Mauro Romero, banana worker injured after violent attacks on workers at the Los Alamos plantation, Ecuador, in 2002. Source: Interview and translation by Helge Fischer, BanaFair.
Mauro Romero Carranza has worked over the last six years in banana plantations in Ecuador. He went to work in the banana plantations in search of a better future. During this time, Mauro worked in plantations that belonged to Alvaro Noboa Ponton's business empire. Alvaro Noboa is the fourth largest banana exporter in the world. Noboa is very influential both in political and economic spheres in Ecuador.
To earn his basic salary, Mauro had to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mauro’s body is far too thin, a young man of 33 - you can see to look at him that he could be athletically built. However, the exhausting work in the plantations earning miserable wages has drained his body. Mauro suffers malnutrition, just like many others of his colleagues.
Mauro, in solidarity with his colleagues in the Hacienda Los Alamos, took up a labour struggle in February this year, in order to obtain legal recognition for their trade union organisation, payment of their full salaries and the compliance on the part of the employer with a series of other rights and remuneration stipulated in Labour Code and the Laws of the Republic of Ecuador.
On 6th May 2002, the 1200 workers of Los Alamos began a strike to have their legal rights fulfilled. Alvaro Noboa responded with indifference and arrogance to the demands of the workers and ordered them to leave the Hacienda. On 16th May, about 400 armed 'sicarios' (hired killers) attacked the workers with firearms, they hit them and they looted their humble homes. Some workers were wounded. A worker received three pellets in the stomach and one in the right temple. However, the most seriously wounded was Mauro. A cartridge shot destroyed his right leg. Due to the cruel and menacing attitude of the attackers, Mauro lost a lot of blood and was left for two hours before his colleagues were allowed to take him to hospital. The attackers openly admitted they were acting by order of Alvaro Noboa.
In the hospital, Mauro's leg was amputated, just above the right knee. Now Mauro is trying to learn to walk with two wooden crutches. He stumbles and cannot go up the small steps outside his sister's house without help. Mauro will live with his sister while he tries to recover with the help of physiotherapy amongst other treatment that he is receiving in a rehabilitation centre. The prescribed painkillers don't have the desired effect. The doctor said that this pain would slowly diminish over the next few months, after the sawed bone, flesh and veins heal. Mauro does not talk about the psychological and emotional pain that his mutilation is causing him.
His brother Jacinto has started the process of obtaining a disability pension. Although Mauro has a right to a pension that matches his last salary, in practice IESS generally only pay 25% of this, which means that Mauro would only receive $34 each month. Mauro has received the solidarity of his trade union and his colleagues in FENACLE, support from his relatives and friends. He has been visited by people from different countries who were, by the nature of their work, taking an interest in the labour conflict of Los Alamos, which turned to bloodshed. And those of us who want to promote solidarity with banana workers visited him. Each visit has left Mauro, his relatives and his colleagues with growing hope. The hope that Mauro is not forgotten and that his own fight as well as his colleagues' will receive the necessary international support until they attain their goal.