Why did Mercedes Benz fire an anti-Chavez political activist?

Federico Medina Ravell has been fired from his job with Mercedes Benz over private political activism

Just cruisin' - Chavez and Daniel Ortega take a ride in a Mercedes
The Commentator
On 21 April 2012 10:00

Mercedes Benz is at it again. In January of 2012 the German car-maker got themselves in hot water by launching a campaign for high-end cars in front of a massive picture of Argentine revolutionary (and murderer) Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the words “long live the revolution”. 

This stunningly insensitive move – akin to promoting tourism with the image of Kim Jong Ill – was quickly reversed through an apology by the auto giant. They called their own campaign “thoughtless” and “stupid”; claiming it was not meant to offend.  

Very public apologies aside, disturbing trends have emerged about Mercedes’ kowtowing to dictators to make a quick buck. The most recent case is not public or notorious; instead, it involves a localised case of injustice. 

As confirmed by exclusive documents seen by The Commentator, on April 18, 2012 a Venezuelan named Federico Medina Ravell was fired from his role as the Operations Manager of Rusticos Automundia C.A.; the licensed Mercedes Benz dealership in the city of Valencia, Venezuela.  According to his termination letter, Ravell was guilty of “violating the norms of the business,” by “relating his professional work with issues of politics.”  Of course, in all constitutional republics personal political activity is sacrosanct. This is true in Venezuela as well; and the summary dismissal violates articles 57, 61, 67 and 89 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Mr. Medina had run afoul of the Hugo Chavez government because of his personal political activity carried out with his own resources and on his own time – and pressure seems to have been exerted upon his employer to silence him by taking away his livelihood. This type of activity is commonplace in the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez. At one point the Chavez administration even compiled an electronic database of 3.6 million opposition activists and distributed the list across the length and breadth of the country. 

This list, called “Lista Tascon” and “Lista Maisanta” resulted in the largest case of political discrimination, perhaps since apartheid South Africa. Tens of thousands were fired from their jobs, others were forced to sign confessions and renounce their opposition to the government, while some were denied medical care and government loans. The perpetrators of this massive illegal activity never saw the inside of a court room; no surprise since the orders came from the highest office in the land. 
Despite the common use of political discrimination in Venezuela, it is still illegal. Article two of the Inter-American Democratic Charter – which Venezuela signed and which has subsequently become customary international law in the Americas states, “The effective exercise of representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law and of the constitutional regimes of the member states of the Organization of American States. Representative democracy is strengthened and deepened by permanent, ethical, and responsible participation of the citizenry within a legal framework conforming to the respective constitutional order.”

It is clear that the move against people like Mr. Medina are a violation of the constitution; and go against Venezuela’s international obligations.  However, in a country where the judicial branch of government has been completely co-opted under the power of Chavez’s government, it is also clear that Medina will not receive a free and fair trial.  

Despite this fact, Mercedes Benz is obliged to follow the Venezuelan constitution and the rule of law. Kowtowing to the Chavez regime in order to keep making money is not only immoral, but violates the law. Should Mr. Medina receive an inadequate response to the police report he filed against his company and the Government of Venezuela for violation of his constitutional rights – something that in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela seems probable – he has every right to continue to seek a redress of grievances against his employer and the Venezuelan government outside the country.  

Whether Mercedes Benz can be held legally and financially liable for the actions of their licensed dealerships in authoritarian countries is a matter for a German court to decide.  
There is however a broader issue here; the willingness of powerful companies to shirk their moral responsibilities in order to continue to profit.

The primary responsibility for each trans-national company in the globalised world is to adhere strictly to the rule of law. This is one of the only things that should be demanded of those participating in the global marketplace. When this principle is shirked due to the probable anonymity of the abuse; the entire system suffers.  Mercedes Benz should know better; this is not the first time they have been caught with their pants down.

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