When Chiquita Brands International pleaded guilty last year to violating anti-terrorism lawsand was fined $25 million for its payments to Colombian terroristsTania Julin and Nancy Hamm felt betrayed and angry.
Though Chiquita's plea did not involve the group that murdered their husbands 12 years ago, the women learned through the case that Chiquita had also paid protection money to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
"I believe they need to be held accountable," said Hamm, who retired from New Tribes Mission (NTM) last year. "This affected us in a horrible way, but I think it could affect a lot of other Americans, too, if Chiquita or other American companies continue to blatantly fund terrorists."
Julin, Hamm, and three other widows are among the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed March 11. The suit alleges Chiquita is culpable in the deaths of their husbands, all of whom were NTM missionaries. FARC kidnapped and later killed the men in a pair of 199394 incidents in Columbia and Panama.
According to the suit, the Cincinnati-based company provided money, weapons, and other support to FARC. The suit asks that compensation be determined through a jury trial.
Sanford, Floridabased NTM, which is also a plaintiff in the case, pulled some personnel out of Latin America after the kidnappings. Spokesperson Nita Zelenak said NTM prefers not to specify exact locations of its 3,200 missionaries, who serve in more than 18 nations. But if any are seized, she said, NTMlike many other mission agenciesmaintains a "no ransom" policy, because it provides a safeguard against more personnel being taken.
"We're always looking at the safety issue, and as the climate changes, we have to change with ...1