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8889: Fwd: GRAND MARNIER LIQUOR AND HAITI. (fwd)
>From Carl Fombrun firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.fombrun.com or Fax 305 270-3799
A young man working in the tourism industry in Port-au-Prince, I was
acquainted with Grand Marnier Liquor as the drink of choice to impress our
visitors at the top notch Riviera Hotel in the 1950s. Mostly if those
visitors happened to be of the female gender with all the qualities
attributed to the fair sex.
At the bar-restaurant in the Riviera Hotel where Guy Durosier was the star
singer nightly, the waiter would be asked for a Grand Marnier "Flambe" that
would be brought ceremoniously at the table. They consisted of liqueur
glasses with a shot of Grand Marnier liquor and a purple blue flame lighted
on top of each. They cost an arm and a leg.
Grand Marnier describes this specific drink on its label for its qualities "
of light amber tones " and " excellent lingering after-taste." Far from me
the thought then, while having this simple but somewhat ostentatious request
served, that the origin of this French product had roots in Haiti. 50 years
later it's the reason for this article.
Marnier-Lapostolle's orange plantation is just outside Cap Haitian, not far
from Limonade. Controversy with workers on Grand Marnier's orange
plantations in Haiti has been boiling for a long time it seems. Workers who
handpick those oranges have " for years earned poverty wages and suffered
respiratory and skin complaints because of intensive contact with acid
orange spray. They pick, peel and grate bitter oranges for shipment to the
company's distilleries in France," as stated by writer Steve Tibbett in the
Sunday edition of July 8, 2001 of "The Observer" in the United Kingdom.
The Grand Marnier company has been challenged by the workers and human
rights organizations in Haiti and they have finally agreed to a 55% increase
in wages as well as
an improvement in conditions and official recognition of the workers' union.
Local and international pressure is to be credited for this outcome.
This reminds me of those words by social activist Bobby Duval: " When you
are an advocate it does have an effect." For years the workers on the Grand
Marnier's plantations earned less than $5.00 dollars per day laid down as a
minimum by Haitian labor laws. Conditions on the plantations were
disgraceful. No toilet or first aid, no drinking water, no washing
facilities permitting workers to remove the citric acid from their skin.
Credit for this change to the better is due mainly to War on Want and Haiti
Support Group. They did what advocates do by launching an international
campaign to get the company at the bargaining table. Steve Tibbett of The
Observer in the UK continues: "Without the combination of the local trade
union persuasion and international campaigning, little would have been
A constructive dialogue between the workers and company representatives came
from this amalgam of influences....." Companies that refuse to negotiate are
swimming against the tide. If there is going to be globalisation, most
agree, it has to be a humane process with responsible business as a
cornerstone," as per writer Tibbett in The Observer.
Steve Tibbett is senior campaigner for War on Want. His last paragraph on
this subject is inspiring: " The workers on Haitian plantations, many of
whom have devoted their lives to producing for these companies, deserve more
than a sprightly rebuttal and fine words in the company annual report."
" A similar struggle is being held on Cointreau's orange plantations in
Haiti, another liquor multinational exploiting Haitian laborers. An injury
to one is an injury to all. One struggle!," as per the Global Sweats Shops
coalition and the "Batay Ouvriye" organizer in New York City on July 27,
There is a light at the end of the tunnel if one looks for it when the
subject is Haiti. The idea that Haiti is lost and we should admit it must be
stopped in its track. Examples like Bobby Duval's, militant human rights
groups like Haiti Support Group are starting to multiply. It's definitely
clear to all of us now that only Haitians can find the way out with
compassionate international help.
Reading an article about Haiti in June 28 1992 in the Miami Herald, written
by Robert Michael Finley Deputy Chief of Staff then for the House Foreign
Affairs Committe, and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for
Caribbean affairs, I am happy to see that his predictions were off base. To
quote:" The grim reality is that in the not too distant future the famine
now gripping Northwest Haiti will spread throughout the whole country. Tens
if not hundreds of thousands will die. " This was in 1992 and this prophecy
of doom and gloom to the extreme has not happened yet. " Pa janm tro konnen,
Toujou chache konnen " : Knowing too much makes you give up. Although the
political report on Haiti is grim, let's keep hope alive.
Published in "The Haitian Times" online edition July 15 - July 21, 2001.
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