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Colombia: 13 ex-Chiquita aides face trial on paramilitary funding

Thirteen former directors of the big US-Swiss banana producer Chiquita Brands will face trial in Colombia on charges of financing right-wing paramilitary groups during the country’s armed conflict, prosecutors announced Friday.

Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez said the accused included both Colombians and foreigners implicated in financing irregular armed groups in the northwestern region of Uraba, Antioquia.

A statement from prosecutors said the 13 — eight Colombians, three US citizens, a Costa Rican and a Honduran — would face charges of aggravated criminal association.

In 2007, lawyers for Chiquita Brands entered a guilty plea in a US court to having financed the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, once the largest paramilitary organization in the country.

The firm was fined $25 million after acknowledging that it had paid the paramilitaries some $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 in exchange for protection of its workers.

The group’s long and bloody struggle against leftist guerrillas was marked by multiple human-rights violations.

Some 20,000 militia members demobilized between 2003 and 2006, under the Alvaro Uribe government.

In 2017, Colombia’s Office of the public prosecutor declared that the financing of paramilitaries by banana executives amounted to a crime against humanity — eliminating any statute of limitations.

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