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21 Mar 2009

Steven Dudley, Miami Herald [USA]

Colombian paramilitary tells how he financed his own Murder Inc.: bananas

...Raúl Hasbún...[is] a former banana grower and paramilitary involved in Colombia's right-wing counterinsurgency...Everyone wants to hear how he allegedly devised a method for putting the squeeze on international companies to raise the money to arm the death squads that carried out...gruesome massacres...[A]ccording to Hasbún [,] companies paid three cents for every crate of bananas exported. The proceeds kept the private armies flush with cash and stocked with weapons. At issue is whether the companies paid more or less willingly or did so under extreme duress...Hasbún said [:]... "...there came a time when I no longer had to ask [for the payments]"... U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass...is expected to call hearings for later this year on the payments and has said publicly that companies besides Chiquita may face increased scrutiny...Hasbún's testimony may change the equation for all three companies [Chiquita, Dole, Fresh Del Monte] as well as shed light on the killings of union leaders...It could also be ''crucial'' to the Palm Beach County civil suit [against Chiquita], said Bill Wichmann, a lawyer for the plaintiffs...Among Hasbún's victims were union leaders like Isidro Segundo Gil, who was shot at the gates of a local Coca-Cola bottling plant in 1996...Both Dole and Fresh Del Monte reiterated to The Miami Herald that they did not pay paramilitaries.