CHICAGO (TDB) -- A draft report produced by a United Nations-sponsored agency that examined violence in Colombia says that a terror group funded in part by Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands kept a hit list of labor union leaders and publicly described them as "military targets."
The document says Auto defensas Unidas de Colombia, which is known by the initials AUC in English, used assassinations to eliminate foes. AUC was a right wing paramilitary that the United States declared a terrorist organization on Sept. 10, 2001. Chiquita paid the organization $1.7 million and pleaded guilty March 20 to violating federal laws that prohibit American businesses from consorting with terrorists. The banana company said the money was used to protect its Colombian operations after AUC made threats that its workers were in danger.
However, the draft United Nations report (pdf page 35) contends AUC was waging war against progressive elements of Colombian society, particularly labor organizations. Other data suggests it openly courted businesses for financial support.
"The Escuela Sindical of Medellin (ENS) reports that 1,600 trade union leaders have received death threats over the past 3 years. A press released by the paramilitary group Auto defensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) on 8 February 2001 publicly states that 104 union leaders are 'military targets.' The year 2001 represented the worst year for trade unionists, with 137 killed, 37 arrested, 24 abducted and 17 disappeared.
"According to the Central Unit for Labourers, between January and August 2002, 115 trade union leaders were assassinated -- an average of 114 per month. This represents a 41% increase [over] 2001. Being a public prosecutor is another dangerous occupation. Many investigators and prosecutors of symbolic human rights cases have been murdered."