A decree by Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís authorizing payments to former banana workers sickened by the pesticide Nemagon became official on Dec. 1 with the measure's publication in the government's gazette. Under the decree the government's National Insurance Institute (INS) will pay out from 25% to 100% of the medical bills for workers who suffered physical or psychological damage from Nemagon, with the percentage based on their years of exposure to the pesticide. The decree currently covers 13,925 former banana workers; cases are pending for 9,233 of the workers' children and 1,742 of the workers' spouses. More than 11,000 other applications were dismissed.
Nemagon is a brand name for dibromochloropropane (DBCP), a chemical known to cause sterility, cancer, miscarriages, genetic deformities and other health problems. It was formerly in wide use in Central American banana fields; it was applied in Costa Rica from 1967 until the government banned the chemical's importation in 1979. Affected Central American banana workers have been demanding compensation for decades. Costa Rica passed a compensation law in September 2001 but without setting up a mechanism for paying the workers. Some 780 Costa Ricans already won a separate settlement in 2011 from California-based fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food Company, Inc., which began making payments in September 2012. The agreement with Dole also covered 3,157 Nicaraguans and 1,000 Hondurans. (La Nación, Costa Rica, Dec. 2; Tico Times, Dec. 3)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, December 7.