From Sat Dec 21 13:49:10 2002
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 00:05:56 -0600 (CST)
From: Nicaragua Network <>
Subject: Nicaragua Network Hotline
Article: 148600
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Banana Workers Win Major Award Against US Transnational

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 16 December 2002

Hundreds of former workers on banana plantations who were exposed to the pesticide NEMAGON during the Somoza years were awarded nearly US$500,000 in a landmark judgment on their case. According to the Nicaraguan courts, Dow Chemicals, Dole Food Company (formerly Standard Fruit Company) and Shell Oil must pay damages to 583 of the surviving 5,000 men, women and children now exhibiting long-term effects ranging from birth anomalies to cancer. For many the judgment came too late—contaminated so long ago, an unknown number of workers has already died, while many others are increasingly close to death.

Speaking for the firm representing the claimants, lawyer Angel Espinoza Guerra rejoiced in the judgment. We called the workers up in Chinandega by radio, he said, to give them the good news. They've been waiting a long time. As many as possible will be meeting up on Sunday to celebrate and to give heart to those whose cases are still in process.

This is just one verdict of the many to come, he went on, But it's of enormous importance. We know that it's just the beginning of the battle to be fought in the US courts. Although it's three years since we began legal proceedings and they have already cost close to US$1 million, nonetheless this result is extremely hopeful for thousands of affected workers.

Although the judgment was welcomed on all sides, everyone anticipated a long battle to ensure that the awarded damages will actually be paid out. To be admitted to the US courts, where the awards may well be much higher, the judgment must now be ratified by the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, then transferred to the Nicaraguan diplomatic mission in Washington DC. Once there, Espinoza Guerra continued, our consul will present these findings to the State Department, who will remit them in turn to the US Department of Justice. He emphasized that this would be the first case to be brought before the US courts from workers in another country, and maintained that although the process might be slow, there was no chance that the judgment would be denied in the US. Once it is admitted, our US associates, the firm of Walter Lack, will take the case forward. They have already gained favorable verdicts in many similar situations. There are many precedents established and, sadly, abundant proof in this case. He also noted that the transnational companies concerned had already attempted to settle out of court. Each affected worker is already entitled to 100,000 US dollars, he explained. The companies tried to get us to take less, but that's like bargaining over human bones. Now any arrangements will be made through the courts.