Holder’s Nomination Slowed by Chiquita Ties

President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, is in for a tough confirmation process. Republicans are balking at his role in the pardoning of Marc Rich, which was in Holder’s capacity as Deputy Attorney General to President Clinton. But he’s getting flack from the left, too, for brokering the deal on behalf of Chiquita to settle charges of material support of a Colombian terrorist paramilitary group.

It used to be that if a business engaged in criminal activity, the top decision makers would be put on trial and convicted or not, accordingly. But under the the Bush administration, companies can now just apply a greenback poultice directly to the federal treasury. Chiquita paid $25M after admitting to giving $1.7M over the course of six years to FARC and AUC. Holder represented Chiquita in the matter, and criticized the feds for requiring the company to pay any fine.

Our Fall 2007 issue included “The Octopus in the Cathedral of Salt,” in which author Phillip Robertson explained the history of the business practices of Chiquita (née United Fruit) in Colombia. While Chiquita has defended its payments to FARC and AUC as protection for its employees, Robertson interviewed a former paramilitary fighter who says that Chiquita was knowingly running cocaine on their freighters and providing arms to terrorists. The families of 173 banana workers killed by the paramilitary groups are suing Chiquita, arguing that their admission to supporting terrorism means that they’re civilly liable for those deaths.

Senate Republicans say that they have no intention of filibustering Holder’s nomination, but with his already-weak support softening on both sides of the aisle, they may not need to. The hearings are scheduled to begin on January 8.

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Published: December 12, 2008