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1 Apr 2007

Fernando Aguirre, Chairman and CEO, Chiquita Brands International, Inc.

[PDF] The Corporate Citizen, April 2007 - An Excruciating Dilemma Between Life and Law: Corporate Responsibility in a Zone of Conflict

In February 2003, senior management of Chiquita Brands...learned that protection payments the company had been making to paramilitary groups in Colombia to keep our workers safe...were illegal under U.S. law. The company had operated in Colombia for nearly a century, generating 4,400 direct and an additional 8,000 indirect jobs...But during the 1990s, it became increasingly difficult to protect our workforce. Among the hundreds of...attacks...were the 1995 massacre of 28 innocent Chiquita employees...So the company decided to...[go] to the U.S. Department of Justice and voluntarily disclosed the facts...The [process]...culminated last month with the company pleading guilty to one count of violating statutes in connection with all payments made by its former subsidiary to entities affiliated with the right-wing paramilitaries from 2001 to 2004...The business solution to our dilemma was ultimately found in the sale of our Colombian banana operation...at a loss of $9 million, in order to extricate itself from this difficult situation...The sales agreement we signed required the purchaser to continue the collective bargaining contract with the union that represented Chiquita's workers as well as maintain the strict environmental, social and food-safety certifications we had achieved on these farms.

Part of the following timelines

Colombia: ONG de abogados sostiene que "impunidad" de Chiquita en caso de pagos a paramilitares se debe al tráfico de influencias

NGO says Chiquita's political connections in Colombia & USA contribute stalling of case against firm for payments to paramilitaries

Chiquita lawsuits (re Colombia, filed in USA by Colombian nationals)