‘All banana companies paid me’: paramilitary

Paramilitary leader ‘Carlos Tijeros’ told prosecutors that every single
multinational banana company in Magdalena paid him for “protection”.

“All banana companies that exist today and those that existed, except for Chiquita, paid me 70 thousand pesos per hectare per year,” ‘Tijeros’, whose real name is José Gregorio Mangones Lunes, told prosecutors.

Chiquita did not pay an annual fee, but paid the boss of the AUC in Magdalena 3 cents per produced box of bananas, because that was the deal the company had made with the AUC in Urabá, where the banana company was active too.

So far, Chiquita Brands is the only multinational company that admitted paying the AUC. Other companies deny having paid the paramilitaries, despite the growing number of testimonies of paramilitary warlords who say the opposite.

The extortion payments for the smaller producers of bananas happened in a more aggressive fashion, the paramilitary warlord said. “If a farm in Guacamayal didn’t pay, we would tell one of the commanders of the mobile columns to go there and not allow any of the crops to leave the farm. If the farmer was difficult he needed to be killed. That was the order,”

The paramilitaries decided how much farm workers would earn and would also come into action if a farm owner wouldn’t pay the workers on time. “There was one client in the Banana area who had some palms, Carlos Lacouture, who always paid badly. Sometimes it would take him two or two and a half months to pay the workers and I had to step in and stop production,” ‘Tijeras’ said.

“The people would come to me if they weren’t paid, because I was the authority, I was the State at that time,” he added.

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