Human Rights Watch not naming corporate names in Colombia report

Daniel Kavlik noticed that a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Colombia avoided naming the corporations on whose behalf millions of people have been driven from their homes over the past three decades:

HRW refers vaguely, but ad nauseam, to “businesspersons,” “businessmen,” “landowners,” “cattle ranchers,” “regional elites,” “mining and agro-industry,” “private companies,” and to unnamed “banana companies”

Kavlik asks “Should we be writing to the paramilitary groups, such as the Urabenos which are named in the report, and politely ask them to stop raping and killing people?”

He contrasts HRW’s report with a much more concise one put out by the Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission (IJCP). The IJCP report is entitled “Colombia: Banacol, a company implicated in land grabbing in Cubarado and Jiguamiando.”

The IJCP report explains that Banacol is a distributor for Chiquita Brands – a company that pled guilty in US courts to paying paramilitary death squads $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004. Chiquita was fined $25 million, less than the combined salary of its top five CEO’s in 2012 alone (each of the top five made roughly $6 million).

Kavalik concludes

…IJCP does more to give the concerned reader an avenue for protest and action than in the bulky HRW report of nine times its size. If one wishes to help the largest IDP community in the world reclaim its land, one can start by protesting such companies as Chiquita, Banacol, Del Monte and Dole.

Of course, Canadian companies have also profited from graves crimes in Latin America. Hudbay Minerals is finally being brought to trial in Canada over human rights abuses that took place in Guatemala in 2007, but there is ample evidence to justify similar lawsuits against Canadian companies over their operations in Colombia. Justin Podur wrote in 2009

As Colombian mining union activist Francisco Ramirez documents in his book, “The Profits of Extermination” (Common Courage 2005), Canadian mining has a long and scandalous history in Colombia. For example, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI, an organization representing over 100 top Canadian financial, mining and energy companies) helped create Colombia's mining, petroleum, and environmental legislation.

If most Canadians read Yves Engler’s’ “Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy” our courts would be extremely busy prosecuting Canadian government officials and the business executives they have served all over the world.

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