Dole to compensate some banana workers

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Dole Food Company signed an agreement on 11 August to compensate 3,153 Nicaraguan, 700 Costa Rican and 1000 Honduran, banana workers for exposure to dibromochloropropane (DBCP), better known as Nemagon, used on plantations in the departments of Chinandega and Leon in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of the lawyers involved in the process told AFP that the "compensation, which will take effect over the next two or three months, will allow these workers to change their lives." Between 1973 and 1980, Dole used the agrochemicals Fumazone and Nemagon in banana plantations in Central America, chemicals which have been linked to serious health problems such as infertility, cancer and birth defects.

Humberto Hurtado, Dole spokesman, said, “Dole Food Company reiterates that there were no damages from exposure or evidence to support injuries to health, but for the sake of our social responsibility we have taken this important step, although it shouldn’t be interpreted as an economic foundation for other groups to claim compensation.” The amount of the settlement was not revealed but attorney for the workers Jacinto Obregon said that it would be distributed according to the severity of the damage suffered by each worker.

The attorneys from the firm of Provost Umphrey said that the struggle was “arduous” and that they had presented for each worker “two sperm tests, two psychological evaluations along with innumerable other documents.” Obregon added that at least 300 of the original group of workers had died during the extended process. “Dole was a monster but we have reached an historic agreement,” he said. He said that the settlement should serve as an incentive for further cases against the chemical companies that produced DBCP, including Dow Chemical and Shell Chemical. He cited an internal Dow Chemical memo in which Dow accepted that the chemical was toxic but said that the product could be sold in Latin America as long as the expected earnings were more than would be lost in law suits.

However there are 14,000 former workers not covered by this settlement. Union organizer Roberto Ruiz admitted that the accord “maybe isn’t of great satisfaction,” but does “means something for those affected.”

Sources: Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign , Central America Data