John Menzer, Wal-Mart’s Vice Chairman, did some global flag-waving in the December, 2005 issue of Wal-Mart World, the internal company newsletter that is read by hundreds of thousands of “associates.” Menzer referred to the hoisting of “five new flags” in the Home Office auditorium as a “very colorful and exciting demonstration of Wal-Mart’s growth around the world.” Here are excerpts from Menzer’s article to his workers: “One by one, five new flags representing the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua were raised next to those countries already a part of Wal-Mart’s global family. Including the U.S., we now have operations in 16 countries around the world. Our newest partner is CARHCO, which stands for Central American Retail Holding Company. CARHCO is Central America’s largest retailer, with approximately 23,000 associates and more than 360 supermarkets and other stores throughout the region. Currently we have a one-third interest in CARHCO, but our agreement calls for acquiring a majority interest in the company in the future. CARHCO includes two supermarket chains. One is La Fragua, which is based in Guatemala and with additional stores in El Salvador and Honduras. The other is Corporaci??n de Supermercados Unidos (CSU), which has its headquarters in Costa Rica with stores also in Nicaragua. Also a part of CARHCO is Corporaci??n de Compa????as Agroindustriales (CCA), which was started by CSU, and now supplies CARHCO with meat and seafood, fruit, grain, vegetables and bakery products. To me, one of the most fascinating things about our partnership with CARHCO is the fact that Wal-Mart, La Fragua and CSU have remarkably similar histories. Carlos Paiz founded La Fragua in Guatemala in 1928, and Enrique Uribe founded CSU in Costa Rica in 1960. Over the years, Se??ors Paiz and Uribe expanded their businesses one store at a time with a strong emphasis on customer service. Other family members became involved in the two companies, and as they attracted more and more shoppers, La Fragua and CSU became their countries’ leading retailers. After that, they then expanded into other markets. Sound familiar? The common heritage we share with the CARHCO companies will be an asset as we work over the coming months to integrate operations and learn from each other. It’s critically important in the United States and in every market where we operate around the world to identify and share the best business practices and best solutions to common problems. Wal-Mart has a strong retail presence in the Americas including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States. We’re also in China, Germany, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom. Our international growth in just 14 years has been remarkable, yet the potential for further growth remains enormous. It’s exciting to think about our future, but as we do, it’s important to keep in mind the basic business principle understood and practiced by the Walton, Paiz and Uribe families: growth comes from taking care of customers, one store at a time. Every one of us can do something to meet the needs of one of our customers. That’s the key to our future.”
So the Walton family now takes over control of the Paiz and Uribe families, so that someday these families will be forgotten, but the Walton legacy will live on in one large happy “global family.” But there are a growing number of people who don’t want any part of this Wal-Mart global family. Wal-Mart, which once only took advantage of the low-income workforce in Central America, now can get those same poor populations to shop at Wal-Mart instead of local merchants, pumping resources out of these “new flag” countries, and sending them back to the billionaire masters of the machine. Wal-Mart is a growing chain of international exploitation, and at every link along the chain, someone is being exploited. Add five new flags to this family of global exploitation.