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7 Apr 2011

Jim Lobe, Aprille Muscara, IPS

Court Documents Reveal Chiquita Paid for Security

Contrary to claims by Chiquita Brands International that its payments to Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups over more than a decade were extorted, internal company documents...strongly suggest that the transactions provided specific benefits to the banana giant...The documents...raised questions about the factual basis for a 2007 plea agreement between Chiquita and the U.S. Department of Justice...Ed Loyd, a company spokesman, insisted that "Chiquita made payments solely out of a well-grounded fear of retaliation against its employees if the company refused" and defended the plea agreement. "The Department of Justice, which …is charged with objectively analysing the facts, reviewed ALL of these documents as part of an exhaustive investigation that lasted nearly four years," he wrote in an email to IPS. "[It] found NO evidence that Chiquita shared any of the murderous goals of the terrorist groups it was forced to pay."...The newly released documents consist of more than 5,500 pages of internal Chiquita memos...They are...likely to be used by plaintiffs in an ongoing civil lawsuit...against Chiquita on behalf of dozens of Colombians killed by right-wing paramilitaries.