One of my first jobs in college, outside of work study for the university, was as a cashier at WalMart. As a result, to this day, I can still give you the checkout code number for bananas... it's 4011.

But little did I know then, and only recently found out, was that the company responsible for distributing those bananas, specifically "Chiquita" was doing some nefarious things with their banana production, its staff, and the farmers and gatherers who harvest them.

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In a recent bombshell release, it was announced that the U.S. Federal Court is filing a civil case against Chiquita Brands International for helping finance an infamous right-wing terrorist group in the country of Columbia, where most of Chiquita's bananas are harvested.

The lawsuit came after a person identified as "David" was killed back in 1997 by the same group.

David was a target of the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia, who in 1997 boarded a bus he was riding in, pulled him out and brutally beat him to death, covering his body on the side of the road with a banana plant.

The U.S. Civil case is seeking Chiquita to pay $38.3 million in compensation to his family, and at least seven other victims.

But these are the only cases that the U.S. can officially bring charges against.

Who are the AUC, and How Are They Connected to Chiquita?

The United Self-Defenders of Coluimbia, or Autodefensas Unidas de Columbia, were formed in 1997 during a time of unrest and civil war in Columbia. Over time, local farmers and businesses supplied funding for the group to defend their property and businesses from left-wing guerilla forces.

But over time, things got out of hand, and the AUC was eventually labeled a terrorist group, and began exploiting people for money.

Workers Harvest, Clean, And Pack Bananas For American Market
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That's where Chiquita comes in, as they claim in their most recent lawsuits that they were forced to pay the AUC protection money. But it was proven that they still made 100 payments to the AUC, totaling more than $1.7 million. In fact, one lawyer representing Chiquita claimed they had to pay a variety of terrorist groups for 15 years because they were the groups who controlled the area where the company operated.

No contact was ever made with the Columbian Government.

Why Should We boycott Chiquita?

The AUC disbanded in 2007 officially, but the lawsuits are still coming in from when they were operating with Chiquita. Since 2007, though, even after a peace deal, some of the members are still operating under a different name, the Gul Clan, that is challenging government control in the northwestern part of the country.

This just happens to be where Chiquita's banana fields are. At this time, it's unclear if Chiquita is still paying the organization for "protection," but the fruit company is still denying it should have to pay for the deaths tied to them, and are appealing the court's decision.

So the next time you're eating a banana, check the label, and really think if you're willing to cross that moral line.

Meckley's Flavor Fruit Farm - Somerset, Michigan

For 65 years, Meckley's Flavor Fruit Farm has been providing seasonal and year-round fun in the Somerset, Michigan area. From donuts, to hard ciders and more, it is a stop that is well worth the trip.

Gallery Credit: Maitlynn Mossolle