After undergoing modern-day slavery, 123 Afro-Ecuadorian former workers have decided to fight for their rights, and they are now entitled to compensation for their mistreatment and years of servitude.
“This is the first of its kind case that recognizes modern-day slavery involving agriculture in Ecuador,” said Alejandra Zambrano, one of the workers’ lawyers. “The judge’s decision is a historic milestone,” says Ecuador’s Ombudsman Freddy Carrion. “Both the state of Ecuador and the company are responsible, and are compelled, to provide reparations for the victims.”
The plaintiff is all ex-employees of Furukawa Plantaciones C.A., a Japanese-owned company that cultivates abaca fibre, a material used in rope, car interiors, and currency notes to name a few. The company still operates around 30 plantations covering more than 2,300 hectares in three Ecuadorian provinces. The abaca fiber is an industry that brings around $17 million to the country.
For more than 50 years, hundreds of families lived in slave-like conditions. The land on which they lived was rented. “For us, justice is not just that [the company] acknowledge the compensation and money owed to us, as the judge said, but also that they give us back our lands,” says Mayra Valdez, a plaintiff born on the Furukawa estate. “We want the state to recognize all the rights that we were denied.”