Monday, August 13, 2007

Is that a banana in your pocket...

...or are you just trafficking some more cocaine?

For years, the Chiquita Banana Company has operated under a cloud of corruption that includes such toxic elements as narco-trafficking, union busting, bribery, financing of terrorist organizations, you name it. They are a paragon of corporate corruption that strong-arms its way to maximum profits at the expense of humane treatment of their workers and basic morality.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was on the beat back in 1998 when the Cincinnati Enquirer was forced to pay Chiquita $10 million dollars after exposing the rot in their business model.

Chiquita, formerly known as the United Fruit Company, is the world's largest banana producer. Among the illegal Chiquita practices uncovered by the Enquirer's investigation:

  • Chiquita secretly controls dozens of supposedly independent banana companies. It also suppresses union activity on the farms it controls.
  • Despite its pact with environmental groups to abide by pesticide safety standards, Chiquita subsidiaries have used pesticides in Central America that are banned in the U.S., Canada, and the European Union. Chiquita also released harmful toxic chemicals into farms, killing at least one worker in Costa Rica according to a coroner's report.
  • Chiquita's fruit transport ships have been used to smuggle cocaine into Europe. More than a ton of cocaine was seized from 7 Chiquita ships in 1997. (The Enquirer story says the illegal shipment was traced to lax Colombian security rather than to Chiquita)
  • Chiquita executives bribed Colombian officials
  • Chiquita called in the Honduran military to evict residents of a farm village; the soldiers forced the farmers out at gunpoint, and the village was bulldozed.
  • An employee of a competitor filed a federal lawsuit charging that armed men hired by Chiquita tried to kidnap him in Honduras.
Fast-forward to 2007 and the antics of the Chiquita Banana Company continue to be vile, at best. Fortunately, in this era of technology, we have a full-fledged campaign of online activism and journalism coming from Kyle over at Immigration Orange, who recently wrote:
It is time to boycott Chiquita Brands International, Inc. I covered Chiquita for the first time almost five months ago. Since then, I have gotten over 30 blogs to cover the fact that Chiquita pled guilty to "Engaging in Transactions with a Specially-Designated Global Terrorist". Finally, this scandal is getting the attention it deserves. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal ran front page stories on Chiquita's indictment. The Los Angeles Times recently ran a major article, as well. While I will continue my campaign to get blogs to cover this issue, it is clear that we need to step up what I have humbly named the Campaign for International Justice. It is time to boycott Chiquita.

Now that the media has picked up on this story and emphasized it for the debacle that it is, it is time for citizens to get involved. It is time for civil society to add their voice to this story. This story has to be transformed from an elite political scandal to something that consumers in the United States care about, and something that affects people all across the globe. Newspapers shouldn't be able to cover this story with getting a quote from Citizens for Boycotting Chiquita.

I join Kyle's call for a boycott of all Chiquita Banana Products and hope you will do the same. Beyond that, though, it is time to realize that the only language the corporate world speaks is that of money. We happen to hold the power in our hands by the decisions we make when buying products. Enough is enough, take a stand against corporate malfeasance and stop the exploitation of workers around the world - in this instance, mis primos en Latin America.

Things you can do:
  • Join the boycott and stop buying Chiquita Banana products
  • Keep an eye on Immigration Orange for the latest news on the company's antics
  • Become members of the 'Citizens for Boycotting Chiquita' groups on Facebook and MySpace.
  • Spread the word to your family and friends - and tell them why you are boycotting.
Education and Action is what will finally overthrow the stranglehold the corporate world has on government and the livelihood of peoples across the Americas. This is not a partisan issue, but a question of humanity.

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