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Trial against Chiquita, accused of helping terrorists kill thousands, finally begins

WEST PALM BEACH — The households of women and men killed by Colombian terrorists are finally dealing with off against the company big accused of financing their loved ones’ murder: Chiquita Brands International.

The trial against Chiquita follows greater than a decade of litigation over unlawful funds the banana big made to Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a militant group recognized to kidnap civilians within the center of the evening and go away their mutilated corpses for his or her households to seek out.

Attorneys for Chiquita say the corporate had no alternative however pay the terrorists almost $2 million within the late Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s to guard its Colombian workers from additional violence.

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In a federal courtroom in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, legal professionals for the victims’ households mentioned the other is true; that Chiquita willingly partnered with the AUC with the intention to shield its income — not its folks — and to quell worker unrest by any means crucial.

This month’s trial comes virtually 20 years after Chiquita executives pleaded responsible in a New York courtroom to financing the AUC. The firm made a take care of federal prosecutors that cemented its conviction however spared it extra legal costs, permitting executives to maneuver on in trade for a $25 million high quality.

Attorney Jack Scarola, seen here in November 2017.Attorney Jack Scarola, seen here in November 2017.

Attorney Jack Scarola, seen right here in November 2017.

No govt spent a day in jail for his or her crime, West Palm Beach legal professional Jack Scarola mentioned Tuesday. No surviving sufferer noticed a penny of the payout. Seventeen years later, he mentioned, it’s as much as jurors to determine whether or not and the way the victims of the Chiquita-funded terror will probably be compensated.

Chiquita paid terrorist group ‘realizing the worth was blood,’ plaintiffs say

Scarola wove a yearslong geopolitical historical past lesson right into a 90-minute opening assertion Tuesday. Each time it neared the cusp of turning into a lecture, a vehement reference to “savage slaughter,” mass execution, mutilation and torture yanked it again.

He, and Chiquita’s attorneys after him, instructed jurors that the identical local weather and latitude which might be greatest for banana development are optimum for cocaine manufacturing, too. Militant teams vying for management over the drug market threw what Scarola referred to as the “banana zone” right into a bloody civil warfare.

When civilians fled, Chiquita noticed alternative. Scarola mentioned it bought deserted land at cut price costs and employed 1000’s of Colombians to farm it, their income ballooning even because the warfare worsened.

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From the battle, two diametrically opposed terrorist teams shaped: the FARC, a radical left-wing band that Scarola mentioned threatened Chiquita with its pro-labor guerrilla warfare; and the AUC, the far-right group created in response to FARC’s menace.

While reverse in virtually each different respect, Scarola mentioned each teams had been keen to resort to horrendous violence to unfold concern and acquire management.

Rather than retreat from the violence, the legal professional mentioned, Chiquita invested in it. Company executives met with AUC chief Carlos Castaño in 1997. Soon after, the primary of greater than 100 documented, disguised funds from Chiquita to the AUC started. Scarola mentioned there’s proof of much more undocumented funds, too.

Chiquita workers did not pull the set off on the automated weapons that killed AUC victims, Scarola mentioned, however he urged jurors to contemplate the corporate as liable because the masked males who did.

A relative of a person disappeared by the Colombian AUC paramilitary guerrillas, wearing a blindfold, demonstrates against the government during a protest on July 8, 2008, in Bogota. The protesters request a better treatment from the government and to be given information about where the bodies of their beloved ones are.A relative of a person disappeared by the Colombian AUC paramilitary guerrillas, wearing a blindfold, demonstrates against the government during a protest on July 8, 2008, in Bogota. The protesters request a better treatment from the government and to be given information about where the bodies of their beloved ones are.

A relative of an individual disappeared by the Colombian AUC paramilitary guerrillas, carrying a blindfold, demonstrates against the federal government throughout a protest on July 8, 2008, in Bogota. The protesters request a greater remedy from the federal government and to be given details about the place the our bodies of their beloved ones are.

Chiquita legal professional: Banana firm was a sufferer, too

Cincinnati legal professional Michael Cioffi instructed a distinct story. He mentioned that in that 1997 assembly with AUC management, Castaño despatched a “clear but unspoken message” that Chiquita’s failure to pay up would end in hurt to the corporate’s folks and property.

“Chiquita was extorted over and over,” Cioffi mentioned Tuesday. He referred to as the corporate, which is headquartered in Ohio however has company workplaces in Fort Lauderdale, as a lot a sufferer of the AUC because the plaintiffs who’re suing it. “Right from the get go, there was no question that Chiquita was extorted.”

Cioffi mentioned Scarola’s portrayal of the FARC’s and AUC’s ideological variations had been “pure myth,” dismissing the notion that the AUC’s group of narco-terrorists had Chiquita’s greatest pursuits in thoughts. Where Scarola argued that Chiquita might have retreated from Colombia with out sacrificing its profitability, Cioffi mentioned “cutting and running was not an option.”

He instructed jurors that Chiquita was a power for good in an in any other case chaotic atmosphere. He touted its “gold-standard work environment” and top-notch produce, promising jurors that over the course of the trial, they’re going to hear from workers who agree that Chiquita acted with their security in thoughts.

The trial, which resumed Wednesday, is anticipated to final no less than one month. More than 7,500 individuals who misplaced family members through the AUC’s grotesque marketing campaign have filed swimsuit against Chiquita. The fits from across the nation had been consolidated and are being thought-about by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach.

Hannah Phillips is a journalist masking public security and legal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can attain her at [email protected].

This article initially appeared on Palm Beach Post: Trial against Chiquita, accused of aiding terrorists, begins in South Florida

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