Costa Arm And A Leg
Heading into Nicaragua from the Costa Rican tourist resorts, you
may be forgiven for thinking that the people are good at speaking
foreign languages because the majority of roadside adverts selling
sports cars, land deals and financial services are all in English.
Scantily clad women meanwhile, flog booze and fags in Spanish. This
is an investors paradise where if you cant make it,
at least you can get pissed. Costa Rica is being sold as a
playground for rich North Americans says Pepe, a bar worker
from the Playa Coco resort in the North of the country, none
of the businesses here belong to Costa Ricans. Were all being
pushed into the countryside. Gringos practically own the whole coast
and we cant afford to buy anything anymore.
In a recent publication on poverty reduction, the World Bank said
that neoliberalism was the best way to develop poor
countries. Bank officials argued that people could move from
the vulnerability of grinding rural poverty to better jobs, often
in towns or cities. Leona disagrees. Shes an activist
working with sweatshop workers in Nicaragua. Theres no doubt,
life in the countryside is tough, Youve got to borrow
money from the bank to buy seeds and this means mortgaging the land.
But the way things are at the moment, with the droughts and harvest
failures, you cant earn enough money to pay back the loan
and the bank takes your land. People say: whats the
point of that? and leave the countryside for the city.
But we live in a poor city, a really poor city. We consume
more than we produce, says Andrea, a charity worker, several
years ago the city was happy. Now its sad, very sad. The only
formal sector work on offer is in the local Maquila,
a sweatshop factory on the edge of town. The Maquilas operate in
tax-free environments and in Nicaragua are generally owned by US,
Taiwanese or Korean clothes companies. The high value stages of
making things like jeans such as design and marketing take place
in Paris, London and New York. Maquilas are here to contract out
the assembly stage. Being able to force women to sew thousands of
t-shirts a day is one benefit, but with 70% unemployment, Nicaragua
offers an even bigger advantage for the profit hungry men in suits:
Low wages. This is the world of just in time manufacturing.
Business is booming and profits are good.
But the Maquilas are a disaster, says Leona. And, if
workers want out, you get no compensation, they withhold your
wages and you cant get social security. So what do they
do, asks SchNEWS? Move to Costa Rica! replies Andrea.
If you want to leave those infernos, the only option is to
Just before Christmas the Costa Rican border town of Penas Blañcas,
heaves with Nicaraguans returning to their families after working
in the plantations and sweatshops and as domestic servants in Costa
Rica. Although the local newspaper says that record numbers are
crossing the border, many workers are no longer returning to their
families. Juan, a campesino from just over the border in Nicaragua,
earns less than 50p a day and has a family of nine to support, I
havent seen or heard from my two eldest sons for over ten
years. He suspects theyre too embarrassed to admit they
havent made their riches down south in Costa Rica. And there
are certainly riches to be made! A Maquila worker there can bring
home almost £1.40 per hour, thats over triple the 42p
per hour in Nicaragua.
While some are hopeful that the Sandinistas will return to power
and things will get better, the revolutionary fighters of the seventies
have changed a lot since then. I was in my 20s when I fought
with the Sandinistas says Miguel, now an NGO worker in Managua.
But now Im in my 40s. I want a quiet life, more relaxed,
without problems. The same is true of the people I fought with,
they want an easy life. But the problems in Nicaragua require a
Still at the helm of the Sandinista party, Daniel Ortega, sure
enough, is searching for the easy life by striking a deal with the
same Catholic Church hierarchy that opposed the revolution he led
twenty five years previous. Hoping that the pact will improve his
chances in the forthcoming presidential elections he joins the leaders
who attacked liberation theology, the philosophy that
influenced many who fought in the revolutionary army. Although
the Sandinistas will be better for the poor says Leona, they
dont have a magic wand to resolve all the economic problems
in this country. And, in reality, when the elections do come, the
Sandinistas may even lose. With Bush against us, I dont have
Papa Bush told reporters in 1989 that Daniel Ortega was like
an unwanted animal at a garden party. The feeling is still
the same. Junior Bushs henchman Donald Rumsfield was in the
capital, Managua, last November to bolster the corrupt and unpopular
Presidency of Enrique Bolaños. But supporting a president
with only a 10% showing in the polls comes at a high price. Bolaños
agreed to destroy another 300 of Nicaraguas 1,300 ground-to-air
missiles, which had been used to repel a US backed invasion during
the 1980s. The White House is making sure that they dont get
in the way should the policy to attack become an option once again.
Read The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli Anchor Books:
A fashion show benefit by No Sweat for Batay Ouvriye, a Haitian
garment workers union, will be held at the London College of Fashion,
20 John Princes St, Oxford Circus on 25th Feb 2.30pm. More info
07845 277865 www.nosweat.org.uk
Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign: www.nicaraguasc.org.uk
OF THE WEEK
Taking the pistol...
Four people were arrested at Kings Cross station while attempting
to travel to the European Social Forum demonstration last November.
One person was initially arrested for firearms offences,
but was released without charge when it was discovered the item
in question was a bottle of eyedrops !
We dont have any details as to the calibre of the bottle,
or the policeman.
Valentines Day is this Monday and lurve is in the air (at the prodding
of greeting card and chocolate manufacturers and the mammoth-sized
flower industry). Well, as always we at SchNEWS are here to spoil
it with a barrage of party pooping. And no we didnt get any
Anyway, if youre thinking of saying it with flowers, be careful
what it is that you say. Flowers are the most pesticide-intensive
crop and flower workers pay a heavy price.
A study published by the Netherlands Ministry of Social Affairs
and Employment reports that Dutch floral workers are exposed to
pesticide concentrations of up to 60 times the amount considered
safe. The Netherlands, long famous as the global flower capital,
has heavily contaminated water and air in its flower-growing regions.
Some European countries are already setting up cooperatives, with
growers concerned about pesticide use and workers health.
Floriculture is big business, bringing in five times as much cash
per acre than fruit, never mind organic veg. Consumers demand perfection
from cut flowers - nobody wants to send their sweetheart a manky
bunch of wilting blooms, but the price of this perfection is high.
Flowers are dipped in a noxious brew of chemicals to ensure that
they look authentically fresh and natural when they are delivered.
Several years ago, there was a crisis in the U.S. involving the
use of a fungicide marketed by DuPont as Benlate. It was a
known carcinogen, widely used in greenhouses, explains Dr
Hantworth, People working with plants sprayed with this substance
were getting sick. The flowers were going into peoples homes.
In 1996, a U.S. jury awarded US$4 million to a couple whose child
was born without eyes after the mother was sprayed with Benlate
while pregnant; however, on appeal, the award was reversed. The
case is now awaiting a hearing by the Florida Supreme Court. There
have been hundreds of other cases of Benlate poisoning humans and
wildlife. Total litigation costs associated with Benlate have so
far cost DuPont an estimated US$1 billion dollars, causing them
to withdraw it from the market in 2001.
There are hundreds of pesticides in use, legal and illegal, around
the world. The hazards posed by these chemicals most directly affect
the people working with them at a production level, but they also
screw up the environment, those living in flower-growing areas,
and, in all likelihood, anyone who carries home a bouquet in their
arms. So if your purchase gets a good reception and he or she is
swooning and breathless, it doesnt mean youre onto a
winner. Symptoms of Organophosphate or Carbamate Poisoning can include
contracted pupils, slow heartbeat, confusion, loss of coordination,
sweating, tears, salivating, swooning or coma. Sounds like your
average love-struck teen to us.
The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide.
Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous
system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may
be carcinogenic. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system
in the body. The Toxic Trail website claims there are some 25 million
cases of pesticide poisoning a year, mostly in developing countries.
If weve put you off buying imported minging toxic flowers,
well, good. But if you still need to affirm your feelings with a
purchase, what could you send instead? Well you could try buying
locally grown organic flowers. Or herbs to stick in the garden for
a year-round supply of tasty green stuff. Or, you could just feed
em some sexy muesli - wild oats are a renowned aphrodisiac
History is not always kind to politicians, not much legacy in unsupported
wars and the privatisation of all our public services
needed is a big feelgood project, one the nation can unite behind
with pride. Like the er, Millennium Dome for example... Ok, well
what about the Olympics? That Kelly Holmes sure was popular last
summer eh? So... London is bidding for the 2012 games. Ok, yes,
the unaccountable International Olympic Committee (IOC) have regularly
been embroiled in more bribery and corruption stories than a Tory
and yes, the costs for all recent Olympics have spiralled
well beyond all estimates given beforehand (Sydney 2000 costs doubled,
Athens 2004 quadrupled largely paid for by European Union
money by the way, support which London is unlikely to get
and Montreal are still paying off the bills from 1976!). Yes, so
civil liberties tend to get a little trampled in the name of security,
alright the plans do involve Londoners stumping up at least £2bn
for the privilege of turning the city into a building site and yes,
the plans include the destruction of some natural conservation habitats
in favour of landscaped parks and the loss of cycle
lanes in East London, but none of these things should hold us back..!
Well, we do have some genuine gold medal contenders in the field
of spin. Londons bid has been put forward with great celebrity
razzmatazz but virtually no public consultation, no transparency
as to bid spending and vague details as to how all the hidden costs
such as transport infrastructure will be paid for. Dont worry
though, the Government have got good planners in place Arup,
who did such a good job on Londons Millennium Bridge!
for more info.
**Scrap the Olympic Bid Public Meeting this Monday (14) 6.30 pm
at Bryant Street Community Centre, off West Ham Lane, Stratford,
** Join the critical mass bike ride next Friday (18) 6pm, outside
City Hall, on the South Bank, nr Tower Bridge. Saturday (9) Scrap
the Olympic Bid March 1pm outside Stratford Station, Meridian Sq,
* Before the Olympics bulldozers arrive - see the area they plan
to build on. Guided walks on East Londons Bow Backs Rivers:
18th Feb and 6 March Meet 10.45 entrance to Greenway, Stratford
SchNEWS in brief
- Dont forget the Kyoto Climate March this Sat (12) - various
meet up points 0208 8553327 www.campaigncc.org
- Meet to discuss anti-capitalist resistance in the run up to
the G8 Employment Ministers Summit in March at the Cowley Club,
12 London Rd, Brighton, 6pm Tues (15) www.dissent.org.uk
- Mon (14) East London Against the Arms Fair meeting, 7.30pm The
Garden Cafe, 7 Cundy Rd, London E16. Theres also a weekly
picket of Spearhead who organise the ExCel Arms fair (DSEi) email
email@example.com for details.
- Hate the G8! Love to Party! St Valentines Massacre
party Sat (12) Feb: 7-11 Labour Hall, Lyndhurst Rd, Worthing
- The Yes Men film about those impressive anti corporate
pranksters is showing in the UK throughout Feb. For dates go to
- Brighton pirate Radio 4A is on the airwaves again this weekend
101.4 FM - www.radio4a.org.uk
around the world
- Sun (13) London Mayor Ken Livingstone will meet the Chinese
ambassador to slap each others backs in Trafalgar Square, while
the Liaoyang 2 are close to death in a Chinese jail where they
are incarcerated for daring to organise workers to ask for their
unpaid wages. Meet 11am steps of St Martins-in-the-Fields,
Trafalgar Square to demonstrate 07719 283132 www.nosweat.org.uk
- Weatherbombin 10 days of music, workshops, artspace,
films, etc in S London, 11th - 20th Feb. More info: 07913 518804,
- Demonstrate against Detention and Deportations outside Harmondsworth
and Colnbrook Removal Centres (nr Heathrow) Sat (19) 11.30am -
1.30pm 01235 831568 www.barbedwirebritain.org.uk
- Fighting For Justice public meeting Sun (20) to
highlight the rise of stop and searches, police beatings and racism
that has caused resentment amongst the Muslim communities since
the advent of the anti-terrorism laws. Lola Jones Hall, Tooting
Leisure Centre, Greaves Pl (Off Garratt Lane), London 1-5.30pm
Every year over a period of 4 days, enthusiasts gather
at Formby nr Liverpool to watch hares being torn to pieces at the
Waterloo Cup. The hares are released from their enclosure and chased
by two dogs in front of the cheering crowds. Once caught the hare
is literally ripped in two in a final tug of war. Nice! This year
the event has been moved forward, in advance of the bloodsport ban,
for a right bloody send-off. The demonstration against this last
(legal) Waterloo Cup will take place on Valentines Day! Meet on
The Causeway, Altcar, at 10.00am to move off at 10.30am. Maps and
info at www.veggies.org.uk/arc/event.php?ref=27
Brightons very own weapons dealers EDO thinks that just because
they produce bomb releasing mechanisms they should not in anyway
be held responsible for the Iraqi bloodbath. Well excuse us for
being sceptical but how else are these death torrents propelled
over hospitals, schools and mosques without a little helping hand
from weapon manufacturers like EDO? It was recently suggested on
Indymedia that EDO a) are warmongerers, (b) are complicit in the
deaths of innocent people and (c) make things that kill children.
EDO are still adamant that they are none of the above. How so? Well,
a threatening letter to Indymedia outlines that EDO only manufactures
weapons interfacing systems and deals only with reputable customers.
Customers like...George W. (for Well-thought-of) Bush
dya mean? Convinced?.. If EDO started floggin biscuit
launching devices SchNEWS reckons they would fess up to them
raining all over the Middle East.
*go to www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/02/304915
for more on EDO threatening Indymedia.
*Smash EDO and Brighton Quakers are holding a campaign day this
Sat (12) at the Friends Meeting House, Ship Street Brighton - This
will include a legal workshop from 1.30pm. As the state tries to
crack down on lawful protest anyone who wants to take part in protest
against EDO needs to get clued up. All welcome.
*Also this Sat theres a JUMBLE SALE to raise money for the
campaign at the Cowley Club, 12 London Rd, Brighton. from about
Next time your twiddling yer thumbs on a rainy Sunday you neednt
bother being bored cos the US general has announced an exciting
new pastime. At a recent conference in San Diego, California he
decided to share with the public that it is Fun to Shoot Some
People. Yep thats right, yet another maniacal cog spiraling
out of control behind the Bush regime without the flutter of an
eyelid. Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan chirped its a hell of a hoot! but
didnt hasten to add that hed be right up front
with the troops if only he could. According to Mattis, popping a
bullet into an Afghans body is a just repayment for the years
of female oppression under the Taliban regime. Spose that
means its cool to shoot women and children too then eh? He got a
light slap on the wrist for condoning murder, and on Thursday military
officials said that he should have chosen his words more carefully
but will not be disciplined.
SchNEWS warns all readers to cause a stink... Honest!
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