Chiquita Slipped Up by Paying Terrorists
Markowitz, Jack, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
I'm Chiquita Banana
And I've come to say
That bribing terroristas
Is a bad, bad way.
The banana company whose radio commercials sang that we must never put bananas in the refrigerator got a lesson in the rotten side of globalization the other day. Paying off terrorists doesn't pay.
A company's tormentors may be Communists or drug dealers. Their goal may be to overturn the system or just make off with a quick peso. But they give no peace to employees or their families, who live in fear of beatings, kidnappings or murder.
So pay up! Give to "the cause" and your people will have nothing to fear -- for awhile.
To this brutal logic Chiquita Brands International, of Cincinnati, fell victim, obviously the wrong thing to do. One company that pays off thugs turns the screws on all companies. Everybody knows that, as Chiquita management undoubtedly did.
But though it pleaded guilty, there's a reluctance to cast the first stone here. What is a business engaged in lawful commerce supposed to do? Fire all its workers, pack up and clear out? Or chalk up, with shame, a "cost of business?" It's a textbook ethical question, but not so clear in a foreign boondocks infested with drugs, bribes and blood.
So last Monday in a Washington federal court, Chiquita paid the first $5 million of a $25 million fine for supporting a right-wing terrorist group in Colombia.
Aha, you might say. See? An American fruit company financing fascist goons to repress poor workers. …