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U.S. Companies Lose Pesticide Court Case

March 5, 2004

MANAGUA (AFP) – Three U.S.- based multinational companies have been ordered by a Nicaraguan court to pay $82.9 million to 80 banana workers who became sick after using the pesticide Nemagon in banana plantations, a judicial source announced Wednesday.

The Third Civil Judge of the Man agua District, Vida Benavente, ruled against the North American companies Shell Chemical Company, Dole Food Company Inc. and Standard Fruit Company, which was later acquired by Dole Food Company Inc., an employee of the judicial office confirmed for the AFP.

The judgment favors the banana workers with a payment of approximately $1 million each, for health damages caused by the use of Nemagon in the banana plantations that the U.S. companies operated in Nicaragua in the 1970s.

This is the second trial Nicaraguan banana workers affected by Nemagon have won in Managua against North American companies. On December 11, 2001, a Nicaraguan court ordered Shell, Dole and Dow Agro Sciences to compensate sick banana workers with $489 million, but the businesses refused to pay the money.

THESE cases represent only a portion of the total compensation cases filed by more than 17,000 Nicaraguan banana workers in the last six years against eight international companies from the United States.

The ruling made by judge Benavente was supported by medical exams of those affected that show evidence of ailments caused by the pesticide.

Specialized doctors testified about the harmful effects Nemagon has on human beings, including kidney problems, skin problems, infertility, inflamed internal organs, cancer and physical birth defects.

Approximately 600 people have died in the last 10 years from sicknesses caused by Nemagon contamination, according to leaders of the banana workers.

ABOUT 2,000 victims of the pesticide walked to the capital city February to request the support of the government of President Enrique Bolaños against the companies that have ignored the Nicaraguan ruling.

The defendants are Dole, Shell Chemical (subsidiary of the Houston, Texas-based Shell Oil Company), Chiquita Brands International, Standard Fruit Company (which merged with Dole), Del Monte Tropical Fruit Company, Occidental Chemical Corporation, Dow Agro Sciences and Aka del Monte Foods.

Shell, Dole and Dow Agro Sciences, the three companies that were ordered in December 2001 to pay damages, have taken legal actions against the beneficiaries, whom they accuse of fraud for presenting falsified medical exams

 

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