Chiquita's 'Banana Republic' History Is Why It's Lobbying Against a 9/11 Victims Bill

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The Chiquita company, worldwide purveyor of bananas, fruits, and paramilitary groups, has spent $780,000 over the past year and a half to lobby against a 9/11 Victims' Bill, according to a report from The Daily Beast.

Chiquita's lobbying is centered on combatting the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a piece of legislation sponsored by families of 9/11 victims. The bill would seek to impose civil liabilities on people that aided and abetted terrorist groups in foreign countries. The main purpose of that bill would be to implicate Saudi financiers of the World Trade Center attacks in American civil courts, and allow the families of terrorist victims to seek damages.

But in writing wider legislation to implicate those that aided terrorism, Chiquita could be found liable for its past terrorist-funding actions in Colombia. Back in 2007, Chiquita was found to have given $1.7 million in a series of payments from 1997 to 2004 to a paramilitary group in Colombia, one designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. The company was forced to pay a $25 million fine in a guilty plea with the federal government. Chiquita claims the company was being extorted for funds by the group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

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Chiquita lawyers are worried that the JASTA legislation would reopen civil claims against the company. "Chiquita’s sole interest is to ensure that the legislation does not inadvertently promote litigation against individuals and companies who, like Chiquita, were victims of extortion by terrorist groups," read a company statement. Chiquita has a long history — originally as the United Fruit Company — of associating with questionable Latin American governments to benefit its banana business; hence the term "Banana Republic."

The lobbying has had an impact, as JASTA remains stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. Obviously, the families of 9/11 victims are unhappy. "I think Chiquita should mind their own bananas and let justice be served," Terry Strada, the wife of a 9/11 victim, told The Daily Beast.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.