Coca Cola was accused of funding Colombian Death Squad between 1990 and 2002 to kill at least 10 trade union leaders. U.S.-based Coca-Cola company along with more than 50 other companies were accused by Colombian courts of financing terrorism for their ties to the now-disbanded paramilitary organization, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a fact trade union leaders have been denouncing for decades.
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Funding Colombian Death Squads
Coca-Cola was accused of hiring hitmen from the AUC between 1990 and 2002 to kill at least 10 labor union leaders who were trying to organize Coca-Cola’s plants. U.K. oil company BP has also be taken to court for its funding of AUC, along with kidnapping and human rights abuses.
Colombian trade unionist Gilberto Torres took multinational British oil giant BP to court in the U.K. over alleged human rights abuses, funding of paramilitaries, and complicity in kidnapping and torture.
Torres was seeking damages for his kidnapping, claiming the oil firm was involved in his abduction and murder plot. Torres was captured in eastern Colombia’s Casanares region and released 42 days later when oil workers pressured BP with the threat of a major labor strike.
Other companies suspected of financing terrorism, commonly referred to as the “para-economy,” include Colombia’s largest beverage company Postobon, cement company Cementos Argos, state oil company Ecopetrol and banana distributor Chiquita Brands International.
What is Para-Economy
Para–economy is a phenomenon in Colombia in which businesses use death squads to either evade labor laws, increase their assets or maximize profits. The practice was particularly common in the 1990s and 2000s but continues to this day.
Lawsuit against Colombian Paramilitaries
In June 2016, families of victims killed by paramilitary groups opened a federal lawsuit against Chiquita in the U.S. for supporting the AUC. The company was estimated to have made at least 100 payments to the group worth US$1.7 million between 1997 and 2004.
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The right-wing AUC coalition, deemed a terrorist organization by the Colombian government, disbanded in 2006. The paramilitary group was responsible for a number of massacres, human rights abuses, kidnappings and extortions that resulted in the displacement of thousands of Colombians.
Some politicians and authorities have been sentenced in relation to links with the AUC, the majority of businesses involved have not been punished for their illegal financial activities.
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