The legal battle between Dole Food and Nicaraguan banana workers continues. In 2007, the multi-million-dollar giant was sentenced to pay punitive damages to six workers claiming to have been sterilized by the pesticide DBCP. One year later, anonymous Dole witnesses stated that several workers in two upcoming cases had never worked on banana farms and that this alleged fraud had infected all Nicaraguan banana suits. Dole successfully spread their version of the story to international media, which was possible due to a court order protecting the identity of the witnesses, making their stories impossible to double check.
But while Dole continues to hide behind the protective order, alternative voices are starting to pop up. These voices tell the story of a dirty Dole and a biased judge. And very soon, a new American lawyer will face Dole in court and ask them to explain.
Last spring, anonymous witnesses stated that several plaintiffs’ in two upcoming DBCP cases in the LA Superior Court had never worked on banana farms. Dole also claimed that this fraud involved all Nicaraguan DBCP cases, including the Tellez case back in 2007, where Dole was sentenced to pay compensatory and punitive damages to six workers (this is the case featured in the film BANANAS!*). In May 2009, Judge Chaney threw out the two upcoming cases and issued a protective order on the anonymous witnesses making it impossible to cross-examine their stories.
Since then, Dole has been hiding behind the protective order and has succeeded in spreading their version of the story worldwide, with no contradictions or opposing views. But a new plaintiffs’ lawyer in the Tellez case has filed a motion which seriously contests Dole’s allegations of fraud. The new lawyer, Steve Condie, writes that Chaney’s dismissal of all upcoming DBCP cases was not only unfair, but also a distraction from the genuine claim involving Dole’s use of DBCP. In the motion, Condie writes that at least four of the anonymous “John Doe” witnesses were paid by Dole and that four more had their own personal motives to slander American lawyers involved in DBCP litigation in Nicaragua. And since the witnesses were anonymous, it’s practically impossible to double check their statements, which is unfair. Court hearings will be held in Los Angeles this summer, dates will be announced soon. Download the full motion »
Beside from the upcoming court hearings, several alternative stories are starting to pop up. These stories provide a fresh wind by giving a Nicaraguan view of the events. El Nuevo Diario have published two stories, both pointing to the conclusion that Dole bribed witnesses to tell a story that doesn’t add up.
The first article starts off during a press conference in Managua on May 14, where seven former banana workers said Dole bribed or tricked them to witness against the affected plaintiffs’. One of the workers said that a Dole agent promised him an American VISA, $50,000, a job and housing in the US in exchange for declaring against one of the pesticide victims. He refused, but after being intimidated and threatened to be charged for criminal activities, he agreed to give a declaration, but only received 6,500 cordobas in exchange (approx $430). Read the original article here, or download an English translation here.
Associated Press also reported from the press conference, and one of the workers said in an interview that Dole offered him money to testify:
“What they wanted was for me to testify that the tests had been altered, that they had not worked on the banana plantation, and that for saying what they wanted, they would give me $225,000. I agreed to lie because they know that we are poor and know how to use you. They took me to Costa Rica and there I said everything they asked of me. They tricked me, they tricked all of us. They gave me just $300, that’s it.”
Lawyer Scott Edelman of Dole said in response that bribing of witnesses is “categorically false” and that he could not confirm if the workers on the Managua conference were in fact the anonymous “John Doe” witnesses, since the judge sealed their identities.
Another El Nueva Diario article shows that Dole fails to prove that “a secret meeting” took place where Nicaraguan judges, American lawyers and lab technicians met to manufacture evidence. The location can not be pinpointed, none of the alleged participants say they were there, passport stamps are missing and the witnesses’ stories about the length of the meeting does not match.
The article also criticizes Judge Chaney for being biased. During the court hearings in May 2009, she talked about how the judicial system in Nicaragua is corrupt, and that Nicaraguans can only live “in their own ecosystem”. Despite this criticism with the conclusion that no evidence coming from Nicaragua can be trusted, she completely trusts Dole’s evidence from Nicaragua. Read the original article here, or read an English translation by Google here.
Stay tuned for the LA Court hearings this summer and please share the links!
“La Dole nos sobornó para declarar contra víctimas del Nemagón”
(Link to El Nuevo Diario)
By: Roger Olivas
May 10, 2010
Full English translation can be found here
Conspiración Dole, la fábrica infame de “evidencias”
(Link to El Nuevo Diario)
By: Roger Olivas
May 12, 2010
English translation by Google translate can be found here
Nicaraguan banana workers deny they conspired in fraud to win pesticides case against Dole
(Link to Washington Examiner)
By: Marcus Aleman, Associated Press
May 14, 2010
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