How close are Fresh Del Monte's links to bin Laden & Bush families?

Those looking into the background of the Jun. 12 immigration sweep at the Fresh Del Monte plant in north Portland, Oregon, are turning up some interesting connections.  Who would have thought that it would be so easy to show that the profits from the work of the undocumented workers in north Portland who are now detained at the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats appear to have been finding their ways into the pockets of Bush and bin Laden families?  What is ironic, UFPPC's Mark Jensen points out, is that "these hard-working individuals are represented as a threat to the national security of the United States, when the real threat is from the corrupting influence on American society of Saudi petrodollars."

By Mark Jensen

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
June 23, 2007


Port Townsend freelance photographer Al McCleese has posted a photoessay (ptmccleese.smugmug.com/gallery/3020337) on demonstrations held on Sat., Jun. 16 at Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center in response to the incarceration there of scores of detainees seized in a Jun. 12 immigration sweep at the Fresh Del Monte plant in north Portland, Oregon.[2]  

His shots are accompanied by commentaries based on some research into the background to this story -- and McCleese, monitoring the site's web traffic, has found that these are of interest to an intriguing array of law-enforcement organizations and powerful, well-connected corporations.  

McCleese's first comment reads:  "Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.  Plug that name into a search engine . . ."   So we did.  

The first item that comes up is a summary of a December 2002 Dave Emory radio broadcast on WFMU entitled "Desert Flowers -- The Bushes of Arabia."[3]  A link to the half-hour radio show can be found here (wfmu.org/playlists/DX)  

What emerges from Emory's researches (based on sources like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) is that Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh is a Chilean-based Palestinian with ties to Saudis who have intensely cultivated the Bush family.  Marvin Bush, the youngest brother of President George W. Bush, was, from 1998 to 2005, a member of the Board of Directors (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3337.htm) of Fresh Del Monte.  

Emory quotes a December 2002 story in the New York Times highlighting the "bizarre recent history" of Fresh Del Monte.  The history of Fresh Del Monte reveals financial connections to Saudi financial interests, making it an illustration, Dave Emory points out, of the "profound role in the U.S. economy of re-invested Saudi petrodollars."  

Emory points in this regard to the involvement of Khalid bin Mahfouz in Fresh Del Monte's affairs.  Khalid bin Mahfouz is the billionaire heir to a family fortune based on the National Commercial Bank, which Craig Unger has called "the Saudi version of Citibank" (House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties [Scribner, 2004], p. 23).  Khalid bin Mahfouz is also a friend of Salem bin Laden (the older brother of Osama bin Laden) both of whom came to Houston in the 1970s and extensively cultivated American power élites, including the Bush family (ibid., pp. 20-24, 32-34, 101, 122.

Bin Mahfouz has a connection to Fresh Del Monte through his association with Carlos Cabal Peniche, the Mexican businessman who acquired Fresh Del Monte in 1992 but lost control of it when he was indicted for bank fraud.  Fresh Del Monte was then seized by the Mexican government and was later sold to interests controlled by Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh.  

What does all this have to do with the hapless workers swept up in the immigration raid on Jun. 12?  Ironically, these hard-working individuals are represented as a threat to the national security of the United States, when the real threat is from the corrupting influence on American society of Saudi petrodollars.  

Williamette law professor Keith Cunningham-Parmeter, an expert in employment and immigration law who was lead counsel in a victorious wage and hour class action lawsuit brought against Fresh Del Monte on behalf of food processing workers in Oregon that resulted in the largest settlement for agricultural workers ever in the state, believes that the immigration bust amounted to revenge on workers (ufppc.org/content/view/6300/) who had complained about safety violations: "This was a publicized settlement where immigration officials were aware that there was this group of workers who had complained about workplace violations and this is the first plant they go after in Oregon -- I think it's more than coincidence."  

As for Fresh Del Monte, on Jun. 13 the company posted a statement on its web site saying that "Fresh Del Monte has been advised that it is not a current target of the investigation" in relation to the recent immigration sweep.  "Fresh Del Monte retained American Staffing Resources to provide a contingent labor force at the Portland facility," the statment says.  "Fresh Del Monte does not employ this labor force."  

That may be true technically, but the president's youngest brother appears to be profiting from it.  

--Mark Jensen is a member of United for Peace of Pierce County (WA) and of the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University.

< Let's give a big Seattle welcome to--Gonzo!!! | 36th District Passes "Restoring Habeas Corpus" Resolution >
Display: Sort:
The links to cheap labor cons and illegal immigrants is an issue that can drive a wedge between the corporate ruling class and their base, the right wing voter.

by Pen on Sun Jun 24, 2007 at 11:26:59 AM PST

* 1 none 0 *

I see from the December 19, 2002 NYT article, "Lawsuit Says Del Monte Sale Was Rigged" that there is a truly bizarre recent history to this company.

A followup article on Dec. 31, 2002, says that Marvin Bush resigned from the Fresh Del Monte board, though.  His term was set to run through 05, but he left early.  

I see very little other mainstream media coverage on Del Monte since these articles -- other than financial info.  Just one more example of the failure of our media to cover the most important stories of our times.  Well, I guess this is the last I'll ever eat  Del Monte products....  

There is a Village Voice article, Strange Fruit, from October, 2003...

Florinda Lollo Martinez lost her job so your bananas could stay cheap. And now she's so desperate to provide food for her family that she's risking her life to grow corn on a former banana plantation, even though thugs linked to her former employer, Fresh Del Monte Produce, have been accused of murdering eight of her fellow farmers in the past two years. [para] A single mother of two young children, Martinez worked for 12 years at the Del Monte packing plant here, where union workers earned up to $10 a day cutting green bananas into bunches, cleaning them, and packing them into cardboard boxes, for supermarkets in the eastern United States. That's good pay by Guatemalan standards, and along with it Del Monte, through its subsidiary BANDEGUA, provided subsidized housing in a local factory town called Tikal Sebol. The banana giant also let workers like Martinez grow corn and other vegetables on unused land.

But in 1999, Del Monte moved to cut costs in northeastern Guatemala, firing Martinez and 917 other members of the 4,000-strong Izabal Banana Workers Union. The unpopular move violated the company's contract with its laborers, and international outcry forced Del Monte to give some of the jobs back-but at lower wages, with fewer benefits, no housing, and no fields to plant food on for their families. Martinez and hundreds of others refused Del Monte's offer.

The story goes on to recount how some of the workers then began to farm on some of the unusued land -- which Del Monte then sold at less than one-tenth the market rate to the accused murderers.

by noemie maxwell