Monday, September 10, 2007

The Dark Underworld of Chocolate

I thought it might be time to post another Paris sidewalk stencil, so I surfed through my photos and found one that intrigued me. Then I began my usual research to solve the mystery behind the image. Text on the image says, "Where is Guy-Andre Kieffer?"

What I discovered wasn't all Easter baskets and soft, crushable pastel colored peeps. It was more like chocolate bunnies, with the ears bitten off.

I had no idea that the Ivory Coast was one of the world's largest producers of cocoa (43% of the world's cocoa is exported from here, 1.4 million tons). But there have been some troubling times, and a French-Canadian reporter named Guy-Andre Kieffer was kidnapped and is presumed dead, because he investigated and reported on corruption in the Ivory Coast cocoa industry, and unfortunately implicated the country's president.

From a 2004 Guardian article:
"Cocoa is a dark, confused world. You don't know where the money goes. And into it came Guy-André, obsessed about telling the truth."
A recent (August 23, 2007) France 3 television exclusive (YouTube, in French) interviews a witness who claims that Guy-Andre was held for two days in the basement of Ivory Coast's President Gbagbo, and then he was executed.

The best article, with the most up-to-date facts, comes from the US Embassy in Abidjan, via this post on allAfrica.com.

Here's some startling facts from the same 2004 CBC radio report mentioned above:
The world's cocoa is grown within ten degrees north and south of the equator -- in some of the poorest countries in the world and child slaves often work in the fields. Ninety per cent of the world's cocoa production is grown on farms five hectares or less -- allowing much of this slavery to go unnoticed. In Cote d'Ivoire, it's believed that up to 15-thousand child slaves work on the country's 600-thousand cocoa farms.

The United States is the top cocoa importer. Corruption? Murder? Child Slavery? I doubt I will be consuming chocolate any time in the foreseeable future.

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