Videotape backs call for Folgers boycott

By JACK LESAR United Press International

Leaders of a Salvadoran coffee boycott passed out free videotapes at sites across the country Thursday, urging consumers to spurn The Procter & Gamble Co.'s Folgers brand, saying the company could end El Salvador's 11-year-old civil war in a week by refusing to buy the country's coffee.

Neighbor to Neighbor unveiled the 12-minute 'video-leaflet' at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, just down the hall from where Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani was holding a news conference for the Capital press corps.


The San Francisco-based peace group also handed out copies of the tape to passers-by outside P&G offices and outside the New York and Chicago advertising agencies that handle Folgers.

Televisions were set up so consumers could see the video presentation, which accuses wealthy Salvadoran coffee-growers with financing death squads responsible for the murders of some 40,000 Salvadorans.


'It's time for Procter & Gamble board members and employees to see the reality of El Salvador on a television screen, so we're showing 'The Folgers Coffee Connection' video outside P&G offices nationwide,' Neighbor to Neighbor Executive Director Fred Ross said.

He said if P&G took the lead in boycotting Salvadoran coffee, other coffee producers would follow.

'Over one half the market for Salvadoran coffee would be cut off and, within a week, that would cause a peace settlement in El Salvador,' Ross says in the video.

Denise Bergez, a Neighbor-to-Neighbor spokeswoman in Cincinnati, where P&G is based, said the group began the boycott in November 1989 following the slayings of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and the housekeeper's daughter by a Salvadoran death squad.

She said the group has focused its effort on Folgers for the past year for two reasons.

'One is that they're one of the largest selling U.S. brand that uses Salvadoran beans and another is because P&G's has a history of taking responsible action in the past on human rights issues,' she said.

She noted P&G took the lead in divesting its holdings in South Africa to protest apartheid and also boycotted Ugandan coffee when Idi Amin weas in power to demonstrate its opposition to the dictator's bloody reign.


But P&G spokesman Don Passone said: 'The situation in El Salvador is vastly different from the historic situations in Ugandaand South Africa and Neighbor to Neighbor knows that. To equate those situations is a deliberate and irresponsible deception.'

'Their disagreement is with the U.S. government over foreign policy and not with Procter & Gamble,' he said.

'We think it is unfair that they would attempt to involve or thrust our brand and our company into that disagreement simply as a convenient vehicle for getting publicity for their views.'

Passone said P&G is not the largest U.S. importer of Salvadoran coffee, that Folgers contains less than 2 percent Salvadoran coffee. He said the company's policy of continuing to buy coffee from El Salvador follows U.S. State Department recommendations and is supported by the Roman Catholic bishops of El Salvador, who say a boycott would not be in the interests of the Salvadoran people.

'They think it (boycott) is grossly misguided and so do we,' said Passone.

But a Jesuit priest appearing in the video says Salvadoran peasants endorse the boycott saying that they know it will hurt them but that the long-term advantages outweigh the short-term disadvantages.


The video, produced by Emmy winner Bill Jersey, outlines the connection between coffee growers and death squads and poses the question: 'If promoting human rights is good company policy, and it is, them isn't it time Procter & Gamble stopped buying coffee from El Salvador?'

It ends with an appeal from James Gamble, a descendent of the company's founder, 'join me and my family and encourage Procter & Gamble to take a stand for human rights. Support the Salvadoran coffee boycott.'

Gamble and 18 religious organizations that hold stock in P&G are attempting to mount a shareholder initiative -- for consideration at the company's october meeting -- that would require P&G to conduct a study of reported ties between Salvadoran coffee growers and death squads.

A Neighbor to Neighbor spokeswoman said 3,000 tapes would be distributed Thursday and more were being made for future demonstrations.

'Now, more than ever, we must be united in the clear message we send to El Salvador,' Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at the group's Washington news conference.

'Escalating the coffee boycott will reinforce the economic message we are sending to the right-wing in El Salvador that they connot with impunity undermine the efforts for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict there,' she said.


El Salvador's President Alfredo Cristiani and President Bush, during a meeting Wednesday, sidestepped the controversy about the ongoing trial of nine members of the military accused of the November 1989 slayings that prompted Neighbor to Neighbor to launch the coffee boycott.

Said Bush, 'We know that you will press to see justice done in the case of this despicable crime.'

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