Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Terrorists vs. Bananas!

PROTECT YOUR BANANAS, PEOPLE! And I mean that literally. It's not some goofy slang for "wear a cup when playing sports" or anything. I'm talking about bananas, and the cost of protecting them, and that Chiquita was just found guilty of paying about $1.7 million in protection money to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (or the AUC) one of Columbia's biggest paramilitary groups (referred to by the press and the U.S. government as a "terrorist group"). Me, I'm not so smart. So I really don't know whether they're "terrorists" or just misunderstood. I'd like to just think of them as "gun-friendly". Here's a quote from today's AP story:

The AUC has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia's civil conflict and is responsible for a sizable percentage of the country's cocaine exports. The right-wing group was designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization in September 2001.

Prosecutors said the company made the payments in exchange for protection. The company also made similar payments to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, according to prosecutors.

Chiquita will pay a $25 million fine, but get a load of this weird tidbit: Colombia's banana-growing region is a zone that has been viciously fought over by leftist rebels and far-right paramilitaries.

The whole thing reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Marge starts selling pretzels from a pretzel wagon, and Homer tries to help out by paying Fat Tony to ensure that Marge's pretzel endeavor is successful. ("The Twisted World of Marge Simpson", season 8, episode 11 -- an episode which came up in conversation during our regular Tuesday Poker Night last night.) Eventually Fat Tony confronts Marge and says to her: I'm afraid I must insist. You see, my wife, she has been most vocal on the subject of the pretzel monies. "Where's the money? When are you going to get the money? Why aren't you getting the money now?" And so on.

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