Two thousand and twelve: a key year in the fight against AVINA and Ashoka

Two thousand and twelve: a key year in the fight against AVINA and Ashoka

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By Paco Puche

This is what AVINA and Ashoka (AA) have proposed to do their infiltration work in alternative social movements. María Zapata [1], Ashoka's director of international operations, affirms without hesitation:

“Social entrepreneurs work with these populations [the poor] and their work is bring multinationals closer to them while safeguarding their interests ”.

As can be seen, entrepreneurs are taken as “keys of passage” from multinationals to doing business with the poor, adding an ecosocial disguise to the proposal, which is essential so that everyone can justify themselves.

How they will do it that, once their entrepreneurs are selected, those who are going to receive a salary for three years, and / or are going to facilitate trips, contacts, conferences, etc., after a rigorous, humiliating and imperial selection, sign a lifetime contract. The leaders of these big-capital foundations boast of it. Let us hear from María Calvo [2], director of Ashoka in Spain: “once the social entrepreneur is selected belongs to the Ashoka social network for life”.

AVINA has different manners, even if they go together with Ashoka almost everywhere, as it is not for nothing that they have a strategic collaboration and financing agreement. In its Annual Report for the year 2000, it is clearly stated: “one of our main objectives is to be recognized as the institution that the leaders of the field business and civil society choose to associate and work together on their projects ”(…) and once a project has been approved, we proceed to the signing the contract that seals the joint venture to which both parties are committed ”(pp.13 and 18).

The nature of the two foundations

AVINA was founded in 1994 and financed by Stephan Scmidheiny, a Swiss magnate who has been a director and shareholder of Nestlé for 15 years, the Union of Swiss Banks (UBS) and Eternit among other large companies. Eternit has been one of the largest asbestos industries in the world during the 20th century. For his shareholding in a single asbestos company in Italy, Schmidheiny has just been sentenced to 16 years in prison for the crimes of "permanent malicious environmental disaster" and "omission of safety measures" at work, as a result of which more than two thousand people from Casale Monferrato, in Turin, have died. After the Casale factory closed in 1986, one person still dies every week due to exposures from more than 30 years ago and the contamination that it has left behind.

The presidency [3] of AVINA is held by Brizio Biondo-Morra, from the multinational Du Pont and among the directors is Ana María Schindler who is, in turn, co-president of Ashoka. As a prominent partner, we must mention Gustavo Grobocopatel, the so-called “king of transgenic soy” in Argentina. In Spain and Latin America, AVINA's penetration has been greatly facilitated by the founding magnate's friendship with the Jesuits, with whom he formed the group they called Palmera because of Schmidheiny's residence in Palma de Mallorca. Later, in 2001, the Catholic University of the Jesuits in Venezuela awarded the magnate an "honorary doctorate". The rector says when giving him the distinction: "Stephan Schmidheiny is a person whose teaching and model are particularly important and significant" (sic)

Ashoka was founded in 1980. At the international level, it has all kinds of alliances with large multinationals and with the US administration. In Spain it was legalized in 2003 and is chaired by Carlos F. Muñana, a former senior manager of the large bank J.P. Morgan. His ranks include Hernando de Soto, who has been an advisor to former Peruvian President Fujimori, who has represented Peru in the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement (TCL) with the United States, and who has intervened in the Bagua events (Peru), in the line of President Alan García, recommending the privatization of the common goods of the indigenous people.

In 2009 Ashoka joined forces with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the “sustainable agricultural and rural development of Africa”. According to La Via Campesina, since 2006 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has collaborated with the Rockefeller Foundation, an enthusiastic advocate of GM crops for the world's poor, to implement the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In 2010, Via Campesina denounced the purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than 23 million dollars, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. JP Morgan [4] is the Rockefeller bank.

Ashoka's penetration in Spain is facilitated by a sector of the PSOE. Indeed, it is very striking to note that former President Zapatero, in 2005 shortly after the foundation was established in our country, on the occasion of the day of the book gave all his ministers the book of Ashoka How to change the world, and El País [5] and other media were in charge of spreading it.

With these help from the Jesuits and Zapatero, it is not surprising that the two foundations (AA) have made so much progress in such a short time, and so easily. Thus, they have spread into alternative movements operating in agroecology, ethical finance, social enterprises, water, the environment, ecology, ornithology, gender violence, non-regulated education, alternative private universities, etc. It is the metaphor of Gruyère cheese.

With these origins, links and interrelations the most appropriate thing is to call AVINA and Ashoka as we do in the title: “Foundations of big capital, asbestos and transgenics”.

Perception from social movements

A reading from an alternative and anti-capitalist position would say that this entire framework is about capital's plan B, which can be summarized by saying that it is “the sum of maneuvers destined to gain consensus, legalize these forms of enrichment, achieve obedience and / or complicity , publicize their objectives as if they were identical to those of society ”[6].

For now, this strategy carried out in the last ten years has given good results to these foundations. They have penetrated from above mainly in some twenty social movements in Spain, and are omnipresent in Latin America, especially with a sector of the Jesuits and their educational companies. The year that is ending has been very effective in rejecting these penetration strategies and corresponding consent, which has allowed us to say that “fortunately, after a significant effort, things seem to be changing in the right direction, and they are beginning to achieve that those who have maintained stable relationships with foundations like AVINA and Ashoka reconsider their actions. In this good direction, for example, some resignations from their positions in the social movements of leaders who, at the same time, were partners of AVINA or Ashoka, as well as the statements of denunciation against said foundations expressed by the environmental organizations to which they said leaders belonged ”[7]

These achievements have not been at zero cost, quite the contrary. The most typical behavior at the beginning of the complaints has been to "kill the messenger." Therefore, before reaching the achievements that we are going to report this year, it is necessary to know what it costs to see the "naked king" and say it. In my case, the sword of Damocles from a so-called “infinite manifesto” [8] hangs over my head, posted on the Internet since September 2011, in which, as you can see, people are invited to insert comments in support of the alleged offended and against the offender, who is claimed to be me (and by extension it should apply to people who have worked on this issue for years [9]). It is formulated saying that to drown these falsehoods this infinite manifest is born. A manifesto that we would like (and so will happen) to be stretched to infinity , vulgar, silence the impertinent. Instead of getting into narcissistic skirmishes, the response to this manifesto was called "Infinite Nemesis." [10], and played with the stupidity and pretentiousness of the "infinite". But things have changed and we have overcome this denial phase.

The balance of the year: a response from around the world

1. January 27, the Autonomous Ecological Network of the Basin of Mexico warns that “super millionaire Stephan Schmidheiny takes over Mexico City: the dangerous one arrives AVINA foundation. (… And) we see with great concern, both the AVINA Foundation's intervention in the politics of Mexico City, through this new Chilanga Somos Ciudad de México Network, and the local associations affiliated with it, as well as its operation in Mexico and Latin America, through the so-called Mexican Network for just, democratic and sustainable cities and the Network of Just and Sustainable Cities of America, promoted by this foundation and Stephan Schmidheiny. The very deplorable doctrines and strategies on "Sustainability" Y " green economy"Of the great world capitals guide and give conceptual support to the action of these networks promoted by the AVINA Foundation, and by Stephan Schmidheiny" [11]. Here the complaint is with specific names.

2. February 8 the Rural Platform, a coordinator of 21 social organizations at the Spanish state level, launches a statement criticizing Ashoka's rural policy, in which you can read:

“And in Africa, Monsanto has recently partnered with the Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and other entities such as the Ashoka Foundation, to promote the

transgenics within the framework of the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa”. Although disguised in green, it is a murderous attempt to introduce commercial (and later transgenic) seeds and the entire package of agrochemical inputs into this continent, stripping small farmers of their traditional seeds and condemning them to hunger and misery ”[12].

The most significant thing about this public complaint is not only the contribution and positioning of this broad anti-transgenic platform against Ashoka and its allies, but also in that penetration maneuvers in social movements, Ashoka, which as we have seen is pro-transgenic, had achieved select and hire one of their representatives above. As a Platform “internalized” by the foundation, its rectification is exemplary, once it was warned of what was happening to it.

This also led to a representative resigning. Goal achieved, and Ashoka has to distance himself from a platform that has publicly and notoriously accused him of being a “murderer”. The way has been definitively blocked.

Although as a Platform it has discarded contacts with Ashoka, it has not happened with some of its member organizations, such as the Paulo Freire Rural University, which is the entity that Ashoka has used the most, which appear together on many pages of Internet, and that continues to cause much confusion by not having made an explicit rejection of its connivance with Ashoka as such. It is the must of this good news. And it remains pending, although it seems very difficult given the lifelong nature that the foundation intends to incorporate in the contracts with its entrepreneurs.

3 . February 13 culminates in Turin the trial of the century for asbestos against Stephan Schmidheiny. He is sentenced to 16 years in prison and tens of millions of compensations for which he is considered guilty of the death of more than two thousand people for a continuous willful crime against the environment. It is pathetic to see the green philanthropist convicted of environmental crimes that cause human deaths. The AVINA Foundation is morally destroyed and its followers in a terrible position.

4 . On March 5, an article appears from five authors: Aguilera Klink, Carpintero, Naredo, Puche and Riechmann publish in the digital magazine Sin Permiso, which is later replicated in several other media, a text entitled "Multinationals and social movements: resist the 'hidden lobby'" [13], in which It openly denounces the nature and phenomenon that these foundations represent, becoming a "hidden lobby" to facilitate their penetration into the social movements of resistance, as well as for businesses with the poor that they proclaim. There is also a call to the people and associations involved with these foundations to rectify and disengage from them, once they have been notified. And, in general, a recommendation is made to be attentive to their infiltration movements and to resist their hidden strategies. For this reason, "resist the hidden lobby."

5 . On April 9, from Ecologists in Action (EEA) (which is a confederation of more than 300 environmental groups distributed by towns and cities of the Spanish state), in a statement, "denounces the consequences of the activity of supposedly philanthropic foundations." It is said that “AVINA and Ashoka are two foundations linked to big capital that promote an industrial agriculture model based on transgenics, in addition to the privatization of common goods such as water or forests. Not forgetting its strong connection with the deadly asbestos industry ”[14]. To the definition that we have given above, we should add, according to this manifesto, that of "foundations of green capitalism". EEA's manifesto ends with the intention of fighting ”against transnationals like Monsanto and against initiatives like AGRA. Also against the foundations that encourage these initiatives in a more or less disguised way, such as AVINA and Ashoka”.

6 . On April 11, from the associations of asbestos victims of the USA and Brazil A manifesto is launched for Stephan Schmidheiny, AVINA founder and asbestos magnate, be declared persona non grata [15] with a view to the Rio +20 summit in June, and he is asked to be banned from participating in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, on the grounds of being "a convicted criminal and the cause of an environmental disaster due to asbestos." The collected signatures (about 1,400, which include individuals and associations from around the world) are sent to the President of Brazil. Among other organizations, this manifesto is signed by the Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua (FNCA), an entity that had been financed by AVINA and previously directed by the prominent partner-leader of AVINA Pedro Arrojo. A gesture that honors you as an organization and that is expected of other organizations linked to the two foundations.

7 . On April 28, and also from Ecologists in Action (EEA), an initiative of the greatest importance is launched: a manifest proposal [16], in the same sense as the previous one, but jointly supported by Latin American and Spanish social and environmental organizations, denouncing the consequences of the activities of supposedly philanthropic foundations like AVINA and Ashoka. Have been collected Express endorsements of 217 organizations from more than 20 countries. Some of these groups, in turn, are federations of others and, for example, Friends of the Earth from all over the continent, or RENACE, the Argentine environmental coordinator made up of dozens of groups, are counted as a single firm. The rapid and forceful response from the entire continent suggests the notable presence of these foundations in the American continent, and the rejection they provoke.

8. On May 23, the Alliance for an ecological, social and urgent alternative to capitalism, made up of 12 organizations from the Spanish state, make harsh criticisms of public-private alliances in the face of Rio +20, and cite as an emblematic case Stephan Schmidheiny, “with a long criminal history, (…) who promoted in 1995 the Council World Business for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which brought together 200 of the most irresponsible and criminal corporations in the world ”[17]. Among these 12 organizations are 9 that had not signed the EEA manifesto against AVINA and Ashoka, thus completing the list of alternative social groups that have explicitly rejected the role of these foundations of big capital.

As we have warned, only the Paulo Freire University, very involved with both foundations, has not rejected outright neither their collaboration trajectory, nor the infiltration task carried out by said foundations. Neither does Greenpeace-Spain, which Avina has been infiltrating through Xavier Pastor, Mirian Gutiérrez [18] (two of the three directors of the last decade) and Víctor Viñuales (one of Avina's historical representatives in Spain) , has ruled in any sense, nor has it signed any manifesto against. This has not been the case of their Greenpeace counterparts in Argentina who have signed the manifesto against it promoted by EEA. Neither have organizations such as the so-called ethical banking Fiares and the REAS (which is a Network of alternative economies) been referred to, despite having relevant members of these foundations within them.

9 . On June 15, on the occasion of River +20, the AVINA and Ashoka foundations set up their “Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in the New Economy”, on Rio's Copacabana beach, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation [19]. To give legitimacy to their convocation, in the face of the official one and the alternative, they manage to convince prestigious intellectuals in the alternative movement to participate in their Forum. Thus, it is the case of Leonardo Böff [20] who opens the Forum and Tim Jackson, Marina Silva and Boaventura de Souza Santos who participate in it. At that time, AVINA partners and their financed open a letter of adhesion to the philanthropist Schmidheiny, already sentenced in Turin to 16 years, and until the end of August (date to which they have reported) they have collected some 650 signatures from 19 countries. [21] As we have seen, Schmidheiny's presence at Rio + 20 had been condemned by different organizations. AVINA continues its infiltration policy while standing up for its battered philanthropic leader.

10. On July 3, the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), formed by the Miskito and Garífuna peoples, denounces "the environmental farce on the Caribbean Coast of Honduras." In collaboration with environmental NGOs, big capital and, under the pretext of protecting biodiversity, make profitable eco-investments. They say that “almost fifty Garífuna families that inhabited the wetlands were forced to settle in other areas. Schmidheiny and his local partners tried to replicate the same strategy on Cayo Cochinos ”[22], an archipelago from which they had already been expelled under the same pretext years ago.

11. On October 16, the Inter-American Vigilance network for the defense and right to water (Red Vida), formed by 43 organizations from 17 countries of the American continent (including the North), in their fourth hemispheric assembly held in Mexico, declare that:

(After 520 years of the Spanish invasion) “the history of darkness, crime and dispossession continues (…) In this statement, we denounce AVINA, an institution of which we remember its connection with the deadly asbestos industry and against which we raise the fair demands of our peoples because it promotes a misnamed "democratic water management," hiding its spurious purposes of promoting a model of industrial agriculture based on transgenics and the intensive use of agro-toxins through which it also promotes privatization of common goods such as water and forests in alliance with the World Bank and multinationals such as Coca Cola.

“(…) Therefore, we reject the Colombian government's attempts to build a rural public water policy that ignores the rural communities organized to provide the service, and denouncing the interference of the AVINA foundation in the construction of a supposed community participation in privatization enclaves ”[23].

12. On December 3, the journalist and Colombian art critic, Guillermo Villamizar, in [public sphere] [24] publishes under the name of "Daros Latin America: memories of a dangerous legacy", a devastating biography of Stephen Schmidheiny on the occasion of meeting this collection of art by Schmidheiny. In an exhaustive investigation of more than 30 pages, the conclusions confirm the hypothesis with which the work began, and which reads like this: "the history of the great events of this world are nothing more than the history of a crime" ( Voltaire). The Rural Reflection Group (GRR) had reached this same conclusion, in 2010, on the occasion of the COP 16 meeting in Cancun, which, in the face of AVINA's interference in the alternative assembly that was being raised, and in which AVINA was by theologian Leonardo Böff, the GRR had no doubts in stating that “Foundations like Avina and Ashoka are the enemy of the Mother Earth and of oppressed populations” [25].


It has been an extraordinarily fruitful year for almost all alternative social movements to have found out about the nature of AVINA and Ashoka, their claims and how they operate by co-opting leaders who are at the top of these movements. They have also been able to verify that these two foundations of big capital are the most specialized worldwide in processes of infiltration of resistance, with the facade of the green economy and the social market. That their link to asbestos and GMOs makes any collaboration with them unacceptable, directly or with the front organizations that they instrumentalize, led by entrepreneurs or partner-leaders of the same. That not only is it not ethical or acceptable to take money from these foundations under any circumstances, but what the victims of asbestos hope is that, as far as possible, the organizations and / or people financed return the money. As the debt of countries is, to a large extent, reprehensible, so the money at the expense of the victims of asbestos is also reprehensible.

If, despite everything said and what happened, there were still people or groups that continued as if nothing had happened, or continued in alliance with AVINA-Ashoka or their most visible faces, it would have to be concluded, as was already done in the work of the five authors mentioned above, saying that “it would be difficult to understand that, once warned of the situation, we would endeavor to deny reality and continue without correcting the course or clarifying the circumstances and responsibilities. In such a case, we would be doing a disservice to social movements by weakening their forces to resist the "hidden lobby" mentioned above "[26].

Video: დილის გადაცემა,,განთიადი 17 იანვარი, 2020 წ. (June 2022).


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