Wal-Mart has been on the march across Latin America over the last 20 years. America's largest private employer is now also the leader in all of Latin America.
From their launch pad in Mexico, where an incredible one in five of all Wal-Mart stores now reside, they have successfully conquered Brazil Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile and Puerto Rico.
It is now coming to light how they might have facilitated such rapid progress in a region known for massive bureaucracy.
A former Wal-Mart executive has exposed a widespread bribery campaign inside Mexico orchestrated by Wal-Mart in order to "gain market dominance." Apparently, the price to do so was a mere $24 million dollars -- hardly a drop in the bucket compared to its now $380 billion annual revenue in that country.
What is staggering is the brazenness with which they went about the campaign:
The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: 'There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.'
In one meeting where the bribery case was discussed, H. Lee Scott Jr., then Wal-Mart’s chief executive, rebuked internal investigators for being overly aggressive. Days later, records show, Wal-Mart’s top lawyer arranged to ship the internal investigators’ files on the case to Mexico City. Primary responsibility for the investigation was then given to the general counsel of Wal-Mart de Mexico ~ a remarkable choice since the same general counsel was alleged to have authorized bribes. (Source)
Wal-Mart's despicable behavior is being protested against in every country where their model of cheap slave goods and corruption has been instrumental in decimating local economies . . . even in the wealthier nations where their consumer base resides.
Research into the impact that Wal-Mart has on local U.S. communities only enhances the other forms of exploitation that Wal-Mart is well-known for across the world, with well-documented slave labor being used to create their "cheap" goods by poor people in other countries so that poor people in the U.S. can afford them.
Mexico is a very large piece of the pie for a company like Wal-Mart, and their practices there indicate a willingness to do whatever it takes to set up shop and expand. Something tells me that this is merely the tip of the iceberg, and that this practice is likely to have been part of their business model throughout the region. We'll just have to wait until the next former executive steps up to the plate and has the courage to expose their latest crime.
Read other articles by John Galt here.
Chinese made goods ranging from electronics to toys and clothes are daily sold in mass marketing retailers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, K-Mart, Target, Lowes, and dozens of other U.S. corporations. Cheap goods from Communist China increasingly line the shelves of the NAFTA marketplace under marquee product trade names that bear no relationship to the Chinese slave labor that manufactured, produced, or otherwise assembled the goods.
Key to this thriving under-market is a flagrant disregard for human rights, on the part of the Communist Chinese, who still permit the exploitation of slave labor. U.S. capitalists and consumers as well turn a blind eye to the human suffering and abuse involved in producing the under-market cheap goods flooding the American retail market from China.
The Chinese slave labor camps set up first under Mao in the 1950s are known as Laogai. Writing for the Human Rights Brief at American University’s Washington College of Law, Ramin Pejan explains that the Laogai system consists of three distinct types of reform: convict labor (Laogai), re-education through labor (Laojiao), and forced job placement (Jiuye). The political nature of these Chinese prison labor camps is clear.
The PRC (People’s Republic of China) uses Laojiao to detain individuals it feels are a threat to national security or it considers unproductive. Individuals in Laojiao may be detained for up to three years. Because those in Laojiao have not committed crimes under PRC law, they are referred to as “personnel” rather than prisoners and they are not entitled to judicial procedure. Instead, individuals are sent to the Laojiao following administrative sentences dispensed by local public security forces.This vague detainment policy allows the PRC to avoid allegations that the individual’s arrest was politically motivated and to assert that they were arrested for reasons such as “not engaging in honest pursuits” or “being able-bodied but refusing to work.”
Despite U.S. government efforts to keep Chinese slave labor goods from entering the U.S. market, the Laogai Research Foundation maintains that China represses open investigation of forced labor camps and the practice continues:
Due to strong resistance from Western nations against forced labor products, in 1991 China’s State Council re-emphasized the ban on the export of “forced labor products” and stipulated that no prison is allowed to cooperate or establish joint ventures with foreign investors. However, the State Council’s move was merely a superficial one, and prisoners today still produce forced labor products in great numbers.The Chinese government grants special privileges to enterprises using labor camps and prisons, to encourage and attract foreign investment and export. Prisoners are forced to manufacture products without any payment, and are often forced to work more than 10 hours a day and sometimes even overnight. Those who cannot fulfill their tasks are beaten and tortured. The forced labor products these prisoners produce are exported throughout China and the world.
A U.S.-China Security Review Commission Policy Paper on Prison Labor and Forced Labor in China concluded that the U.S. Customs Service “cannot conduct independent investigations in China” to determine if goods imported into the U.S. were made in Chinese forced labor camps. Despite numerous treaties, memoranda of understanding, and laws, the Commission concluded that China simply refuses to supply the information needed to make factual determinations:
… we understand that since 1996 the Customs Service has sent thirty letters to the Chinese Ministry of Justice regarding either visits or investigations of prison facilities in China that were suspected of producing goods for export to the United States. In most cases, the Chinese Ministry of Justice failed to respond to such letters.
The Customs Service has told the Commission that the difficulty in enforcing Section 307 to block the importation of goods made by prison labor in China does not arise from the U.S. statues. The difficulty arises because the PRC is not abiding by the 1992 and 1994 agreements it negotiated with the U.S. government.
Just above the slave labor camps is a vast Chinese under-market where millions of Chinese work for meager wages under constantly abusive work conditions. Today China makes approximately 75 percent of the world’s toys. As noted by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), U.S. companies such as Disney, Mattel (maker of the Barbie doll), Hasbro, McDonald’s (Happy Meal toys), and Warner Brothers utilize factories in China to produce toys for virtually all major U.S. retailers, including Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart, and Target, as well as for direct marketing.
Average age of a worker in a typical Chinese toy factory: between 12- and 15-years-old.Typical wage of workers in Asian toy factories: from as little as 6 cents an hour up to 40 cents an hour (in U.S. dollar terms).Typical number of hours worked in a day during busy periods: up to 19.Typical number of days worked per week: 6.Young workers work all day in 104-degree temperature, handling toxic glues, paints, and solvents.Workers weakened by illness and pregnant workers, who are supposed to have legal protection, are forced to quit.The typical profile of workers in these factories involves single young women migrants from rural areas to the cities in search of jobs.
We believe that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners.
We have concluded that the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centres and “people’s courts,” since 1999 have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. Their vital organs, including hearts, kidneys, livers and corneas, were virtually simultaneously seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.
As of yet, the black market in organ purchases has remained largely underground, hidden from public view. Today the American people remain largely unknowledgeable and/or uncaring over the massive human rights abuses in the Chinese labor under-market including slave forced prison labor, all for lower priced toys, sneakers, T-shirts, and electronics.
Unbridled capitalism can be counted on to press for erasing national boundaries that are perceived by free trade enthusiasts as speed bumps on their way to unlimited profits. How different today are the photographs Michael Wolf has taken of under-market labor in China from the photographs of Lewis W. Hine and Jacob Riis, who documented the human exploitation we tolerated in this country prior to the rise of the U.S. labor movement?