May 3, 2018

Class Enemy: Chuck Magro - Free Western Sahara!

Adrien Welsh

We reproduce here an article that figured in the issue 22 of Rebel Youth - Jeunesse Militante published in October, 2017. It is being reproduced while on Monday, April 30th, the Security Council of the United Nations adopted with a majority vote and 3 abstentions (Ethiopia, Russia and China) the extension of the mandate of the MINURSO (UN Mission in Western Sahara) for six months (as opposed to one year, as it was previously the case). According to M'Hamed Kheddad, Sahrawi coordinator with the Mission, this is a positive development as it shows a real committment from the Security Council to put an end to the status quo and the ongoing occupation of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco, with the complicity of France. The Security Council also called both Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to go back to the negociation table after the process was put on ice in 2012.

The vote in the UN was held under pressure by Morocco which accused in April the Polisario Front of violating the cease-fire agreement of 1991 as part of a desinformation campaign. This campaign is continuing as Morocco just cut ties with Iran because of a supposed arms deal between this country and the Polisario Front, which was immediately denied by the Sahrawi Government. 

Ever heard of Chuck Magro? Mr Magro is your every-day CEO. He has an MBA from the University of Windsor, worked for Nova Chemicals, and then for Agrium, a major retail supplier of agricultural products, where he gradually climbed the ladder until he became ‘the big boss’.

In 2016, he was ranked as the fifth highest paid CEO in Calgary, with an annual remuneration of $10.4 million.

However, it is not simply his salary that qualifies him as this fall’s “class enemy,” but rather the activities of the company he runs. While it is true that Agrium is not a bank, a weapon’s factory, or an oil company, this company has been on the hot seat at least twice for violating environmental laws in the United States. This year, they stirred up more controversy when one of the cargo ships they had chartered from Panama containing 55,000 tons of phosphate was stopped through an injunction from the Western Sahara government. The amount of phosphate is an estimate, since the company’s management did not want to disclose this information.

According to a report by Western Sahara Resource Watch, Agrium is the biggest phosphate importing company in Western Sahara. The problem, however, is that this company has an agreement with the OCP group headed by the King of Morocco, the country that has been occupying Western Sahara since 1974. This agreement allows Agrium and PotashCorp (which are in the process of merging) to control and own half of the phosphate in Western Sahara, making Canada the largest importer of Saharawi phosphate in the world.

No country officially recognizes Morocco’s control over Western Sahara and the UN states that the only legitimate representative of the Saharawi people is its government, the Polisario Front. However, theory and practice do not always fit together. By allowing a company like Agrium to seize the resources of an occupied territory, Canada not only contravenes international law, but also contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute, which both prohibit a country occupying another to exploit its natural resources without the consent of the local population. This is not the case in Western Sahara, which has sought several legal solutions leading to the boarding of the ship chartered by Agrium in Panama last May, but also to the boarding of another freighter en route to New Zealand during its passage through South Africa. For Agrium, the exploitation of this phosphate is simply “temporary” since the mine operated at Kapuskasing is no longer profitable enough.

However, this situation has lasted for several years and has provoked the outrage of some shareholders who have decided to withdraw from the company, forcing Agrium to order an “independent” investigation to reassure its investors about the impact of extraction of Saharawi phosphate by a Moroccan company. Not surprisingly, this investigation revealed that the human rights impact of the inhabitants of Western Sahara is minimal...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular stories