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Chiquita’s Terrorist Ties Highlighted in VQR

PUBLISHED: September 14, 2007
Man with Gun
A demobilized paramilitary fighter, “Lorenzo,” in Turbo, Colombia.

A hazard of producing a quarterly with months-long lead times is that it’s not easy to be timely. We have to forecast what will be relevant and informative in light of events six months from now. Our Fall issue (out October 1) is a special issue, dedicated to the topic of South America in the 21st century. We’ve got a brilliant lineup of essays, fiction, art and photography, most of which resulted from dispatching crews all over the continent for original reporting. With one story, though, our prescience was perhaps too acute.

Tuesday brought the news that Chiquita will pay a $25M fine for providing millions of dollars in aid to Colombian terrorist group FARC. There’s a great deal more to the story than most of the coverage would have you believe, though. To that end, we’ve just posted publicly Phillip Robertson’s “The Octopus in the Cathedral of Salt” as a preview of the forthcoming issue. Robertson lays out the history of the business practices of Chiquita (née United Fruit) in Columbia. While Chiquita has defended the payments as protection for its employees, Robertson interviews a former paramilitary fighter who says that Chiquita was knowingly running cocaine on their freighters and providing arms to terrorists. These alleged business practices didn’t come up when the Department of Justice announced Chiquita’s plea deal. Given that, it’s not surprising that many are unhappy with Chiquita getting off so lightly.

The rest of the issue includes essays by Daniel Alarcón, Julio Villanueva Chang, Toño Angulo Daneri, Kelly Hearn, J. Malcolm Garcia, Pat Joseph, Brian A. Nelson, Daniel Titinger, and Gabriela Wiener; poetry by Marjorie Agosin and Odi Gonzales; fiction by Roberto Bolaño and Santiago Roncagliolo; and art & photography by Liniers, Ana de Orbegoso, Juan Manuel Echavarria, and Hwa Goh. It’s one of the most ambitious issues we’ve ever attempted. You’ll love it.

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