For Immediate Release

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Kate Fried, EarthRights International
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EarthRights International Urges Congress to Cancel Corporate Abuse

Human Rights and Environmental Justice Advocates Launch Campaign to Hold Corporations Accountable for Human Rights Violations

WASHINGTON - Today, EarthRights International launched Cancel Corporate Abuse, a new campaign to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses. The campaign highlights the case of Chiquita Brands International, which for nearly a decade in the 1990s and early 2000s, secretly made monthly payments totaling at least $1.7 million to Colombia’s deadliest paramilitary organization, the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). In turn, the AUC tormented communities in Colombia’s banana-growing regions. 

“Chiquita hides behind its family-friendly image, but for years, it profited from illegal activities. Its victims have gone nearly three decades without justice--no apology or compensation from the banana behemoth,” said Keith Slack, Director of Strategy and Campaigns at EarthRights. “EarthRights is fighting to change that. Today we are urging Congress to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses like the ones committed by Chiquita.”

Chiquita grew its bananas on large plantations in Colombia, taking advantage of civil conflict there to purchase land at lower prices. It then funded paramilitary death squads, including the AUC, in order to ensure a smooth operating environment; the AUC’s victims included union leaders and political activists. In 2018, the Colombian government announced criminal charges against 13 former Chiquita executives for their roles in these crimes. Chiquita pled guilty to funding paramilitaries, and was convicted of a felony, but it has not compensated families whose loved ones were murdered by the groups it bankrolled. The U.S. Justice Department also fined Chiquita $25 million for its relationship with the AUC, but that money was not used to compensate the families of the victims.

Chiquita isn’t the only company to commit abuses like these. The use of violence-for-profit tactics continues in Colombia and has taken place in other countries in cases involving agribusiness and energy corporations like oil giant Exxon Mobil, agricultural conglomerate Cargill, and mining powerhouse Freeport-McMoRan.

“Chiquita’s past actions are an example of how corporations abuse communities and the planet for the sake of profits,” added Slack. “Three people a week were murdered around the world in 2018 for protecting their lands from extractive industries and other threats--an all-time high. Nobody should have to die for defending their communities; it’s past time that Congress takes action.”

EarthRights filed a lawsuit against Chiquita in 2007 for the company’s role in financing torture, war crimes, and other human rights abuses in Colombia. Although claims by two of the families were dismissed by a federal judge in September of this year, EarthRights is appealing that decision and continues to represent over 200 other plaintiffs in claims against Chiquita and its former executives.

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EarthRights International (ERI) is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment, which we define as "earth rights." We specialize in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns. Through these strategies, EarthRights International seeks to end earth rights abuses, to provide real solutions for real people, and to promote and protect human rights and the environment in the communities where we work.

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