Ecuador: Companies release joint statement in support of threatened labour rights defender Jorge Acosta


Today companies sourcing bananas from Ecuador - Axfood, Coop, Everfresh, Greenfood, Martin & Servera and Menigo - released a joint statement to Ecuadorian government in support of Jorge Acosta, the coordinator of the banana workers’ union ASTAC (Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas y Campesinos) in Ecuador - after Swedwatch invited banana buyers to do so. Jorge has worked for over ten years to address labour rights, health and safety issues and environmental impacts of business activities in the banana sector and is the President of the Ecuadorian Consultative Council for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU. Jorge is risking prosecution for “creating economic panic” chargeable with five to seven years in prison. The companies emphasised that they rely on human rights defenders, such as Jorge, to be able to speak freely, and without fear of retaliation or reprisal, about challenges in the supply chains. 

The Resource Centre reached out to banana buying companies, inviting them to respond to Swedwatch's call. Apart from the companies above, ICA and Dole also commented substantively on the situation - available below. Tesco and ETI Norway answered, but did not provide any substantive comments, while Special Fruit clarified they did not source bananas. Chiquita, Del Monte, Fyffes, Nature’s Pride, Noboa and Total Produce did not answer.

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Article
12 June 2019

Ecuador: Labour rights defender supporting banana sector workers risks persecution

Author: Swedwatch (Sweden)

"Defender working on banana sector risks persecution", 14 May 2019

In Ecuador, Jorge Acosta risks prosecution for “creating economic panic” for reporting on labour rights and environmental issues in the banana sector. Companies purchasing bananas from Ecuador should make public their position regarding defenders’ rights and this specific case. Agribusiness has surpassed the mining sector as the most dangerous sector for human rights and environmental defenders globally, with Latin America being the worst continent...[1]...Jorge Acosta [is the] coordinator of the banana workers’ union ASTAC (Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas y Campesinos), which organises around 1,500 banana workers across the country[2], [he] is a well renowned human rights defender who has worked for over ten years to address labour rights, health and safety issues and environmental impacts in the banana sector... [O]n April 18, Jorge Acosta was notified that an official complaint had been presented to the Ecuadorian Attorney General by a private individual. The complaint accused Jorge Acosta of “creating economic panic”, a crime chargeable with five to seven years in prison... The accusation against Jorge is a threat to freedom of speech and association and exemplifies a global tendency to try to quiet defenders through lawsuits... According to Jorge...he has also received a number of threats, including death threats... In April 2019, the Ecuadorian Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo) published an extensive study of working conditions in the banana sector. The study confirmed what ASTAC has been stating for years... 

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Article
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Esta es una traducción informal del Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos (CIEDH)

Las empresas abajo firmante, Axfood, Coop, Everfresh, Greenfood, Martin & Servera and Menigo, se proveen de productos del sector bananero en Ecuador. Nuestro trabajo con proveedores ecuatorianos contribuyó a los 3,2 mil millones de dólares en banano exportado desde el Ecuador el año pasado. Como compañías de alimentos líderes en el mercado europeo, somos conscientes de que el sector agrícola es uno de los sectores más peligrosos para los defensores y las defensoras de los derechos humanos en todo el mundo, reportando un aumento de amenazas y ataques durante los últimos años... Actualmente, estamos seriamente preocupados por la situación del defensor de derechos humanos y líder sindical ecuatoriano, Jorge Acosta, quien, entendemos, corre el riesgo de ser enjuiciado por “crear pánico económico” lo cual conlleva una pena de cinco a siete años de prisión, según el artículo 307 del Código Penal Orgánico Integral de Ecuador. 
 

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Article
11 June 2019

Ecuador: European cos. publicly support defender Jorge Acosta & call on govt. to protect defenders

Author: Axfood, Coop, Everfresh, Greenfood, Martin & Servera and Menigo

"Letter in support of Jorge Acosta", 11 Jun 2019

To the Government of Ecuador, The undersigned companies, Axfood, Coop, Everfresh, Greenfood, Martin & Servera and Menigo, source from the banana sector in Ecuador... As leading food companies in the European market we are aware that the agriculture sector is one of the most dangerous sectors for human rights defenders globally, with an increase in threats and attacks during recent years... We are currently gravely concerned about the situation of Ecuadorian human rights defender and trade union leader Jorge Acosta, who we understand risks prosecution for “creating economic panic”... As companies that are dependent on global supply chains we are committed to respecting human rights in all parts of our operations. We rely on human rights defenders, such as Jorge Acosta, to be able to speak freely, and without fear of retaliation or reprisal, about challenges in the supply chains. Such information, in addition to information by other sources, is crucial for us to continue improving the performance of our sector, in close cooperation with our suppliers... [W]e call upon the Ecuadorian government to guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in line with the ILO Core Conventions ratified by Ecuador, and to provide full protection of all human rights defenders...

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Company non-response
11 June 2019

Fyffes did not respond re: defender Jorge Acosta

Company response
11 June 2019

ICA response re: defender Jorge Acosta

ICA expects all our suppliers to act in a responsible way and work in line with the requirements stipulated in our contracts. In these we point to the need for suppliers , that have business in countries like Ecuador, to conduct business in responsible and social acceptable ways.

We will put forward the below concerns to our suppliers in Ecuador and have them confirm that they act accordingly.

Company non-response
11 June 2019

Noboa did not respond re: Jorge Acosta

Article
10 June 2019

Chiquita did not respond re: Jorge Acosta

Article
10 June 2019

Del Monte Foods did not respond re: Jorge Acosta

Article
10 June 2019

Dole response re: defender Jorge Acosta

We have read the Swedwatch article about the legal situation of Mr Acosta in Ecuador and would like first to clarify that there is no connection between Dole and the individual who filed the complaint against Mr. Acosta or with Mr. Acosta himself. While we are not involved in and cannot comment on Mr. Acosta’s legal situation, Dole unequivocally supports the principle of free speech for all people, including Mr. Acosta’s right to express his opinions. This does however not constitute any endorsement of Mr. Acosta’s controversial views or actions. Dole has embraced industry dialog as a constructive way to resolve those differences including with critical voices. An example of this commitment is the participation of Dole in the World Banana Forum, the main multi-stakeholder forum of the banana industry... Dole’s operates under a Code of Conduct, which clearly establishes the company’s policy to respect workers freedom of association, non-discrimination, equal rights, and maintaining a positive and respectful workplace... Dole provides the means for employees and other stakeholders to report misconduct... through the Dole Integrity Hotline, an integrated telephone, web and database suite of tools that allow individuals to share their concerns with Dole, with the assurance that all reports are confidential and may be made anonymously...

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