April 26 - May 3, 2002



(JERSEY CITY) Rep. Robert Menendez, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, received campaign contributions from Sudanese business interests after sponsoring legislation to help the business avoid US trade sanction. Sudan is high on the State Department List of State Sponsors of terrorism and is also notorious for the continued practice of slavery today.

Sudan is subject to complete US embargo of all goods and services produced there because it has been a haven for terrorists including Osama Bin-Laden who lived there until he was expelled in 1996. The only exemption to the trade ban is the concession won for his home district constituents by Rep. Menendez. The Gum Arabic produced in Sudan is a key ingredient in soft drinks, candy, pharmaceuticals, and ink.

Rev. Edward Allen is Democratic candidate for the 10th Congressional District, covering parts of Jersey City, most of Newark, parts of Elizabeth, and Linden, Roselle, Rahway, and Perth Amboy. Rev. Allen says he cannot understand "how can we trust him to think of homeland security with this kind of conflict, if it is ongoing. I call on Congressman Menendez to come forward and define his position and current status since he became chair of the committee. Does he still look to these patrons of slavery, terrorism, and genocide for financial support today?"

Allen urged those running with Menendez, Tom DeGise, candidate for Hudson County Executive, and Congressman Donald Payne, to also require Menendez to declare his current position, on this matter and on Cuba as well. "He is willing to create a loophole in trade barriers for the benefit of a genocidal dictatorship in Sudan, but he is unshakably opposed to doing the same for his own homeland. Cuba is another harshly repressive regime and it has been under heavy trade sanctions for more than 40 years," said Allen, "It is inconsistent, to say the least. Perhaps if there were a large importer of Cuban goods, say, a sugar refinery in Union City, Menendez might see things differently on Cuba."

Current US trade sanctions against Sudan flatly prohibit Sudanese products of any kind from entering the United States, except for a specific waiver for Gum Arabic, thanks to legislative efforts by Menendez. Importer Services Corporation, headquartered on Suydam Street in Jersey City, Menendez' district, is the largest US importer of Gum Arabic and a campaign contributor to Menendez' along with other users of Gum Arabic.

Gum Arabic is important to the anemic $11 Billion a year Sudanese economy as one of only three cash export crops. There are numerous companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and on Nasdaq with annual revenues in excess of the Sudanese Gross Domestic Product.

The Daioy Telegraph of London reported shortly after the World Trade Center attack saying "every time a soft drink is sold in the word, there is a chilling possibility that Osama bin Laden's wealth increases - and with it the power of his terrorist network to wage war on the West.

Most drinks contain gum Arabic, a substance that prevents particles settling in the bottom of a can or bottle. Much of it is produced in Sudan by the Gum Arabic company, in which bin Laden has owned a large slice." Bin Laden lived in Sudan from 1990 until 1996 when he left there. It is not known to what extent he is still involved in the Gum Arabic trade although it is rumored that while he was in Sudan Bin-Laden tried and failed to corner the Sudanese market.

Besides Osama Bin-Laden, Sudan has been and may still be home to other international terror figures including Abul-Nidal, and Carlos the Jackal, according to the US State Department. The State Department's files on Sudan list human rights violations that include, persecution of women and Christians and "Trafficking I Person."

The London based Anti Slavery International reports that "In Sudan, chattel slavery is making a comeback. Arab Muslim militias of the Muslim North, armed by the government have been raiding Christian and animist African villages in the South, shooting the men and enslaving women and children. According to ASI, "there is probably no village in the North without kidnapped black slaves." ASI reports that prices fluctuate with supply and demand. The slaves are chattel. They are used for house or for labor, for sex, and for breeding. They may be exchanged for camels, trucks, guns, or money.

At one time, an automatic weapon such as an AK-47 could be traded for six or seven child slaves or a cash equivalent of $90 USD. Some of the children are trucked to Libya, according to the US Embassy in Khartoum. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has also heard testimony from anti-slavery groups and others saying that the "policies of the Sudanese government have contributed to the deaths of more than two million people."

The Gum Arabic importer made contributions to Menendez' campaign fund totaling $6,000 during 1998 through 2000. Other companies in the soft drink, food and drug industries, who use the gum, have contributed a total of $55,669 to Menendez campaign in PAC money since 1997, according to his campaign finance reports.

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