By Paco Puche
When in December of last year Miren Gutiérrez was selected and hired as Director of Greenpeace, we warned that: "Greenpeace has a serious problem to solve: how is it going to be able to dissociate itself from Avina (and Mar Viva) being its maximum exponent a person who it has passed through these entities and has not even been a member of Greenpeace. And the magnitude of the asbestos tragedy is of such magnitude that it leaves no one unmoved "
When in December of last year Miren Gutiérrez was selected and hired as Director of Greenpeace, faced with the evidence that was piling up, we wrote an article that appeared in the Observer, on September 29, 2010, in which we warned that:
"Greenpeace has a serious problem to solve: how is it going to be able to separate itself from Avina (and Mar Viva), its greatest exponent being a person who has passed through these entities and has not even been a member of Greenpeace. And the magnitude of the The tragedy of asbestos is of such magnitude that it leaves no one unmoved "
There is no doubt that such a surprising and untimely resignation is not a trivial matter, that it is resolved by the file of “personal reasons”. There is much more substance here.
Indeed, after the aforementioned article, in my capacity as a partner for more than 20 years, I exchanged two letters with Greenpeace management. I had an answer to the first, but not to the second. In this second letter, in addition to arguing for the mistake made, he investigated the institutional causes of such a "blunder" and proposed formulas so that things like this would not happen again. This letter was not answered or, to our knowledge, sent to the partners.
In light of the current circumstances, we are the same as a year ago but adding to Greenpeace Spain a great burden of discredit. As the arguments and proposals that I made then are still fully valid (it has been an institutionally "lost" year), I now publish the aforementioned letter as an "open letter" so that it can reach all those members who may be interested in the reasons of what is happening. In it I make very specific proposals in order to a greater internal democracy and transparency and in order, also, to a greater independence of the organization of the powers of green capitalism, which are always prowling around these critical and resistance organizations, as we show in the above-mentioned article.
I ask all those who agree with these proposals, let the management know so that they hear the voice of their rank and file, which is so rare in Greenpeace.
Here is my letter, written about a year ago, offered today as an open letter, in full force:
Francisco Puche Vergara
Partner No. 19724, since 1988
February 27, 2011 to the Board of Directors of Greenpeace-Spain
Dear members of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace-Spain
I answer your question on January 21 of this year, in response to mine last December.
My worries, far from being lessened, widen. Perhaps this is happening in more partners given the comments that appear on blogs and those that are beginning to reach us through other means. It must be recognized that there is concern in the association for different reasons, and that my work on Avina and Ashoka is little known even despite having appeared, for two years, in the Observador, in Rebelión and in Ecoportal, digital newspapers reaching many thousands of readers.
That they have known Avina for more than ten years only for PVC is still striking, since Avina is financed among other companies, and according to the information they provide themselves, by the so-called AMANCO, which manufactures tubes that it sells throughout Latin America. , and that in countries where asbestos is not yet or was prohibited they would be made of this material (fiber-cement they call it to hide). This coincides with the so-called “conspiracy of silence” around asbestos that tries to cover the whole world, due to the responsibilities contracted by asbestos companies, which have included among their largest industrialists the Swiss Schmidheiny family, of which Stephan turns out to be the founder of Avina.
On the subject of selecting the person for Directxr there are a few things to comment:
In the Internal Operating Regulations it is stated, in article 8, that as criteria for making the selection for this position, "management capacity, experience in similar positions, as well as belonging to environmental defense groups" will be assessed. In the current case, this third condition seems to fail, which is essential to know what it is about managing, which is not a company that we agree on. Miren's nine-month stint at the MarViva Foundation as Communications Director and under contract, as is recognized in your letter, has nothing to do with "belonging to environmental defense groups"
This issue is kicking in everywhere because the question they ask the selected Miren Gutiérrez, when they interview her, is if she is a member of Greenpeace. She looks stunned when answering because, in at least two different interviews, she answers: “I was already a member of Greenpeace Spain” or “I was a member but I was not linked to the organization (…) I became a Greenpeace member because you have to prove with actions one believes and defends ”(ON, leisure and television style magazine and Diario vasco.com, respectively). Also in this case, the information given by that Board is unequivocal: “it was not a requirement to be a member of Greenpeace Spain”, so Miren has not been a member of Greenpeace before becoming Director.
The conclusion is the same. The Regulation that clearly outlines the future Directxr of the organization, has not been strictly followed in this case.
The presence of Greenpeace International in this selection is also striking. Up to three times the figure of this organization appears. In the documentation, in the interviews and in the final election, with the "GPI consensus" they tell me.
In the Statutes of Greenpeace Spain there is no provision to federate with GPI, nor does the regulation mention any intervention on the part of GPI. For the director's selection event. In any case, setting up a federation or confederation (let's take it for the moment) does not entail this enormous presence in a national decision as important as we are contemplating it. Are there binding agreements in this regard?
The DUCI Consultant should be asked how, being so central to Greenpeace that the image and the name are not undermined, and less in a matter of this magnitude, did not foresee that MarViva was a source of "symbolic contamination" because it is the same as Avina, and that she had behind the continuous sword of Damocles of asbestos and its millions of deaths, had and to be.
That the intervention of the Board, the highest representative body of the organization, seems unfeasible, already compressed (75 people represent 100,000 partners), when there are mercantile, sports companies, etc. with so many or more partners and in which universal assemblies are held, it does not seem reasonable. At the end of the day, even the ministers of the North American government have to obtain the approval of the Congress of that country, which has many more components.
Finally, in this first part, I have to say to the Greenpeace Board that the saying that "no government company or organization has ever been able to enter the governing bodies of this organization ..." is a truism taken literally: no The statutes allow it, in fact, they outline certain incompatibilities that make this statement rhetorical. But it is extremely easy for people from companies, foundations, etc. enter the governing bodies. At the end of the day, nobody is asked for anything in their private life and unless their membership in the leadership of a political group, union, etc. is public and notorious. anyone from a company, foundation, etc. Interested in influencing Greenpeace from within, membership in one of the management bodies is expedited. So far I think we can agree.
And I return to the recurring theme, the Avina affair. I know that people who belong to this foundation are or have been part of the governing bodies (I include Ashoka). This might seem innocuous and statutory. The second is so for the moment as there are no incompatibilities in this specific sense, but the first is not. Indeed Avina (and Ashoka) have as their foundation and objective to unite social movements with companies to go together to do business (sustainable and everything else). That is to say, it is the version of what is technically called "green capitalism". Its mode of operation is to co-opt partner-leaders or entrepreneurs of social movements (NGOs, other foundations, etc.) to legitimize this “green” drive of capital (“corporate responsibility?”).
Avina's presence in organizations causes disagreements and divisions because her aims are different and her intrusion into social movements is militant: they need them (you can see all this in my works mentioned above). On the other hand, Greenpeace is no stranger to this concern as a participant in the campaign "Rights for people, rules for business" in which it tries to make it mandatory (to legislate and not be voluntary) that companies do not have a double talk and do in the South what they are not doing in Europe, through globalization and offshoring.
The second part of this letter is to dwell on the asbestos tragedy. According to Ángel Cárcoba, one of the CCOO confederal occupational health managers, and the person who has fought the most against this plague called asbestos has said:
“We attend is an epidemic of cancer due to exposure to asbestos or asbestos. According to the WHO, more than 100,000 people die each year from cancer of the pleura attributable to asbestos. Every five minutes asbestos takes a life.
In Spain, 240,000 workers belonging to more than 2,300 companies have been exposed to asbestos, which will cause a mortality of 50,000 to 60,000 people in the next 20 years.
Between 1970 and 2,000, Spain imported more than 2,800,000 tons of asbestos used in ships, trains, construction, universities, hospitals, radio and TV studios, theaters, cinemas, banks, water and gas lines, brakes and clutches. and a long etcetera that have given rise to a cancer epidemic carefully silenced by the industrial and financial lobby (Uralita and Banca March) that have anesthetized the public powers that have the obligation to ensure the health of the population.
Asbestos multinationals such as Uralita, Eternit or Saint Gobin have been responsible for this epidemic. Multinationals linked to the fascist regimes of Musolini, Hitler and Franco and to Apartheid in South Africa. "
Behind all this, as one of the central characters, is Stephan Schmidheiny, founder and mentor of Avina and MarViva, as I have related in my work “MarViva is Avina: the metaphor of Gruyère cheese”.
All this can be seen in detail in the book I edited a few months ago entitled "The asbestos lie: fortunes and crimes", whose author María Roselli is a Swiss journalist of Italian origin, being the original German edition of 2007. This book is I have edited with the help of CCOO and together with the Juanmi Gutiérrez Documentary we are presenting it everywhere. The last one took place at the Ateneo de Madrid on February 21. This book is an allegation against the Schmidheiny family, their criminal behavior with the workers of their companies and their collaboration with the Nazi regime, that of Somoza and the South African apartheid regime.
Asbestos is news because in the next twenty years the tragedy of those 60,000 Spaniards sentenced to death will be exacerbated for having hidden the lethality of the mineral.
The fortune of this tycoon must be dedicated to compensating the victims and eliminating from around the world the more than 300 million tons scattered everywhere, of which 3 million are in Spain, and that if they are left where they are they will continue to contaminate and killing people. The one who does the damage compensates, the one who pollutes pays. That is why all the money spent on Avina and Marviva is the victims' money and it is money to discourage, and it will not be enough.
From the point of view of health, it is a much more relevant tragedy than that due to nuclear energy, for example, against which we fight with courage, and it has killed many more people than Hiroshima to this day, Nagasaki and Chernobyl together.
Every time the asbestos comes out, his relationship with Avina and MarViva will come out, so it will be inevitable to associate this tragedy, in some way, with Greenpeace. What will become of the image of an organization that many of us have been unconditionally supporting for more than twenty years? How can hiring a worker put an organization on this trajectory in check?
My commitment is with Greenpeace, but even more so with the victims of asbestos, against the persistence of its use in the countries of the South by, in many cases, the same companies that have it prohibited in the developed North. We cannot put Greenpeace in danger, but first we must stop the crime of the mineral that has been called the “asbestos genocide” and those responsible are described as alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
From all the above, the following proposals arise:
1º Propose to the Council that it modify the Operating Regulations regarding the appointment of the Executive Directorate, in the sense that belonging to Greenpeace for 5 or 10 years (?) Is a condition for accessing the candidacy.
Likewise, regulate the intervention of GPI in the selection process, in the sense of more autonomy for Greenpeace-Spain. And that it is the Council itself that validates the final decision, based on three candidates already shortlisted
2nd Modify the Bylaws in the sense of adding one more, in the section on incompatibilities relating to membership of the Board of Directors (article 39 of the bylaws), which would be something like the following:
2.3 People with responsibility, or of notorious relevance, or who develop activities that may collide with the purposes of the association in Foundations or other organizations dependent on large business corporations or States.
3º It would be advisable for the Board to review the selection of the current Executive Director in light of the new reports and reactions from the partners, now that we are on time, although this causes some obvious disruptions.
4º In any case that the Council or the Board make a public statement in which it explicitly disassociates Greenpeace from Avina and MarViva as well as from the responsibilities with asbestos, showing its rejection of this industry, as Greenpeace is currently doing Argentina
Finally, far from keeping these crucial debates in the sphere of the association itself, which is like hiding the problems, we should rather take them out as Greenpeace partners to the streets to show that there is no need to hide and to show capacity self-critical and self-reforming. Transparency is required. Worse would be that over time the Wikileaks of the day appears and the damage is irreversible.
As with what has happened and is happening today with the thousands of asbestos victims, against whom silence and lack of solidarity have prevailed, for my part I am so indignant that, as S Hessel says in his recent book entitled ¡Indignaos! , "When something outrages us, we become militants, we feel committed and then our strength is irresistible."
Far from taking this issue for granted, I will continue to fight actively and passively, privately and publicly, until Greenpeace does not turn this page, without addressing the serious problem in which it is involved and which has to do especially with its image.
Are we as an organization willing to be complicit in the asbestos genocide? I am not, and I am accompanied by the legitimacy of more than 22 years collaborating and supporting this organization.
With the request that you make this letter as extensive as possible, especially to the members of the Council, and if it is possible to publish it on the web, he sincerely says goodbye.
Paco puche - December 2, 2011