Mexican Authorities Rescue 280 from Slavery

By Dialogo
June 13, 2013

On June 11, Mexican authorities in the west of the country rescued a group of at least 280 people, some of whom were minors, who were forcibly held against their will and exploited by a manufacturer that packed and exported tomatoes, an official source stated.

Bioparques de Occidente, a Mexican company that set up a camp in the municipality of Tolimán, Jalisco state, exploited hundreds of people from rural communities of at least four Mexican states, regional prosecutor Salvador González stated.

Five supervisors were arrested for “serious violations and crimes, such as willful deprivation of liberty and human trafficking,” against poor families, among which there were 39 adolescents, González added.

The prosecutor explained that contractors made announcements on the radio and offered $7.60 per day, as well as food and housing for three months.

However, once workers reached the brick-and-tin-roofed camps, they received about half of the payment promised in vouchers for groceries, which were spent at a nearby store that sold overpriced goods. Furthermore, they were forced against their will to stay in overcrowded conditions, lacking hygiene and suffering malnutrition.

“Some have attempted to escape, but if they got caught they were returned and beaten. There have also been people who were kept against their will without pay for up to one month after their contract ends,” González added.

Valentín Hernández, a 21 year-old from Tamaulipas, talked about the hell he went through when he decided to work for the tomato exporting company.

“There is no work at all down there; we heard the brokers who work for contractors and thought it would get better. But that is not true at all,” the day laborer, who went through the situation with his wife, said.

“We arrived here a month ago, and we were locked in a two by four meter room, along with two other couples that also had children,” he added. “The working day is about 12 hours long, and we are paid 70 pesos. The food is rotten and they are keeping us as slaves,” the young, who did not dare to escape, stated.

“They tell you that you can go if you want, but they do not let you go. They hide your things and threaten you to make you stay. And if someone dares to escape and gets caught, they get beaten up once they are back. Some people managed to escape, but it is impossible if you have a family,” he said.