Et tu IKEA?: Swedish furniture giant used Cuban prisoners as slave labor in the 1980s

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As if the long list of countries, organizations, companies, and individuals who have betrayed the Cuban people and have contributed to their misery and enslavement needs to get any longer. You can now add the Swedish furniture manufacturing giant IKEA to that list.

An investigation that uncovered IKEA had used East German prisoners as slave labor has also uncovered documents that indicate Cuban prisoners on the island were used as slave labor as well. The documents show that East German officials representing what appears to be a joint venture between IKEA and the East German dictatorship struck a deal with the Castro dictatorship to use Cuban prisoners as slave labor to manufacture IKEA furniture in Cuba.

Yet another disturbing example of the fruits borne from “trade and engagement” with brutal and vile dictatorships.

Via Germany’s English language news site, The Local:

Ikea ‘also used Cuban prisoners’

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said it has seen East German files about a deal for Ikea furniture to be made in Cuban prisons.

The deal was struck in September 1987, after a delegation of East Germans went to Havana for talks with the Cuban Interior Ministry. East German documents show that they also spoke with Enrique Sanchez, who headed the Cuban company Emiat – responsible for furnishing the holiday and guest homes of the Cuban political elite.

The East German files say production sites were “incorporated in the prison facilities of the Interior Ministry” in Cuba.

A contract was later signed with East Berlin-based “Ikea Trading Berlin”, the paper said, for up to 4,000 “Falkenberg” three-piece suites and then 10,000 tables for children and 35,000 dining tables, all to be made in Cuba.

Problems arose in early 1988, when the first delivery of “Falkenberg” sofas was halted because of poor quality, prompting the East Germans to take another trip to Cuba to ensure production was up to Ikea quality standards. Only then, the documents show, could, “a direct shipment from Havana to Sweden be undertaken.”

The claims will increase pressure on the Swedish retail firm, which has already said this week it will look into allegations that East German prisoners were forced to make its products in the 1970s and 1980s. A spokesman told the FAZ it knew nothing about the Cuban production claims.

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2 thoughts on “Et tu IKEA?: Swedish furniture giant used Cuban prisoners as slave labor in the 1980s”

  1. Foreign business interests have been using Cuban slave labor for ages. All Cubans are slaves, whether officially in prison or not.

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