By Paco Puche
On December 10, the largest trial in history for asbestos deaths began in Turin (Italy). Schmidheiny put his fortune - made in the production and sale of this "killer fiber" - to good use with 'philanthropic' organizations such as Avina and Ashoka, and uses these organizations to wash his image by doing business with the poor and infiltrating social movements .
Eternit gave them eternity
(taken from a banner of the Turin trial)
Dedicated to Manuel Amor and the family of Romana Blasotti
We must start by remembering that asbestos or asbestos (uralite in Spain) is that fiber that, if it appeared as magic throughout the 20th century, has ended up becoming the "killer" fiber par excellence, a quality that has not emerged by magic but it has been present for those hundred years; but its lethality has been well guarded by a chain of complicities sponsored by the multinationals in the sector, especially the Eternit oligopoly.
Avina is a large capital philanthropic entity, founded by Stephan Schmidheiny, precisely the owner of Eternit, an oligopoly inherited from his family, which he maintained until a few years ago. With the capital gains obtained in his companies and with the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people, he has reaped the fortune that he generously invests in his foundation, dedicated to washing his image, doing business with the poor and infiltrating social movements. , capturing its most relevant leaders and producing the corresponding divisions and confusion within them. A close example was the conflicts caused by the exhibition Water, rivers and towns, brought to Malaga by the hand of Pedro Arrojo, Avina's partner-leader until a few months ago.
And Ashoka is another philanthropic of big capital, allied with Avina and, in part, financed by her, also dedicated to penetrating social movements, doing business with the poor in the so-called “base of the pyramid” and generating confusion. . It is very popular in Spain and its members include Jerónimo Aguado, president of the Rural Platform, recruited and financed by Ashoka.
As a button shows. Last June 2007, Schmidheiny received the award for Philanthropy in Miami, awarded by Poder magazine and the Boston Consulting Group, for his contribution to sustainable development in the Latin American Continent. Among other awarded personalities was Hernando de Soto, Avina's leader-partner and prominent member of Ashoka, for representing the Best Initiative Against Poverty. His initiative consists of trying to fragment common goods, obtain property titles for former community members, so that with them the poor can enter the debt circuit. He is the advisor to the President of Peru, Alán García, in the current conflict with the Indians of the Peruvian Amazon.
Organizations and individuals who have received funding from these entities should return it, by virtue of the principle of reparation of damages, to the Associations of Victims of Asbestos, existing throughout the world. Thus, their ignorance of the origin of the funds they received and their disconnection from the consequent moral responsibilities would also be evident.
Why are they news, again? Due to various events that have filled with hope the thousands of victims scattered throughout the world, who have suffered, are suffering or will suffer in the next twenty years the greed, concealment and philanthropic daring of businessmen, who, knowing the Killer fiber morbidity and lethality have sustained asbestos extraction and production until a few years ago in the EU. And since it is still mined or used in nearly 100 countries, they will probably still be in business.
First of all, it should be noted that on October 25, the Court of First Instance No. 18 of Madrid sentenced Uralita to pay 1.7 million euros (two million if we include the procedural costs) to compensate 15 of the 28 people affected by contamination for asbestos in its factories in Getafe. The appeal of the remaining thirteen has been dismissed by prescription.
Another good news is that on December 2, the Superior Court of Justice of the Basque Country ratified a sentence against RENFE for "lack of preventive measures" at the origin of the disease and death from asbestos of a worker, employed since 1981 and deceased in 2005 as a result of mesothelioma.
But the great news, the one that has filled the hundreds of thousands of workers and their families condemned to die prematurely and dramatically from asbestos with hope, is the one that jumped on December 10: “the biggest process on the Asbestos drama in Italy ”according to the headline of a digital newspaper.
The journalist Patrick Herman wrote on December 7, in Le Monde Diplomatique, regarding this trial, "for the first time criminal judicial actions prosecute leaders of multinationals used to impunity."
But you have to go back to 1983, when Romana Blasotti lost her husband who worked in an Eternit factory in Casale Monferrato, a town in Italian Piedmont. In a few more years he loses five family members who had never set foot in the factory, including his daughter, which is called "environmental exposure." In 1988 she became president of the recently created Association of Victims' Families. In 2004, and with the help of the Italian Trade Union Confederation (CGIL), he filed a complaint with the Turin prosecutor, Raffaele Guariniello. As a result of it, and after many attempts, he will be able, after waiting 20 years for it, to see himself face to face with asbestos boss Stephan Schmidheiny in the Turin trial.
The prosecutor, during the five years of the investigation, claims to have gathered sufficient evidence to establish and demonstrate the chain of responsibilities before the Court. He has stated: "unfortunately for them, Swiss entrepreneurs are very meticulous and write down even the smallest detail."
After five preliminary hearings held in April and May last, the process was opened on December 10, in Turin, and could last two or three years. The defendants, the aforementioned Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny and the Belgian baron Jean-Luis de Cartier, former owners of Eternit in Italy - the company went bankrupt in 1986 - could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 12 years and to pay fines of up to 1.5 million euros. In the process, 2,889 people or associations have been formed as a civil party, on behalf of some 2,000 dead and more than 800 sick. If the requests of the Prosecutor's Office are successful, only in this trial we speak of between 3,000 and 5,000 million euros in compensation. If we take into account that according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) more than 100,000 people currently die each year from asbestos -directly or due to environmental exposure- and many of them are attributable to Eternit companies, it is clear why These bosses become so philanthropic, among other things to secure most of their fortunes.
Schmidtheiny, before the start of the hearings, sent those affected a compensation proposal "on a humanitarian basis" of 60,000 euros per death and 20,000 euros per patient, which was sharply declined. Obviously he is very scared by what is coming to him. That is why they did not appear at the trial on this first day.
And it is that relatives, friends and even sick people crowded before the court so the judicial authorities had to open four rooms to house the public as well as the 150 lawyers and collaborators, journalists, family members, trade unionists, mayors and councilors of the affected areas.
"We want them to be condemned for what they have done, for the word justice to make sense," declared a widow. "It is a dramatically important day for the Piedmont region, a historic day for justice and for the defense of citizens against profit and the disregard for health and civilization," commented the President of the Piedmont region, Mercedes Bresso.
Meanwhile, on the balconies of Casale Monferrato, the epicenter of the asbestos drama, thousands of yellow banners hang with the legend Eternit: Justizia. Two strong words in this Piedmontese town where about 1,650 people have died, among workers and ordinary citizens, of lung cancer: from the worker to the wife, passing through the shopkeeper.
The largest criminal trial ever organized worldwide on the asbestos tragedy ("asbestos genocide" is rightly called), in which the owners of multinationals are involved for the first time, has also raised a worldwide expectation.
Victims' associations around the world are asking, in addition to the civil and criminal trials that have been held with certain positive results for the victims and victims, they are asking, I mean, the establishment of an International Labor Criminal Court to judge the case allegedly genocidal asbestos and others like that, such as the one that may be being prepared by the irresponsible and reckless use of nanotechnologies, since there is already evidence that "carbon nanotubes can cause damage similar to those that cause asbestos fibers ”(Riechmann, 93).
As a living testimony of what the tremendous death of those exposed to asbestos means, we rescue the work of Ángel Cárcoba, a tireless fighter against asbestos, in which he recovers the testimony of a dying colleague. We can read it below:
Manuel Amor Deus (1), from the fight for freedom to the fight for life
“My name is, or they call me, Manuel Amor Deus. I was born on February 16, 1941 in a humble family of workers from Ferrol. I grew up in the Esteiro neighborhood next to the Empresa Nacional Bazán de C.N.M., today Navantia. And like most children of my time and age, our aspiration was to enter as apprentices in what we called “la Bazán”. It was a pride to belong to this company.
It was not easy for me, since I was not the son of a factory worker and I could not go to the Workers' School. Even so, when I was 14 years old, I took an entrance examination and was admitted as an apprentice. That is where my personal, professional and political training began.
As the years passed and seen with perspective, the training they gave us was characterized by serious deficiencies. On the one hand thousands and thousands of pesetas were spent on religious training. With spiritual exercises every year where they explained to us that almost everything was sin, that we had to behave well, that women were an invention of the devil, etc., etc. They were very concerned about the health of our souls and nothing about our bodies. They tried to train us in the values of fascism, in lies, hiding us and deforming our most recent history. The Civil War, Franco's betrayal of the government of the Republic and his army.
But in terms of safety and hygiene measures nothing at all.
And so they were poisoning us. From the first moment, already in the apprenticeship, some colleagues had contact with asbestos without knowing the serious consequences that they could suffer.
Nobody; Neither company, nor managers, nor technicians, gave us an explanation about asbestos, or asbestosis. And they already knew it, they knew they were poisoning us. But they did nothing to prevent it. They did not take a single measure to avoid contamination. Neither the company nor the authorities.
Ships from North America came full of asbestos to be repaired in Bazán and they did not warn us of the risks, when in the United States asbestos (asbestos) had acquired the dimension of public scandal.
I speak of asbestos and I cannot forget so many colleagues who were left on the road and who did not inform us of the causes of their deaths. My friends, colleagues who entered the Bazán with me; that left their families unprotected. Colleagues who worked since they were 14 years old, and when they could enjoy their well-deserved retirement, died due to the negligence of the company and the labor and health authorities.
Because gentlemen, we are talking about human lives, cruel diseases and broken families, full of suffering. We are talking about death.
Personally, I have been developing a fight against a tumor that I have suffered since September 2004. It is a lung adenocarcinoma caused by asbestos. Fight that sometimes makes me very hard.
In September 2004, I started treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and drugs and we managed to win a battle with the tumor, because without fanfare, it allowed me to lead a calm and normal life. The treatment itself I endured quite well, although a toll is always paid for this type of treatment.
Six months ago, at one of the medical check-ups, the tumor visits me again, and again the battle, the fight. Again the treatment; this time much harder than the previous one.
I don't know if it's the disease, the cancer, or it's the treatment and the chemotherapy or all together. Or my body that already suffers from so much drug. But this time I'm having a really bad time. I already had to be admitted twice for respiratory failure, respiratory tract infection and a lot of other complications, which fortunately are resolving for now.
Now I am at home after a month in the hospital. I am recovering my strength so that I can continue with the treatment. They have me hooked up to an oxygen cylinder that I can't do without. I have a good stock of these bottles at home. On this occasion my standard of living is quite precarious. My activity has been reduced to a minimum. My personal hygiene becomes a painstaking job. But hey, you have to keep fighting. It's what I've done all my life.
What crime have we workers committed to be condemned not to breathe? I accuse those who decided to steal years of life from the working class, who have stolen something as fundamental from us as our breath.
I do not know if the story of my miseries will be worth anything, but believe me, it is necessary to face this problem-drama that thousands of workers suffer, put the means through specialized centers, social aid and economic compensation where there is room . We are not to blame for this situation, we just suffer from it. We are the victims who ask for justice ”.
Manuel Amor Deus died in Ferrol on June 26, 2007, victim of cancer caused by asbestos, a few weeks after writing this letter. Those responsible for this and many other deaths remain unpunished.
Paco puche, Bookstore and ecologist - 12/15/09. Collaborator of EL OBSERVADOR / www.revistaelobservador.com and
(1) Manuel Amor Deus, was secretary general of the national union of CC.OO. from Galicia. Former worker at the Bazán shipyards where he entered as an apprentice in 1955. Historic leader of CC.OO. along with Rafael Pillado and José María Riobó, all of them contaminated by asbestos. Riobó passed away a few years ago. The three were from the Bazán Company Jury and were prosecuted and court-martialed for the workers' mobilizations of 1972, which resulted in the death of comrades Amador and Daniel (in their memory, March 10 is celebrated as the day of the Galician working class). On March 10, 1972, Amor Deus went underground, being arrested two months later and imprisoned. He remained in prison until the death of the dictator. After the legalization of the unions, he was elected as the first general secretary of CC.OO. de Galicia, a position he held until 1988 when he returned to his job at Bazán. In 1992 he ceased his work activity when he was declared a total permanent disability (A. Carcoba).