Monday, August 4, 2008

Transnational corporations

They've been tried and indicted by the Permanent Peoples Tribunal:

"In total the Tribunal considered 21 cases of transnational companies from 12 sectors (mining, oil, the logging and pharmaceutical industries, telecommunications, agro-foods, the iron and steel industry, electricity, water, agro-chemicals, banking and financial instruments, and genetically modified seeds) operating in Latin American countries. These companies seem to behave according to similar patterns and conducts that have a significantly negative impact, particularly in areas such as:

  1. Labour relations: through the casualisation and exploitation of labour, the criminalization of social protest, characterised by violent repression that has reached the extreme of causing numerous violations of the individual's right to life and liberty, as well as criminal charges ranging from crimes of association to terrorism. The persecution of trades unions with unjust mass dismissals was made particularly evident in the case of the agro-foods company CAMPOSOL, through actions that constitute regular practice, including the mass dismissal in December 2007 of 385 workers, 80 per cent of whom were unionised.

  2. The Environment: particularly, although not exclusively, the mining and oil industries, that continue to contaminate water supplies, and cause soil degradation, deforestation and in some cases even desertification, with an enormous and irreversible impact on biodiversity in many of the regions in which they operate. An emblematic case is that of the Mining Company MAJAZ, which, if it continues to expand, would affect the Amazon Basin. Many cases have also dramatically documented the impact of environmental crimes on food security, access to water, and forced displacement from living spaces. Here we must cite THYSSEN KRUPP, paradigm of the model of investment that pollutes and excludes, made possible thanks to the indifference and absence of the Brazilian State.

  3. Transgenic seeds: the case of SYNGENTA, presented to the PPT by Via Campesina and Terra de Direitos, clearly documents how the 'old' mechanisms of massive contamination, violent repression by paramilitary forces, the assassination of workers, and the absence and even complicity of the State, and the criminalization of opponents, remain unchanged in the mechanisms that are presented as the 'future'.

  4. People's health: the PPT has received convincing evidence of direct damage caused by contamination of aquifers and poisoning by insecticides. Two cases are particularly exemplary: a) the poisoning of 44 children from the Tauccamarca community by the German company BAYER's Paration, and the resulting deaths of 24 indigenous children; b) the poisoning caused by the pesticide Nemagon, widely distributed by the SHELL OIL COMPANY, in open violation of market regulations, particularly in Honduras and Nicaragua, with dramatic consequences including illness and deaths (which are yet to be adequately recognised, at least in terms of financial compensation). The Tribunal also received accusations against ROCHE for their corporate conduct in Brazil. Witnesses denounced the violation of citizens' rights to health and access to generic pharmaceuticals resulting from the application of intellectual property rights by transnationals. They also highlighted how the conduct of ROCHE is attacking (using judicial actions, among others) the sustainability of the programme for universal access to medical treatment in Brazil and the rights recognised in the country's federal Constitution.

  5. Corruption, which has become an almost common mode of operation in all these processes, in which the different actors are implicated through the granting of concessions to explore and exploit, and the privatisations imposed as a requirement of agreements with other countries or by the international financial organisms. Particularly clear examples can be found in the cases of UNIÓN FENOSA, in their process of privatization of energy distribution in Nicaragua, and of the Swedish construction company SKANSKA, accused of being involved in acts of corruption and the payment of surcharges in Peru, in the plan to widen the Camisea Gas Pipeline.

  6. The Financial System: the general mechanisms and specific cases relating to this sector, which has an increasingly significant impact on the global economic situation, have been documented through the analysis of three cases, of which one in particular (that of HSBC) has given the PPT a clear view of the complexity of the conflicts of interests between private and public actors, individuals and collectives, that have been present over long periods in the history of a country such as Peru. It is clear that processes of this kind affect democracy and the sovereignty of States: those responsible for government become the accomplices of the private actors, be they national or international, and in this way, they tacitly renounce their duty to apply the internal legislation that ought to protect their inhabitants. When the opposite is the case, and national governments decide to demand their own economic sovereignty and public control of strategic sectors, the transnational companies have other options ways to protect their own interests. "

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