issue 217 - March 1991
Two men were sentenced in December 1990 to 19 years in prison for the death of Chico Mendes two years ago in Brazil. Mendes was the leader of the rubber tappers union in the small Amazonian state of Acre. He became internationally famous when he mobilised fellow tappers in an attempt to stop the destruction of the rainforest by cattle ranchers.
After a trial lasting four days a cattle rancher, Darly Alves da Silva, was convicted of ordering the murder of Mendes. His son had confessed to carrying out the murder on the first day of the trial.
Nevertheless further death threats against rubber tappers continue. The present leader of the union in Acre, Osmarino Amancio Rodrigues, has said that the ranchers continue to destroy the forest and menace those who oppose them. He himself has received dozens of death threats, claiming that 50 activists have been murdered since Mendes was killed and that the real culprits - much more powerful landowners - are still on the loose.
From New Scientist, No 1748/1749 1990
Renaissance and the hamburger
Residents of Florence are horrified to hear that McDonalds' burger chain are planning to set up a 240-seat fast-food joint in a thirteenth century Medici palazzo. Furthermore it is sited only 30 metres from the famous Cathedral. They might have been more disgusted to learn that the building itself has the same proprietor as that of the Cathedral - the Opera del Duomo.
From Agscene No 101, 1990.
Wheezers win in Brazil
Some of the strongest regulations for the control of tobacco advertizing yet planned in Latin America, have been sabotaged by British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris tobacco companies. Drawn up by the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the rules prohibited the distribution of free cigarette samples, prohibited smoking in hospitals and other health-care institutions, required a warning label covering 20 per cent of tobacco product packaging and banned TV commercials between six am and nine pm
The Brazilian Cigarette Industry Association, a trade group including BAT (which controls 70 per cent of the nation's cigarette market) and Philip Morris (which has a 15 per cent market share), lobbied aggressively to weaken the regulations. They put together a powerful advertising programme aimed both at the general public and at the President - Fernando Collor de Mello, pleading that no other government regulations were as stringent and that cigarette adverts do not make people take up smoking.
Revised and diluted regulations now allow the promotion of smoking on TV as long as there is a four-second health warning. Free samples can also continue to be distributed, except in hospitals and schools.
From Multinational Monitor, Vol 11, No 9,1990
Aussie sheep slaughter
Australian sheep ranchers are slaughtering herds that are not even worth the bullets that killed them. With sheep prices as low as five cents a head, the market has collapsed. The country supplies 70 per cent of the wool for the world's clothing and demand has nosedived.
The superpower confrontation in the colder climes has declined, meaning large amounts of wool used for army clothing are no longer needed. Other theories maintain that global warming has reduced the demand for wool clothing. To cap it all, the Gulf crisis has effectively stopped Australia's sheep trade with the Arab nations.
From World Press Review, Vol 37/No 12, 1990
Civil service sloth
'We receive callers only after 11 am' is the sign in many government offices in Benin. According to the local newspaper, people are tired of the bureaucratic sloth in a country where the Government is the major employer. If anyone turns up at 9 a m requiring service, they are likely to find the offices empty. Even at 11 a m they are usually vacant. Only by 7 p m can one find the place buzzing, for then everyone is there earning overtime.
From World Press Review, Vol 37/No 12, 1990
An opinion poll in the Indonesian weekly, Monitor (circulation 700,000) asked readers to vote on who was their most popular and respected person. Indonesia's President Suharto came first. Various other figures including Iraq's President Saddam Hussein scored well. However the Prophet Muhammad only scored 11th.
The poll was published in the 15 October edition. By 23 October the weekly was banned. This followed days of protests and rioting, including the wrecking of the Monitor offices, by incensed Moslems. Issuing the ban the Minister of Information, who himself owns 16 per cent of the publication's shares and ranked ninth in the personality po11, said the Monitor had 'incited unrest'.
From Far Eastern Economic Review, 15.11 90.
The following are some of the boycotts which are running at the moment. Apologies to NI readers in Canada, Australia, Aotearoa (NZ) and the US for only listing British action groups. However, these groups will be happy to give you more information including your national group if you are interested in knowing more about the issue.
South African produce and Shell. Despite the negotiations within South Africa, the ANC and Anti-Apartheid are still calling for sanctions. Contact: Antiapartheid, 13 Mandela Street, London NW6 4TA.
Colombian bananas. This is because of the violent suppression of human rights in the Colombian banana industry. Brands which may originate from Colombia include Banacol, Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte and Fyffes. Contact: Colombia Solidarity Committee, Priory House, Kingsgate, London NW6 4TA.
Israeli produce. This is against the illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Contact: Palestinian Solidarity Committee, BMPSA, London WC1 N 3XX.
L'Oreal. It is the biggest cosmetics company in the world and continues to test products on animals. Contact: Animal Aid, 7 Castle Street, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 1BH.
Nestlé. The company is boycotted for the irresponsible marketing of infant formula baby milk in the Third World. Contact: Baby Milk Action, Regent Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1AA.
Peat and peat products. Serious environmental damage is done by peat extraction. Contact: Friends of the Earth Peat Campaign, 26-28 Underwood Street, London Ni 7JQ.
Philip Morris/Marlboro. This company sponsors Senator Jesse Helms in the US, a campaigner against AIDS research. Contact ACT-UP, 67-69 Cowcross Street, London ECi.
From The Ethical Consumer, Issue 11, 1991.