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Neighbor To Neighbor Ends Coffee Boycott

March 20, 1992 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ A human rights group said Friday it has ended a two-year boycott of U.S. coffee brands using Salvadoran beans now that a cease fire and United Nations- sponsored peace accord have taken hold in El Salvador.

Neighbor to Neighbor targeted U.S. coffee makers, especially Procter & Gamble Co.’s Folgers brand. The group contended the companies supported the country’s civil war and the oppression of workers and citizens by buying Salvadoran coffee beans.

Procter & Gamble urged the United Nations and U.S. officials to intervene and help end the Central American country’s 12-year-old civil war. The multinational company, however, refused to discontinue use of Salvadoran coffee beans.

″When the boycott began the U.S. coffee industry stated they had no role to play in the situation in El Salvador,″ said Neighbor to Neighbor spokesman Rob Everts. ″Through consumer action, we convinced them otherwise.″

The national group has an active membership of 60,000. It had success in compelling several restaurants to adopt its boycott. For instance, last year the Boston-based Pizzeria Uno chain dropped its Folgers contract after continuous picketing by the group’s members.

″The boycott achieved bringing the horrible reality of the U.S. policy in El Salvador into the homes of Americans,″ Everts said. ″Coffee represents much of the history and oppression in El Salvador.

″Because most Americans drink coffee or know someone who does, it was a very direct way they could influence what was going on over there,″ he said.

Donald Tassone, spokesman for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, said that since the boycott began, ″we and many others have strongly believed it was misguided and not in the best interest of the people of El Salvador.″

″We’ve disagreed with the boycotters over tactics, but our goal has been the same - peace in El Salvador,″ he said.

Tassone declined to comment further on the boycott.

Neighbor to Neighbor launched the boycott five days after six Jesuit priests and their housekeepers were slain by a military squad in the capital city of San Salvador in November 1989.

Among the boycott’s supporters was James Gamble of Amherst, great-great- grandson of James Gamble, the co-founder of Procter & Gamble. He and his family hold about 900,000 shares of Procter & Gamble’s 365.8 million shares outstanding.

Gamble twice asked shareholders to adopt a resolution that would force the company to stop using Salvadoran beans, although company officials say those beans make up only about 2 percent of the Folgers blend. Shareholders rejected both of those resolutions.

Procter & Gamble Chairman Edwin L. Artzt, joined by the heads of Kraft- General Foods and Nestle Beverage Co., last year sent a telegram in September to then-U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar urging support for peace talks. They also met with State Department officials in Washington to push for a peace accord.

The three companies are the biggest buyers of Salvadoran coffee.

Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani and leaders of the rebel opposition agreed to a peace accord just before the new year began.