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The Yellow Disease

"The picture above relates to time we spent in the town of Chichialpa and a problem we uncovered while filming stuff about an environmental disease affecting banana workers. While in Managua we saw some cane workers picketing the National Assembly and went over and asked them what was up. They told us of a disease that had killed five thousand people over the past three years in Chichigalpa. Chichigalpa is owned literally by Carlos Pelas, the wealthiest man in Honduras. He owns, among other things, Flor De Cana rum, which is produced in Chichigalpa. How powerful a man is he? He kept his wealth and his plantations during the Sandinista regime, which meant he paid off certain high-ranking Sandanistas. Do the name Daniel Ortega ring a bell, Recently he had the National Assembly declare a 40 story office building a hotel so he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it.

Anyway, the workers called the disease the yellow disease because it gave its victims a jaundiced look. It affected the kidneys, sometimes shrinking them to the size of walnuts, so the victims couldn't urinate and swelled up. Often their faces would get so swollen, they became monstrous, unrecognizable. Eventually there was a complete organ breakdown and they bled from every orifice. They attributed the disease to a powder they spread over the cane field by hand, without masks or amy protection. At the beginning of each season, Flor De Cana gave the workers a blood test, but wouldn't tell them what it was for. Some workers were told they couldn't work any more, and this was essentially a kiss of death, as those workers shortly fell ill (within 3 years) and died. The chemical is now in the ground water and the wells that provide water to the town, so everyone in the town is on a deathwatch."

--From Lucius Shepard's message board (posted by Shepard himself).


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Jan. 7th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
Gah!!!!!??? !? ... !? ??? !!
Jan. 7th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
at the risk of sounding pessimistic; they are not white so no one will give a shit. sad but true
Jan. 7th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
dude, that's not true. i'm white, i give a shit, and a lot of people do. people is people, and that ain't cool.
Jan. 7th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
Well, that's not quite true. I give a shit, a lot of people give a shit, Amnesty Int gives a shit, and there's significant activity going on at the moment to help these people, a good part of it due to take place in Mangaua this week so as to coinciide with Daniel Ortega's (the ex-Sandanista leader) inauguration. There are lawyers, most of them white, who are seeking a court case against the man who owns the town, Carlos Pelas; there are activists of every stamp converging on the region; there are doctor and nurses heading down to Chichigalpa, etc. All these people might be said to give a shit. Dismissing it that way is basically talking out of your ass. As to whether or not this will be enough is in question, true. But saying that no one gives a shit usually means, in my experience, that the person saying it doesn't give a shit. And that's fine. But say "nobody" when you mean "you."

Thanks for posting this here, Ben.
Jan. 8th, 2007 12:40 am (UTC)
Re: Nicaragua
when i say "no one" i mean people or organisations with the power to quickly and decisively deal with the issues.

as for me not giving a shit; well, i am horrified by this thankyou very much. my reaction (cynical though it was) came from the fact that these people won't likely get suitable recompense because of the apathy and selfishness of the "West".

it is all well and good to be aware and spread awareness of this sort of stuff, sign petiitions and whatnot. but in the end, how many cases like this has that solved? that's not a rhetorical question, i'd really like to know, if anyone can tell me.

will everyone who reads this buy a ticket to south america and start causing a ruckus? no. people hear about this stuff all the time, and go on with their lives. most people will just go: "oh dear, how terrible" and move on.

just because i realise this and feel the need to point this out, does not mean to say that i don't give a shit. raising awareness on these types of issues is admirable, but not enough people care.

i suppose that was what i should have said initially; not that "no one" cares, just that "more people should care."
Jan. 8th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
let me put it this way: only thousands of people died on september 11th and a copious amount of resources were put into a "war on terror," yet millions of poor, non-white people have died and are still dying, yet nothing on that scale is done about it.

i agree with you ben, that people are people...not everyone does though. if the people with the power did, then something would be done about it.
Jan. 8th, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
that's a real simplistic version of looking at it there, man. millions was put into the war on terror because the states is one of the richest countries in the world, but more than that, it was not done just because of white people, it was done because of industrialism, and the fact that politics in america (the west in general) are connected to large companies, and the millitary is part of that. i'd probably argue that the amount of resources put into it has very little to do with the colour of the skin of people who died, or who run the country.

anyhow, matt, what i don't get is why you want to argue this point. it's a self defeating one, since by agreeing with it, you end up doing nothing, and letting people suffer. me, i don't agree with it, and i do what i can, which granted, isn't a whole lot. i know it's not going to change much overnight, but people is people, man, and people deserve to be treated better than this.
Jan. 8th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
yes, industrialism and all that jazz, was one of the reasons, however, the justification was sept 11th. without that, the govt wouldn't have gotten away with some of that dodgy shit. no one goes to war for the "terrorism" going on in the sudan, or back in sierra leone, or even nicaragua.

i suppose my point is that no one cares enough about anything unless it is close to home. i freely admit that i am a pessimist, but sometimes you need a pessimist to put things in perspective. if you haven't already, you'll get a lot of people commenting on here, saying, "oh how terrible" and all that, but they aren't going to do a goddamned thing about it.

guilt might drive some people to some cursory action, but most people just do not genuinely care. if they did, more would be done in cases such as this.

good on you for posting this, ben. this is something, at least. i suppose it is a good way to spread awareness. i won't say "what is the point if no one cares though" because i don't think the solution to ignorance and indifference is more ignorance and indifference.

i'm not trying to win an argument here, so i don't think i am capable of "self-defeat". i am just trying to point out that people don't care about anything enough anymore, if indeed they ever did in the first place.

this is what i thought as soon as i read your initial post (well, not initially; initially i was shocked and horrified). it makes me angry and sad that this is the way the world is.
Jan. 8th, 2007 02:41 am (UTC)
no one goes to war for the "terrorism" going on in the sudan, or back in sierra leone, or even nicaragua.

well, actually, generally speaking, they do. it's just that it's usually not the western countries going to war, because, again, international laws of invasion, and such. the terrorism line of governments really isn't as simple as you're making it out to be here: it's hardly a reason for anything, and it it hadn't happened, the western world would have found another way to go into iraq (they were planning it with the weapons of mass destruction shit). with or without 9/11, the government would have gotten away with a lot. they'd been egtting away with a lot already.

i guess i don't buy the no one cares thing. and if, by any chance, you're right, then hey, time to change that.
Jan. 8th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
First of all, passing out petitions isn't what we're about, as my first response demonstrates. We're after supplying medical and legal assistance to these people. As to how many cases are solved....Well, solved isn't the word I'd use, but the answer is, more than you might think. I know a lawyer, for instance, who's won or settled 22 major class action suits against US corporations in Latin America and has distributed sufficient momies to greatly alleviate the suffering of the people involved. And he's not the only high-powered litigator at work in this arena. Such lawsuits have become easier to sustain because venture capitalists have begun investing in such lawsuits, providing money for the lawyers to keep going. And courts in both the US and Latin America are increasingly sympathetic to this type of lawsuit. You rarely hear about these suits because part of the settlement is usually astipulation that no one will talk about it. I could get into what exactly what is being done in this case, but that would use more bandwidth than I care to take up at the moment. Believe me, it is substantial.

Consciousness-raising is something we do mainly in the region where the problem arises--in this instance, Nicaragua--because the people who may be affected by the corporate miscreance are the most likely to act. I posted those pictures on my message board as an afterthought, just in case it might stir someone to action. Like, for instance, you.
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