Do 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.