Trial is set to begin next month in the case of six Americans killed in the 1990s by the Columbian terrorist group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC. The plaintiffs are seeking to hold banana company Chiquita Brands International liable for the deaths because it allegedly paid the terrorist group about $288,000 over the course of nine years. The lawsuit alleges that the payments constituted material support to the terrorist group, which is prohibited under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act. The plaintiffs claim that Chiquita made the payments because it to assist it in expanding banana operations in Colombia.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra declared that “[g]iven the widely reported news relating to the decades-long civil war in Colombia, and emergence of notoriously violent guerrilla groups in the context of that war, a reasonable juror could conclude that giving money to Colombian guerrillas, having no function other than the perpetration of violence, would enhance the terror capabilities of the guerrillas and lead to more violence,” and that the facts as alleged support the idea that Chiquita knew its payments would be used to fund kidnappings and murders.
In addition to the Anti-Terrorism Act claims of the six murdered Americans, families of Colombian nationals also filed suit against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Statute. Those claims are in the discovery stage, however, and are not likely to go to trial for at least another year.
Notably, Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to funding a different Colombian guerrilla group, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, and paid a $25 million fine.
The trial is scheduled to begin on February 5, and to last six weeks.