Fortunes and crimes. The asbestos lie

Fortunes and crimes. The asbestos lie

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By Paco Puche

Every five minutes a person dies from a disease caused by asbestos. The series of horrors will continue because if in “civilized” Europe the mineral was banned almost completely since 2005, in Canada, in emerging countries and in impoverished ones (China, India, Brazil, Mexico), extraction and consumption are increasing.

"All their money is stained with blood"
H. Balzac, The Red Tavern

Juan Miguel Gutiérrez, the director of the documentary “La plaza de la Música” (a 58-minute feature film that has been presented at the 58th edition of Donostia Zinemaldia), says that it was precisely during the making of this work that he discovered that his mother had died victim of inhalation of asbestos dust, because they lived near the factory that produced it.

Likewise, while preparing the translation and edition of Maria Roselli's book, “Las mentiras del asianto. Fortunes and crimes ”, which we present today, I also learned that a good friend and colleague, whom I had long lost track of, had died prematurely at the age of 53, a victim of mesothelioma. Since we finished the Industrial Expert degree in the mid-sixties, I worked at the Uralita factory in Seville. If he had called me to work in that same factory, I would possibly have accepted and today I would no longer tell.

We can draw the conclusion that in addition to occupational diseases due to asbestos, there are those related to the home, the environment and those that we can call “virtual”, as in my case, those that could have affected us all given the abundance and geographical extension how this material was produced.

These two pieces of news have made me think that the coincidence of the translation of two books on asbestos (the one we present and the one produced under the direction of Ángel Cárcoba, entitled “La lana de la salamandra”) and Juanmi's documentary Gutiérrez is not at all accidental. As in the rest of Europe, this decade and the next will present the highest points of manifestations of diseases and deaths due to lethal dust, considering that it was in the eighties when the highest values ​​in the production of this mineral were reached. and the long period in which the contracted disease manifests itself. What is called the latency period.

Maria Roselli's book: victims and executioners

The book by Maria Roselli, an Italian journalist based in Zurich, entitled in its Spanish version La mentira del asianto. Fortunas y crimes, published by editions of Genal in Malaga (published first in 2007 in German and later, in 2008, in French) and that today the edition for Spain and Latin America sees the light, carries out an in-depth investigation around the victims of asbestos and of his relatives, whom he listens and makes to speak; and around the main family in the business for 85 years, the Schmidheiny, a natural family from Switzerland, a country where the center of world domination has been established in relation to this mineral that is both "miraculous" and "deadly". and “invisible”, called asbestos or asbestos and, metonymically, uralite in Spain.

Speak and inquire, then, about the victims and the executioners.

The victims are well established: every five minutes a person dies from an asbestos disease; According to a study by the European Union, by 2030 half a million people in Europe will die from cancer caused by asbestos; Every year about 140,000 people in the world who between twenty and forty years ago were exposed to this mineral are going to die, either because of their work or because of their proximity to workers or factories, and in total with what we have swallowed from the fibers microscopic samples of the same material, some 10 million will be its victims in 2030 (according to Dr. James Leigh, director of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the School of Public Health in Sydney, Australia). And to all this slaughter must be added the unspeakable and atrocious sufferings of those affected and their families. It is not only the leading cause of professional death but also, from the insurers point of view, the most important loss of all time.

The series of horrors will continue because if in “civilized” Europe the mineral was banned almost completely since 2005, in Canada, in emerging countries and in impoverished ones (China, India, Brazil, Mexico), extraction and consumption are increasing.

The main family responsible for this humanitarian catastrophe, (the Swiss Schmidheiny), which many describe as genocide as one of the largest, if not the largest, of all industrial massacres ever known, is well defined. The Schmidheiny since the beginning of the 20th century dominate this business in the world and have gone in four generations from being the descendants of a tailor to having in their ranks today two of the greatest tycoons on the planet: Thomas and Stephan. Asbestos-cement is their secret. The Swiss municipality of Niederurnen has not only been the headquarters of its asbestos business in Switzerland, under the name Eternit, but it also became one of the world centers for asbestos-cement. The Schmidheiny holding company controlled factories in 16 countries with 23,000 people employed. It was the headquarters of SAIAC (Sociedad Anónima Internacional de Asbestos-Cemento) the asbestos cartel that has controlled prices, volumes, techniques, political pressures and well-managed silences on the lethality of the mineral.

To get an idea of ​​an order of magnitude of what we are talking about, it will be enough to contemplate this family controlling 90% of the productive activities of imported asbestos in Switzerland, through which from 1945 to 1985 some 10,000 workers have passed intensively (each day and sustained for years) and another 100,000 who suffered occasional but repeated exposures. If, as the pulmonologist at the Hirslanden clinic in Zurich admits, "a single inhaled fiber is already too much," all 110,000 exposed are in danger, and they do not know the day or the hour, because of how insidious the specific disease called mesothelioma is: It hardly gives any symptoms and once emerged it means death in a few months and amidst atrocious suffering. Another order of magnitude of their responsibilities is provided by the fact that in 1985, between this family and another Belgian they dominated 25% of all the asbestos-cement in the world. From this tremendous magnitude derives the presumption of genocide that is attributed to the Schmidheiny.

However, my approach as editor to this work was not the result of the indignation and pain of the lost friend, but the investigation on the Swiss magnate Sthepan Schmidheiny, one of the richest men in the world, that my partner had undertaken a few years ago. Isabel and myself, on the trail of a philanthropic foundation called Avina founded by the aforementioned magnate. The aforementioned foundation dedicated huge amounts of money to doing business with the poorest in the hands of NGOs and other social movements, under the banner of corporate social responsibility and what is now called green capitalism. We understood that this foundation was penetrating the social movements from above and this implied deactivating resistance to capitalism, especially in Latin America, using the Spanish leaders as a bridge. We also understood that behind this “generosity” there was a “locked cat”.

The Turin trial against this tycoon and the holding of an international meeting of those affected by asbestos at the hands of the International Ban Asbestos (entity that seeks to ban the use of this mineral, in all its forms, worldwide ) gave us the opportunity to travel to that city in spring of last year, together with Ángel Cárcoba, as journalists, given that we were, in our case, hand in hand with the Revista el Observador de Málaga. There we met Maria Roselli and from there came the commitment of the Spanish edition.

Stephan Schmidheiny took us directly to the tragedy of asbestos and the social or intellectual groups that fight against it, from different facets. The result of this labyrinthine story is the book that we present today and that has been edited thanks to Ángel Cárcoba.

Nobody better than this Italian journalist, living in Switzerland, homeland and home of Schmidheiny, to tell the story of this family, which has been the main dominator of this industry under the name of Eternit, for most of the 20th century

The title with which we have presented our edition, which is a synthesis of the titles of the German and French edition, says very well what we are going to find inside.

The conspiracy of silence

First of all, the book talks about asbestos, its dangerousness and its production, but above all about its lies. In other words, the successful effort made by the industry to hide, misrepresent and minimize the fatal consequences for workers, and not only for them, in relation to the extraction, transport, production and maintenance of this mineral that was said to be miraculous . This adjective with which it has spread is one of the great lies. That is why, in the singular, "the asbestos lie."

The history of this family is a detailed concretion of that sentence of the novelist Honorato Balzac who affirmed, speaking of an enriched character, that “all their money (shields) are stained with blood”. Indeed, the Schmidheiny not only lied, but even collaborated with the Nazi regime, occupying prisoners of war in semi-slavery in their German factory. Until 1992, the date of the end of apartheid, they maintained their asbestos companies in South Africa, treating blacks without rights and without any protection measures, and to make matters worse, they lived close to work and many had as roofs the famous fiber cement sheets based on of white asbestos. In short, they collaborated with Pinochet, with Somoza in Nicaragua to whom they "sold" 60 of the shares of Nicalit, the asbestos company in that country, and with the Brazilian dictatorship.

But above all, they continued with the business and taking the minimum labor protection measures, despite the fact that since 1889 (1889) there was already news of the lethality of this mineral and, later, the scientific works of the decades of The thirties to the sixties of the last century had well established the different diseases that it causes as well as the domestic and environmental effects that it entails (and the virtual ones as we have said).

It was only in 1973 when the WHO recognized the dangerousness of asbestos, in 1978 the European Parliament declared this fiber as a labor carcinogen, for in 2005 the European Union itself dictated a fairly extensive ban on its import, manufacture and use, and for all kinds of asbestos ore. The conspiracy of silence that the asbestos lobby defended has been quite successful and continues to be successful, given that today in only 55 countries it is prohibited, being in more than 140 those in which asbestos continues its lethal work.

Naturally, this enrichment of the Schmidheiny family is dotted with crimes, some already seen in court, others to be seen and many others that will go unpunished.

In Maria Roselli's portrait of one of the victims, entitled “Doubt torments me”, Rita Feldmann says:

When we were children, my brother, sister and I worked at Eternit (in Niederurnen, Switzerland) during school holidays. It was typical of that time. In the factory they told us that at night we should not remove the dust from our clothes with the help of the compressed air pipe, because if we had a wound an air bubble could enter directly into the body. They did not tell us that the reason for the danger was asbestos (…) At first, asbestos was considered a miracle product. If, knowing that it is dangerous, one decides to work there, everyone is free to take the risk, but it is unfair that they hide the truth from us. I wonder how the Schmidheiny family can live knowing how many people have died from asbestos. Some of them hadn't even worked there. (…) My father died in 1989, he was hired by Eternit in Niederurnen when he was fourteen years old. My mother also died of mesothelioma in 2002, she was working as an office assistant. Now (2006) my brother has been discovered pleural plaques that are also due to asbestos (he is 49 years old and has been ill for four) (…) All this matter does not leave me calm. And the Schmidheiny family simply sells the company, makes a profit, and succeeds without assuming their responsibilities. If they had an iota of conscience they would not deny their past.

Lying has been the norm by business in the asbestos tragedy, but so has censorship and misrepresentation. At a conference on asbestos held in the European Parliament in September 2005, convened by the group of the European United Left, we can read:

Eternit has enormous influence in Belgium. The publication of an article entitled “The Valley of Silence in Belgium” was scheduled to coincide with the European Conference on Asbestos. However, the article never saw the light. Its removal shows that, in 2005, censorship and corporate influence are still stronger in Belgium than freedom of expression and democracy.

But there is much more: In the criminal trial that is currently being held in Turin against Stephan Schmidheiny, in which he is accused of "permanent malicious environmental disaster and malicious omission of security regulations", for which he is asked for 13 years in prison and compensation that can reach five billion euros, in a press extract, on the occasion of the hearing held in October last year, it has been found that:

According to Paolo Revilla, counselor for the prosecution, “we have discovered that between 2001 and 2005 Stephan Schmidheiny paid one million euros to the Milan agency MS & L Bellodi to organize a network of informants capable of manipulating information about the asbestos". It has also been known that the prosecutor for the Guarinelli prosecution has been the object of particular attention from the multinational's surveillance system. Let's say the prosecutor has been "spied on." Bruno Pesce - continuous animator of the Association of Asbestos Victims of Casale, town of Turin - has stated, in line with these statements, that the "espionage" has not stopped on the person of Guarinelli because "we have discovered that a journalist who he had frequented our initiatives for 16 years and was paid for by Bellodi ”.

But as asbestos is still allowed in many countries, the lobby for this mineral continues to use the old tricks that were used in Europe thirty or forty years ago. “Scientific” studies continue to be presented that affirm the safety of white asbestos; symposia are held to spread the lie of the "controlled use", and therefore without risks, of this mineral. "Yellow unions" appear, controlled by employers, who also defend the iniquitous use of asbestos. Canadians, one of the main asbestos mining countries (exporting almost all production) have created the Canadian Chrysotile Institue, on behalf of the Canadian asbestos lobby… “The asbestos lie is resistant, indestructible, and incorruptible, for all Eternity ”, as the etymological name of the mineral.

The victims speak

The crimes have victims with names and surnames, and the author of the book has been in charge of interviewing and rescuing stories lived by them. As one of the relatives of those consulted, Victor Portmann, says:

I think that it is important to talk about the physical suffering and pain of asbestos patients (…) The emphasis is on financial and legal problems, but the immense pain suffered by those affected is never mentioned. The fact that this cancer is particularly cruel is silenced, nobody tells how the sick scream because of the pain. My father has endured excruciating suffering and I want this to be known. He passed away in June 2004.

Today (2006) workers continue to be exposed to this dangerous material, and all this, solely, because of the desire for benefits.

Because, indeed, we are talking about atrocities. The data is shocking. We have already mentioned some and we complete them with the following contributions, so that they are not forgotten:

In the world there are about 125 million people exposed to asbestos in the workplace. According to the most recent estimates from the World Health Organization, occupational exposure causes more than 107,000 deaths annually from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. It is estimated that a third of occupational cancer deaths are caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that every year there are several thousand deaths attributable to domestic exposure to asbestos, according to the same entity.

These deaths are equivalent to one World Trade Center every 10 days, which is said soon.

In short, every five minutes a person dies in the world from a disease due to asbestos or asbestos and this will continue to happen for many years.

In addition to being invisible, the mineral reaches people silently. The following testimony, collected by Maria Roselli in her book is more than illustrative. The portrait made by the author is as follows:

Hans von Ah spent three years in the workshops of the Swiss railway company, the CFF, in Zurich. He is sure he has breathed the deadly dust there too. He says that "during the preliminary phase of the disease, I often remembered those years as an apprentice during which I was in contact with this deadly material." In the autumn of 2000 (more than 45 years after his first contact with asbestos) when he visited his doctor due to a slight irritation in the area of ​​the lungs, that diagnosis was not expected at all. But when the word "mesothelioma" came up in the conversation Hans von Ah understood everything immediately. Until that moment, the retiree had not felt any pain (…) A team of doctors from the Bern University Hospital removed his left lung, attacked by cancer, and the pleura in an operation that lasted several hours. Next, the doctors lined his amputated bronchi with muscle lobe. After the operation, he was on the verge of dying from an infection and, for months, had to take antibiotics. His digestive tract, very deteriorated by taking all these medications, now reacts in a hypersensitive way (…) After the operation, he fell into a great depression. (Portrait of Hans von Ah: "I no longer have the strength to defend myself")

It arrives in a silent and perfidious way: sometimes a small exhibition is enough. The following portrait of the author of one of the victims is illuminating:

Despite his 53 years and never having been in direct contact with asbestos - he had simply lived from eight to eighteen next to the factory in Niederurnen - Marcel Jann knew he had only a few months to live. One day in the autumn of 2004, that teacher who was passionate about the mountains and cycling, had such difficulty breathing that he thought he was drowning. (…) After a complicated chemotherapy, in the spring of 2005 they removed his right lung, including the pleura, as well as the diaphragm, a rib and the pericardium during an operation that lasted seven hours. Ten days later he required an emergency intervention ...

(Once Recovered) "his fight for justice", as he called it, became his reason for living. He wrote many letters to Stephan Schmidheiny asking him to apologize and demanding compensation, but with the sale of the company everything had been transferred. Schmidheiny no longer considered himself responsible! He continued fighting until the last months of his life - he passed away in October 2006. He stated that he could not accept this deadly disease without complaint, while Glarus -Switzerland- was taken to make his statement before the examining magistrate, plugged into his bottle of oxygen and lying on a stretcher (Portrait of Marcel Jann: “The fight for justice”)

Environmental pollution is very common. This has been the case in Cerdanyola -Spain- in which not only workers in asbestos factories have contracted diseases, but also family members and neighbors close to the factories. Last July, a Madrid court ruled that Uralita must compensate 45 residents of Cerdanyola and Ripollet with 3.9 million euros for the ailments caused by the asbestos fibers that were detached from the factory located there. first population. The same thing that had happened with the mother of film director Juanmi Gutiérrez that we have already mentioned.

The fight for justice

The victims demand justice, that is, recognition, compensation and social sanctions to avoid impunity and not to invite others to carry out such atrocities.

For this reason, in front of the gates of the Turin court, where the criminal trial against Stephan Schmidheiny is being held, the victims of asbestos and their families gather during the trial, still alive, carrying banners that read: “Eternit Massacre: Justice "

One of the victims, Luisa Minazzi, who as a child played in the yard amidst the eternit powder that her father brought from the factory as if it were something wonderful, wonders: "Who could know?" Luisa affirms that "those responsible should be tried in The Hague for crimes against humanity"

The Turin trial is the hope of many of the victims because for the first time not only the managers of the local factory but also the main owners are being tried. The prosecutor investigating the case since 2004 asks for up to 13 years in prison for the two main accused and up to one million euros per victim; as there are about three thousand lawsuits plus those of the Italian social security, the fiscal request amounts to about 5 billion euros, in this single trial.In "The wool of the salamander", the book that has been published in CCOO under the direction of Ángel Cárcoba, its author, the journalist Giampiero Rossi, tells us the antecedents of this process centered on the Romana Blasotti family. This family worked and still lives in Casale Monferrato, a town of 33,000 inhabitants north of Turin, where until 1986 there was an asbestos factory, in which at its peak there were about a thousand workers. Well, despite the fact that 25 years ago they closed, a victim of the mineral dies every week. And each of the inhabitants has a lump in their throat because it is not known which of them will be the next, as workers, relatives and ordinary citizens who have had nothing to do with the factory die.

As in the exemplary case of Romana Blasotti, the president of the association of victims of the town, currently 82 years old, who has seen in the last 25 how her husband, a worker in the company, her sister and her niece, her cousin and , finally his 52-year-old daughter who never worked with asbestos.

Statement by Romana Blasotti. Turin Trial, 2010

Extreme exploitation

María Roselli, in her exhaustive investigation, has found documents that certify the use by the Swiss of forced laborers in Nazi Germany, and has managed to find a survivor from that time. This is Nadja Ofsjannikova, 85 years old, who currently lives in Riga, Latvia and who by chance met a doctor from Berlin, to whom she spoke about her stay as a forced worker in Berlin and brought her back to this city. She says that:

In 1942, when I was 19 years old, I was called by the military command and overcrowded and being very cold, they transported us to Germany (…) to an asbestos-cement factory. There they lodged us in barracks. The work in that field was beyond our strength. The warehouse we were working on had no roof and the cold was terrible. Sometimes I just wanted to die. I cried a lot. The factory where I worked was called Eternit (…) it was like a concentration camp, we carried numbers and we had to show our file continuously. (…) We had to work even when sick, twelve hours a day, six days a week. On one occasion I caught pneumonia, but could not stay in bed (...) the food in the fields was terrible: for breakfast they gave us flour soup, at noon beet soup and in the afternoon a hundred grams of bread with a little margarine ( …) The guard of the barrack observed us all the time and when we did not obey they beat us to death. Sometimes I wonder how I could bear so much suffering (…). In April 1945 they bombed us again, but luckily we were able to take refuge in the basement (...) In 2000, when I found out that the people who had been forced to work were receiving compensation, I went to the Archive but there it was stated that I had voluntarily gone to the countryside. I sent a letter to the Eternit factory, but received no reply.

(Portrait of Nadja Ofsjannikova: "Work until exhaustion")

And no less impressive is the interview that the author recounts in a book with a South African trade unionist. It unfolds like this:

- What were the working conditions in the Everit factories, owned by the Schmidheiny? Asks the author.

- It was completely terrible –replies the interviewee-: there was dust everywhere and nobody told us it was fatal: When someone got sick they sent them to their “homeland” (1), but nobody knew what our companions died of.

- Did the workers have direct contact with the company management?

- For years we asked ourselves the following question, why do the company management, especially the directors from Switzerland, avoid going to the workplaces? It was a long time later that we realized that they did not want to breathe the dust; they knew from the start it was deadly

- Did the management of the Swiss company explain why it sold the factory in 1992?

- The reason was obvious: with the end of apartheid they could no longer continue to exploit the blacks who paid much less than the whites ... they put us in those terrible workers' houses, in which we had to live for decades without our own families (…) This is why Stephan Schmidneny abandoned his business with South Africa. He put his feet in "powder" before the new government forced him to assume his responsibilities. We wrote to Switzerland clearly informing it that it must meet its responsibilities and compensate the sick and the families of the deceased. He did not reply, we received a letter from the management of his new holding company, in which they informed us that they had acted at all times in accordance with the South African laws in force (those of apartheid) and that therefore they had no responsibility neither in the legal nor in morality –South African law does not allow workers to sue their former employers- (Interview with Fred Gonna, South African trade unionist who worked 25 years in a Schmidheiny factory. “They treated us like children”)

Indeed, since 1942, and under the apartheid regime, some 55,000 people have worked for the various Schmidheiny companies, the majority black without rights. Stepahn Schmidheiny trained in business management at the family-owned South African firm Everite. During the 1970s he was in charge of all the Eternit factories they owned in the world and was one of the largest shareholders of the South African company Everit in the worst years of apartheid, at a time when the racist repressive apparatus was sparing no means to keep in power. They were owners of crocidolite mines (blue asbestos) that stands out for its carcinogenic potential.

We must return to the suffering of those affected to feel the indignation of that rule of three by means of which it is more important to get rich than the health of millions of people.

Everything was known about the danger of asbestos

As we will see in a brief relationship, since the nineteenth century it was known about the danger of asbestos. Indeed:

1. In 1889, in England, an official report pointed out the harmful effects of asbestos fiber.

2. In 1900, in London, the doctor H. Montague obtained the first pathological evidence of asbestosis.

3. In 1906, the Italian physician L. Scarpa followed 30 asbestos workers and assumed that their disease was tuberculosis.

4. In 1918 a major insurance company (The New Yorker Prudential I. Co.) refused to contract life insurance for asbestos workers.

5. In 1924 the report "Pulmonary fibrosis due to the inhalation of asbestos dust" by W.E. Cook, with the results of serious medical research on diseases caused by asbestos.

6. In 1938, work carried out in the US and South Africa established the relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma. Probada definitivamente en 1960.

7. En 1939 La Caja Nacional de Seguros de Accidentes de Suiza (SUVA) reconoce un caso de abestosis profesional.

8. En 1960 C. Wagner concluye su famoso estudio por el que establece la relación del amianto con el mesotelioma y de que el amianto no sólo era peligrosos para los trabajadores sino también para los habitantes de las proximidades y para las familias.

9. En 1965 Selikoff presenta en un Congreso su estudio epidemiológico referido a 1.522 hombres que habían trabajado realizando aislamientos con amianto, la frecuencia del cáncer de pulmón era siete veces superior a la del grupo de control y concluía el estudio que una fuerte exposición al amianto durante tan solo un mes puede provocar un mesotelioma (que se manifiesta décadas más tarde)

10. En 1973 la OMS reconocía que la exposición al amianto causaba mesotelioma y cáncer de pulmón

11. En 1978 en Parlamento europeo declaraba el amianto como cancerígeno laboral, pero muchos estados fueron anestesiados por los lobbies industriales y financieros y hasta 27 años después, en 2005, no se prohibía en la Unión Europea.

Podemos concluir diciendo que: “Desde mediados de los cuarenta quedó demostrado científicamente que la abestosis puede desencadenar un cáncer de pulmón y desde los comienzos de los sesenta que una exposición al amianto puede provocar un mesotelioma maligno. Ninguno de los responsables de la época puede afirmar, si pretende ser tomado en serio, que no sabía nada acerca de los riesgos del amianto para la salud”.

Concluye Roselli rotundamente: “no se trata de una conjetura sino de una certeza”-.

Los Schmidheiny (y las demás empresas) continúan hasta fin del siglo XX amasando sus fortunas. Se puede predicar de todos ellos aquella sentencia del que fue diputado belga en el Parlamento Europeo, Remi Poppi, según la cual: “A excepción de la pólvora, el amianto es la sustancia más inmoral con la que se haya hecho trabajar a la gente; las fuerzas siniestras que obtienen provecho del amianto (…) sacrifican gustosamente la salud de los trabajadores a cambio de los beneficios de las empresas”.

La pirueta filantrópica

Como la situación de Stephan Schmidheiny era muy comprometida, intenta una estrategia de huida de la “polvareda” en la que está metido. Se construye una hagiografía en la que se autojalea: dice, “me considero como un pionero que abandona por su cuenta el amianto antes que le sea exigido por la ley” y “tomé la decisión de salir del asbesto, basado en los potenciales problemas humanos y ambientales basados en el mineral. Pero también consideré que en una época de creciente transparencia, y crecientes preocupaciones por los riesgos de la salud, sería imposible desarrollar y mantener un negocio exitoso basado en el asbesto”

Vende o cierra las empresas de amianto en todo el mundo en la década de los noventa.

Y trata de ser recordado en la posteridad como un gran mecenas ambiental. Para ello crea la fundación Avina en 1994, y en 2003 crea Viva Trust que es una institución que va a proporcionar la financiación a la anterior fundación. La publicidad de este fideicomiso se hace a bombo y platillo en Costa Rica, invitando a unas 200 personalidades seleccionadas de todo el mundo entre las que se encuentran el presidente del Banco Mundial, el embajador de EEUU en Costa Rica, Hernando de Soto, B. Drayton (fundador de Ashoka), Oscar Arias, ex-presidente del país y Pedro Arrojo de la Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua con sede en Zaragoza, entre otros.

La fundación Avina se dedica a tratar de hacer negocio con los pobres, que según sus pensadores son “el negocio de los negocios”, porque son 4 mil millones y todos los días consumen algo, y porque los ricos “tienen el derecho de hacerse aún más ricos”. Con esta filosofía y un recubrimiento de verde andan por España y Latinoamérica cooptando socios-líderes y penetrando los movimientos sociales para irlos desactivando y descafeinando. Pero no le han salido las cuentas y en 2009 han anunciado una profunda reestructuración que es una especie de desmantelamiento, a la par que venden la mayor parte de las empresas que le sirven de financiación. Schmidheiny está ahora centrado en que los juicios que se le avecinan le hagan el menor daño económico y moral posible. Por eso se gaste los millones en empresas de imagen como hemos visto. Falta le hace.

Dice Roselli que “este empresario convertido a filántropo a tiempo completo sigue sin querer pronunciarse sobre su pasado como director de Eternit pese a las demandas reiteradas de la que es objeto. Se estima que su fortuna alcanza la cifra de 5.000 francos suizos, una suma amasada sobre el capital de partida proveniente del amianto”. El cineasta Kurosawa diría que se ha alzado a un “trono de sangre”

Pero las víctimas reclaman justicia e indemnizaciones. Todos los ciudadanos reclamamos una desamiantización del mundo con el criterio que sea el contaminador el pagador, y no que se sufrague con el dinero público de los impuestos. Toda la fortuna de los Schmidheiny será insuficiente para reparar los enormes daños causados.


El libro de Maria Roselli termina haciendo un juego de palabras que se nos antoja ocurrente pero pesimista. Ella nos recuerda que “amianto” viene del latín “amiantus” que quiere decir incorruptible, sin mancha y que “asbesto” viene del griego “asbestos” y que significa “indestructible”, “inextinguible”. Como la empresa que analiza es la multinacional Eternit, concluye afirmando que “la mentira del amianto es resistente: indestructible, incorruptible, para toda la Eternidad”.

Pero nos queda mucho que hacer y no nos podemos permitir estas desilusiones. En todo el mundo hay que luchar por la prohibición universal de todo tipo de amianto, especialmente el crisotilo o amianto blanco que es el de uso más abundante, y una vez conseguida la prohibición como en el caso de la UE, queda pendiente la enorme tarea de atender a las víctimas, resarcirlas, castigar ejemplarmente a los culpables, personas y empresas, y efectuar la desamiantización del país de forma que no sea una segunda vuelta de los afectados por el mineral letal y no exportar los desechos a los países empobrecidos.

Como he dicho al principio, mi amigo y colega Juan Aguirre, estudió conmigo e hicimos muy buena amistad. Ha muerto prematuramente por un cáncer debido al amianto. De haberme recomendado en su trabajo, habría sido muy probable que hubiese aceptado. Hoy ya no podría contarlo. Soy pues una víctima virtual de mesotelioma.

Por eso no lo olvido, por eso estoy embarcado en esta lucha por la prohibición, por la justicia y la reparación, como tantos otros en el mundo.

Por eso no olvido.

Muchas gracias.

Paco puche – Librero y ecologista – España – Presentación del libro de Maria Roselli – Librería Muga y en El Ateneo de Madrid, el 18 y 21 de febrero de 2011-


(1) En Sudáfrica, durante el apartheid, se estableció una delimitación de zonas territoriales en función de las razas. De esta manera se expulsó a los negros que residían en zonas blancas a los homelans, especie de estados independientes para negros.

Video: John Willis - Cover ups and double standards in the asbestos industry (June 2022).


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