Chiquita, the world’s largest supplier of bananas, successfully blocked a bill that would provide support to victims of 9/11, according to The Daily Beast.
The banana company spent nearly $800,000 lobbying against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which allows victims and families of 9/11 to seek claims against sponsors of terrorist organizations. Chiquita has a long and checkered past of supporting militants in Colombia, where the company has operated for more than 100 years.
The company was not involved in 9/11 in any way, but instead used to pay off the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, for what the company described as safety for their workers. In 2007, the company, which was then represented by current Attorney General Eric Holder, agreed to pay a $25 million fine for making payments totaling $1.7 million to AUC from 1997 to 2004 when the group was designated a terrorist organization by the Department of Justice.
Chiquita is worried JASTA would require them to make payments for decades old payments to the group, which they characterize as extortion.
“Chiquita supports the stated objectives of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” the company said to the The Daily 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.”
They were successful in their endeavors. After hiring lobbyists from Covington and Burling at a cost of $450,000, they found a sympathizer with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who actively opposed the bill despite having several constituents who are family members of 9/11 victims.
Moreover, when family members of 9/11 victims went to visit Goodlatte, he was reportedly very rude and defensive towards them. Deanna Wirth, whose father was killed in the attack, told The Daily Beast she relayed the story of hearing her father’s last words, to which Goodlatte replied, “Weren’t you compensated for that?”
“I just thought it was a rude question. I couldn’t believe that came out of his mouth,” Wirth said. “He was very rude, and in my opinion, not very compassionate about what we went through.”
Since the bill stalled, lawmakers have refused to comment on the legislation.
“The path to justice for me and the other 9/11 family members and survivors is being blocked by a banana company,” Terry Strada, whose husband was killed in the terrorist attacks, told The Daily Beast. “I think Chiquita should mind their own bananas and let justice be served.”
Chiquita has maintained they do support the cause of the 9/11 victims, but oppose the wording of the bill and want it reworked.