Provincial Court ratifies that Furukawa subjected its harvest workers to serfdom
On October 15, 2021, the Provincial Court of Justice of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas ratified that the company Furukawa Plantaciones C.A. del Ecuador is obliged to repair the serious human rights violations committed within its farms in Santo Domingo, Los Ríos, and Esmeraldas, where more than 1,200 peasants of all ages have harvested abaca for almost 6 decades.
Photo: Rossana Torres
The Court has found sufficient evidence in the first instance court filing to verify the discriminatory and racist treatment by which the company subjected 123 people to serfdom, one of the contemporary forms of slavery prohibited nationally and internationally, by keeping entire families living in precarious camps, without basic services or environmental sanitation, and forced labor, including child labor, which violated economic, social and cultural rights – to work, social security, education, health and housing – and severely impoverished them.
This victory for the organized abaca workers comes just before the Attorney General's Office of Ecuador brings charges against two former managers and the current manager of Furukawa Plantaciones C.A. del Ecuador for the crime of forced labor, which includes child labor and serfdom, and one month before the Ecuadorian Ombudsman's Office appears at the hearing of a human rights protective action on behalf of a second group of 216 people, which has also decided to sue the company in search of truth, justice, and full reparation.
However, it is surprising that the Provincial Court of Santo Domingo has released the defendant state institutions from responsibility and has considered sufficient a few actions that have not been proportional to the seriousness of the human rights violations demonstrated in the process –namely, the Ministry of Labor imposed economic sanctions for outsourcing and child labor and temporarily closed the company for just 60 days; the Ministry of Health and the Civil Registry conducted few care brigades; and the Ministry of Social Inclusion occasionally delivered kits–. On the contrary, since the Ecuadorian state received a complaint from a group of workers three years ago, it has fare-victimized them and sponsored unequal negotiation spaces, even qualifying the facts as "conflicts between private parties". All of this took place in a broader context of state actions and omissions that have allowed the Furukawa company to continue harvesting and exporting abaca for almost 6 decades by exploiting its workers.
We also denounce the attack campaign that the company Furukawa Plantaciones C.A. del Ecuador has undertaken against the organized abaca farmers and the people who are part of the Furukawa Nunca MásSolidarity Committee. The current Manager Adrián Herrera and his bailee, Walter Sánchez, have filed criminal complaints for alleged crimes of land invasion and intimidation. At the same time, in the media and on social networks, the company tries to portray itself as a supposed victim, falsifying the truth and manipulating its current workers, whom it mobilizes in sit-ins on the days when the company is facing hearings in the cases against it, with the sole purpose of causing confrontations. In addition, a series of accounts on social networks have been activated to selectively harass people from the organization AfroComunicaciones, a member of the Furukawa Nunca Más Solidarity Committee, another example of the racism with which they operate.
We, the members of the Furukawa Nunca Más Solidarity Committee, will present in the coming weeks to national and international organizations a report that compiles all the attacks on human rights defenders that the company has undertaken in the last three years, starting with the first criminal complaint for alleged extortion against Mr. Walter Sánchez –former representative of the workers and current ally of the company–, through the violent evictions of hundreds of workers from the camps where they lived to the latest events mentioned above.
The systematic actions of the company and the tolerance of the Ecuadorian state in the face of these acts will not go unpunished. The company must comply with the ruling and make full reparations to its workers. In the next few days, we will file an extraordinary action for protection so that the Constitutional Court will review this sentence and determine the responsibility of the Ecuadorian state. For its part, criminal justice will have to determine the penal responsability of the legal representatives, shareholders, and the legal entity for the acts committed.
We call on organized civil society and the national and international media to disseminate this important news: 123 abaca workers who sued the Ecuadorian state and their families should be compensated with 5 hectares of land and economic compensation for all the years they were subjected to serfdom on the plantations of Furukawa Plantaciones C.A. del Ecuador, a Japanese company that exports abaca.
For the dignified life of peasant people and families in Ecuador!
For more information: email@example.com or +593 99 931 1384