San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Public health

Costa Rica banana workers affected by Nemagon still waiting on compensation

Hundreds of banana workers who were exposed to the banned pesticide Nemagon protested Wednesday in front of Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly demanding compensation for physical and psychological damages.

From 1967 to 1979, thousands of workers in banana fields owned by foreign companies in Costa Rica and across Central America were exposed to the nematocide Nemagon, also known as DBCP, a chemical that has been proven to cause myriad health problems including sterility, cancer, miscarriages and genetic deformities. Costa Rica banned the importation of the chemical in 1979.

Although a law has been on the books since September 2001 promising compensation for the former banana workers, and a decree by President Luis Guillermo Solís was published in the government newspaper La Gaceta in December 2014, hundreds of workers still haven’t received payments.

“We want a pension and fair compensation,” reads a sign held by protesters on April 15, 2015 in San José, Costa Rica.

Alberto Font/The Tico Times


“It looks like they are waiting for us to die,” said José Carlos Madriz, a banana worker from Batán, a town in the province of Limón, who worked with the Standard Fruit Company from 1967 to 1973.

“We are suffering from severe health problems and we want to get the money we deserve,” added Miguel Arguedas, who also worked for the Standard Fruit Company.

Protesters are demanding ₡5 million ($9,400) each, plus a monthly pension of ₡300,000 ($565).




Contact Alberto Font at

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June ribaldi

I sincerely wish that Justice an Compensation will come to theses Very Hard Land Stewart’s. It was after watching the Bannana Documentary Series on Utube 2015. Was I made aware of this Terrible Situation. I also Learned why Bannans are Priced lower and Travel Farther than a Domestic Apple. I encourage everyone to Buy Organic ONLY. As well as FAIRTRADE. (((You’ll feel so much better. Psyically ,Mentally Spiritually.))) Win/ Win.

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Better to start with locking up the CEOs; that would change everything.
While politicians are accomplices, they are rarely the true instigators.
Corporations know they can buy their way into anything, so they do; they make their ‘investments’ conditional on all sorts of things.
Occasionally, politicians are charged and jailed for their transgressions.
Corporate heads never are.
So I’d prefer we start locking up corporate executives and CEOs for the 8-20 years you talk about, and this would stop immediately.

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These workers deserve to be paid and to be compensated. Most US citizen have no idea about United Fruit Company and how bad they where for people of Latin America. The United Fruit Company was frequently accused of bribing government officials in exchange for preferential treatment, exploiting its workers, paying little by way of taxes to the governments of the countries in which it operated, and working ruthlessly to consolidate monopolies. Standard Fruit aka Dole is almost as bad as United Fruit.

Again US citizens and there goverment should have to pay workers and there families for treating Latin America like slaves.

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Ken Morris

I’m mulling your comment that “most US citizens have no idea about United Fruit,” with the knee jerk reaction that this seems another rather gratuitous jab at we dumb ass gringos.

Heck, I know about United Fruit, and suspect that most other gringos in these parts know about it. Plus, while United Fruit was a big force in Central America, it was long ago swallowed up by other companies and, sorry, gringos can’t be expected to know everything about the history of other countries that happens to involve a US company. I seriously doubt that most gringos know anything about General Motors operations in Canada, either. While I understand that you find United Fruit an important historical story, it’s actually a little provincial of you to fault most gringos for not knowing it.

This said, factually you are certainly correct. But then again most gringos can’t name their congressional representatives, senators, often even the current vice president of the country. Heck, most gringos couldn’t pass the citizenship test required of immigrants to their own country. If the challenge is to start listing all the things most gringos don’t know, that list would grow very long very fast.

The question is what we do about this gringo ignorance, and I’m not sure that finger-wagging is the right approach. You may disagree, but I find gringos to be very nice and well-meaning people, just often ignorant. The solution would seem to be to have a stronger emphasis on social studies education in the schools and more historical material in the media. But then this challenge is tough everywhere, even in Costa Rica, since almost everyone favors emphasizing the tech skills that make money over the social studies that don’t.

This is actually a tough set of issues, though I agree with you the story of United Fruit is important to anyone interested in Latin America generally and Central America specifically. The worst part of the story is that it doesn’t seem to be unique. US actions in Central America during the 1980s were a repeat of the actions Eisenhower took on behalf of United Fruit during the early 1950s, albeit on a larger scale and more destructive, and I can’t help wondering if some of this continues. The US after all helped finance the supporters of the so-called free trade treaty in Costa Rica as recently as a few years ago. Certainly the main beneficiaries of that treaty are the multinationals.

Meanwhile, under different corporate auspices, the workers on banana plantations still suffer.

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Ben, I agree, this was total abuse by the corporations. Not much different than how corporations are currently operating. One caveat worth mentioning is that typically it is politicians who seek out these corporations to open shop in their countries. They promise them all kinds of incentives to invest. The politicians of past and present who conspire with corporations for self indulgence should face severe penalties. I know you are a small business owner and it is important to remember that it is governments job to regulate these organizations. But too often fat cat politicians strike a deal claiming it will help the public, but then when things are implemented, it is the politicians who reap the benefits. You can’t solely blame multi-nationals, it takes politicians to be accomplices. The politicians are native to the land, they should have their citizens rights protected. That is good government. Government for the people. Unfortunately, we rarely see good government anywhere in this world today. Unions and citizens should be in the street protesting these types of actions. One simply must ask, was the institution of government created to civilize or was it just a ploy of the wealthiest of societies to steal from the bulk of citizens. Looking at the world today one must really wonder. Who we put into leadership positions need to be held accountable. Corruption is rampant in government. Corrupt public servants should face the strictest measures of incarceration, because after all they are the supposed representatives of society. If corruption is to be diminished, then the laws should be enforced, and those who steal from government should have to pay severe penalties in jail. We lock up drug dealers for 8-20 years here, but unfortunately it is the peons who get locked up. The jefe always seems to be insulated. Start locking up corrupt politicians for 8-20 years and you will see a drastic change in how government operates. And therefore you will see a drastic change on how multi-nationals operate.

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Well written. The justice ministry in Costa Rica is more corupt than the mafia. I use profit sharing when it comes to my staff. Not to many companies use the profit sharing model in the US. Multi national care only about big profits for shareholders and never staff. Glad to see more police in Tamarindo. Costa Rica goverment is going to get worse before it ever gets better. Greed is very dangerous.

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Ken Morris

While I agree that politicians bear some responsibility, reading your comment makes me think of those who justify the slave trade on the grounds that some Africans cooperated with the slave traders in return for a piece of the profits. Yeah, some Africans did cooperate, but it’s farfetched to believe that their cooperation had much to do with the creation or persistence of the slave trade. My guess is that faulting local politicians for the exploitative practices of the multinationals is a bit like faulting Africans for the slave trade. it’s a part of the problem, but not a large part.

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My intentions certainly were not to provide that type of justification. There obviously are many angles and perspectives to discuss and assign blame. The main point I tried to make with Ben is that there are various parties at fault. I definitely put the focus on politicians, because ultimately it is their people and environment that is hurt. Corporations only care about profit. Corporations certainly could not act that way if the politicians were not a willing accessory to the process. Free trade agreements are often indicative of just that.

The slave trade example mentioned from your perspective certainly can’t be argued. But to take that a step further, remember where these slaves were going. The traders certainly could not have profitted without willing governments. And we certainly had a civil war in the USA because of these differing perspectives between politicians in the North and South.

Honest Abe deserves a lot of credit. Abraham Lincoln was offered Governorship of Oregon Territory before he was President. This great president would have lived a long happy life if he had taken the offer. The unCivil War may not have happened if he took the offer. Slavery would have lasted longer but it would have ended too. That was certainly a major blow to the slave trade.

That is the type of politician we need today. Someone who is willing to take on the powerful corporations. And at this point, I just don’t see anyone willing to stand up to the money interests.

John, I fully agree. CEO’s and executives rarely are jailed. And certainly many should be. But again, that typically is a politician who decides that. So ultimately, I feel that is where the blame should be focused?

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