moment has arrived when the workers of Los Alamos can no longer bear
any more and they've reacted. We reacted peacefully. Señor Álvaro
Noboa Pontón hasn't. He's using violence, but we're not. We are
peaceful people, good people, and modest people. People who can walk
down the street with their heads held high, proud of who they are; human
beings, Ecuadorians. Maybe he isn't, who knows where he was born, or
who he is. Maybe he doesn't know himself. But we are modest people.
Part of what he has gained is thanks to the efforts of these people.
It's certain that they have benefited from the company, but the company
has paid them an absurdly low wage. The company can boast about this
and say, "Yes, the workers have also benefited". But you go
and investigate this. We don't even have social security. They don't
pay us the social security although they discount it from our wages.
They treat us badly. About three months ago, the compañeros decided
to take action and to stop this abuse. That's when they organised the
trade union and Señor (Noboa) hasn't liked it one bit. So the
moment arrived when the people from Alamos stopped working completely,
went pacifically on strike, like peaceful people. All activities on
the banana plantation were stopped. With what end? With the objective
of damaging the company? I had never thought about going on strike.
If you want to earn money you have to work. But these people changed
me - they made me see reality. If you don't put pressure on in this
way things will never change. Today I realise that's the way it is.
stopped work, we've formed a trade union, thanks to FENACLE who have
supported us and thanks to all those people from overseas, who don't
have to do anything; they could be quite happy in their homes in their
own countries enjoying all the great things they have there. In spite
of this, some of them have sacrificed their time and are even willing
to sacrifice their lives. And do you know why I say that they are even
willing to sacrifice their life? Yesterday they were about to take our
lives. I am proud to count on those people. People that we never thought
were going to support us so much. I hope God rewards them for what they've
done. We don't have any way of paying them back. What I'm saying I don't
say lightly. I really mean it. I'm talking from my heart. I'm a really
straightforward ordinary man. I've hardly been to school. But I have
learned and educated myself to know people. These people will have their
rewards sooner or later. Once more I am really grateful, and please
God, repay these people. I trust that God will repay you justly for
what you have done for us.
want to relate, not what our friends are doing for us, but what this
so-called human being (Álvaro Noboa) has done to us. There are
compañeros who have been working here between 12 and15 years,
and according to our Labour Code should have left their employment with
the company well remunerated. What has this "man" done? We'll
call him this in inverted commas. He has remunerated them with an absurdly
low amount. With a nominal amount, you could say, so that you don't
go away empty-handed. Our redundancy pay isn't in accordance with the
law. This is one of the reasons we have risen up. He (Álvaro Noboa)
isn't in agreement with the law. We believe the law in this case isn't
just for us, but for the "haves" as well. If he is right,
then fine, but if we're right then the law should take our side as well.
a person starts work when they are 30 years old, they work for 12 or
15 years, they leave work at between 45-50 years of age. Do you believe
they leave the company well remunerated? They don't even get a redundancy
payment. I tell you, this continual abuse has filled the glass drop
by drop, day after day, month after month, year after year. And on 16th
May 2002 something happened that changed many of our lives. We had been
on strike for more or less 10 days. We had peacefully taken over the
installations here on the plantation. Peacefully. God knows that I'm
telling the truth. We guarded the place ourselves. We looked after our
own physical integrity - that of our compañeros, and we took
good care of the company's property. Because yes, we had formed the
trade union, but that's not to say that we had taken the trade union
as a shield to destroy, damage or assault like they have done to us.
We want the trade union to serve as an arbitrator, as a mediator, between
owner and employee. We want the trade union as an observer, and when
it has to act in the favour of the owners, then it should do so. And
if it has to work in favour of the workers that it does so too. We want
a just and impartial trade union. We don't want our trade union to be
a monster. We don't wish ill on the company. We want the company to
grow. In order for the company to grow, we also have to grow. The company
profits will grow and we will also grow. And we'll see better days for
our country. Better reserves and investment for our country and a better
image of our country.
back to the original subject, I'm going to tell you what happened in
the early hours. It was definitely the early hours - I have still have
it all really clearly in my head - it'll be a long time before I recover
from this. I don't know if my compañeros feel the same. The tears
flow when I think of it. I'm a man, and a man shouldn't cry. I cry not
just because I'm angry but through indignation at the degree of violence
and at the total impunity with which it has been committed.
tell you, I don't want to remember that night, but I have no choice.
I have to remember it because from the bottom of my heart I forgive
this man (AN) for what he did. I pardon him because, if God is going
to forgive him, then who am I not to forgive? I don't just forgive him
in my own name, but in the name of my compañeros too
acted unjustly. We were on guard, and some of us were sleeping calmly
in our rooms. We never for a moment thought that what I'm about to tell
you was going to happen. When suddenly from one day to the other history
changed. Masked men, armed men, men swearing, burst aggressively into
our rooms. The got us out of our rooms, pushing and shoving us. They
assaulted us both physically and verbally. At the beginning, I swear
to you, you just don't know what to do. They didn't even give us our
clothes so that we could get dressed. Nothing. They mistreated and humiliated
us. For what reason? For being ordinary workers who wanted better lives
for their families. That was the reason, the big sin. So they took us
out of our rooms. They made us kneel down. They didn't let us see their
faces. Then they put us in pick-up trucks. There were dozens of our
compañeros in these pick-ups. One on top of the other. It is
one thing for someone to tell you this but it's another to have actually
experienced what really happened. I think that it's like the time of
the Nazis, an ill-fated time for humanity. But we relived these moments,
I swear to you. They didn't respect our human rights. One on top of
the other, the way I would throw one sack on top of another, without
any consideration and without restraint.
took us to a building where they shut us in. They threw water over us,
they threw in tear gas, they insulted us and they harassed us. Later
they put us in a banana container. If they shut you in a container like
that then after 10 minutes the air runs out. They put us in the back.
And according to what they told us, they were going to take our lives.
Where had these men come from? The came on the orders of our dear employer,
who has found himself unable to do anything, his hands tied because
we have won a clean fight. I say that we have won because I believe
in our triumph. And he couldn't bear this, and he used the only method
that a brutal man can use to show when he has failed in all possible
ways - force. These men said: "We're going to kill you and dump
you". We were afraid for our lives.
our rooms, it is common for us to have compañeros de cuarto -
friends, room mates. I had a compañero. When I make friends I
don't care what gender they are, I look after and defend my friends.
My friends are like my family. If someone is my friend, then nobody
bothers my friend. And that day they wanted to harm my friend. They
took my compañero de cuarto, Juan Carlos Cano. It's of no importance
to me whether he thanks me or not. I consider him my friend, my brother.
They took him out of the room. I don't know where he is, if he's disappeared.
I think he's been "disappeared", although they say he's out
there somewhere. When he appears and I see him with my own eyes I'll
believe it. He was also one of those who were put into the banana truck.
They were going to take us in this truck to an unknown destination .
Some of our compañeros who had escaped this treacherous and sinister
aggression had alerted the local police. A patrol car turned up. They
wisely blocked the way with a bus that was there and prevented the crime
that was about to be committed, although it was already a crime by then.
They had to free us; they let us go in the middle of the plantation.
And these masked men, I've found out today, are our compañeros.
They are from the Clementina plantation. That comedian got it right
when he said that people were confused when God said that we have to
love one another - and instead understood that he'd said arm yourself
one against the other (word-play on the verbs to love ourselves and
to arm ourselves in Spanish - amarnos and armarnos). And that night
it was proved. They had taken up arms against us, brothers against brothers,
friends against friends, compañeros against compañeros.
They were bought off for a few cents.