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IKEA's alleged Cuba contract angers exiles

May 5, 2012 at 1:57 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, May 5 (UPI) -- An IKEA company spokeswoman said the company will widen its investigation of Cuban prisoners reportedly building IKEA products in the 1980s.

El Nuevo Herald reported Saturday anger was building among Cuban exiles in Florida over a report that the Swedish furniture company in 1987 had arranged with Cuban authorities for prisoners to build "35,000 dining tables, 10,000 children's tables and an unspecified number of sofas."

"We take these allegations very seriously," said spokeswoman Mona Liss.

IKEA has already been looking into allegations the company used German Democratic Republic prisoners to build furniture in the 1970s and 1980s.

While reviewing that situation, German reporters found evidence East German officials helped IKEA reach a deal with Cuba.

East Germany's official end came in 1990, although the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989.

Regarding the new allegations, "Cuba never misses the opportunity of seeking strong foreign currency to grease the regime's repressive machinery," said Luis Gonzalez Infante, the president of the Cuban Historical Political Penitentiary, who was a prisoner in Cuba for 16 years.

"All entities, including major corporations, have a moral responsibility to assure they are not used by tyrannical regimes to further violate human rights,'' said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In another case involving forced labor, a federal court in Miami in 2008 ordered the Curacao Drydock Co. to pay $80 million to three Cuban men who claimed they were forced by the Cuban government to work for 3.5 cents an hour for 16-hour shifts doing ship repair work.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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