Banana workers press demands
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 18 08:20:30 MST 2003
NY Times, Jan. 18, 2003
Banana Workers Get Day in Court
By DAVID GONZALEZ with SAMUEL LOEWENBERG
CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua Manuel Guido Montoya never had the children he once
hoped would ease his workload and bring home a few extra dollars. Years
ago, he tried to start a family, he said, but the woman left him once she
realized he was sterile.
Like scores of men and women in this banana-growing region and thousands
of field workers throughout Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and the
Philippines Mr. Guido blames dibromochloropropane, or DBCP, for his
medical problems. The pesticide was banned in much of the United States in
1977 when it was found to cause sterility, but continued to be used for
years in the banana plantations that supply American supermarkets.
For two decades, the workers say, their efforts to win compensation for the
damage done by DBCP including sterility, cancer, and birth defects in
children have been frustrated by the legal tactics of American chemical
and fruit companies. But now they are getting their day in court.
A ruling by a federal judge in New Orleans has opened the way for a lawsuit
brought by 3,000 Central American banana workers seeking millions in
damages, the first time one of these cases would be tried in the United
States. The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday on
whether or not to allow other DBCP lawsuits to be tried in state courts.
And over the objections of the Bush administration, which has pressed the
Nicaraguan government on behalf of the corporate defendants, courts here
have begun awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to banana
The companies facing lawsuits are giants of the chemical and fruit
industries: Shell Oil, Dow Chemical and Occidental Chemical; Dole Food, Del
Monte Fresh Produce and Chiquita Brands International.
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