Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Posted on Tuesday, 05.08.12

Cuban Americans in Congress want meeting with IKEA over Cuban prisoners

To ask if Cuban prison labor was used to make furniture for the Swedish

giant

By Juan O. Tamayo

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

The six Cuban-Americans in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday demanded "an

urgent meeting" with the head of IKEA in North America to discuss

whether the company used Cuban prison labor to make some of its

furniture in the 1980s.

"It is the responsibility of every company to ensure that its products

and their respective components are derived from responsible labor

practices," the two Senators and four House members wrote in a letter to

IKEA's Mike Ward.

"They certainly should not derive from the dark prisons of authoritarian

regimes that repress their own populations, including the denial of

basic workers' rights," added the letter to Ward, head of IKEA North

America.

It was signed by Sens. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Bob

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, as well as South Florida

Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera and

New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires.

"We want to know the exact circumstances that led IKEA to apparently

enter into an accord with the Castro dictatorship to produce some of its

furniture in Cuba," said a statement issued by Ros-Lehtinen's office.

"These are serious allegations and they have caused much consternation

in our communities, and rightly so," it added. "The Castro brothers have

misgoverned Cuba for more than half a century putting in place a

tyrannical regime that harasses, beats, jails, exiles and kills anyone

who stands in their way."

"Multinational corporations have a moral obligation to assure their

businesses are not violating human rights. We look forward to getting

answers from IKEA on our multiple concerns stemming from these

accusations," the statement added.

The four-paragraph letter was sent to Ward at IKEA North America's

headquarters in Conshohocken, Pa. Spokeswoman Mona Liss said a senior

official at IKEA headquarters in Sweden will meet with the Congress

members "very quickly."

The letter said the six members wanted the "urgent" meeting to discuss

"recent reports alleging that IKEA has knowingly benefitted or sought to

benefit from the use of Cuban prison labor to manufacture its products."

The authoritative German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

reported last week that the furniture and house wares company had

contracted for Cuban prisoners to build 45,000 tables and 4,000 sofa

groupings in September of 1987.

German reporters found the information while reviewing archives of the

former East Germany because officials of its communist government had

facilitated the deal with Cuba. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and East

Germany disappeared the next year.

IKEA already has been investigating reports last fall that some of its

buyers had signed deals to have prisoners in East Germany build

furniture for the company in the 1970s and 1980s.

Liss told El Nuevo Herald in an email last week that IKEA would now

widen that probe to include the Cuba allegations. "We take these

allegations very seriously," she said.

The German newspaper reported that documents found in East German

archives showed that officials of that government had signed a deal with

a Cuban man identified as Lt. Enrique Sánchez, in charge of EMIAT, a

Cuban government enterprise that used prison labor to manufacture furniture.

Liss acknowledged last week that IKEA had agreements of a limited nature

with Cuba but said the firm has not had any long-term business

relationships with any Cuban manufacturer.

"As far as we know, there have only been occasional test purchases of a

limited amount of products from Cuban suppliers in the late '80s, '' she

said.

The German newspaper reported that the first sofas made in Cuba had

quality problems and that East German officials then traveled to the

Caribbean island to try to fix the issues.

It is not known how many of the sofas and tables, if any, were

eventually delivered to IKEA.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/08/2789850/cuban-americans-in-congress-want.html


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