This letter was delivered to the Vatican on September 3rd via the Secretary for Relations with States
Fernando Morales-de la Cruz
Brussels September 3rd 2017
Because of your trip to Colombia, a country famous for its coffee, its cocoa, its natural beauty and its wonderful people, I most respectfully ask you to consider that the eradication of child labor, extreme poverty and the acceleration of economic and social development in Colombia and all the world's coffee, cocoa and tea producing regions requires only US $0.10 per cup of coffee consumed.
The problem is the current business model of these three very successful global industries, on which more than 300 million people in Latin America, Africa and Asia depend directly or indirectly for their livelihoods, the vast majority living in poverty or in very poor conditions, which can only be called neocolonial, unjust, exploitative and inhuman.
The human cost of coffee, cocoa and tea is unacceptable. These industries take advantage of the poorest and destroy the lives of tens of millions of children. The model is quasi criminal in its profiting from child labor and misery, although child labor in the supply chain of these products is not penalized in Switzerland, the EU, Japan, Korea, etc. Fortunately, the laws that had allowed it in the United States for 8 decades have changed.
A very small group of multinationals concentrated in Switzerland operate the cruelest business model, deciding whether farmers, peasants and their children eat three times a day or only twice, 12 months a year or only 8 or 9. Some economists call it "Swissploitation". There is hunger in the coffee lands, confirms the report of the Specialty Coffee Association. Due to the extremely low prices paid to farmers there is poverty and child labor abounds in coffee produced by: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam, as certified by the United States Department of Labor. There is also child labor and slave labor in Brazil's coffee, according to DANWATCH.
I know personally that in Switzerland even the national carrier, owned by the Lufthansa Group, believes it has the right to pay nothing more than a cup of coffee to a person who worked for it for many months. The airline even threatened him when he demanded those who hired him to be rewarded for the successful fruit of his work. Something is very wrong in Switzerland and Germany when new forms of slave labor are approved by several members of the Board of Directors in a DAX 30 company. Their top executives do not care if those who worked for them or their children suffer serious diseases and endure hardship.
In Guatemaya like in many other places in the world that the multinationals call the "Coffee Belt" there are regions in America, Africa and Asia with between 70% and 90% of child malnutrition, too many places where a girl is more likely statistically to die before reaching one year of age than to graduate from secondary school, although the latter is a right supposedly guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and also by national laws. This is similar in the major cocoa producing countries. What the European Union, Switzerland, the United States, Canada and even the Catholic Church (Caritas and CRS) dare to call "ethical" or "Fair Trade" certifications are perpetuating poverty and generating child labor, their premiums being less than 1/30 of what they should be to be fair, ethical and to not exploit the poorest. This is the reality of "ethical" certifications in cocoa: "Cocoa premiums sustain poverty; they should be 30 times higher says CACAO FOR CHANGE".
I was born in Guatemaya, my father comes from the Sierra de Chamá, a place where "Fairtrade" coffee is grown, producers now receive, in real terms, less than 50% of what they were paid in 1983 for every pound of the fruit of their labor. My great-uncle, Monsignor Mariano Rossell y Arellano was Archbishop of Guatemaya. I remember the gleam of his golden cross, its hardness and the cold that it transmitted.
Near Coban, in Alta Verapaz, "Fairtrade" cocoa is also produced and the "Fair" price is less than a third of what it should be for producers and their children to live with dignity as a result of their contribution to abundant wealth of the coffee and cocoa industries which, thanks to farmers in Guatemaya, Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, Uganda and more than 30 other coffee-producing countries receive annually tens of billions of dollars in profits, added value and also taxes for multinationals and governments of developed countries.
The same group of companies that drink coffee, tea and cocoa with Klaus Schwab in Davos and share less than $ 0.01 to Improve the State of the World. I have been at the World Economic Forum in Davos 7 or 8 times to promote Gandhi's values and to demand that the most powerful entrepreneurs and politicians respect and practice gender equality. For almost all of them the poor and their children are like "commodities" whose products and labor are bought as cheaply as possible and sold as expensively as possible. There are more than three billion people who almost have no human rights and who serve them and their companies to plant and harvest misery in the south and prosperity in the north.
Holy Father, your messages to the businessmen of Davos have been very clear but they are directed at the ears of people who are almost all indifferent to poverty and neutral in the face of injustice, partly thanks to a chorus of journalists who praise their wealth and almost never criticize their indifference or the injustice of their actions.
If Klaus Schwab and the Davos elite wanted to improve the state of the world they could reduce poverty to insignificant levels in just 15 years. The entrepreneurial and intellectual power of those who go to Davos is as impressive as their indifference to your messages to use their knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to the benefit the poorest.
The impressive economic benefits of coffee, cocoa and tea are concentrated in developed countries, although in Davos almost everyone, including the President of Nestle and the Secretary General of the UN, discuss Shared Value, supports the Sustainable Development Objectives and talks about the need to reduce inequality in the world. The truth is that the coffee, tea and cocoa consumed in the UN, UNICEF, FAO, WTO, OECD, WB, IDB and the rest of the alphabet of multilateral organizations also perpetuate poverty and cause child labor.
I beg you and the whole hierarchy of the church, including CARITAS, CRS, etc. to share with the producing communities 10CentsPerCup of coffee, tea and cocoa and, why not, also of mate. Without the great sacrifice and high human cost of two hundred million poor people in the rural communities who produce them, we would not have these delicious beverages.
Holy Father, to the Catholic Church you wisely lead, to the Secretary General of the UN, to all the heads of government of the G7 nations, to the Commissioners and Heads of Governments of the European Union, to Federal Councilors of the Swiss Government , the Presidents and Executive Directors of the WB, IMF, FAO, WTO, OECD, ITC, IDB, ADB, etc. to the plenary of the World Economic Forum in Davos and to the large multinationals, I do not ask for charity or alms. I demand justice and transparent shared value for the poorest people whenever they enjoy coffee, tea or chocolate. Fighting to eradicate poverty is the opposite of fomenting it, creating it or taking advantage of it as a business model.
Charity is not a synonym of justice. Sharing 10CentsPerCup of coffee, tea and cocoa with the communities that produce them is not an act of charity. It is an act of justice.
I take this opportunity to wish you a productive visit to Colombia, I hope you can achieve the goals that you have set for this visit.
May God bless you,
Fernando Morales-de la Cruz