Nicaragua: International Action Day in Support of Banana Workers!

Report from Nicaragua Network nicanet@afgj.org
Published: 05/11/03

Tell Dow, Shell and Dole to Pay Up!

International Action Day in Support of Banana Workers: December 11, 2003

Call or Write to CEOs on December 11th!!

Nemagon is a virulent pesticide that was used on banana plantations in Nicaragua, other countries in Central America, in the Caribbean, and in the Philippines. It is derived from debromochloropropane (DBCP) and kills a microscopic worm which inhibits the production and damages the appearance of bananas. Though banned in the U.S. since 1979 because workers in the plants manufacturing the product were found to be sterile, Nemagon was exported throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s to unsuspecting banana producing nations like Nicaragua Standard Fruit (Dole in the U.S.), Del Monte, and United Fruit (now Chiquita) were some of the companies that sprayed Nemagon on their crops of bananas. The pesticide was produced by Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, Occidental and others.

A Nicaraguan court ruled on December 11, 2002, that Dow, Shell and Dole had to pay US$490 million to affected banana workers from the Department of Chinandega, but the companies have yet to pay one cent to the plaintiffs.

In response to a letter sent by the Nicaragua Network and human rights activists, Shell Oil claimed that their DBCP was “not sold to growers for use in Nicaragua.” There is, however, evidence to the contrary: the Managua newspaper La Prensa reported on November 10 that the government registry of the importation of pesticides and fertilizers, part of the Ministry of Agriculture, shows that a representative of Shell Oil Company imported the chemical beginning in 1973.

December 11, 2003, will be the first anniversary of the legal victory. Call the CEOs of these companies as part of an international campaign of action in support of Nicaragua’s banana workers. The Italy-Nicaragua Association is sponsoring a day of action on the 13th, with leafleting around Italy in support of the workers. Join this international campaign!

For more information, visit the Nicaragua Network web page at www.nicanet.org , call (202) 544-9355 or write nicanet@afgj.org

Fact Sheet, Talking Points and Sample Letter

A case of human, labor, & environmental injustice

The History:

* Nemagon is a virulent pesticide used in banana plantations in Central America, the Caribbean, and the Philippines

* Nemagon was employed extensively in the banana-growing department of Chinandega, Nicaragua

* Nemagon, derived from dibromochloropropane (DBCP), kills a microscopic worm which inhibits the production and damages the appearance of the bananas

* Though banned in the U.S. since 1979, Nemagon was exported throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s to other countries

* Dow Chemical and Shell Chemical, two of the major producers of Nemagon, exported up to 24 million pounds a year during this period

* Standard Fruit (owned by Dole), Del Monte, and United Fruit (now Chiquita) are some of the companies that sprayed Nemagon on their crops

* As a result it is estimated that 22,000 Nicaraguans are afflicted with Nemagon-caused diseases and disability

* It is possible that derivatives of Nemagon are still being used in Nicaragua today

The Effects:

* The wide variety of Nemagon-caused symptoms have been attributed to the fact that DBCP targets the endocrine system

* Male victims of Nemagon suffer from reduced, impaired, or completely decimated sperm counts, with 67% of the male banana workers in Nicaragua rendered permanently sterile

* Female victims are plagued with menstrual disruptions, discoloration of the skin, repeated miscarriages, uterine and breast cancer

* Both women and men live with migraines and permanent headaches, bone pains, vision loss, fevers, hot flashes, loss of fingernails and hair, hematoma-covered skin, weight loss, anxiety and other nervous disorders, depression, liver damage, kidney and stomach cancer

* 466 Nicaraguans have died as a result of Nemagon-caused cancer

The Case:

* The Association of Workers, and Former Workers with Claims against Nemagon (ASOTRAEXDAN) has been organized, headed by one of the victims, Victorino Espinales * ASOTRAEXDAN has led the banana worker?s struggle by convening assemblies, conducting medical exams on past & present workers, operating a radio program, organizing public protests, and filing legal suits on behalf of the plaintiffs

* On January 17th, 2001, due to these efforts, the Nicaraguan National Assembly passed Law 364, which lays the legal groundwork upon which farmworkers can sue the corporations

* This law is explicitly threatened by the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)

* Three U.S. corporations have been found liable under Law 364 in a Nicaraguan court; Dole, Dow, and Shell have been ordered to pay US$490 million to Nemagon victims

* Each of these companies has denied the legality of the case on fallacious grounds, calling for a new trial in the U.S.

* Most recently, the farmworkers? cause has been bogged down by further legal problems, so the banana workers need your support now!

Call or Write to Dow, Dole and Shell!

(Send the Nicaragua Network an e-mail at Nicanet@afgj.org to tell us you’ve called or written and what reply you received!)

Points to make in your call:

1. Your company was found liable for damages to the health of Nicaraguan banana workers in Nicaraguan courts because you produced and exported [or used, in the case of Dole] the unsafe pesticide Nemagon or DBCP.

2. You knew that this pesticide damaged the health of those who came in contact with it.

3. Therefore you should pay what the court in Nicaragua has determined you owe.

Contact Information:

William S. Stavropoulos
President, CEO and Chairman of the Board
Dow Chemical Company
Chairman of the Board, CEO
Midland, MI 48667
Global Ethics and Compliance: (989) 636-3989

David H. Murdock Chairman of the Board, CEO
Dole Food Company, Inc.
47 Building
One Dole Drive
Westlake Village, CA 91362 1-800-232-8888

Jeroen van de Veer
President of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company
CEO of Shell Chemicals
Shell Chemicals Europe BV
P.O. Box 8610
3009 AP Rotterdam, Netherlands

Shell Oil Company in the United States:
Raymond T. Collins (responded to previous letters)
P.O. Box 2463 Houston, TX 77252
(713) 241-7111 (direct line)
1-888-467-4355 (press 0)

Sample letter


Dear Sir:

As a person concerned about human rights, I am writing to express my alarm upon hearing that you have refused to pay damages awarded on December 11, 2002, by the Third Civil District Court of Managua, Nicaragua, which found your company guilty of causing injury to Nicaraguan banana workers and to their families. The damages were incurred from use of a chemical known as Dibromo-Chloropropane (DBCP) and sold under the commercial names of Nemagon and Fumazone. The use of this chemical inflicted irreversible damage, both physical and psychological, upon the workers and their families, and has resulted in the death of many workers in recent years.

According to scientists, DBCP particularly targets the human endocrine system, which controls all the chemical processes that are critical to the development and functioning of the body’s various anatomical systems. In 1977, 35 workers in a DBCP plant in California were found to be sterile. The toxin was immediately outlawed in California, and two years later, in 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the production and usage of DBCP throughout the US, using as evidence the chemical’s poisonous effects on human chromosomes and its ability to persist as a toxin in soil and groundwater. The EPA also categorizes the pesticide as a ?probable human carcinogen.? As a result of these and other findings, the World Health Organization has classified DBCP as ?extremely hazardous.?

I urge you to respect the ruling of the Nicaraguan court and pay the damages awarded to the affected banana workers. Under international law and in consideration of basic human rights standards, your company should assume its responsibility for perpetuating the use of a chemical which was long known to be unsafe.

Sincerely,

Your name

For more information, visit the Nicaragua Network web page at www.nicanet.org , call (202) 544-9355 or write nicanet@afgj.org