Exporting Salmonella

TODAY IS JULY 30, 1993. Yesterday, I received my June issue of Sojourners and hungrily read Kathryn Collmer's superb piece "From Hand to Mouth."

This morning, I have decided that God intervened in delaying the arrival of my June issue to my Bogota mailbox: Coincidence is often the prelude to miracle, miracle the prelude to action.

Yesterday, 105 children at a government daycare center in the Colombian city of Maicao were intoxicated after eating lunch. What do you think they ate? Yep, Tyson Foods chicken that was smuggled into Colombia from Venezuela. At least that's what preliminary radio reports claim. Earlier this year, the Colombian Health Ministry prohibited the import of U.S. chickens because of recurring health problems. So, who are the parents of the Maicao toddlers to blame? And, what weight does Colombian law have when confronting a giant like Tyson?

Tyson sold and someone else resold the salmonella chickens, so surely Tyson is not to blame. Right? Wrong. This is the same excuse the Israeli government used when a bunch of Uzi and Galil machine guns ended up in the backyard of a Colombian drug trafficker. One of those guns was used in the assassination plot against Colombia's leading presidential candidate in 1989. Despite the prestige of the victim and the international scandal that resulted, charges were only brought against a mercenary intermediary in that case. The flow of guns continues, undaunted. So, what hope do we have with chicken running? According to Collmer, the U.S. government hardly holds Tyson accountable for paying taxes!

More than ever, we must multiply our solidarity to confront the policies that promote the global enrichment of the rich and the multinational impoverishment of the poor.

Leslie Wirpsa

Latin American Affairs Writer

National Catholic Reporter

Bogota, Colombia

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Sojourners Magazine November 1993
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