When high-powered attorney Eric Holder, partner in the high-power DC law firm Covington & Burling, chose to allow American Lawyer to profile him for a trial balloon about making him AG, he allowed American Lawyer to watch him work for Chiquita. While American lawyer watched, Eric Holder smooth-talked Chiquita’s CEO – the man in charge of a corporation which pled guilty to running terrorist death squads.
Chiquita funded terror to kill labor organizers in order to keep down labor costs. A very rational decision. It sends an interesting message to labor in the US to hire a man who’s worked for a corporation like that to be Attorney General. The change from the Bush Justice department is hard to see. Change we can believe in?
American Lawyer’s article seems to soft-pedal exactly what Holder helped Chiquita get off lightly on:
[Eric Holder Jr.] is there to prep Fernando Aguirre, the CEO of Chiquita Brands International Inc., for an interview with "60 Minutes," which will be broadcasting a segment on the company’s past involvement with Colombian right-wing paramilitary forces. Last March, Holder helped Chiquita secure a slap-on-the-wrist plea deal to charges that it had paid off the terrorists.
Of course, what American Lawyer describes as "charges" are actually the acts Chiquita admitted to in court. It’s odd that Obama, a man who wants to change Washington and clean up torture: a man with close union allies, would overlook torture and assassination of labor activists funded by the company his AG chose to work for:
Earlier this year Chiquita admitted one of its subsidiaries paid about $1.7 million to the rightwing paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which is also known as the AUC. The group is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Chiquita also agreed to pay the U.S. government a $25 million fine.
When Eric Holder chose to take Chiquita’s money then, he chose to enrich himself by accepting fees from admitted paymasters for terrorist death squads.
Gosh, why would Chiquita pay $1.7 Million to fund terrorist death squads? Obama’s rumored AG pick Eric Holder chose to work for Chiquita and chose to take their money to say:
“This company was in a bad position dealing with bad guys,” says Eric Holder, a Washington attorney representing Chiquita. “There’s absolutely no suggestion of any personal gain here."
But Conde Nast reports something rather different—it wasn’t Chiquita being targeted, it was leftists making their costs higher:
As a corporation, though, Chiquita stood to benefit greatly from the lethal cleansing that Castaño delivered. At the time, the Marxist guerrillas routinely kidnapped U.S. executives, blew up railroads, and sabotaged oil pipelines. Chiquita says it became increasingly difficult to protect its workers and their families. Castaño’s death squads, however, were squarely pro-business. They were not just ridding Urabá of guerrillas; they were killing leftists and eradicating unions.
“The payments Chiquita made to the paramilitaries were part of a project that the A.U.C. called Operation Genesis,” says Gloria Cuartas, who was the mayor of Apartadó from 1995 until 1997, when Castaño threatened her life and drove her out of the area. “It called for the elimination of the left and of all social groups that were supposedly contributing to instability for investors and the multinationals.” Francisco Ramirez, a leading labor lawyer with the United Confederation of Workers, the largest labor union in Colombia, says that money from Chiquita and other companies “created these paramilitary groups and helped destroy the unions.”
The A.U.C.’s wave of terror was swift and brutal. Among the most savage of its many massacres was a 1998 attack on an Urabá village in which paramilitaries murdered 11 peasants after burning them with acid to force them to confess they were guerrillas.
It is odd that the change at AG is a man who made money by representing the corporation funding the terrorists who systematically murdered left wingers to bring down business costs and effect political change. A man whose words well, spin Chiquita’s actions. (Spin being the polite word for something rather nastier.)
Is this really the best candidate?
The best is a man who took his money from Chiquita to profess "This company was in a bad position dealing with bad guys"? Colombia’s Attorney General refutes Holder’s spin:
The attorney general, Mario Iguaran, said, "The relationship was not one of the extortionist and the extorted but a criminal relationship… When you pay a group like this you are conscious of what they are doing."
The odd thing is that Chiquita, supposedly in hard place with bad guys, chose to keep expanding its operations in the areas where those terrorists were killing union organizers. How strange:
We believe that Chiquita is actually essentially engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the paramilitary organizations to control the banana-growing region of Colombia and that it was to Chiquita’s great benefit to use the paramilitaries to maintain a social and political stability within this region to allow them to conduct their extremely profitable banana-growing operations.
What the Chiquita executives probably didn’t tell you is that during this period, when they claimed they were being extorted by the paramilitaries, their Colombian subsidiary was the most profitable arm of Chiquita’s global operations, and, in fact, they continued to buy land in Colombia in the area where they said it was so dangerous that they had to pay protection payments to the paramilitaries. They continued to buy land and expand their operations until 2004, when they abruptly sold their Colombian subsidiary at around the same time that the Justice Department began investigating their payments to the paramilitaries.
When Ashcroft was AG he kept Justice hidden behind a curtain. Perhaps Holder should do the same. It might not be too much to suggest that he swear his oath on crossed machetes as well.
This is an odd choice if the goal at Justice is change and cleaning up.
You decide: is this change we can believe in?