About a month ago, the New York Times described how U.S.-based Chiquita Banana reached a $25 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that senior executives in the U.S. signed off on over $1 million in payments to right-wing death squads in Colombia to "protect" Chiquita operations. Yesterday, the Miami Herald joined the fray with a nice article that included a glance back at Chiquita's long history of "controversial operations" in South America.
Chiquita Brands International's recent admission that it paid off a Colombian group on the U.S. terrorist list has spotlighted a practice once hush-hush in Colombia, Washington's closest ally in Latin America. Several other U.S.-based corporations, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and the Alabama-based coal company Drummond Co., face civil lawsuits alleging their Colombian operations worked with the same group to kill several trade unionists.
[...] A 1928 strike at [Chiquita's] Colombia operations was quelled by army troops who opened fire and killed as many as 1,000 protesters. It helped foment a 1954 coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. Earlier this decade, Human Rights Watch linked Chiquita with companies that used child labor in Ecuador.
Between the Chiquita controversy, links between Colombian President Uribe's allies and the right-wing paramilitaries, and the consistent overlooking of trade unionist murders (65 percent of the world's trade unionist assassinations from 2003-2005 occurred in Colombia), one would certainly hope that no self-respecting member of Congress, regardless of party, would allow the U.S.-Colombia "free trade" agreement to pass, linking the U.S. even more closely to these atrocities.
For more on the links between the paramilitaries and the U.S.-Colombia FTA, see David Bacon's American Prospect article from this past January.