Chile: Former Presidential Candidate Accused of ‘Enslaving’ Employees

The night of Tuesday, July 5 Chilean television network Canal 13 [es] aired a documentary in its program Contacto (Contact) where they denounced the bad conditions (even labeling them as “slavery”) in which Paraguayan immigrants work in former presidential candidate Francisco Javier Errazuriz's companies.

The character's high profile, plus the serious accusation, caused a stir on Twitter, as the online version of the newspaper Publímetro mentioned through its account (@PublimetroChile):

Reportaje de Contacto sobre ex trabajadores de “Fra-Fra” arrasa en twitter #frafra #paraguayos

Contacto's report on “Fra-Fra's” former employees sweeps twitter #frafra #paraguayos

Francisco Javier Errazuriz. Image from Twitter.

Francisco Javier Errazuriz. Image from Twitter.

The hashtags #frafra (the businessman's nickname is Fra-Fra) and #paraguayos (Paraguayans) were local trending topics (TT) during Tuesday night and all Wednesday, July 6.

Engineer Matias Claro (@mclaro) commented:

Siempre he tenido la peor impresión d #frafra pero lo de ayer se fue impresentable. Que pena x Chile este personaje. Por suerte es minoría

I've always had the worst impression of #frafra but yesterday's [report] was just too much. This character is a shame for Chile. Fortunately he's a minority

Jessica Witt (@jessykawp) said:

Cree que por tener más recursos puede aprovecharse de quienes no tienen nada #frafra debería darle verguenza…

He thinks that being richer allows him to take advantage of those who have nothing #frafra should be ashamed…

While Paula Perez (@Paulapj1) dares saying:

#frafra esto es solo la punta del iceberg si realmente investigaran y la justicia fuera igual para todos este señor tendría cadena perpetua

#frafra this is only the tip of the iceberg if they really investigate and if justice was the same for everyone this gentleman would be imprisoned for life

The story, using videos of interviews with former Fra-Fra employees – both Chilean and Paraguayan- gave testimony of the dreadful conditions in which the Paraguayans lived. They didn't receive their wage due to deductions made with the excuse that they already had “food and shelter”. Two minors are included within the plaintiff group.  Also, the documentary mentioned that the immigrants arrived to Chile with tourist visas after they were “deceived” about the conditions of their stay. One of the former managers pointed out that Errazuriz had decided to bring workers from Paraguay due to the lack of interest from locals to work for him, allegedly because the businessman's abuses were known by the community.

Nevertheless, some questioned the truthfulness of the report, like the economist Sebastian Miranda (@semica):

Por lo que se ve, repudiable lo de #frafra.Eso sí viniendo de periodistas, me hace siempre dudar

It looks like this #frafra business is reprehensible. But, coming from journalists, it makes me doubt

On the other hand, some wanted to highlight that abuses among big business moguls are not that unusual. Like law student Jorge Gonzalez P. (@Jorge_Gonzalezp), who questions:

De que se asombran? Cual es la novedad? Para mi es una practica habitual de los “patrones”, lo diferente es que este sale en la tele #frafra

Why are you surprised? What's the novelty? For me it is a usual practice among “landowners”, the difference is that this one is on TV #frafra

This is not the first time the businessman is accused of unlawful practices. Actually, there were previous complaints from Paraguayan employees, as this video from TVN (National Television) aired on May 23, 2011, shows:

Video: The 47 Paraguayans that claim to have been deceitfully brought to our country are in a shelter under the protection of the District Attorney's office. They said they came to work for F.J.Errazuriz's companies. The businessman denies the accusations while and investigation is taking place.

“Everything was supposed to be free”, says one of the men interviewed, “the ticket, the food, housing. But when I arrived everything turned out differently.”

“Did you sign a work contract?” asks the journalists. “No, and when the police showed up, they told us to hide in the vineyards”, says another man. The young man adds: “If the police asked, we were supposed to say that we were here on a training, therefore, we could be here on a tourist visa”.

The D.A. says that the idea of having them in a shelter is to make sure their basic needs are covered: food, shelter, clothing.

Another young man admits that only the ones who woke up early received any breakfast, everyone else had to go to work without eating. Also, he adds, they used toilet water to prepare their food because they had no access to drinking water.

Errazuriz says he indeed paid for their tickets and if they turned out to be bad employees, he would send them back all expenses paid.

Errazuriz has defended himself on television, in his blog and on his Twitter account (@fjerrazurizt), where he replied to all the questions and insults during and after the broadcast of Contacto‘s documentary. Here are some of his declarations on the social network:

¿Necesitaba Gob Show CONTACTO p desviar atencion intento allanamiento a Casa ABello,padre de mi tatara abuelo? ¡Que verguenza de s/ vergzas

Did the government need the CONTACTO Show to deviate the attention to the break-in attempt to House ABello, father of my great-great-grand father? What a shame from the scoundrels

#contacto#canal13: Falta etica oculto entrvtas paraguayos q desenmascaraban MONTAJE-SHOW p ganar rating y figuracion.Tpco.nada nuevo señalan

#contacto#canal13: Lack of ethics hiding interviews of Paraguayans who exposed the MONTAGE-SHOW to gain ratings and fame. They didn't say anything new

Soy víctima con violencia, de ataques cada vez más injustos, promov. desde el Gob, dde se me acusa de “esclavitud” por capacitar paraguayos.

I am a victim of violence, attacks that are every time more unfair, promoted by the government, who accuse me of “slavery” for training Paraguayans.

Nunca No soy Tweetero. Tampoco lo sere p responder ataques. Espero q con altura se hayan entretenido. Eso pedi a colabdres. Perdonen errores.

I am not a tweep. I won't be to respond attacks. I hope that you have been entertained. I asked that from my staff. Excuse the mistakes.

The tweeting frenzy during the night made some suspicious about the real face behind the account. Ramona (@monaillanes) questioned:

La cuenta de #frafra@fjerrazurizt es fake?? Porque si no lo es, a quién le habrá pagado para q la lleve?

Is #frafra‘s account fake?? Because, if it's not, who did he pay to manage it?

Student Sebastián Rozas (@sebarozt) notes with black comedy:

no crean que el wn de @fjerrazurizt se quedo despierto toda la noche respondiendo! es un paraguayo esclavo que tiene que hacer eso! #frafra

don't think that the idiot of @fjerrazurizt stayed awake all night answering! it is a Paraguayan slave who has to do that! #frafra

And the businessman defended himself by saying:

@Beatrik Es verdadera, pero no siempre la atiende el mismo, como es obvio y para desilucion (sic) de muchos ociosos.ñp

@Beatrik It's real, but it is not always managed by him, as it is obvious and to the disappointment (sic) of many idle people.

It is worth noting that Errazuriz had closed his Twitter account by the time this post was finished.

The Twitter war was taken to the courts: on July 6, Paraguayan prosecutor Teresa Martinez announced that she would ask for Errazuriz’ extradition [es] for the alleged crime of human trafficking with the severity of including minors.


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