Chiquita was forced to pay a $25 million settlement to the U.S. Justice Department for providing $1.7 million in "protection money" to United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a group the State Department designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" in October 2001.
In April 2003 a former Chiquita executive told Secretary of Homeland Security (who at the time was assistant attorney general) Michael Chertoff that the company was paying off this paramilitary group. Chertoff recognized that the payments were illegal, but wasn’t quite sure whether they were really that wrong. It was reported that he told the company to wait to do anything–like possibly stop financing a terrorist group–until he got back to them. He never did, and Chiquita made an additional $134,000 in payments over the next year.
In 2002, the Justice Department under John Ashcroft issued an indictment charging leaders of AUC with "trafficking over 17 tons of cocaine into the United States and Europe since 1997." In addition, "In 2001, the AUC killed at least 1,015 civilians, a statistic that greatly surpasses the 197 civilians killed by the FARC. The AUC also committed over 100 massacres in 2001, a typical terror tactic used to displace large portions of the peasant population the U.S. State Department noted that the AUC was responsible for about 43 percent of Colombia’s internally displaced people in 2001." So what Chiquita calls "protection money", others might call blood money.
"Even though Chiquita didn’t murder anyone, that’s what the money was used for — to buy weapons," a former prosecutor in the Chiquita case told the Wall Street Journal.
The Washington Post reported that Chiquita’s illegal activities in Colombia may have gone beyond financing weapons–the company actually helped smuggle them. It reported that "An Organization of American States report in 2003 said that Chiquita participated in smuggling thousands of arms for paramilitaries into the Northern Uraba region, using docks operated by the company to unload thousands of Central American assault rifles and ammunition."
The Post also uncovered that "For some high-level administration officials, Chiquita’s payments were not aiding an obvious terrorism threat such as al-Qaeda; instead, the cash was going to a violent South American group [even though it is designated a terrorist group by the State Department] helping a major U.S. company maintain a stabilizing presence in Colombia."
So for the Bush Administration murders, massacres and forced displacements constitutes a "stabilizing presence." And of course terrorism is OK when it is not Islamic and when it serves U.S. corporate interests. In Latin America, this is referred to as "business as usual."