for firms in Colombia & other conflict areas]...At least three multinationals operating in Colombia – ...Drummond, Nestle, and Coca-Cola – have been targeted in civil lawsuits in the US that claimed these companies paid paramilitaries to kill or intimidate union workers...In 2001, more than 3,000 Central American rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition were unloaded at a Colombian port by Banadex [then owned by Chiquita] and eventually ended up in the hands of paramilitary forces, according to an investigation by the [OAS]...Chiquita spokesman Michael Mitchell...[said] 'there is no information that would lead us to believe that Banadex did anything improper.'..."It was no secret that the multinationals...paid that money," said Freddy Rendón, alias "the German," the head of a paramilitary bloc that operated in the banana region...[D]uring the time Chiquita was paying the paramilitaries, thousands of people across Colombia died at the hands of the right-wing militias...