Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Thu

02

Aug

2007

Banana Republic: Chertoff, Chiquita and Right-Wing Death Squads
Thursday, 02 August 2007 21:35
by Chris Floyd

As Jonathan Schwarz recently noted, there is a deeply discouraging sameness about the outrages that dissenting writers must address — and a new front-page story in the Washington Post is a perfect example. In fact, it's a piece that could have been written any time in the last 100 years or more: "Feds Look the Other Way While United Fruit Company Peddles Death and Corruption in Latin America."

Today of course, the infamous United Fruit of yore (whose machinations in Guatemala led to a CIA coup that set off decades of mass-murdering chaos) is known by the more perky name of Chiquita, and conjures up cheery pictures of childhood banana-munching around the family table. But while corporations may change their spots (or their peels) and their personnel over the years, the nature of the beast remains much the same, because its raison d'etre remains the same: maximizing profit. And United Fruit/Chiquita has traditionally been willing to push the banana boat way out when it comes to ensuring that its exploitation of cheap labor remains undisturbed.

In the case of Colombia, this meant paying an officially designated terrorist gang — the vicious killers of the rightwing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) — to keep Chiquita's operations running smoothly in the war-torn nation. A whole sordid history could be written about the extensive intertwining of American government and corporate interests with AUC and the other rightwing Colombian militias, but for our purposes here it is enough to note that Chiquita not only paid AUC for protection from leftwing militias, it also took an active and direct role in "in smuggling thousands of arms for paramilitaries into the Northern Uraba region, using docks operated by the company to unload thousands of Central American assault rifles and ammunition," as the Post reports. In turn, the paramilitaries used these weapons "to fund operations against peasants, union workers and rivals."


"I regarded this as a murder investigation," says Roscoe Howard Jr., the former U.S. Attorney who spearheaded a prosecution of Chiquita for its death-squad collaboration, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Even though Chiquita didn't murder anyone, that's what the money was used for — to buy weapons."

Earlier this year, Chiquita the corporate entity paid a piddling $25 million to wash the blood from its gleaming office walls. But now some of the company's human factotums are facing personal criminal charges for facilitating the murder, kidnapping, rape and robbery of innocent human beings. To counter this, they are offering a modified version of the Nuremberg Defense; it's not exactly that they were "just following orders" from Der Leader, but they say they did receive implicit permission from the Bush Regime to carry on funding the Colombian death squads after corporate officials notified the Justice Department in 2003 of their involvement with AUC. As the Post notes:

...last week, lawyers for the former Chiquita executives sent letters to the Justice Department, asserting that their clients did not intentionally break the law but believed they were waiting for an answer from the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The man they sought out at the Justice Department the Assistant Attorney General, one Michael Chertoff, now the gut-checking head of Homeland Security. As the Post reports:

Chiquita, [company officials told Chertoff], would have to pull out of the country if it could not continue to pay the violent right-wing group to secure its Colombian banana plantations. Chertoff...affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting...Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.

But as we all know, terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. And there were many in the Bush Regime who did not regard AUC as real terrorists; after all, they weren't Muslims, and they were only killing a bunch of piss-poor Latinos — along with political opponents of Washington's much-favored Uribe administration in Bogata. What's not to like? As the Post reports:

But legal sources on both sides say there was a genuine debate within the Justice Department about the seriousness of the crime of paying AUC. For some high-level administration officials, Chiquita's payments were not aiding an obvious terrorism threat such as al-Qaeda; instead, the cash was going to a violent South American group helping a major U.S. company maintain a stabilizing presence in Colombia.

As long as a "violent group" supports American policy or corporate interests, they can let rip. We see this dynamic in operation all over the world at the moment. It is part of a long-standing — and open — policy of the Bush Administration to arm and fund violent militias to do its dirty work. (Justin Raimondo has much more on this theme in "The New Turn," which is supplies good support to an earlier post we did here.)*

Of course, it is very good indeed that, against all odds, there remain some honest prosecutors in the federal justice system willing to do what should have been done a century ago: hold corporate chieftains responsible for the crimes they beget in their slavering pursuit of profit. But it also clear that the Chiquita executives were given the same kind of nod-and-wink for murky dealings that their illustrious predecessors have always received from Washington. That they may now be hoist on their own petard is their own tough luck; but they are certainly not the only ones who should be in the dock..
More from this author:
Immaculate Conception: A Squirt in the White House (13704 Hits)
George W. Bush's innumerable sycopants like to potray him as a down-to-earth man of the people: a man's man, tough and fearless, a good-ole-boy...
Thunder on the Mountain: The Murderers of Democracy (11761 Hits)
“Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes. I tell you this right now, I don’t give a damn about your dreams.” -- Bob Dylan,...
War in Heaven: Woodward's Book and the Establishment Insurgency (12478 Hits)
Bob Woodward has long been the voice of the American Establishment – or of certain quadrants of it, at any rate. When Richard Nixon's...
Swing Blades: Don Rumsfeld Bats Both Ways (10354 Hits)
In February 2003, I wrote a column for the Moscow Times detailing Don Rumsfeld's personal – and profitable – connection with North Korea's...
Red October: Killing the Truth in Moscow (11733 Hits)
I. Early October can be dismal in Moscow. The short, harsh summer is over, the brief and beautiful refreshment of September has passed,...
Related Articles:
A Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? (9272 Hits)
When Hillary Clinton said that her husband Bill was the target of “a vast right-wing conspiracy”, her critics just laughed at her. No...
A Journey Through The Mind Of Contemporary Conservatism: Clutching Our Values Aboard The Death Train (9822 Hits)
Day-to-day life within an empire consists of the deceitful leading the disengaged. Although when the artifice shielding a nation’s populace from...
Pale Fire and London Fog: Illuminating Outliers in the Death of Alexander Litvinenko (8317 Hits)
by Chris Floyd This is an updated version of the piece that appeared yesterday at Truthout.org. I. The Baron and the Billionaire ...
Pale Fire and London Fog: Illuminating Outliers in the Death of Alexander Litvinenko (7563 Hits)
by Chris Floyd I. The Baron and the Billionaire Everyone knows that Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko was killed by...
Death to Infidels via Video Game (6094 Hits)
by William Fisher “This is the first time any Christian religious instructional video has recommended killing all non-Christians who...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (2)add comment

a guest said:

0
...
Chris Floyd has your Executive Order Article been pulled down?
 
August 02, 2007
Votes: +0

george hennigh said:

0
...
The history of U.S. interference in Latin American affairs goes back to the early 1900's. Although I've forgotten much of my 1960's college Latin American History classes, I do remember the pattern. Protect Chiquita & other U.S. corporate interests & get rid of the socialists anyway you can. "Anyway you can", means assassination, military coup, death squads. etc etc. What's frightening is that the pattern remains the same. How is that even possible?
 
January 30, 2011
Votes: +1

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top