Chiquita appeals, saying it financed Colombian paramilitaries

Banana giant Chiquita Brands International announced Tuesday that it would appeal a U.S. jury’s decision finding it responsible for financing a Colombian paramilitary group known for its human rights violations.

A jury ruled Monday that the company financed the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, in a historic victory for the group’s victims.

“While we are disappointed by the decision, we remain confident that our legal position will ultimately prevail,” Chiquita said in a statement announcing its intention to appeal.

“The situation in Colombia has been tragic for many people, including those directly affected by the violence there…However, this does not change our belief that there is no legal basis for these claims,” the company said.

On Monday, a jury awarded surviving family members $38.3 million in damages for the deaths of eight victims, including husbands and sons targeted and killed by the AUC, according to lawyers.

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Chiquita admitted in 2007 in a US court to funding the AUC from 1997 to 2004, which was later designated a foreign terrorist organization in the United States.

This designation made supporting the AUC a federal crime.

The company said it was the victim of extortion when paying the money to the group.

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The plaintiffs alleged that Chiquita paid nearly $2 million to the AUC despite knowing the group was engaged in a reign of terror.

The AUC wreaked havoc in the country in the 1990s in a bitter war against far-left Colombian guerrillas, sometimes aided by members of the armed forces.