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Chiquita Disputes Newspaper Report

May 4, 1998

CINCINNATI (AP) _ The producer of Chiquita bananas used elaborate legal structures and front companies to get around laws limiting foreign ownership of land in Honduras and other countries, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The newspaper’s story, published Sunday, cited records showing that Chiquita Brands International Inc. expanded control of banana-producing lands through companies that appeared to be locally owned but actually were controlled by overseas trusts directed by Chiquita subsidiaries.

Chiquita said the newspaper stories portrayed the company falsely through selective editing. Lawrence K. Beaupre, the Enquirer’s editor and vice president, said the newspaper stands by its stories.

Reaction Monday from Honduras was muted, and an observer said it was unlikely any land would be seized from the Cincinnati-based company because it has so much clout in Latin America.

``Chiquita is used to getting a favorable serving of legal decisions from these countries,″ said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington-based research group that specializes in Latin American issues.

By hiding behind dozens of supposedly independent companies, Chiquita thwarted labor unions as well as expanding onto lands that were off limits to foreign ownership, the Enquirer reported.

``Chiquita is the ugly American ... It has gone out of its way to underpay local banana producers, to break unions ...,″ Birns said in a telephone interview.

Chiquita spokesman Joseph Hagin did not return calls for comment Monday.

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