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testimonies and stories

Fraile Mendoza, Ecuador

 

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I met Fraile Mendoza on the picket line of the Los Alamos banana plantation, Guayas, Southern Ecuador. Workers were striking to demand the most basic of rights: to paid the legal minimum wage, to have free medical attention, to be inscribed into the social security system, protective clothing, decent living conditions and the freedom to organize a trade union without persecution. Los Alamos is owned by Ecuador¹s richest man, lvaro Noboa of the Noboa Corporation, the world¹s 5th largest banana company.

Fraile laid the responsibility for the workers¹ poor pay and conditions directly at the feet of lvaro Noboa, then a presidential candidate in Ecuador for the Ecuadorian elections in November 2002.


"I blame every stomach ache and pain felt by these workers on Alvaro Noboa, - all the hunger we endure. We really appreciate all the international support we¹re getting, from Europe, I mean that with all my heart and I know that I speak on behalf of all the workers here".

A video that I recorded of a subsequent attack on innocent Alamos workers was used as part of an international campaign, coordinated by FENACLE (Ecuador) Banana Link, UK, USLEAP, (USA) and SiD (Denmark). Noboa's response to the video was to spend a fortune making a promotional video which alleged that all was well on the Los Alamos plantation and that workers were perfectly happy, that they were the best paid and so on.


Noboa didn¹t win the elections but finally broke the strike in 2003 which culminated in some of the remaining workers going on hunger strike and Noboa using 25 subcontracting companies to hire less that 30 workers each - 30 is the minimum number of workers required to form a trade union. These subcontracting companies are phantom companies owned by Noboa to create a smokescreen in order for his company to avoid its legal responsibilities.

 

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Fraile Mendoza: woodcut by Jan Nimmo