Terrorists Wielding Bananas

Chiquita LadyDo you like bananas? I know that I do. They are simply delicious. However, I was unaware that I happened to be funding terrorism every time I bought a bushel of bananas from the supermarket.

This past Wednesday, the Department of Justice and the Chiquita Brand International Company (the ones who sell those delicious bananas) settled a plea agreement after getting caught funneling $25 million to the Colombian terror organization FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia).

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers at the Cincinnati-based company paid about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia

Now, the AUC has been on the U.S. Terror Watch List since 2001. That’s a lot of time for the Chiquita Banana Empire execs to figure out that this probably wasn’t a good idea. Their lawyers even told them not to do it. Then why would they continue to pay off drug barons, criminals, and kidnappers from 1997 up to mid-2003?

I can understand that a company finds it necessary to protect their workers while they are on the job. Chiquita execs assumed that financing terrorism was the only way that they could do this. However, I would like to propose another solution.

Investment into the Colombian government and security forces. If you want to stop the monthly ransom kidnappings in the Columbian jungle, build up the Colombian counter terrorist forces. If you want to end the cocaine trafficking, do not focus on the small-time drug dealers with this “War on Drugs”. The U.S.-Colombian government should make a joint and concerted effort to go after the top drug lords in the country. The top down approach will punish those who are actually manipulating the system-not those who think that selling drugs is the only way to make enough money to eat. It is this drug money that finances their terrorist activities (when U.S. companies aren’t playing them off).

However, the Chiquita Banana barons just continued to finance terrorism in a short-sighted view of how to protect their employees. It seems to me that there are better ways to protect your employees than by paying off thugs in the jungle.

The second question of this whole thing is why were they fined only $25 million? If I was financing terrorism through my banana company, I’d imagine that I’d receive jail time at least and something more like $50 to $100 million in fines. But this company (a close friend and large financier of the Bush re-election campaign) only received a $25 million dollar fine. Curious, I find this very curious.

A quick article about the whole situation.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Terrorists Wielding Bananas

  1. you

    dear mr. thursday,

    i find your solution to the problem of funneling banana money into terrorists pockets slightly disconcerting. while at prima facie it seems like an obvious choice to invest into the anti-terrorism forces rather than the terrorists themselves, the fact of the matter is that for the chiquita corporation, that would be suicide. even if they funneled twice the amount they currently give to terrorists to leave them to the government to protect them, they wouldnt have nearly the resources necessary. would it help? probably to a small degree. but it would also make them a target for the cartels. thats how it works, you kidnap and kill the people that fund the governments anti-terrorist troops, and you leave the people alone who pay you, then one by one everyone comes to realize its just easier to pay you. if EVERY SINGLE CORPORATION THAT DEALS WITH THE COUNTRY immediately ceased paying the cartels and gave that money to the government than its possible some legitimate headway could be made, but to censure chiquita and say they shouldve been investing in anti-terrorists is impractical from an economic standpoint and risks serious personnel and profit loss. from a moral standpoint it is, of course, the appropriate action, but could you really issue a memo to juan pable martinez, the banana picker of 20 odd years, saying that youve decided to stop paying the cartels to leave you alone, and have paid their sworn enemies, but not to worry because the government will do all they can to protect you? are we even certain that the payment of this money wont just go to corrupt officials? all in all, i would love to see the toppling of the drug kingpins in central america just as much as you, and im not claiming that youre saying that this one multinational corporation, if it dispensed funds in a different fashion, would solve the problem, youre way smarter than that, but i dont think its fair to censure a company that is really only seeking to protect their assets, namely their workers, and not buying into the terrorist mentality and agreeing with their politics. and anyone can make the argument that no such distinction exists, that giving them money is buying into them regardless of what you profess your stance to be, but to that person i say the United States financed the Taliban and Iran at points in theory to protect their own assets. so we, as a nation, are as hypocritical as the bananamongers themselves.

    i love you and we should hang out this week. let me know when youre free.

  2. Katie

    It is against the law to pay terrorist groups. It’s the same situation as small businesses paying the mob to leave them alone. You may think it’s in your best interest to do it, but in the process, you are paying for the upkeep of an organization that murders, sells drugs, and brings down the morality of the whole superstructure. Is that okay. You’re talking about a moral relativism that each person/company must do what is in their own interest. What about a higher interest?

  3. Paul

    It was against the law for the United States to overthrow the Panamanian government in order to put in place a government that would allow us to build a canal, was that wrong also?
    I stated multiple times that its morally wrong to fund terrorists, but in a practical sense it’s not as cut and dry as “stop giving money to terrorists, and start giving it to the government”. doing that would certainly bring forth the opprobrium of terrorists, which one corporation isnt capable of dealing with. what is this higher interest you speak of? its certainly not protecting life, because thats what paying the terrorists is doing just as much, if not more, than funding the government. is it funding the wrong team? yeah it is. certainly. obviously. clearly. but is it really worth it, to you, to not pay for the upkeep of an organization of murderers so that they start murdering your people? are you that invested in your higher interest that youll sacrifice your workers to prove that youre morally strong? can you look your field workers in the face and tell them not to worry, that everything will be alright because were doing the right thing here? these people have families. some kid is going to lose a father, and a livlihood because you want to send a message to terrorists that you think theyre naughty? i agree that funding terrorists is a terrible thing, im as unhappy with the thought of it as you are, but i couldnt look little fernando in the face and tell him his daddy was a hero who died at the hands of the AUC and i had the power to stop it but didnt.

  4. Katie

    Yes, but when little Fernando grows up, he’s also going to be enlisted into the AUC. This cycle of violence needs to be stopped but ignoring it and taking the easy way out by paying off the terrorists only perpetuates this cycle. By ignoring the problem, this company is as bad as the terrorists in my opinion.

  5. Paul

    is your argument then, that little fernando is less likely to join the terrorist forces if he grows up without a father and is forced to support his entire family from the age of 7 onwards, in my opinion this puts him far more at risk to become a terrorist himself. not to mention that most terrorist enlisting deals with kidnapping and forceful submission. If fernandos father works for a compnay which bites their thumbs at terrorists, hes a much more likely candidate for enlistment than if hes left alone and his father has a chance to teach him whats right and wrong as hes growing up. you seem to think that i support funding terrorism. i dont. i just dont support negligence in allowing the destruction of innocent lives either. theres no obviously right answer to this situation and your opinions and ideas are as valid as mine. i simply dont think that recycling any funds to the government will have positive tangible effects. quite the contrary in fact. once receiving this money, its highly unlikely that the cheif execs of the government are going to channel all of these newly acquired funds to help their poor, needy, and starving. theyll line their already fat pockets because poor people, to them, are nothing more than assets that can be squeezed and when they have nothing left to give, they are as good as dead already. when people cant rely on their government for protection, and have to pay terrorists/mafias/mobs for protection, then no small changes, no exchanges of money, no minor alterations are going to solve things. you need ideologues, and matyrs, and people willing to do what it takes to overhaul the entire system and make things right. chiquita bananas not paying terrorists isnt enough to make a difference. thats my point.

  6. You misspelled Colombia about seven times. That kind of hurts your argument a bit. Not that I disagree, I’m just saying.

    This phenomenon is nothing new. How else did Carmen Miranda get the drugs to perform on stage every night with a fruit hat?

  7. Katie

    Paul, I don’t think you support funding terrorism. Of course not. I just think we have very different ideas about right and wrong in this particular situation. You see how it is important to protect the workers in this situation even by dubious means. I can understand that. I’m trying to say that perhaps it is the system that needs to change. And by using the age old excuse of “I’m just one person/business/multinational corporation”, then one is doing nothing to change the structure. Just perpetuating it.

  8. you

    i totally agree with you that it is the system that needs to be changed. my argument is that it cannot be a gradual change. it has to be explosive or it wont take hold. saying “im just one …” doesnt exculapte you from the knowledge that you shouldnt be funding terrorists, but it may help you sleep better knowing your workers are safe. youre totally right for saying people shouldnt give money to terrorists, but giving it to the government, in my mind and this situation, wouldnt yield the results youre looking for either. i say we buy all the raw fish we can. we use to fish to bride a team of specially trained sea lions to infiltrate the cartel hierarchies. Once they established their loyalty, we have them one by one pick the whole organizations apart. chances are they cant eat 25 mil in fish also, so with the rest we can make sushi!

  9. Beth

    mr. thursday,
    Let’s pretend that the Colombian government isn’t corrupt, and that Chiquita cares about it’s workers. Then it would make sense for Chiquita to give money to the Colombian government for protection and to stop the cycle of violence. Alas, Chiquita cares only about profits, and that is the reason that they are paying of FARC, not to protect Fernando, but to protect their profits. The Colombian government has created their own political nightmare by excluding the vast majority of the population from the political system, and forcing those groups outside the political system. This is a very complicated issue and giving millions of dollars to either the FARC or the Colombian government will only create more problems.

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