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Dole shows his teeth again in the Nemagón case. Interview with the writer and journalist Vicent Boix

Dole shows his teeth again in the Nemagón case. Interview with the writer and journalist Vicent Boix


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By Giorgio Trucchi

More than fifteen years have passed since the former banana workers affected by DBCP –Nemagón or Fumazone– began to take the first steps, so that the North American transnationals that have produced, commercialized and applied this deadly agrochemical assumed their responsibilities before tens of thousands of sick and deceased.


More than fifteen years have passed since the former banana workers affected by DBCP –Nemagón or Fumazone– began to take the first steps, so that the North American transnationals that have produced, commercialized and applied this deadly agrochemical assumed their responsibilities before tens of thousands of sick and deceased.

A long history of struggle, hope and vigor, but also of divisions, lawsuits and insults between affected groups, lawyers and political forces that, in the end, weakened the process of workers' demands that at the time embodied the symbol of resistance to the power of the transnationals and their exploitative economic model.

In 2007, a jury in the Los Angeles Superior Court found two US transnational companies - Dow Chemical Company and Dole Fruit Company Inc. - guilty of producing and applying Nemagon. The ruling benefited six of the twelve plaintiffs with an amount of 3.3 million dollars, recognizing the state of sterility caused by direct contact with the chemical.

In a second landmark ruling, Dole was also ordered to pay an additional $ 2.5 million to five of the six plaintiffs for exemplary or punitive damages, but this second ruling was later thrown out by Judge Victoria Gerrard Chaney.

Currently, the North American law firm of Juan José Domínguez and his collaborator in Nicaragua, Antonio Hernández Ordeñana, has appealed this decision.

Faced with these historic results, the lawyers decided to file other lawsuits in Los Angeles, but what happened was catastrophic.

To try to understand this very complicated and unexpected situation, which could put an end to the hopes of thousands of those affected, we spoke with Vicent Boix, journalist and writer, who recently published the book "El parque de las hammocas", a lucid account of the painful and combative history of the former banana workers of Nicaragua and Central America.

-Last week Judge Victoria G. Cheney decided to dismiss two lawsuits in the case of the banana farmers affected by the Nemagón, alleging fraud and attempted extortion, presentation of false evidence and the organization of a real machinery to falsify the reality in which The Nicaraguan judicial system would be involved. What consideration does this decision merit?

-Ms Chaney's decision is important because it creates a precedent within the DBCP case. It encourages skepticism among other judges who may be processing litigation about this pesticide, and in general, it can also influence cases other than DBCP where the plaintiffs are from southern countries. That is why I believe that this sentence cannot be seen as something particular, but rather the connotations must be taken into account in future cases.

To date, numerous lawsuits related to the DBCP have been initiated in the United States since the 1980s. All have proceeded normally and with respect for the supposedly affected parties and their countries. Lawsuits were filed in the United States in the 1990s, filed by more than 20,000 victims, and no American judge ever saw "the ghosts" that Judge Chaney has seen. However, this lady, in two lawsuits that include only 80 allegedly affected, sees it all as a great conspiracy.

-Do you see something strange in all that? As for example the attacks on Special Law 364 ...

-One of the things that attracts the most attention is that the judge not only files two cases in her court in Los Angeles, but also attacks other open processes in Nicaragua and disrespects some of her judges calling them corrupt. I don't know to what extent he has competition and tests to go that far.

His interpretation of the facts surrounding Law 364 are erroneous and it makes me think that he did not read the sentences issued by Judge Socorro Toruño in the Chinandega Court, Nicaragua. If he had read them, he would have realized that the companies were able to defend themselves, that they did not post bonds, that the evidence could be presented for months and that the processing of the case dragged on for years.

Another surprising thing is that one of the two cases in her court was closed in 2004, it was sentenced in 2007 in favor of 6 workers and logically, it was appealed by Dole. Isn't it strange that it took the judge five years to realize it that everything is a fraud? Why did you tolerate the process to proceed normally?

-There is talk of 27 witnesses who testified behind closed doors for security reasons because they received threats. They all said that they were prepared and trained to give false statements in the trials, that they were never banana growers and that all the analyzes were false ...

-This is another curious aspect of the case. It should be mentioned first that this procedure has been secret, because the companies convinced the judge that the 27 witnesses were threatened. This meant that they were kept anonymous and also that the lawyer Juan José Domínguez and his partners could not defend themselves under normal conditions.

It amazes me that these strangers are given so much credibility. It is essential to know who they are, because Dole's attempts to "cajole" alleged affected Nicaraguans are public and notorious.

-Who are we talking about?


-One of the best known cases was the change in attitude of the leadership of ASOTRAEXDAN, the organization of those affected that in the past was the most combative and committed. They went from organizing big marches and camping trips to sitting at the same table with Dole.

But there is another case that cries out to heaven. On June 9, 2006, Joe Fisher II, judge of the District Court of Jefferson County (Texas), issued an order to stop the contacts that Dole had with affected people in Nicaragua who signed with the law firm of Provost & Umphrey, to the that encouraged to withdraw the lawsuits, suggest the repeal of Law 364, etc.

Judge Fischer broadly recognizes that Dole cannot negotiate with those affected who already have lawyers to represent them. What if any of these 27 anonymous is in this situation? What if they are part of ASOTRAEXDAN?

Ultimately, Judge Chaney has not taken into account these facts that show how far Dole is capable of going in order to get away with it. There were even complaints from those affected in Nicaragua that Dole was in contact with them. These omissions are incredible and the judge cannot dismiss these facts.

- Do you think there is a well-defined strategy on the part of Dole to get out of a case that has been tormenting her for decades?

-This is nothing more than a suspicion, since it cannot be corroborated. Obviously Dole runs into the water around his neck. The judicial battle of the DBCP case was practically lost in the past decade, but in recent years the workers and their lawyers have been achieving very important advances both in Nicaragua and in the United States. In addition, it must be taken into account that there are demands of affected Costa Ricans, Hondurans, Africans, Panamanians, etc. For this reason, the Victoria Chaney sentence has transnational implications.

All the facts, if they are analyzed, keep a logical sequence and a single objective: to torpedo and sink the judicial processes.

-Judge Cheney has begun to send reports to other judges who are working on other cases related to Nemagón in other cities, such as Miami, where the trial was suspended. Did this sentence put an end to the lawsuits?

-I hope no. What's more, I see it as an unequivocal sign that Dole feels like he's losing the DBCP battle. I suppose it can be appealed because as I said, this first statement contains very strange aspects.

-How much has the fact that in recent years the banana farmers' struggle been in the hands of lawyers and not those affected as in the past?

-I believe that success in the DBCP case was always forged thanks to two axes. One was formed by the lawyers who kept up the fight in the offices and in the courts. The other front was that of the workers' struggle, whose objective was to maintain cohesion, reach the media, internationalize the struggle, and above all, remain alert in case the interests of the struggle were at risk. In this scenario, workers in Nicaragua defended, for example, Law 364 from repeal attempts.

Unfortunately, now there is no organized group of affected people and it shows. If it existed, it would have been possible to dialogue and pressure the government to react to the surprising and denigrating statement by Judge Chaney. Support could also have been obtained from civil society.

-The Nicaraguan banana struggle went around the world, but now it seems that there is not much interest neither in the media, nor in society, nor in the political world for what has just happened in the United States ...

-It is unfortunate how the banana growers were left alone in their own country. Nicaragua is experiencing a period of collective catharsis, due to a strong confrontation between the Sandinista Front and the rest of the political forces. This fratricidal dispute is damaging the image of the country and fuels statements such as the one made by Judge Chaney.

I am surprised by the silence of civil society, when before it gave its support to the DBCP struggle. I fear that certain sectors of the opposition, especially some social organizations, remain silent in the face of Chaney's demonstrations, precisely because what the Californian judge declares goes in the same direction as what they denounce. However, the victims of all this mess are those affected by the Nemagón. Silence condemns them.

-What role should the Nicaraguan State play at this time?

-The administration of Daniel Ortega would have to jump like a spring, before the decisions of a judge who not only buries the justice options of thousands of Nicaraguans who were silently exposed to a verified poison, but also seriously disqualifies Nicaraguan institutions, laws , etc.

-The subtitle of your book is "The chemist who hit the poor." Are the poor the ones who are hit the hardest in this new chapter in the history of Nemagón?

-So is. Once again, the poor affected were the hardest hit in this story.

In the 1990s, US Senator Patrick Leahy, who is familiar with the DBCP case, said publicly that southern countries were treated as garbage dumps and their people as guinea pigs. As of today and thanks to Judge Chaney, apart from guinea pigs, those affected are also scammers and corrupt.

Text and landscape photo by Giorgio Trucchi - Informative List "Nicaragua and more"
www.nicaraguaymasespanol.blogspot.com


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