Sunday, March 09, 2008

Modern Day Slaves

The U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida has agreed to hear, under the Alien Tort Statute, the case of three Cuban nationals who were trafficked by the Cuban government to Curacao and held there as slaves.
The Defendant and the Cuban government trafficked the Plaintiffs from Cuba to Curaçao under threat of physical and psychological harm including the threat of imprisonment. Upon arrival in Curaçao, the Plaintiffs' passports were taken and they were held on the grounds of the Defendant, along with scores of their compatriots. The workers were only allowed to leave those grounds under the guard of Cuban government agents. They were forced to work in slave-like conditions for 112 hours per week performing drydock services on ships and oil platforms. The pay for their work, the complaint alleges, was paid to the Cuban government. (In discovery, Defendant admitted that it credited Cuba on a debt it was owed by Cuba in exchange for the labors of the Cuban workers). The complaint alleges a situation in which the government of Curaçao was likely complicit due to the circumstances in which the Plaintiffs were transported to Curaçao and held there. Further, the Plaintiffs were denied all protections of the laws of Curaçao for injuries they suffered there, and, when any of the workers were injured or complained, they were promptly deported to Cuba and treated as enemies of the state. If they escaped and were caught, they were likewise deported to Cuba and punished. Plaintiffs, however, successfully escaped the Defendant's drydock facility, and were hunted by Defendant and agents of the Defendant within Curaçao and by the agents of the Cuban government all the way to Colombia, where they were granted political asylum. The United States then granted Plaintiffs parole to enter the United States.

In the 19th Century, slave trafficking was punishable by death. I don't support the death penalty anymore, but for greed-saturated corporations that cooperate with totalitarian regimes to acquire slave labor, it makes a tempting argument for itself.


PG said...

I see no problem with killing a modern corporation that engages in slave trafficking. It loses corporate status and future acts by the entity are attributed to the individual shareholders.

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