Banana Republic Legacy Thrives in Today’s Latin America February 18, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Guatemala, Labor, Latin America.
Tags: anti-union, banana republic, cafta, central america, delmonte, dole, Free Trade, guatemala, labor, labour, Latin America, michelle chen, roger hollander, unions, wal-mart, worker rights
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The term “banana republic” has become a cliche to describe economic imperialism throughout history, but the legacy of colonialism persists in Latin America today. The tradition of predatory capitalism echoed in the recent death of Miguel Angel González Ramírez, a member of the Izabal banana workers’ union SITRABI in Guatemala.
According to the International Trade Union Confederation, the unionist was “shot several times whilst carrying his young child in his arms.” This seems to be another casualty in a labor battle between labor and corporateers who would rather see workers shed blood than be paid fair wages.
The ITUC has demanded an official investigation, noting that in the past year several unionists have been killed or targeted with threats. Last October, SITRABI member Pablino Yaque Cervantes was shot by an unidentified attacker, according to U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (US LEAP).
Manuela Chávez of the ITUC’s Department of Human and Trade Union Rights told In these Times, “Freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively have been endangered by a very high anti-union repression for years,” adding that the threats to unionists are aggravated by government inaction.
But it’s not just the cruelty of the killing–nor the connection to the infamous banana crop–that evokes a history of enslavement and dehumanization of indigenous, African and migrant peoples. The company in question, BANDEGUA, is a Del Monte subsidiary that has come under fire for refusing to comply with the Guatemalan government’s minimum wage standards.
The incident reflects business as usual in the banana industry, well known for oppressive working conditions. Labor advocates have long protested unfair wages and other violations in Latin American agriculture, especially under international giants like Dole.
The crisis has reached a boiling point under the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), a NAFTA-style trade regime that expanded multinationals’ power over the region’s industrial and agricultural sectors. Evidence of systemic abuses prompted SITRABI and other Guatemalan unions, along with the AFL-CIO, to initiate a worker rights complaint in 2008. As documented by US LEAP, the campaign cites violations of union rights as well as outright brutality, “including the 2007 murder of the brother of the General Secretary of the union.”
It remains to be seen whether there will be any consequences for the latest killing, but if past is prologue, Del Monte will likely remain comfortably insulated from labor troubles in the recesses of its global empire. After all, that’s what trade systems like CAFTA have been designed to do, with their notoriously flimsy labor provisions. SITRABI’s activists are veterans of this war of attrition, having led global efforts to raise awareness of the rampant human rights abuses in the industry, from terrorizing violence to illegal firings to lack of collective bargaining protections.
Noting that the CAFTA complaint still drags on as the body count ticks up, Lupita Aguila Arteaga, executive director of the advocacy group STITCH, told In These Times:
This prolonged process shows how ineffective CAFTA is at protecting the rights of workers. The U.S. needs to continue to pressure the Guatemalan government to obey its own labor laws and uphold its labor rights obligations as mandated in the Central America Free Trade Agreement.
STITCH points out that labor violations in the banana industry are deeply entwined in global trade networks that send cheap fruit to hungry U.S. consumer markets. Since even so-called “fair trade certified” bananas may come from nonunion plantations, Arteaga says, American appetites are driving a hemispheric race to the bottom:
The banana industry in Latin America is facing a decline in unionization rates and wages. Companies like Wal-Mart are now buying directly from Latin American producers where unions do not exist and therefore labor and prices are cheaper. Banana companies are trying to stay afloat of this game by moving their production to other areas that can allow them to make a bigger profit by paying workers less and not providing any benefits.
Perhaps the best hope challenging Latin America’s labor injustices won’t come from government or consumer campaigns, but from within–a surge in progressive unionism led by women. In a report on women banana workers (informed by a documentary project on feminist labor struggles), Arteaga describes how the fight for gender equity has become a wellspring of self-empowerment:
Bananeras, as they are dearly called, have achieved victories we can only dream of in the U.S., including clauses in their union contract that allows them to take a paid day off for a mammogram and/or a pap smear, union-wide campaigns with workshops against domestic violence, as well as union-led campaigns against HIV/AIDS with a focus on reproductive justice and accessibility to healthcare for all women in their communities. Not to mention the fact that ALL local banana unions have a women’s committee.
Today’s banana republic is still rife with neocolonial horrors, but if you unpeel the layers of bitter struggle surrounding these communities, you might find some surprisingly sweet triumphs.
NAIS: This is your government working against YOU March 4, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture.
Tags: agriculture, bio-pirates, cafta, consumer protection, fake food safety, farming, fda, food, food inspection, food inspectors, food processing, harvesting, linn cohen-cole, marti oakley, monsanto, nais, national animal identification, roger hollander, usda, vilsack
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by Marti Oakley
www.opednews.com, March 4, 2009
Oakley’s work. I doubt anyone could read this piece without feeling that something has been terribly wrong with the USDA and the FDA in terms of their actions towards farmers – and all that comes before the significant magnification in power the “fake food safety” bills will give them. Those bills must be stopped. -Linn Cohen-Cole
Anti-Immigrant Fervor Translates to Terror for Women December 11, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration, Women.
Tags: anti-immigrant, anti-racism, bigotry, cafta, fair, hate groups, huamn rights, ice, immigrants, Immigration, juana villegas, KKK, melissa nalani ross, NAFTA, postville, raids, rape, roger hollander, sexism, undocumented, women, women's rights
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Juana Villegas was stopped for a routine traffic violation and jailed for six days for violating US immigration law. While imprisoned, she went into labor and was handcuffed to her bed during the birthing process. (Photo: Josh Anderson / The New York Times)
Melissa Nalani Ross, On the Issues Magazine, Fall 2008 Issue
In my work on civil and human rights, especially with immigrant populations, I was contacted recently about a woman without documentation who worked at a fruit stand in the northeast. A male customer approached her and asked if she had any waitressing experience, as he needed servers at his restaurant. Seeing this as an opportunity to make a little more money to support herself and her family, the woman agreed to stop by the establishment for an interview. When she arrived, instead of sitting down and discussing a job opportunity, the woman was met by a group of men who took turns raping her. They then told her that if she went to the authorities, they would have her deported.
Too afraid to go to the police out of fear of being separated from her family and livelihood, she will be left in isolation, with no recourse, no justice and no security. Her tale will not be covered by the mainstream media. The men who raped her will never be brought to justice.
In July, The New York Times published an article about Juana Villegas, a woman stopped for a routine traffic violation by a police officer. Villegas was jailed for six days for violating U.S. immigration laws. An undocumented immigrant, she was nine months pregnant, and, while imprisoned, went into labor. She was handcuffed to the bed during the birthing process, then was separated from her newborn baby and sent back to jail. Authorities would not allow Villegas to bring a breast pump into her cell, leading to a breast infection.
The experiences of these women are frighteningly emblematic of the challenges immigrant women face across the country from immigration enforcement policies gone awry. Villegas and countless other women experience fear, anxiety, degradation and harm on a daily basis. Few of their stories reach the public, but as someone who works with the immigrant community, I hear them regularly.
Anti-immigrant fervor in the United States makes injustice for immigrant women tolerated – even encouraged. As a result, immigrant women are living in situations of sheer terror.
Change in Tactics Targets Women
Both of these women’s stories are the byproduct of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement – widely known as “ICE” – and its 287(g) program. Under 287(g), police forces enter into Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with ICE. Officers are trained and then authorized to enforce federal immigration law. This partnership hands local and state officers “necessary resources and latitude to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering,” according to ICE.
This, however, is not how the program plays out on the ground. Typically, women, whose only real violation of the law is being in the country without documentation, have become, because of their vulnerability, some of the program’s main targets.
Anti-immigrant groups have been pushing this brand of immigration enforcement for years, without care for the human and civil rights violations that follow. Groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which calls itself by the acronym “FAIR,” the nation’s largest and most powerful anti-immigrant organization, travel the country, advocating for the expansion of the 287(g) program and asking for more police forces to buy-in. FAIR is now listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, alongside the KKK. According to ICE, “more than 60 municipal, county, and state agencies nationwide have requested 287(g) MOUs … and more than 400 local and state officers have been trained under the program.”
Now FAIR is also advocating for increased ICE raids in factories and meatpacking plants. While this might not seem like an extreme or unjust measure on its face, the impact it has on local communities is destructive, separating mothers from their children. Some of the largest and most inhumane raids have occurred in the last year in the United States, with little public attention or concern. In May of 2008, ICE conducted the biggest raid up to that time in U.S. history in Postville, Iowa. The small town of 2,300 residents, in one solemn sweep, lost 10% of its population, leaving the community in shock.
Subsequent raids have surpassed – in number of agents, community upheaval and arrests of workers – the one in Postville.
Family members were separated from each other and children were left to fend for themselves. The Postville raid did not just negatively affect those without documentation, described in eyewitness accounts, it also disrupted and devastated the lives of the U.S.-born residents in the community. Principals, teachers and parents reported school children having nightmares and drawing pictures of their families and friends being taken away.
Despite the community outrage and the utter terror it brought to the immigrant population, FAIR rallied “in support of ICE’s stepped-up enforcement activities.” Susan Tully, FAIR’s National Field Organizer, said,
“The American public has waited far too long for ICE to finally begin taking worksite enforcement seriously and, by our presence in Postville, we hope to demonstrate that we want to see such efforts increased, not ended.”
This type of enforcement serves no public good. It does not deter immigration, nor does it solve – or even address – the reasons behind increased migration to the United States. The only real purpose it serves is to create an environment so toxic that immigrant women are forced into the shadows and live in a constant state of fear and anxiety.
FAIR and the anti-immigrant movement are guiding the United States down a path strewn with civil and human rights violations, dehumanization and suffering, especially by women and children. Instead of actually paying any mind to the real causes of migration to the U.S. – such as the North and Central American trade agreements, NAFTA and CAFTA – the focus has largely been on its consequences. The root issues of immigration, for this reason, will never actually be dealt with, creating a situation where there are no humane or real solutions. By only pushing for enforcement, more raids and more 287(g) buy-in, more women will be subjugated and live in terror.
Immigration Is a Women’s Issue
The violence and abuse immigrant women face on a daily basis in the United States are challenged, mostly in solitude, by the immigrant rights movement. By and large, the women’s movement has failed to stand in solidarity with the women who suffer under anti-immigrant activity. Why haven’t more women leaders and women’s organizations added their voices to the national dialogue and opposed the push for stricter immigration enforcement practices and the dehumanization they portend?
Part of the problem is that the gender aspects of harmful immigration policies go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The women’s rights movement over the last several decades has largely been about equal rights and equal treatment But women, always on the frontline, are the most deeply and intimately impacted by systems and institutions wrought with injustice. The tragedies suffered by Juana Villegas and other immigrant women are intolerable in a just society, yet without women of conscience taking a stand, these violent practices will undoubtedly continue.
Efforts around the country are beginning to address the problems caused by both enforcement tactics and policies that are guided by groups like FAIR. The Campaign for a United America is a collaborative effort by anti-racism, religious, labor, immigrant-rights and grassroots groups to promote a fair, values-based discussion around immigration, free of bigotry and sexism.
As evidenced by the terror that immigrant women face in the United States, the struggle for women’s rights is not over. It will take the efforts of women throughout the country to ensure that all women, whatever their “status,” live in a safe and just environment.
Melissa Nalani Ross is the Director of the Campaign for a United America, a national initiative of the Center for New Community in Chicago to push back against the racism of the anti-immigrant movement with organizing, strategic research, investigation and analysis. Melissa previously worked at the Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based social justice company, focusing on police brutality and violence against women, and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Dealing With Killers and Kidnappers: the High Cost of Free Trade December 6, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America, Uncategorized.
Tags: afl-cio, atrocities, Bush, cafta, chiquita, Colombia, Colombia Human Rights Violations, cyril mychalejko, disappearances, Free Trade, guatemala, human rights, labor, labor rights, labour, labour rights, Latin America, paramilitary, roger hollander, terror, trade unions, unions, uribe, violence, workers
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|www.upsidedownworld.org Written by Cyril Mychalejko|
|Tuesday, 02 December 2008|
Source: Bucks County Courier Times
President Bush is using his final days in office to push through a free trade agreement with Colombia that would reward one of the hemisphere’s worst human rights abusers.
Meanwhile, major media outlets have ceded their role as critical watchdogs and instead have indiscriminately thrown their support behind a pact with a country which Human Rights Watch notes has “the world’s highest rate of killings of trade unionists… [and that] The violence there is so serious, and the lack of response by the authorities so overwhelming, that workers simply cannot exercise their rights,” such as the basic right to organize.
The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report also makes a case for not passing the deal. Released in March, the report states that in Colombia “forced disappearances” occur, while the police and military have been tied to torture and extrajudicial killings. In September, the U.S. Labor Education on the Americas Project, a non-profit that supports workers in Latin America, revealed that “41 union members were killed in Colombia in the first eight months of 2008, more than the entirety of 2007.”
But never mind states the media. In a recent editorial, the New York Times argues, “The new agreement would benefit American companies.” The L.A. Times also states “Seal the Deal,” even though it admits “Colombia remains a violent country where…even the military and national police commit human rights abuses and atrocities.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post chastised Democrats’ opposition to the deal, and specifically for “arguing that Colombia has a dismal record on human rights.”
Another argument you’ll hear from free traders is that allowing U.S. businesses greater access into these often times fragile countries will subsequently help democratize them. But unfortunately reality trumps this free trade rhetoric.
Last year Chiquita Brands International Inc. was forced to pay the U.S. Justice Department a $25 million settlement for giving over $1 million to the right-wing terrorist organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). And even more disturbing, as the Washington Post in an Aug. 2, 2007 article pointed out, is that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, at the time of the payments assistant attorney general, knew about the company’s relationship with AUC and did nothing to stop it.
We can also look to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) as an example of how unleashing the “invisible hand” of the market in Latin America ends up strangling the people of the region. On April 23 six Guatemalan unions, along with the AFL-CIO, filed a complaint allowed through labor provisions of CAFTA, charging that the Guatemalan government was not upholding its labor laws and was failing to investigate and prosecute crimes against union members-which include rape and murder. The complaint states that violence against trade unionists had increased over the past two years (since CAFTA was ratified) and that the Guatemalan government may be responsible for some of the violence.
Commenting on the complaint and the violence of free trade in Guatemala, Thea Lee, chief international economist for the AFL-CIO, told Bloomberg News, “There is a climate of terror for trade unionists. But so far the Bush administration hasn’t lifted a finger to enforce any of the labor chapters.”
Then there is Colombia’s paramilitary scandal (you could devote a whole book to this), which involves all levels of the government and the military—even President Alvaro Uribe and members of his family.
So is opening up markets to U.S. companies in countries where violence against workers and impunity are the norm one of the “benefits” of free trade? When workers live in a “climate of terror” and are denied their right to organize so that they might be able to negotiate humane wages and working conditions, companies can keep wages and working conditions at inhumane levels. This undoubtedly maximizes profits. But is this the business model we want to continue export to the world?
One thing everyone should have learned from the last eight years, and from our nation’s subsequent miserable standing in the world, is that it’s time to use human rights to guide our foreign policy. If that’s to be the case, Democrats can begin this process by denying President Bush this last parting shot.
Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at www.UpsideDownWorld.org.