Wednesday, June 01, 2011
A tiny AP article in my local paper alerted me to a very important lawsuit that was recently filed against Chiquita. As described in more detail in the Miami Herald, over 4,000 plaintiffs are suing the banana company for its support of right-wing paramilitary death squads, which routinely kill bystanders in their fight with the left-wing insurgency of FARC. The suit has some chance of success, because Chiquita was already convicted of the activity in a criminal case in 2007. The suit is being brought by Searcy Law in West Palm Beach, which is still seeking plaintiffs for the class-action suit.
As important as it is to hold Chiquita responsible for its support of terrorists in Colombia, and the U.S. Department of Justice is to be commended for its successful prosecution of Chiquita. Still, terrorists operating within the Colombian military itself have not been so designated by the United States, and in fact continue to receive tacit support through Plan Colombia. The importance of this connection was made clear by a visit to our campus last year of Martha Giraldo, whose father was assassinated by government forces.
The Chiquita case concludes more than a century of violence associated with its involvement -- and that of other fruit companies -- in Colombia and Central America. It is this violent legacy that makes bananas a particularly important market for the fair-trade movement, after coffee. The movement and the reasons for it are described in some detail by Henry Frundt in his book Fair Bananas, which my favorite librarian reviewed in The Meaning of Label.
The Maxwell Library at BSU has quite a few books on this important history, including:
Soluri, John. 2005. Banana cultures: agriculture, consumption, and environmental change in Honduras and the United States.
Slocum, Karla. 2006. Free Trade & Freedom: Neoliberalism, Place, and Nation in the Caribbean.
Bucheli, Marcelo. 2005. Bananas and Business: The United Fruit Company in Colombia, 1899-2000
Dosal, Paul J. 1993. Doing Business with the Dictators: A Political History of United Fruit in Guatemala, 1899-1944
Wilson, Charles Morrow. 1947. Empire in Green and Gold; The Story of the American Banana Trade