Rancho in Baja California Sur enslaves laborers

[Translated from an article in “La Jornada de Oriente” by Fulano.]

Laborers from Veracruz, Mexico reported that they were victims of a human trafficking network that kept them in captivity on a ranch named “El Piloto,” in Baja California Sur, where there still remains about 1,000 peasants from Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas and San Luis Potosi. The laborers are forced to use company stores and are prohibited from leaving the plantation, under threat of death.

They said they had appealed to the authorities of Veracruz and Baja California Sur on May 23, 2012, but so far no investigations have been started, nor have any operations commenced to rescue the laborers who are still there, including minors.

Yesterday, they appealed to the Puebla State Congress to intervene in their behalf. “What we want is for them to close the Rancho because people continue losing their lives.”

Gerardo Hernandez Castillejos, who escaped from “El Piloto” along with his wife, his father and a seven year old, testified that he was deceived in Huejutla de Reyes, Hidalgo, by the manager of the Rancho, Manuel Hernandez, who promised a salary of 200 pesos a day ($14), a six-hour workday, social security, child care, groceries and a surdy house with a stove, gas and a bathroom.

“We were only paid 80 pesos ($5.60), but never given the money because at the company store a kilo of beans costs 40 pesos ($1.28 per pound) and it was 50 pesos for a kilo of corn flour ($1.60 per pound), so we had nothng and those that left they killed,” said the farmworker who is originally from Martinez de la Torre, Veracruz.

Accompanied by his wife and son, Gerardo Hernandez said that in the six months he spent at “El Piloto” he assumed that at least three workers who disappeared overnight were dead.

In addition, he said that the laborers’ children are forced to work in the packing plant, cutting the stems from strawberries with knives, although many of the children were between five and 10 years of age.

According to a report from the Assistant Attorney for Labor Defense of Baja California Sur, Manuel Gustavo Castillo Piñuelas, Rancho “El Piloto” is located in the municipality of Mulege and is owned by Maria Trinidad Mesta Gonzalez and Agrícola Baja Best, S. de R.L. de C.V.