World News‎ > ‎

Mexican Officials Rescue 275 Workers In "Slave-Like" Conditions

posted 12 Jun 2013, 13:55 by Mpelembe   [ updated 12 Jun 2013, 13:56 ]

Mexican police rescue 275 Mexican workers at a tomato plant, in the western state of Jalisco, who were allegedly held against their will and exploited.

TOLIMAN, JALISCOMEXICO (JUNE 11, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Mexican authorities rescued at least 275 people who were allegedly being held in slave-like conditions at a tomato sorting and packing company in the municipality of Toliman in the western state of Jalisco, officials said.

Authorities on Tuesday (June 11) said the victims, from rural communities in Veracruz, San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo, were found thanks to a report filed by a worker who managed to escape the field last week and alerted authorities in theJalisco state capital city of Guadalajara.

About fifteen families with 39 children, were hoping to improve their living conditions by working for the company Bioparques de Occidente.

The company advertised the jobs on the radio and in communities offering well-paid jobs, food and accommodation for three months. The workers were in fact paid half of what they were promised, regional prosecutor Salvador Gonzalez said.

"They (workers) were offered jobs in Ciudad Guzman where they were offered $100 pesos ($7.85 dollars) per day, schools, accommodation. The offer was attractive. But when they (workers) arrived here they realised it was a different reality. They (Bioparques de Occidente) made them work more than eight hours and didn't pay them $100 pesos."

Gonzalez added the workers were told they could leave if they wanted to, but if they tried to escape and were discovered, they were taken back and beaten. Some were even kept for a month after their contract had expired without pay.

"We could consider a possible privation (of freedom), possible abuse in virtue of the statements by some workers who said they tried to escape but they were found and beaten."

The victims - who were held against their will in precarious, dirty, overcrowded conditions - were mainly paid in vouchers redeemable at the company store where items were sold at overblown prices.

One worker said they had been promised even more than the 100 pesos cited by the prosecutor, but that the compnay paid them less and expected them to work more.

"We were told they were going to pay us $120 pesos ($9.42 dollars) but no, they paid us $100 pesos ($7.85 dollars) for 60 buckets of tomatoes and they forced us to work additional hours. They didn't let us out even after finishing our work," said worker, Mariana Martinez.

This worker showed journalists a pay slip with different amounts of money paid per day, as mothers with small children gathered outside their rooms.

Another man showed bruising and marks left on his skin after he was allegedly beaten for trying to escape.

Another worker, Alejandro Acosta, said no consideration was shown to babies and small children.

"We are badly treated here. It's not fair. They should pay us what they owe us in any case! Scoldings in the morning when one has a sick baby. They go to your room, kick the door open and tell you: 'Go to work, now!' If one does not go to work in the field you are not given any food, no food and apart from that you have to work here, sweep the floor, clean toilets, collect rubbish. It's not fair."

Five foremen were arrested for "grave violations and crimes, including the illegal privation of freedom and human trafficking."

Authorities continue to investigate the company, which is based in the city ofCuliacan in the northwest state of Sinaloa.