San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Public health

Costa Rica promises to compensate sickened banana workers

Costa Rica has agreed to pay the medical bills and other compensation for some 12,000 banana workers and their relatives suffering lingering effects of exposure to pesticides in the 1960s and ’70s.

The workers and their relatives were sickened after being exposed to the chemical Nemagon while toiling in Costa Rica’s banana plantations.

Vice President Ana Gabriel Zúñiga late Tuesday announced the decision to make the payments after meeting with representatives of the affected workers.

“This is a historical debt owed by the government,” she said. “The government is committed to once and for all resolve the situation for the affected families.”

Between 1967 and 1979, thousands of laborers who worked in banana plantations owned by multinational corporations in Costa Rica and elsewhere in Central America were exposed to Nemagon, a pesticide linked to sterility, cancer, miscarriage and genetic deformities.

After a long legal battle, victims of the pesticide in Costa Rica succeeded in getting lawmakers to pass a measure promising compensation for continuing ill effects from the chemical, but a decade and a half later they are still waiting to be paid.

Tuesday’s meeting was held after Costa Rica’s Supreme Court last month ordered the government to take steps to resolve the matter.

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