Rough conditions for farmworkers. Rough conditions for farmworkers.excélsior

Working conditions provoke probe, protest

Authorities freed indigenous workers after finding 'shameful conditions'

Working conditions for farm laborers in two states have resulted in an investigation in one case and violent protests in the second.

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Officials from Chihuahua arrived in Baja California Sur yesterday to investigate charges of maltreatment towards 90 members of the state’s indigenous Rarámuri who had been working on the potato harvest.

Federal Labor Secretary Alfonso Navarrete told a press conference last week that 200 members of the indigenous Rarámuri had been freed by authorities after they were found working in inhumane conditions in Baja California Sur.

Men, women and children had been recruited in Creel, Chihuahua, by the Guanajuato-based firm Corporativo El Cerezo Sociedad Agrícola to work on the potato harvest in Comondú. But an investigation found that working conditions were “shameful, illegal, unhealthy with a miserable salary.”

Workers were being paid 200 pesos a week as a loan, with the promise that the balance owing would be paid upon completion of the work.

Investigators identified 113 infractions of labor regulations such as unsafe working conditions and lack of sanitary facilities and drinking water, among others. Thirteen minors were found to be working, and 167 workers were not registered for social security and consequently received no benefits.

But things were looking better when officials from the Social Development, Labor and Health Secretariats of Chihuahua arrived yesterday. One said better conditions have been provided for some of the indigenous workers, including air conditioning, showers and treated drinking water.

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In Baja California, meanwhile, farmworkers shut down the Transpeninsular Highway for nearly a full day on Tuesday to protest working conditions and wages.

The state prosecutor’s office detained 236 protesters yesterday in San Quintín, charging them with damage to public property, rioting and robbery after some businesses were looted.

Protesters attempted to march to government offices but they were dispersed by police. Worried about damage to their property and further looting, residents had armed themselves in defense.

They claimed the farmworkers were responsible but one denied the charge, saying there were third parties involved who had nothing to do with the workers’ cause.

Among their demands is an increase in pay from the current 120-130 pesos for an eight-hour day.

Source: Milenio (sp)

This story has been updated to correct an error in the map which gave the wrong location for San Quintín.

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