The water and the oil. African palm and human rights

The water and the oil. African palm and human rights

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By Gerardo Iglesias

The oil or the biodiesel of African Palm have violence as an additive. In Indonesia, Africa or Colombia, environmental depredation, repression of indigenous and peasant communities, and anti-unionism are some of the traces of the violent identity of the industrial cultivation of African Palm.

Bio-fuels and bio-paramilitarism. The two-headed snake

At Finca Palo Alto, joining a union is the passport for having your body filled with lead. Of the 200 workers on the farm, 185 decided to unionize and for that reason they were repressed with bullets by a group of thugs at the service of the company. Among them are three pregnant women.

“Come out, we have come to kill you! Don't hide! ”Shouted the mercenaries from La Palma, and then they began to shoot. They fired openly, defiantly, from the arrogance of who knows that in Colombia impunity feeds weapons and the hunt for trade unionists is open all year round.

When the workers decided to join the Union, on December 23, the unionists murdered in Colombia in 2009 numbered 37, and of them 16 were leaders. Seven out of every ten trade unionists murdered in the world in that year were Colombian.

For the oligarchic sectors, those who join a union: "got screwed." He is a heretic in the holy land of neoliberalism, a terrorist for market fundamentalism, and this explains why 2,708 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in the last 23 years.

Plantation inside, State outside. The Republic of La Palma

The further the plantations advance, the deeper and lonelier the palm's green sinkhole becomes, where the state paralyzes and vanishes. A strange vertigo prevents him from approaching and looking. However, there are times that after a huge sacrifice, the State manages to approach the edge of that abyss, but the poor cannot open their eyes.

The mayorales of La Palma know that the state and the government lose their legs on the plantation, that is why people there will be able to find a job, but surely they will not find a single right.

It is no coincidence that the workers who occupy the Palo Alto farm are claiming the payment of wages, premiums, severance pay, the interest on those severance pay, family allowance and seven years of social security contributions.

These modern slaves earn an average of $ 230, about $ 30 below the minimum wage. According to the Central Unitary of Workers (CUT), in Colombia two minimum wages are needed so that a family does not die of hunger.

It is very difficult to understand how in these feudal working conditions and extreme violence, the development of the African Palm will favor the progress of the people and their quality of life, as affirmed by President Álvaro Uribe.

La Palma Africana, in Colombia and the rest of the world, the only thing that distributes, downwards, is violence and poverty.

Bio-cooperatives. The crows on the prowl

A month after the occupation of the farm, the Ministry of Social Protection sent Dr. Luz Stella Veira to find a solution to the conflict. The incursion of the government representative in the Republic of La Palma lasted only a few hours.

"Come, and you will know what the way of death is!" They sent him as a welcome message. From then on, the Ministry panicked and up to now it is absolutely incapable of enforcing the law for the recognition of the Union and the start of negotiations for the Collective Agreement.

For his part, the mayor of the Pueblo Viejo municipality, in coordination with the National Police, shows the obsequious and servile side of the local authorities, authorizing the entry to the farm in conflict of a group of new workers.

In a troubled river, crouched, the associated work cooperatives wait their turn, a euphemism that hides a scandalous outsourcing system, where people must work countless overtime, Sundays and holidays without being paid a single additional peso, and many do not pay social Security.

Finca Palo Alto intends to get rid of its direct workers, and hire labor through these “cooperatives”.

There is no crop that has displaced more farmers in Colombia than the African Palm. It is the "napalm" of Plan Colombia: burning the jungle, burning the people and with all rights.

Green deserts, trees in rows planted like carrots, without peasants, with little labor and what little it generates begs through labyrinths where slavery finds no way out.

President Álvaro Uribe wants Colombia to be “the Saudi Arabia of biodiesel” by 2020. We imagine it: a great desert, an oligarchic monarchy and a millionaire marketing calling for the use of Colombian “bio-fuels” to save the planet.


Video: Development banks fund human rights abuses (June 2022).


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