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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Argentina

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1998
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Argentina, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa478.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.

ARGENTINA

Argentina is a federal constitutional democracy with an executive branch headed by an elected president, a bicameral legislature, and a separate judiciary. In 1995 voters reelected President Carlos Saul Menem to a second term that runs until 1999. The judiciary is independent but inefficient.

The President is the constitutional commander in chief, and a civilian Defense Minister oversees the armed forces. Several law enforcement agencies share the responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Federal Police report to the Interior Minister, as do the Border Police and Coast Guard. Provincial police are subordinate to the respective provincial governors. Members of the police continued to commit human rights abuses.

Argentina has a mixed agricultural, industrial, and service economy. An economic reform and structural adjustment program has led to high growth with low inflation and spurred competitiveness. Gross domestic product (GDP) increased about 8 percent, and per capita GDP was $8,900. As a result of privatization, private sector adjustment, and rapid labor force growth, the national unemployment rate, although declining slowly, remained high at 16 percent. The high cost of living affected those on low fixed incomes the most, although the entire country benefited from the end of hyperinflation.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. There continued to be instances of extrajudicial killings and brutality by the police, who also arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. However, the authorities took action to prosecute or punish a number of persons for such abuses. Prison conditions are poor. The judicial system is subject to political influence at times and to inordinate delays, resulting in lengthy pretrial detention. There were numerous threats against journalists, and one journalist was killed. Discrimination and violence against women are also problems.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated extrajudicial killings.

Police officers, however, were believed responsible for a number of extrajudicial killings. The authorities investigated and in some cases detained, tried, and convicted the officers involved. A former police chief in the province of Buenos Aires was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the brutal murder in January of news photographer Jose Luis Cabezas (see Section 2.a.). In April a young woman, Teresa Rodriguez, was killed when police in the province of Neuquen, reinforced by federal border guards, broke up a demonstration by striking teachers and unemployed workers in the town of Cutral-co. The bullet that killed her apparently was fired from a police weapon, although this could not be confirmed.

In April a court in the Buenos Aires provincial town of Lomas de Zamora sentenced two provincial police officers to 8 years in prison in the 1992 death of 19-year-old Anibal Romero, shot and killed while attempting to avoid arrest on suspicion of armed robbery.

In July the Catholic bishop of the province of Santiago del Estero led a public march to protest the killing of 15-year-old Juan Gonzalez, allegedly by a provincial policeman.

In November the authorities arrested and indicted five Mendoze provincial policemen in connection with the October death of 18-year-old Sebastian Bordon, a high school student from Buenos Aires province. For reasons that remain unclear, Bordon, who was on a school trip, was left in the custody of Mendoza police. His body was found several days later in a rugged area of the province. The five officers arrested in the case are expected to be tried in March or April, 1998.

Suspected police involvement in the Cabezas murder increased the pressure on the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, Eduardo Duhalde, to reform the provincial police force. He relieved hundreds of officers from duty under a 1996 law enabling the provincial government to fire police for cause without lengthy adjudication procedures. In June the Government created a new office within the Secretariat of Security to monitor the activities of the provincial police and receive public complaints of abuse of police authority. In September the Government published a new police instruction manual incorporating a report on police violence by the Center for Legal and Social Studies, a nongovernmental human rights group. The governor told a meeting of senior police officers that reforms were essential to restore public confidence in the force.

In June a court sentenced a Buenos Aires provincial policeman to 11 years in prison for killing Roberto Roldan, who was shot in February 1996 while seated in the back of a car that was rushing his daughter to a hospital in the Buenos Aires suburb of Avellaneda. In October a court sentenced three Buenos Aires provincial policemen to life in prison and a fourth to 15 years in prison in connection with the 1996 killing of 16-year-old Cristian Campos in the city of Mar del Plata.

In April a court in the capital city of Buenos Aires accused police authorities of inaction in apprehending a fugitive federal policeman, Angel Petronio, who was convicted in 1994 of attempted homicide. In July a border policeman was sentenced to 8 years in prison on a charge of attempted homicide in the March 1996 shooting of two teenage girls in Buenos Aires. In September a court in the capital city sentenced a federal police officer to 18 years in prison for the 1996 killing of 17-year-old Marcelo Mirabete.

In September the second trial in 2 years in the death of Maria Soledad Morales opened in the province of Catamarca. The young girl's body was found in a ditch beside a highway in 1990, and several police officers were suspected of helping to cover up the crime. A 1996 trial had ended without a verdict when one of the judges resigned.

A former Buenos Aires provincial policeman, one of five indicted in 1993 for the murder of 17-year-old Sergio Duran, was arrested in October after eluding capture for 4 years.

The authorities charged eight army officers with attempting to cover up the 1994 murder in the province of Neuquen of army recruit Omar Carrasco, who was beaten to death in a hazing incident. The Carrasco murder led to increased public pressure against compulsory military service, which the Government later abolished. In September attorneys for the three officers who in January 1996 were convicted of carrying out the murder said that they would request a review of the case based on new expert testimony regarding the cause of Carrasco?s death.

In September the Jewish community released a 100-page report criticizing the Government?s handling of investigations into the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy, which killed 29 persons, and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center, which killed 87 persons. The Islamic Jihad terrorist group had claimed responsibility for the embassy attack. In November a congressional commission discovered that one of the four policemen charged in connection with the AMIA bombing, Juan Jose Ribelli, received $2.5 million 1 week before the bombing. Investigators also determined that police officers provided a stolen van for the AMIA car bombing. Investigations of both bombings were continuing at year?s end.

In October a Spanish court issued arrest warrants for the former chief of the Argentine navy and 10 aides on charges of genocide during the 1976-83 dirty war waged by the military governments. The Spanish judge had previously ordered the arrest of Leopoldo Galtieri, the army general who served as president when a military junta ruled the country in 1981-82. The court also brought charges of genocide against former naval officer Adolfo Scilingo, who went to Spain to testify in the investigation (see Section 1.b.). On December 30, the Spanish judge issued charges against another 36 Argentine military and police officials, whose names were provided by Scilingo. According to press reports, in response to a request from the Spanish Government, the Swiss Government agreed to freeze the bank accounts of four of the Argentine officers charged.

In July a court sentenced Enrique Gorriaran Merlo to life imprisonment for leading a 1989 guerrilla attack on the army?s La Tablada barracks, in which 34 people were killed. It also sentenced his ex-wife, Ana Maria Sivori, to 18 years in jail for her role in the attack.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

There were no new developments in the case of the police officers ordered arrested for the torture death of 23-year-old student Miguel Bru, who disappeared in 1993. An arbitral panel ordered payment of an indemnity of $136,000 to the family of Cristian Guardatti, last seen in the custody of provincial police in 1992. This arbitration was a product of amicable settlement procedures, achieved through the good offices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). At year?s end, the Government stated it was taking steps to arrange payment of the arbitral award. The IACHR referred the question of compensation for the families of Adolfo Garrido and Raul Baigorria, who disappeared in 1990, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. An ad hoc investigative commission and an arbitral commission, established by the province of Mendoza in 1996, submitted reports to the court, which was expected to hear the case in early 1998.

The fate of the thousands who disappeared under the 1976-83 military regime continued to claim public attention. In April a Madrid newspaper reported that Spanish intelligence services had microfilmed the records of the regime's war against leftist subversion. The Spanish Government, however, denied the report. In June a Buenos Aires television station claimed that it had obtained the transcript of the military interrogation of a prominent journalist who disappeared in 1977, suggesting that there might be other such records in existence. The manner in which the document was publicized, however, cast doubt on its authenticity.

In June a court ordered the release from prison of former naval officer Adolfo Scilingo, who in 1995 claimed in a newspaper interview that fellow officers had rounded up alleged subversives during the military dictatorship and thrown them to their deaths from airplanes over the River Plate. He added that he had participated in two such flights. Four assailants attacked Scilingo in September; they carved on his face the initials of journalists who had interviewed him and warned him to stop speaking to the press. In October Scilingo went to Spain to testify before judge Baltasar Garzon, who was conducting an investigation into the disappearance and death of Spanish citizens in Argentina during the military regime. The judge ordered him arrested, and he was in jail at year?s end, awaiting trial on charges of genocide (see also Section 1.a.).

The federal appeals court in Buenos Aires continued its investigation into the fate of those who disappeared during the dictatorship. The court cannot impose sentence on those responsible for the disappearances who benefited from government pardons. In October, however, federal prosecutor Miguel Angel Osorio raised questions about the pardons in a request to federal judge Gustavo Literas to investigate the activities of certain military leaders pardoned in 1989. Federal judge Adolfo Bagnasco continued an investigation into the fate of children of persons who disappeared.

In June the authorities confirmed that former navy Captain Alfredo Astiz, who was removed from the armed forces in 1996 because of his alleged torture and murder of two French nuns and a teenager at the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires in 1977, was working for the navy again. The Minister of Defense ordered the navy to give him no further work.

In May the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group, asked the Italian Ministry of Justice to prosecute Cardinal Pio Laghi for an alleged role in torture, murder, and kidnaping while he was Papal Nuncio in Argentina from 1974 to l980. The group charged that he had first hand knowledge of abuses perpetrated on suspected political dissidents by members of the military government; the cardinal denied the allegations. The Government of Italy took no action in the matter.

Most reliable estimates place the number of those who disappeared during the dirty war between 10,000 and 15,000. In 1984 the National Commission on Disappeared Persons (CONADEP) issued a report that lists 8,961 names, based on public testimony from friends, relatives, and other witnesses. Since then, the Ministry of the Interior?s Subsecretariat for Human and Social Rights, which inherited the CONADEP files, has added over 700 new names, also based on voluntary reporting. At the same time, other names have been removed from the original list, either through confirmation of the death or survival of the person who disappeared, or through the identification of duplicate entries. The absence of documentary records of those who disappeared means that the human rights secretariat, like CONADEP before it, must rely on public testimony, either voluntary or court-ordered. As CONADEP noted in its report: "It has been possible to determine that an important quantity of documentation existed which has been destroyed or which is being concealed by those responsible for the repression."

The human rights secretariat has received over 9,600 claims for compensation from former prisoners of the military regime and approved 8,000 of them. It has received 7,000 claims from the families of persons who died or disappeared and approved 1,500 of them. The law provides that the families of persons who disappeared may submit claims for compensation until the year 2000. The Government announced in August that it plans to issue an estimated $3 billion in bonds to compensate families of those who disappeared.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture, and the Criminal Code provides penalties for torture that are similar to those for homicide. Nevertheless, police brutality remains a serious problem. In June the U.N. Committee Against Torture criticized the Government for tolerating the continued practice of torture in police stations and prisons.

In January the Government of Buenos Aires province dismissed eight police officers for their role in violently repressing a student demonstration at the La Plata police headquarters in February 1996. In February a court ordered the federal police to pay $10,000 (10,000 pesos) to Hector Gonzalez, who was a victim of a police beating during a 1992 incident in a Buenos Aires train station.

The Commission for Relatives of Victims of Social and Institutional Violence (Cofavi) works to obtain justice in instances of police brutality and reportedly obtained 32 convictions for violent crimes in cases it brought against police officers since 1992. Cofavi and other human rights groups assert there has been an increase in the number of documented cases of police brutality, highlighted by the Bordon and Campos killings (see Section 1.a.).

Prison conditions are poor in a number of overcrowded jails where the facilities are old and dilapidated. According to the New Rights of Man, a nongovernmental human rights organization, a federal prosecutor reported numerous problems, including cellblock flooding, inadequate electrical wiring, broken windows, poor sanitary conditions, and insufficient food in federal penitentiary number 6 in the city of Rawson, in the Patagonian province of Chubut.

In January an inmate of the Villa Devoto prison in Buenos Aires was shot in the neck and killed. Prison authorities said that the victim and several other inmates had fired on guards during an escape attempt, but inmates claimed that the victim had innocently approached an area that was off limits to prisoners. In July inmates of the Caseros prison protested conditions there, but after negotiations with senior authorities the incident ended peacefully. Among their demands, the prisoners sought compliance with the "2 for 1" law, a 1994 statute that gives unsentenced prisoners 2 days' credit toward their final sentence for every day served prior to sentencing. According to press reports, 80 percent of the 1,230 inmates in the Caseros prison have yet to be sentenced.

The Government permits prison visits by independent human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Penal Code places limits on the arrest and investigatory power of the police and the judiciary, but provincial police often ignored these restrictions. Human rights groups find it difficult to document such incidents, saying that victims are reluctant to file complaints because they fear police retaliation or do not believe that their complaints would do any good.

Police occasionally detain teenagers and young adults, sometimes overnight, sometimes for an entire weekend, without formal charges. They do not always provide such detainees with the opportunity to call their families or an attorney. These detainees are released only upon a complaint from relatives or legal counsel.

The law provides for the right to bail, and it is utilized in practice. Nonetheless, the law allows pretrial detention for up to 2 years, and the slow pace of criminal trials often results in lengthy pretrial detention periods.

The law does not permit involuntary exile, and it is not practiced.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. While the judiciary is nominally independent and impartial, its processes are inefficient, complicated, and, at times, subject to political influence.

The judicial system is divided into federal and provincial courts, each headed by a Supreme Court with chambers of appeal and section courts below it. The system is hampered by inordinate delays, procedural logjams, changes of judges, inadequate administrative support, and incompetence. Allegations of corruption are widely reported, especially in civil cases.

Trials are public and defendants have the right to legal counsel and defense witnesses. A panel of judges decides guilt or innocence. In 1992 some federal and provincial courts began deciding cases using oral trials instead of the practice of written submissions. Oral trials are less time consuming, and they have helped reduce the number of prison inmates awaiting trial. Nevertheless, lawyers and judges are still struggling to adjust to the new procedures, and substantial elements of the old system remain. For example, before the oral part of a trial begins, judges receive written documentation regarding the case which, according to prominent legal experts, can bias a judge before oral testimony is heard.

Constitutional reforms in 1994 provided for a blue-ribbon judicial council that would have responsibility for federal court administration and the selection and removal of judges. In December Congress passed enabling legislation to create the council. After the President signs the new law, the council?s 20 members are to be chosen within 120 days.

Some international human rights groups have claimed that Juan Antonio Puigjane, a Capuchin monk sentenced to prison with 19 others in a 1989 attack on an army barracks, is jailed for political reasons. Argentine officials, however, maintain that Puigjane was properly tried and convicted for involvement in a violent rebellion against a democratically elected government. There were no other reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits such practices, and government authorities generally respect these prohibitions. Violations are subject to legal sanction, although in practice, local police have the right to stop and search individuals without probable cause.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government respects these rights in practice. Following the murder of news photographer Jose Luis Cabezas (see Section 1.a.), there were reports of numerous anonymous threats against journalists. The body of Cabezas, a photographer for the weekly newsmagazine Noticias, was found January 25 outside the coastal resort town of Pinamar, in Buenos Aires province. His hands were cuffed behind his back, he had been shot in the head, and his body left in his car, which had been burned. A former police chief in Pinamar was eventually arrested on suspicion of carrying out the murder, but the motive was unclear and by year's end the case had not yet gone to trial. There was widespread suspicion that Cabezas was killed because he had been investigating police involvement in criminal activities.

In an August report, a group of prominent journalists called the Association for the Defense of Independent Journalism chronicled numerous threats to journalists around the country following the Cabezas murder, many in the form of anonymous telephone calls. Several reporters covering the Cabezas investigation were taken off the story due to threats made against them and their families. In a report issued in September, the Committee on Freedom of the Press of the Association of Argentine News Organizations concluded that as long as the Cabezas murder remained unsolved, and there was no adequate response to the interminable and unacceptable series of threats to journalists and the media, it would continue to maintain that the freedom of the press existing in our country since 1983 is seriously compromised."

The law provides for academic freedom, and the Government respects this in practice.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution and laws provide for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

There were violent protests in major cities in May, as citizens protested high unemployment and declining living standards. Riot policemen clashed with tens of thousands of people blocking roads, bridges, and government buildings. In La Plata police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and arrested 70 people. In the northwestern province of Jujuy, border guards injured 50 people while breaking up a roadblock set up by 200 sugar workers and their families.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution and law provide for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

The Government recognizes as refugees those persons who meet the criteria of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The refugee eligibility committee, composed of representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, and the Interior is responsible for determining a refugee's status. A representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees may participate in committee hearings, but may not vote. The Government has granted refugee status to numerous persons and accepted them for resettlement. The issue of the provision of first asylum, however, has rarely arisen. There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Since its return to democratic government in 1983, Argentina has held periodic free and fair elections to choose federal, provincial, and municipal office holders. Universal adult suffrage is obligatory in national elections. Political parties of varying ideologies operate freely and openly. The revised Constitution provides that all adult citizens shall enjoy full participation in the political process, and they do so in practice.

The Constitution stipulates that the internal regulations of political parties and party nominations for elections be subject to affirmative action requirements to assure that women are represented in elective office. A 1993 decree implementing a 1991 law required that a minimum of 30 percent of all political party lists of candidates be female. As a result, the presence of women in the Congress is increasing. In the new Chamber of Deputies elected in October, 70 of 257 members are women. In the Senate, however, whose members are still appointed, only 2 of 72 members are women.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution and federal law provide for equality for all citizens. The 1988 Antidiscrimination Law establishes a series of penalties from 1 month to 3 years' imprisonment for anyone who arbitrarily restricts, obstructs, or restrains a person based on "race, religion, nationality, ideology, political opinion, sex, economic position, social class, or physical characteristics." There is no evidence of any systematic effort to abridge these rights by the Government or by private groups.

Women

Violence and sexual harassment against women are problems. Insensitivity among police and judges sometimes discourages women from reporting assaults, especially domestic violence. The National Women's Council has been working with law enforcement authorities to include, in their police training curriculum, material on handling cases of violence against women. Rape is a problem, but reliable statistics as to its extent were not available. A rapist is not prosecuted if he offers to marry the victim and she accepts his proposal. Many public and private institutions offer prevention programs and provide support and treatment for women who have been abused, but transitory housing is scarce.

Women still encounter economic discrimination and occupy a disproportionate number of lower paying jobs. Often they are paid less than men for equal work, even though this is explicitly prohibited by law. Women are also found disproportionately in the informal, unregistered labor market, where they are effectively denied work-related economic and social benefits enjoyed by registered workers.

The National Women's Council, created in 1992 in response to recommendations in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, carries out programs to promote equal opportunity for women in education and employment, encourage the participation of women in politics, and support women's rights programs at the provincial level.

Children

The 1994 Constitution incorporates the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Ministry of Interior's Subsecretariat for Human and Social Rights works with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other international agencies to promote children's rights and well-being. Historically, Argentina has had numerous programs to provide public education, health protection, and recreational services for all children, regardless of class or economic status.

According to some nongovernmental and church sources, however, child abuse and prostitution are on the rise, and the National Council on Children and the Family believes that those affected tend to be younger than previously thought. The Council, which the Government established in 1990, works with federal and local agencies to improve child protection programs. The federal capital, most of the 23 provinces, and the Federal Government have passed child protection laws.

People With Disabilities

A 1994 law aimed at eliminating physical barriers to disabled persons regulates standards regarding access to public buildings, parks, plazas, stairs, and pedestrian areas. Street curbs, commuter train stations, and some buildings in Buenos Aires have been modified to accommodate wheelchairs, but some public buildings and lavatories are still inaccessible to the disabled.

Federal law also prohibits discrimination against the disabled in employment. Since establishment of the National Program against Discrimination in 1994, the largest single group bringing complaints has been disabled persons. Nongovernmental organizations are active in defending the rights of people with disabilities and helping them find employment.

Indigenous People

The revised Constitution provides for the right of minorities to be represented in government and incorporates international agreements intended to promote their economic, social, and cultural rights. Estimates of the size of the indigenous population vary from 60,000 to 150,000, but the National Statistical Institute put the figure at below 100,000 as of 1992. Most indigenous people live in the northern and northwestern provinces and in the far south. Their standard of living is considerably below the national average, and they have higher rates of illiteracy, chronic diseases, and unemployment. Some indigenous groups, including the Kolla Indians in the northwest province of Salta, are involved in protracted legal disputes with the federal and provincial governments over tribal lands.

In March the Government restored to the Kolla Indians ownership of their ancestral lands, half a century after they first marched on Buenos Aires to demand their rights. About 100 Kollas traveled to Buenos Aires by bus to receive deeds to 708,900 acres from President Menem. With state land that was already given up under laws from the 1994 constitutional reforms, the Government has reportedly returned almost 4 million acres to indigenous people and plans to return 988,400 acres more in 1999.

Religious Minorities

There were scattered reports of anti-Semitic acts. Jewish community centers in the provinces of Misiones, Tucuman, and Cordoba were vandalized early in the year. On the night of December 24, vandals entered the Jewish cemetery in the town of La Tablada, outside Buenos Aires, and damaged 35 tombstones. The cemetery, which was also vandalized in October 1996, is guarded by Buenos Aires provincial police, who reportedly said that they saw nothing. No one had been arrested by year?s end. In November a Congressional commission discovered new evidence against one of the four policemen charged in connection the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires (see Section 1.a.).

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

With the exception of military personnel, all workers are free to form unions. Estimates regarding union membership vary widely. Most union leaders believe it to be about 40 percent of the work force; government figures indicate union membership at 30 percent. Trade unions are independent of the Government or political parties, although most union leaders support President Menem's Justicialist Party.

Most unions are affiliated with the General Confederation of Labor (CGT). A smaller federation, the Argentine Workers' Central, was granted government recognition in May after petitioning the International Labor Organization.

Workers have the right to strike, and strikers are protected by law. The Movement of Argentine Workers (a dissident group within the CGT) and the Argentine Workers? Central staged a 1-day general strike in August to protest an agreement on labor law reform negotiated in May between the Government and the CGT.

Many trade unions are also members of international trade secretariats and participate actively in their programs.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law prohibits antiunion practices, and the Government enforces this prohibition. The trend towards bargaining on a company level, rather than negotiating on a sectoral basis, continued, but the adjustment has not been an easy one for either side. Both the Federal Government and a few highly industrialized provinces are working to create mediation services to promote more effective resolution of collective bargaining disputes.

Export processing zones exist or are planned in several provinces. The same labor laws apply in these zones as in all other parts of the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor, and there were no reports that it was practiced. The law also prohibits forced and bonded labor by children and the Government enforces this prohibition effectively.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits employment of children under 14 years of age, except in rare cases where the Ministry of Education may authorize a child to work as part of a family unit. Minors between the ages of 14 and 16 may work in a limited number of job categories but not more than 6 hours a day or 35 hours a week. The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, and there were no reports of its use (see Section 6.c.). A survey by the National Institute on Statistics and the Census revealed, however, that some 149,000 children under age 15 were employed. According to the National Council on the Child and the Family, two-thirds were working in rural areas as farm laborers with their parents and a third were employed in urban areas, chiefly as domestic servants. UNICEF estimated that 252,000 children under 15 years of age were working.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The national monthly minimum wage is $200 (200 pesos), which is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for an average family of four.

Federal labor law sets standards in the areas of health, safety, and hours. The maximum workday is 8 hours and workweek 48 hours. Occupational health and safety standards are being developed, but federal and provincial governments lack sufficient resources to enforce them fully.

Employers are required to insure their employees against workplace accidents. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous or unhealthful work situations, after having gone through a claim procedure, without jeopardy to continued employment. Nevertheless, workers who leave the workplace before it has been proven unsafe run the risk of being fired; in such cases, the worker has the right to judicial appeal, but this process can be very lengthy.

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