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By Paco Puche
Green capitalism, in all its versions, is infiltrating social movements and leaving them like a Gruyère cheese. The Avina Foundation and MarViva, two entities related to the asbestos magnate Stephan Schmidheiny, also have to do with the person who will occupy the executive direction of Greenpeace in Spain, “who has been hired by MarViva for the last year”.
In an age of universal deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. - George Orwell
Climate change raises the need to unite the fight for climate justice and for social justice, and to flee from the fallacies of green capitalism and the ecological veneer to social-liberal policies - Joseph María Atentas and Esther Vivas
Green capitalism, in all its versions, is infiltrating social movements and leaving them like a Gruyère cheese. It does so ideologically and through foundations or non-profit entities.
One of the projects that is reaching further, both in Spain and Latin America, is the one deployed by the Avina Foundation. Precisely, like the aforementioned cheese, it stars one of the richest men in the world from Switzerland: the tycoon Stephan Schmidheiny (1), who is its founder.
In brief strokes it can be said that the aforementioned tycoon has built his enormous fortune in the extraction and manipulation of asbestos; that both he and his family have been exploiting it from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the same at least, dominating the production and lobby of this mineral.
Asbestos, as is well known, is the most harmful material for all workers who have been handled, and according to the WHO (2) the number of annual deaths that it will cause in the coming decades throughout the world is estimated at more than 100,000. world. As it was known about its dangerousness and lethality from the beginning of its manipulation, the aforementioned lobby has managed to keep workers and citizens in silence and disinformation in that same time, which has lasted nearly a century. Since 2005 it has been strictly prohibited in the EU.
As Remi Poppi, former MEP for the Netherlands, puts it: “The sinister forces that profit from asbestos don't think twice about resorting to blackmail, deception and dishonest practices to protect (…) profits of the companies ”.
In 1994, Stephan Schmidheiny founded Avina, which he finances with his fortune and makes alliances with other foundations or entities, such as Ashoka or INCAE, which he also finances and with which he has strategic agreements. It founds or promotes other NGOs that it controls and / or finances, such as MarViva.
Why are we interested in MarViva? By the following story that confirms Gruyère's Swiss cheese metaphor applied to social movements.
Xavier Pastor, who was Executive Director of Greenpeace until February 2001 since its foundation in Spain, prepared for the Avina Foundation, from May 2002 to August 2003, a project for the development of an organization, which was called MarViva, to operate in the Central American Pacific.
While in 2000 there were conflicts within Greenpeace over the transfer of workers and the claim to open the headquarters in Calvià (Mallorca), in May of the same year, an Order appeared in the BOE, No. 146, that The Avina foundation in Spain is classified and registered (it had been founded in Switzerland in 1994). Stephan Schmidheiny is the one who has constituted it and that he happens to occupy the position of president of the board of the foundation. The vice president is Mrs. Erica Anne Knie. The head office will be in Andraitx (Mallorca). In 2002 we saw how Schmidheiny connected with Pastor, possibly in Mallorca, and commissioned him to project MarViva.
In Avina's 2002 Annual Report (3), notable events include, among others, that “Erica Knie left the Avina Board to dedicate herself to MarViva, an organization she created in order to protect related ecosystems and in around the islands of Coco (Costa Rica), Coiba (Panama), Gorgona and Malpelo (Colombia), and Galapagos (Ecuador) "(p.1) And later (p.41) Schmidheiny himself clarifies:" At the end of 2002, two of my colleagues said goodbye to the AVINA Council, who have been key in building the foundation that we are today. Erica Knie was the first person to work with me on the project that would eventually become AVINA. Ten years ago I asked him to investigate the possibilities of implementing my philanthropic ideas in Latin America. Passionately committed to excellence, Erica helped me lay the solid foundation on which our organization was built. Now he will direct a marine protection project on the Pacific coast, in Central America ”.
At the end of 2002 MarViva was founded in Panama, with headquarters in Costa Rica, and according to this link (4) it has 75 employees, which means a significant budget. Its founder and president was Erica Knie.
The relationship between Stepahn Schmidheiny and MarViva is so close that in the Seven! from Panama, on the occasion of the presentation of the documentary Coiba in 2003, the journalist mistakes Schmidheiny as the founder (Page 7) (5) of the same, assigning Erica Knie the position of president; Accompanying them at the event is Michael Rothschild, CEO.
All this tour serves only to make it clear that Avina and MarViva are two sides of the same coin, they are the same thing. Therefore we can say that MarViva is Avina.
The question returns to Gruyère cheese. It so happens that Greenpeace has recently proceeded to the selection of its executive director and the position has fallen to a person who has never been from Greenpeace but has been hired by MarViva for the last year. As the selection has been made between two hundred candidates, as reported by the entity itself, the one selected will probably be oblivious to all this mess.
Some Greenpeace partners wonder two things. One, how is it possible that you have to turn to people from outside the organization, which has 100,000 members. Surely more than one of them give a good manager and communicator profile. The second question is how, again, when the executive director's contract is renewed (a position of great importance because it is the external image of Greenpeace) Avina appears prowling around the entity.
Avina is specialized in co-opting leaders of relevant entities in Spain and Latin America and, from there, as it cannot hide its nature of green capitalism, some of the partners of the infiltrated entity establish a serious conflict in legitimate defense of their budgets or anti-capitalist actions , and we already have the usual divisions in social movements. There are already many experiences of this type in Spain and Latin America with Avina or Ashoka, the sister organization. Without going any further, at the last meeting in Cancun on climate change, the prestigious Argentine Rural Reflection Group (GRR) has detected Avina's infiltration in the different alternative movements that have attended the counter-summit (6) and denounced that: “ The large corporations and the foundations that accompany them have been working stealthily to slip into alternative spaces ”. And, of course, Avina makes an appearance. They continue saying: “The Avina Foundation, of the Swiss millionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, with a long and sinister trajectory in our Mestizo America, for buying wills behind projects supposedly beneficial to our peoples and communities, offered an economic donation for the organization of Klimaforum 10. The The presence of the Rural Reflection Group in Cancun served to alert about this Foundation and thus unmask its attempts to co-opt these spaces, since then the Klimaforum decided to reject the funds that Avina was trying to contribute ”. And they conclude by saying: "Foundations such as Avina and Ashoka are the enemy of the Mother Earth and the oppressed populations."
Greenpeace has a serious problem to solve: how is it going to be able to dissociate itself from Avina (and MarViva), its greatest exponent being a person who has passed through these entities and has not even been a member of Greenpeace.
Asbestos dust permeates everything that Avina (Ashoka, MarViva and other entities closely linked to Avina) ends up infiltrating. And the magnitude of the asbestos tragedy is of such magnitude that it leaves no one unmoved.
An accusation weighs on Schmidheiny at the moment, which is seen in a criminal trial that is being held in Turin, for which the public prosecutor requests thirteen years in prison and one million euros for each victim of a factory that closed in 1986 in Casale Monferrato (Italy), and in which 3,000 people, including relatives of the deceased and the sick, have presented the complaint under trial. In total, they are asking for 5,000 million euros in compensation. As this family has dominated the world of the asbestos business, the demands that await you will be endless. And it will not have enough fortune to compensate the damages to the victims and to ‘dismay’ part of the world that it has covered with multiple products containing the dangerous asbestos.
Every group or person linked to Avina is "condemned" to closely follow the asbestos tragedy, which some describe as alleged genocide.
This ‘Gruyère avinesco cheese’, unlike the real one, will end up having a strong bitter taste.
Paco puche - Bookstore and ecologist - Spain - EL OBSERVADOR / www.revistaelobservador.com