United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Paraguay, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa5318.html [accessed 27 May 2015]
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Paraguay, independent since 1811, has been ruled almost continuously by authoritarian regimes. In May Juan Carlos Wasmosy became the nation's first freely elected civilian President. Wasmosy took office in August, vowing to consolidate the nation's democratic transition, which began following the February 1989 overthrow of General Alfredo Stroessner. Paraguay is a constitutional republic with a strong executive branch and an increasingly important bicameral legislature. The President is the head of government and cannot succeed himself. The Colorado Party and the armed forces hold substantial influence, but the combination of the changes brought about by the June 1992 Constitution and the election of an opposition-controlled Congress in May 1993 has improved political accountability. The National Police Force, under the overall authority of the Ministry of the Interior, is responsible for maintaining internal security and public order. The police continued to commit human rights abuses in 1993. Paraguay's armed forces consist of an army, navy, and air force. The President is the commander in chief. Certain elements within the armed forces act with little political oversight and insert themselves into the political process in contravention of the Constitution, through intimidation, corruption, and influence wielding. The presence of the first civilian commander in chief, and his nomination of a civilian Defense Minister, may lessen to some degree the traditional autonomy of the armed forces. Some military officials were accused of human rights abuses during 1993. Paraguay has a market economy based on the export of primary agricultural products. A substantial percentage of the work force is employed in the informal economy, which may account for 40 to 60 percent of the gross domestic product. Efforts to begin privatization of state-owned enterprises continued. Principal human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects and prisoners, police corruption, detention of suspects without judicial orders, general weaknesses within the judiciary, firings of labor organizers, and military interference into the judicial and political systems. Although President Wasmosy has stressed his commitment to enhance respect for human rights, serious accountability problems continued as the Government often failed to prosecute perpetrators of recent abuses or investigate cases of abuse from the Stroessner era.
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 political killings in 1993. There were extrajudicial killings involving criminal suspects detained by security force officials. As in the past, there was little serious effort to investigate and prosecute these incidents. At least seven extrajudicial killings are known to have occurred during the year. On the eve of the May 9 general elections, a drunken army captain allegedly shot and killed Victor Perez Franco, a 20-year-old wearing a T-shirt supporting an opposition political party. Following the incident, the officer and two noncommissioned officers were arrested and taken into military custody. The case remained under investigation at year's end. On August 30, police officer Angel Ayala allegedly shot and killed Cristobal Gamarra, a 37-year-old bricklayer in the city of Fernando de la Mora. Gamarra had been drinking and behaving boisterously near Ayala's house. Ayala, accused of shooting Gamarra after the latter refused to leave the area, turned himself into police authorities shortly afterwards. The case remained under investigation at year's end. In late May, a minor, Americo Villalba, escaped from prison during a riot mounted in reaction to alleged mistreatment by police officials. Villalba had previously accused a police official of torture and mistreatment. During Villalba's escape attempt, this same officer allegedly shot him at close range. Villalba died 8 hours later without receiving any medical treatment. The official was not punished. In December 1992 and January 1993, extensive government archives were discovered that documented extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses and implicated many former officials of the Stroessner regime (see Section 1.e.). Four Stroessner-era police officials convicted in 1992 of the torture and murder of Mario Schaerer Prono appealed their sentences; none of them served time in prison, but all remain under arrest.
There were no reported cases of abductions by security forces.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture and brutal and degrading treatment of convicted prisoners and other detainees continued. Police, military, and prison guards were implicated to some extent in the mistreatment of individuals in their custody; although some officials have been arrested and held for investigation, few were tried, convicted, or appropriately punished. There were credible reports of mistreatment of women and minors and of brutal attempts to force confessions out of detainees. A respected human rights group, Tekojoja, reported that children in police custody were particularly susceptible to physical punishment, with torture and abuse occurring against juveniles at a higher rate than against adult detainees. The human rights group accused the police in several cases of torturing minors by placing plastic bags over their heads, knocking out their teeth, using a hammer to beat their backs, or scalding their hands and feet to force a confession. Many minors reported being denied food, drink, or access to toilets for up to 3 days. None of the many cases involving the torture of minors that were brought before the courts resulted in a conviction of the perpetrators. During a surprise visit to the Encarnacion regional penitentiary in August, the Congressional Committee on Human Rights discovered that several prisoners had been tortured by police officers. The Congressmen acquired sworn statements implicating Chief of Investigations Juan de la Cruz Paredes and three other police officials. The police officials were transferred to Asuncion and were under investigation at year's end. Prison conditions remained poor. Overcrowding and mistreatment of prisoners were the most serious problems. Conditions were particularly poor in the Panchito Lopez youth prison. The Government substantially improved formerly abysmal conditions in the Buen Pastor prison, the nation's largest women's prison, by creating a separate section for minor girls.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The authorities often violated provisions of the Constitution prohibiting detention without written order and stipulating that any person arrested must be presented before a judge within 48 hours of detention. Nearly 90 percent of an estimated 3,000 prisoners are held without arrest warrants, orders of detention, or convictions. Only 6 percent of the detainees at Tacumbu prison have been sentenced; virtually none of the detainees at the Panchito Lopez juvenile prison have been sentenced. Throughout the year the authorities arrested and imprisoned individuals without legal process. There were a number of cases similar to that of Tomas Leiva who was arrested by police officials without a judicial order on September 13. Following his illegal arrest, he was taken to a police station and beaten in an effort to get him to confess to having stolen cattle, although there was little evidence implicating him in this crime. The authorities did not present Leiva before a judge, and he was unable to communicate with family members for several days. He was released from custody 2 weeks later, following intervention by a local human rights group, and never charged with a crime. In September the Supreme Court ordered the release of over 20 prisoners from the Tacumbu Penitentiary for lack of any legal process against them. The court also released several minors during the same month for lack of detention orders. Credible reports continued that landowners, many of them Brazilians living near the border in the Alto Parana department, armed their employees who removed squatters from the property of their employers without court orders. Some of the evictions were violent, although there were no reports of fatalities. No measures were taken to punish those committing abuses. Forced exile is no longer used as a means of political control.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judicial branch is comprised of a five-member Supreme Court headed by a president. There are four appellate tribunals: civil and commercial, criminal, labor, and juvenile. Several minor courts and justices of the peace fall within these four functional areas. There are only five public defenders available to the transient and the indigent; accordingly, many destitute suspects receive little or no legal assistance. Trials are conducted almost exclusively by presentation of written documents to a judge, who then renders a decision. Since there is no trial by jury, the judge alone determines guilt or innocence and decides punishment. During the pretrial phase, the judge receives and may request investigative reports. In this phase, the judge is also likely to make a personal inspection of the scene of the crime and of the available physical evidence. The accused often appears before the court only twice: to plead and to be sentenced. All verdicts are automatically reviewed by an appellate judge, and the law provides for appeals to the Supreme Court. The military has its own judicial system. Although the 1992 Constitution prescribes that judges be selected by a combination of an independent entity, the Congress, and the executive, many of the judges active during 1993 were holdover appointments made by former dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Several of them were alleged to make judicial decisions on the basis of bribery, intimidation, political motives, and friendship with senior military officers. Notwithstanding the December 1992 discovery of government archives documenting various human rights abuses and implicating many former government officials of the Stroessner regime, no Stroessner-era officials were convicted of human rights abuses in 1993. A judicial working group continued the task of reviewing and cataloging the documents for eventual use in court. The Committee of Churches, one of the nation's most prominent human rights groups, had over 23 cases against Stroessner-era human rights abusers pending at year's end. In January Colonel Luis Catalino Gonzalez Rojas was sentenced by a military tribunal to over 3 months of confinement for "breach of military discipline." This alleged breach was linked to his implication of several high ranking military officials in a stolen car operation. Most observers viewed his sentence to be punishment for his high-profile stand against military corruption rather than a response to the alleged breach of discipline.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence
While the Government and its security forces generally did not interfere in the private lives of citizens, there were exceptions. The Constitution provides that police may not enter private homes except to prevent a crime in progress or when the police possess a judicial warrant. There were complaints that at times the authorities ignored this legal guarantee, particularly in the country's interior. The Government at times also spied on individuals and tapped phones for political and security reasons. In October the press denounced the discovery of a political telephone tapping operation carried out in the offices of the state-owned telephone company in the department of Guaira. Criminal investigations relating to a 1992 discovery of an officially sanctioned wiretap operation ceased without any judicial action.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and the press. The press exercised these rights more freely than at any time in the nation's recent history. Opposition viewpoints were freely discussed and criticism of the Government was ubiquitous in the media. However, two media groups linked to particular candidates practiced self-censorship in reporting on the 1993 electoral campaign. During the early morning hours of May 9, election day, the Channel 13 television station was the site of an unsuccessful attack in which assailants fired automatic weapons and launched grenades. At year's end, the attack was still under investigation by the authorities. The owners of Channel 13, who also own a newspaper and radio station, alleged that the Government had singled out their media consortium for a tax audit in response to its particularly strong opposition to the then-incumbent President. Some reporters were threatened and physically attacked during 1993, although investigative reporting continued. As in the past, threats were made against persons examining allegations of official corruption, the contraband trade, ties to the Stroessner regime, and electoral irregularities. In October journalist Emilio Ortiz reported on corruption in the state-owned telephone company in Alto Parana. This led to the dismissal of the company's local director, Mauro Corvalan. Ortiz subsequently was beaten by three men claiming to be acting on Corvalan's behalf. On April 20, two journalists covering a political gathering in Ciudad del Este were beaten by pro-Colorado Party supporters working as security guards at the site where the event was taking place. The two reporters were taking pictures of state-owned vehicles being utilized by Colorado Party supporters in an apparent violation of the nation's electoral law. There were no restrictions on academic freedom in 1993.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution establishes the right of association and peaceful assembly for all citizens. A law regulating demonstrations in Asuncion limits the areas where and the hours when they may take place and requires that the police be notified 24 hours before any rally in the downtown area. The police may ban a protest but must provide written notification of such a ban within 12 hours of receipt of the organizers' request. Under the law, a police ban is permitted only if a third party has already given notice of plans for a similar rally at the same place and time. In addition, the law prohibits public meetings or demonstrations in front of the presidential palace and outside military or police barracks. All of the various political parties held demonstrations and rallies during the electoral season without incident. Many social groups, including labor organizations, held rallies without incident throughout the year. An October rally to protest congressional consideration of military privileges blocked access to Parliament, and a few members of Congress were struck by the participants in the demonstration. The Congressmen pressed criminal charges against demonstration leaders, and the cases remained under investigation at year's end. Media and congressional criticism of the police centered on the failure of the police to protect the Congressmen.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of conscience for all persons and recognizes no official religion. The Government continued to respect that freedom in 1993. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, but all denominations are free to worship as they choose. Adherence to a particular creed confers no legal advantage or disadvantage, and foreign and local missionaries proselytize freely.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
All Paraguayan citizens may travel freely within the country with virtually no restrictions. There are no restrictions on foreign travel or emigration, although the Government closed the nation's border during the May 9 general elections pursuant to a judicial order, an action that was criticized by foreign election observers. There are no established provisions to grant asylum or refugee status; the Director of Immigration determines each request on a case-by-case basis. There were no reports of refugees forced to return to countries in which they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Paraguayan citizens exercised the right peacefully to change their government in the May 1993 elections. Juan Carlos Wasmosy became the nation's first freely elected civilian President; a majority opposition Congress was also elected. Several parties contested the major leadership positions in the elections, although only three parties elected officials to national office. The new opposition-dominated Congress quickly demonstrated its independence by rescinding legislation passed by the previous Congress which had the support of the President-elect. General elections are to be held every 5 years. The Constitution and the Electoral Code mandate that voting be by secret ballot. Although the elections were generally conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner, aspects of the nation's authoritarian tradition were evident during the primary and general elections. International observers criticized the violation of the constitutional prohibition against the military's participation in partisan politics, citing in particular the activities of Army General Lino Oviedo after the December 27, 1992, Colorado Party primary elections, as well as before and during the May 1993 general elections. Some Paraguayans living outside the country were denied the right to vote by a judicial decision to close the nation's border on election day. Many international observers witnessed intimidation of voters by Colorado Party members and other isolated irregularities and violations of the Electoral Code. Unlawful activities included the election day predawn attack on independent television Channel 13 and the deliberate cutting of telephone lines providing electoral data to an independent consortium of nongovernmental organizations conducting a parallel vote count. During the election campaign, many state employees were pressured to pay dues to the ruling Colorado Party and attend its political rallies. Many state employees were also threatened with dismissal if they did not support the Government's preferred candidate, and several were dismissed for supporting other candidates. Virtually all independent observers of the general elections concluded that the irregularities were neither systematic nor extensive enough to alter the final results. There were, however, credible allegations of misreporting of vote totals in the Colorado Party primary. Paraguay has an unassimilated and neglected indigenous population estimated at 75,000 to 100,000. Members of indigenous groups, as Paraguayan citizens, are entitled to vote, and the percentage of indigenous people who exercised this privilege in 1993 roughly doubled from years past. Nonetheless, the inhabitants of many indigenous communities were threatened or inhibited from fully exercising their political rights. Some were threatened with death or with losing access to cooperatives and stores unless they voted for a certain candidate. For example, indigenous people in the town of Laguna Negra were told by one candidate that he would execute them should they not support his candidacy. While there are no formal legal impediments, women often face significant obstacles when they seek to participate in government and politics. Participation by women in the political system, although somewhat improved in 1993, was still limited in the male-dominated society of Paraguay. All major parties ran women as candidates in the 1993 general elections, although few women (four senators and two national deputies) were elected to national office.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Several human rights groups operate in Paraguay, including the Committee of Churches (an interdenominational group that monitors human rights and provides legal assistance), Prodemos, Tekojoja (a group dedicated to protection of children's rights), and the local chapter of the Association of Latin American Lawyers for the Defense of Human Rights. The Government did not restrict the activities of any human rights group in 1993. Former President Rodriguez met with representatives of local and international human rights groups during the year. In his inaugural address, President Wasmosy told the nation that respect for human rights would be a hallmark of his administration. The Chamber of Deputies elected as its president one of Paraguay's leading human rights advocates, Francisco Jose "Pancho" de Vargas. The Office of the Director General of Human Rights, located in the Ministry of Justice and Labor, continued to sponsor seminars to promote human rights awareness. This office has access to congressional, executive, and judicial authorities. It does not have subpoena or prosecution powers but may forward information concerning human rights abuses to the office of the Attorney General for action. It also serves as a clearinghouse for information on human rights and trained thousands of educators in human rights law in 1993. In January the Government accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Government has yet to show, however, the determination to try and punish those, particularly within the police, who commit abuses.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Although the Constitution and other laws prohibit discrimination, certain groups faced significant discrimination in practice.
Wife beating and exploitation of women in employment continued to occur. Most informed observers believe that wife beating occurs among a substantial minority of the population and that it is underreported. Exploitation of women, especially the prostitution of teenagers, remained a serious problem. Police frequently raided brothels in which minors were employed but never arrested the owners or operators. The minor's court judge would usually attempt to persuade the minor not to return to prostitution, but no action would be taken against the owners. Authorities also paid insufficient attention to sex-related job discrimination. Some women complained that job promotions were conditioned on their granting sexual favors. On the average, 16 cases of rape were reported to the Ministry of Health each month, although all women's groups believe that the incidence of rape is much higher. It is becoming easier for women to initiate complaints against their husbands for domestic violence, although no perpetrators of domestic violence have been found guilty by a court to date. The Congress passed a law creating the office of Secretary for Women, a cabinet-level position intended to initiate programs to enable women to have free and equal access to employment, social security, housing, ownership of land, and business opportunities. The Secretary for Women is also responsible for programs to address violence against women.
The Constitution mandates that at least 20 percent of the total national budget be allocated to education. Forty-six percent of all educational spending was earmarked for elementary education, while 22 percent of the Ministry of Health's budget was devoted to children's services. The Constitution protects certain children's rights and requires that parents and the State care for, feed, educate, and support children. Nonetheless, approximately 26,000 children work in urban areas as street vendors, shoe shiners, or prostitutes. The majority of these children suffer from malnutrition, lack of access to education, and disease. Some young girls, employed as domestic servants or nannies, are denied access to education and are mistreated by their employers. Some who seek to leave domestic jobs are charged with robbing their employers and turned over to the police. Some minors were forced into obligatory military service prior to the constitutionally established minimum age of 17. In one case, Cesar Meaurio, 15, was removed from a bus and taken to a nearby military training base because he could not present any documents establishing his age. On August 28, Santiago Ignacio Machado, 15, was taken by military authorities while fishing with his parents in Puente Remanso. Military authorities subsequently refused to provide the family with information concerning Machado's whereabouts. The Chamber of Deputies Committee on Human Rights filed a formal legal request on September 10 that the minor be released.
Weak organization and lack of financial resources continued to limit access by indigenous peoples to the political and economic system. Indigenous groups relied primarily upon parliamentary commissions to promote their particular interests, notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution guarantees indigenous peoples' rights to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the nation. The Constitution also contains protection for their property interests. These constitutional rights, however, have still not been fully codified. The Government's National Indigenous Institute (INDI) has the authority to purchase land on behalf of indigenous communities and to expropriate private property under certain conditions to establish tribal homelands, but the entity continued to be poorly funded. In addition, many indigenous people find it difficult to travel to the capital to solicit land titles or process the required paperwork associated with land ownership. The problems of the indigenous population, particularly those involving land claims, continued to receive frequent media attention. The main problems facing the indigenous population are lack of education, malnutrition, lack of medical attention, and economic displacement resulting from development and modernization. In the community of Ca'aguay Pora in the Department of Canindeyu, for example, 80 local children did not have access to a school.
The Korean and Chinese communities experience social and economic discrimination and are sometimes denied access to credit terms enjoyed by other Paraguayans. They are also sometimes discriminated against in the housing market and do not have equal access to private institutions and schools.
People with Disabilities
The Constitution guarantees equal opportunity to people with disabilities and mandates that the State provide the disabled with health care, education, recreation, and professional training. It further requires that the State formulate a policy for the treatment, rehabilitation, and integration into society of people with disabilities. Legislation establishing such programs, however, has never been enacted. Many people with disabilities face significant discrimination in employment; others are unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. Other than the constitutional provisions establishing equal opportunity, accessibility for the disabled has not been mandated by law; the vast majority of the nation's buildings, both public and private, are inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution allows both private and public sector workers (with the exception of the armed forces and the police) to form and join unions without government interference. The Constitution contains several provisions that protect fundamental workers rights, including an antidiscrimination clause, provisions for employment tenure, severance pay for unjustified firings, collective bargaining, and the right to strike. A new Labor Code meeting International Labor Organization (ILO) standards was enacted in October to implement these constitutional provisions. In general, unions are independent of the Government and political parties. However, one of the nation's three labor centrals, the Confederation of Paraguayan Workers (CPT), is closely aligned with the ruling Colorado Party. The Government did not require the CPT to comply with a union election decree to the same extent that it required compliance from the other labor centrals. Government officials were also accused of encouraging some of the recently organized public sector unions to affiliate with the CPT. Although the Constitution protects the right to strike and bans binding arbitration, the Government's Permanent Council for Conciliation and Arbitration continued to function. One of the Wasmosy administration's first actions was to forward legislation to the Congress to abolish the body. Strikers and their leaders are protected by the Constitution against retribution, and several strikes occurred in 1993. However, the Ministry of Justice and Labor took few steps to enforce these laws until after the Wasmosy administration took office. Many strikers and labor leaders were dismissed for either attempting to form unions or for carrying out routine union business. Approximately 7 percent of Paraguayan workers are organized. Unions are free to form and join federations or confederations and affiliate with and participate in international labor bodies. The ILO is currently considering 13 pending claims against the Government for alleged violations of international labor standards.
b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively
Collective bargaining is protected by law, and collective contracts have been successfully concluded in many cases. The number of successfully negotiated collective contracts continued to grow in 1993; however, collective contracts are still the exception rather than the norm in labor-management relations and typically reaffirm minimal standards established by law. When wages are not set in free negotiations between unions and employers, they are made a condition of individual employment offered to employees. Under former Minister of Justice and Labor Oscar Paciello, the Government took actions to discourage the realization of several collective contracts in 1993. One collective contract, signed between the president of the state-owned electric company and the president of the electric company workers' union, was not recognized by Minister Paciello and declared void. Following the Minister's departure from office, however, the courts ordered that the contract be implemented. On March 18, the executive issued Decree 16769, which suspended all trade union leaders in their functions pending new direct labor organization elections. Although the Supreme Court found the decree to be unconstitutional on September 23, many business leaders, with the support of the former Minister, refused to negotiate with labor leaders unless their organizations had complied with the decree. Minister of Justice and Labor Juan Manuel Morales took office on August 15 vowing to improve relations between the Government, labor, and management. Organized labor viewed positively many of his early efforts, including presentation of draft legislation to disband the Permanent Council on Conciliation and Arbitration and his early and frequent consultations with labor leaders. While the Constitution prohibits antiunion discrimination, the firing and harassment of some union organizers and leaders in the private sector continued. Fired union leaders may seek redress in the courts, but the labor courts have been slow to respond to complaints and typically favor business in disputes. The courts are not required to order the reinstatement of workers fired for union activities. As in previous years, in some cases where judges ordered fired workers reinstated, the employers disregarded the court order with impunity. There were a number of cases of trade union leaders fired 2 or 3 years ago who had not yet received a decision from the courts. There were 20 strikes by unions affiliated with the independent labor central CUT alone, 16 of which were directly related to the firing of union organizers, management violations of a collective contract, management efforts to prevent workers from freely associating, or demands for the payment of the minimum wage, contribution to the social security system, or other benefits established by law. The failure to meet salary payments frequently precipitated labor problems, especially in the public health sector. Principal problems included an unresponsive Ministry of Justice and Labor under the leadership of Minister Paciello and bottlenecks in the judicial system. There were also complaints of management creating parallel or "factory" unions to compete with independently formed unions. There were several cases of workers not receiving the legally established minimum wage or overtime pay who choose not to complain because of fear of reprisal or anticipation of government inaction. Paraguay has no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced labor is prohibited by law. However, substantiated cases of abuse of national service obligations occurred during 1993. There were several documented cases of draftees forced to serve as laborers for military officers in their residences or privately owned businesses. In April a local newspaper published interviews and photographs of military draftees forced to carry out a remodeling project at the private residence of Colonel Cirilo Velazquez. Forced labor is not significant in any export industries.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Office of the Director General for the Protection of Minors in the Ministry of Justice and Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Minors between 15 to 18 years of age may be employed only with parental authorization and may not be employed under dangerous or unhealthy conditions. Children between 12 and 15 years of age may be employed only in family enterprises, apprenticeships, or in agriculture. The Labor Code prohibits work by children under 12 years of age, and all children are required to attend elementary school. In practice, however, many thousands of children, many younger than 12, work in urban areas engaged in informal employment such as selling newspapers and sundries, shining shoes, and cleaning car windows. In rural areas, it is not unusual for children as young as 10 to work beside their parents in the field. Other than Paraguay's traditional agricultural exports, there are no export industries in which child labor is significant.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The executive, through the Ministry of Justice and Labor, has established a private sector minimum wage, regionally adjusted according to cost of living indices, sufficient to maintain a minimally adequate standard of living. The minimum salary was adjusted by 10 percent in April (to $159 a month) in response to a loss in real purchasing power of about 42 percent since 1989. Most analysts agree that between 50 to 70 percent of workers earn less than the decreed minimum. The Labor Code allows for a standard legal workweek of 48 hours, 42 hours for night work, with 1 day of rest. The law also provides for an annual bonus of 1 month's salary and a minimum of 6 vacation days a year. The Labor Code also stipulates conditions of safety, hygiene, and comfort. In general, the Government did not effectively enforce the safety and hygiene provisions of the Labor Code, partially due to the lack of inspectors. This led the labor movement to initiate inspector training programs designed to ensure that violations were registered with the Ministry of Justice and Labor.