The Chiquita banana company is spending millions of dollars to block a bill to aid victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.
According to a report on The Daily Beast,
the world's largest producer of bananas has spent $780,000 to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte is working with the company to kill the bill.
JASTA was created by victims and families to target those who supported the attacks in any way and to enable them to more easily sue those entities.
"The path to justice for me and the other 9/11 family members and survivors is being blocked by a banana company. I think Chiquita should mind their own bananas and let justice be served," Terry Strada, whose husband was killed in the attacks, told the Beast.
Although Chiquita is not connected to 9/11, in 2007 it pleaded guilty to making over 100 payments totaling $1.7 million beginning in 1997 to the right-wing paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
The United States has deemed that group a terrorist organization, and Chiquita says the payments were the result of extortion paid to protect its employees.
The Daily Beast reported that Eric Holder represented the company in a lawsuit before he was attorney general, and that in that case Chiquita agreed to a $25 million fine
for the payments to the group.
The question remains whether companies who pay money to terrorists are also responsible for their terrorist acts.
"Does [AUC] financing make Chiquita liable for the acts of terrorism and murder committed by those terrorists?" Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer involved in a lawsuit against Chiquita, told the Beast. "To the extent that JASTA changes that or clarifies that standard, it would present a threat to Chiquita."
The bill was sponsored by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.
"It would also make it clear that victims of terrorist attacks both outside and inside the U.S. could seek damages against perpetrators," Schumer's spokesman Matt House told the Beast.
Chiquita has been paying high-priced lobbyists to stop JASTA since it was introduced in 2013.
"Chiquita supports the stated objectives of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act," the company told the Beast. "Chiquita’s sole interest is to ensure that the legislation does not inadvertently promote litigation against individuals and companies who, like Chiquita, were victims of extortion by terrorist groups."
The report says the company's lobbyists found a sympathetic ear with House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte and that ever since, no action has been taken on the bill, with his office letting it be known on Capitol Hill that he would not support progress on JASTA.
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