June 4, 2009

Attorney General Holder, Chiquita Banana and Death Squads

Monique Chartier

This is the improbable combination suggested by commenter Joe Bernstein under Justin's post.

But sure enough ...

Do not expect these recommendations to be carried forward if Eric Holder decides to forgo his lucrative corporate law practice at Covington & Burling and accept the U.S. Attorney General position for which many believe he is the top contendor. Eric Holder would have a troubling conflict of interest in carrying out this work in light of his current work as defense lawyer for Chiquita Brands international in a case in which Colombian plaintiffs seek damages for the murders carried out by the AUC paramilitaries - a designated terrorist organization. Chiquita has already admitted in a criminal case that it paid the AUC around $1.7 million in a 7-year period and that it further provided the AUC with a cache of machine guns as well.

Indeed, Holder himself, using his influence as former deputy attorney general under the Clinton Administration, helped to negotiate Chiquita's sweeheart deal with the Justice Department in the criminal case against Chiquita. Under this deal, no Chiquita official received any jail time.

Firedoglake has more details.

An Attorney General with such items on his resume reflects poorly on the President who nominated him. Setting aside for a moment the ruinous economic policies that he and Congress have been implementing, President Obama is a genuinely nice guy. I'm surprised, in light of these nasty details, that Eric Holder was his choice for this important position.

Carrying this over to the domestic front, by the way, it appears that guns are fine for South American death squads but possibly not for Americans.

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Yep, I remember that discussion on RIFuture (h/t PinkHatLib).

Posted by: Russ at June 4, 2009 2:17 PM

By the way, you do realize that the Justice Department in question here is the Bush administration's. So we have a company that has actually admitted to funding a group identified by the U.S. as terrorist organization getting off with a slap on the wrist, but it's for Holder we're supposed to reserve our outrage?

On April 24, 2003, a board member of Chiquita International Brands disclosed to a top official at the Justice Department that the king of the banana trade was evidently breaking the nation's anti-terrorism laws.

Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that Chiquita was paying "protection money" to a Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations. Hills said he knew that such payments were illegal, according to sources and court records, but said that he needed Chertoff's advice.

Chiquita, Hills said, would have to pull out of the country if it could not continue to pay the violent right-wing group to secure its Colombian banana plantations. Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting.

Justice officials have acknowledged in court papers that an official at the meeting said they understood Chiquita's situation was "complicated," and three of the sources identified that official as Chertoff. They said he promised to get back to the company after conferring with national security advisers and the State Department about the larger ramifications for U.S. interests if the corporate giant pulled out overnight.

Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.

Careful, you start reading this stuff; you may become a progressive!

Posted by: Russ at June 4, 2009 9:11 PM

Russ, the Attorney General chosen by the Obama administration represented the death squad funding Chiquita Banana Corp and worked successfully to get them off with no jail time.

This is probably not ameliorated by the fact highlighted in the article that you cite: that Mr. Holder shared exactly the same goal as the evil Bush Justice Department in this matter.

Posted by: Monique at June 5, 2009 1:15 PM

I think corporate influence on the Bush administration verged on the criminal here, and Holder played his part (I don't like the guy or the system that allows corporations to ignore U.S. law). But representing his client was his job as a corporate attorney, and it appears he advised his client to notify the DOJ (Holder is even quoted in the article I linked above). Is a criminal defense attorney complicit in murder if he/she defends a murderer? You're not suggesting Holder did anything criminal here?

On the other hand, Chertoff's job was to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the United States. This man went on to head the DHS! I can only imagine how the right would react if the Obama administration looked the other way while a corporation funded Hamas.

Posted by: Russ at June 8, 2009 11:51 AM

So does a Secretary of Homeland Security "with such items on his resume [reflect] poorly on the President who nominated him" or not?

Posted by: Russ at June 8, 2009 5:21 PM

Hey, since we're smearing folks by association. Take one guess in which law firm Chertoff was a partner prior to joining the Bush administration? No conflict of interest problem here (at least for the right).

Posted by: Russ at June 8, 2009 5:28 PM
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