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Cablegate: Bolivia: Response to Information On Forced Labor

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1294 1621721
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101721Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7687

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001294

SIPDIS

DOL/ILAB: RACHEL RIGBY; DRL/ILCSR: MARK MITTELHAUSER;
G/TIP: STEVE STEINER.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON ELAB BL EIND ETRD PHUM SOCI
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: RESPONSE TO INFORMATION ON FORCED LABOR
AND CHILD LABOR IN THE PRODUCTION OF GOODS FOR MANDATORY
CONGRESSIONAL REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

REF: STATE 43120


1. SUMMARY: In response to State 43120, Labor Officer held
meetings with USAID, the Bolivian Ministry of Labor, NGO
Proadolescente, and UNICEF. Three areas of concern regarding
the use of child labor and forced labor are the sugar, Brazil
nut, and mining industries. Sources were not able to give
specific violator companies but rather emphasized Bolivian
society's tolerant attitude toward child labor. In most
cases it is the parents who force their children to work.
Through the Ministry of Labor's Commission for the
Eradication of Child Labor, the Bolivian government has
several programs to combat child labor and forced labor.
UNICEF reports excellent working relations with the
Ministries of Labor, Education, and Health. The following
reflects the information obtained about each specific
industry.

2. SUGAR: Thousands of indigenous Bolivians are recruited
annually to work in the sugar camps located in the Eastern
region of Bolivia (Santa Cruz and Tarija departments).
Normally, the male workers are unable to meet their required
"quota" so they then enlist family members (spouse, minor
children) to assist and supplement production. Thus the
minor children are unable to attend schools and must work
long hours in the fields. UNICEF Official Patrizia Benvenuti
also said there are cases of induced indebtedness in the
sugar industry. Workers recruited to work in the fields are
advanced money against their future salary. The debts
increase once on-site due to high costs charged these workers
for food, shelter, etc.

3. Eva Udaeta, Director of the Bolivian Ministry of Labor's
Commission for the Eradication of Child Labor, points out the
Ministry's successful tripartite program, in which the
Ministry of Labor, with workers unions and sugar cane field
owners formed a working group in 2005. Udaeta says that the
owners "know it (child labor) is a problem" and have signed
an agreement to use best practices in the industry. The
tripartite group addresses salaries, housing conditions,
health and education. The Ministry of Labor employs two
inspectors in the sugar cane industry.

4. BRAZIL NUT: There is a similar situation in the Brazil
nut industry in the Amazonian region of northern Bolivia
(Pando and Beni departments). Production quotas placed on
workers are often unreachable and so men enlist family
members to satisfy their respective work requirements. The
Ministry of Labor is trying to establish a tripartite group
similar to the sugar group. UNICEF's Program Coordinator
Clemencia Aramburu said child labor in the Brazil nut
industry is a real problem but "you cannot classify all
Bolivian Brazil nuts as a product of child or forced labor."
UNICEF is finalizing a study of the Bolivian nut industry and
will make it available to Post. OPIC insures a Brazil nut
factory in the Beni and conducted an inspection in June 2007
that found no child labor. The Ministry of Labor, through
UNICEF funding, employs one inspector in the Riberalta area
of Beni.

5. MINING: The mining industry is labor intensive and
employs minor children in unhealthy working conditions. The
mining centers of Oruro and Potosi departments employ
thousands of indigenous Bolivians. Private cooperative
mining groups are loosely regulated and usually formed by
groupings of various families. The result is the use of
child labor. Raquel Zurita of the NGO Proadolescente says
that one of the most difficult issues in the mining industry
are indigenous cultural beliefs (Aymaran and Quechuan) that
accept and even promote the use of child labor. The Ministry
of Labor, through UNICEF funding, employs one inspector in
Potosi.

6. COMMENT: Both UNICEF and NGO Proadolescente gave high
marks to the Ministry of Labor for its efforts to curb child
and forced labor. High marks were also given to the sugar
and Brazil nut industry owners for acknowledging that the
problem exists and working to take steps against such
incidences. UNICEF would like to initiate a "child free
labor" certificate program in Bolivia but acknowledges this
is still in the planning phase. However, all groups
consulted mentioned a culture of permissiveness and
acceptance when it comes to child labor in Bolivia. End
comment.
GOLDBERG

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