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TITLE:  ECUADOR HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                            ECUADOR


Ecuador is a constitutional republic with a president and a 
77-member unicameral legislature chosen in free elections.  In 
1992 national elections saw the peaceful transfer of power from 
a center-left government to a center-right government, with a 
realignment of power within the National Assembly as well.  
Members of the Supreme Court preside over a judiciary that is 
constitutionally independent but susceptible to political 
pressure.  The Assembly has important powers to question and 
censure Cabinet ministers; such censure results in automatic 
dismissal of the minister in question.

The Ecuadorian military has significant autonomy, reinforced by 
guaranteed access to revenues from the nation's oil exports, 
and from civil aviation, shipping, and other economic 
activities.  The military has maintained a low profile in 
domestic politics since the return to constitutional rule in 
1979.  The National Police, responsible for domestic law 
enforcement and maintenance of internal order, falls under the 
civilian Ministry of Government and Police.  There were various 
credible allegations of human rights abuses by the security 
forces, especially the National Police, during 1993.

The economy is based on private enterprise, although there 
continued to be heavy government involvement in key sectors 
such as petroleum, utilities, and aviation.  Inflation remained 
high, between 30 to 40 percent in 1993.  Most Ecuadorians are 
employed in the informal sector, either as urban street vendors 
or rural agricultural workers; rural poverty is extensive and 
unemployment is very high.  

Ecuadorians enjoy, both in law and in fact, a wide range of 
freedoms and individual rights, but serious human rights 
problems have not yet been eliminated.  These include some 
instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and other 
mistreatment of prisoners and detainees, impunity for human 
rights abusers, violence by paramilitary groups in rural areas, 
lengthy detention before trial, a politicized court system, and 
pervasive discrimination against women, blacks, and Indians.  
The most fundamental concern is over shortcomings in the 
Ecuadorian legal and judicial system.  People are subject to 
arbitrary arrest; once incarcerated, they may wait years before 
coming to trial.  Often, the only way to avoid these problems 
is through the payment of bribes to a variety of officials.


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 known politically motivated killings in 1993.  
There were, however, cases of extrajudicial killing of criminal 
suspects by the police, who often act with impunity in such 
cases, because disciplinary action for such activities is the 
responsibility of the police itself, and crimes by police 
officers are tried in special police courts.

The Catholic Church-affiliated Ecumenical Human Rights 
Commission (CEDHU) reported a total of 32 extrajudicial killings
in 1993, of which 24 were attributed to the security forces 
(which include the police, armed forces, prison employees, and 
other authorities).  At least one of these cases later proved 
to be due to a traffic accident.  Marines killed three people 
in an anticrime sweep in the port city of Guayaquil.  The 
Marines carried out this sweep because the Navy is the dominant 
branch of the armed forces in that port city and the Government 
reportedly did not trust the police to do the job.  The armed 
forces asserted that those killed were criminals who offered 
armed resistance, but no investigation was undertaken into the 
killings because they were killed in a firefight, in which 
several Marines were wounded, and because they were among the 
targets of the sweep.  In addition to the casualties, 39 people 
were arrested in the sweep.

Not long after the Marines' sweep, the police mounted a similar 
operation in Guayaquil in which 65-year-old Antonia Mera de 
Molineros was shot and killed by police who entered her home by 
mistake.  The police admitted the mistake and apologized.  
Alleged death squads murdered 14 persons in midyear in 
Guayaquil.  All of the victims were known criminals who had 
been recently released from custody; one was still clutching 
his release papers.  The Guayaquil-based Ecuadorian Committee 
on Human and Union Rights (CEDHUS) originally reported that it 
had evidence that the death squad was made up of police 
officers.  Nevertheless, in July three common criminals were 
arrested and charged in the death squad killings.

Indigenous organizations continued to charge that indigenous 
people were the target of violent and lethal reprisals by 
paramilitary groups during illegal land invasions and other 
squatter demonstrations.  The paramilitary groups are armed 
security guards hired by private landowners to protect their 
property.  These forces often use military-like uniforms; some 
are reportedly operated or trained by former military or police 
officials, but there is no evidence of complicity with 
active-duty military or police personnel.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no known cases of politically motivated 
disappearances during 1993.  The Committee of Families of 
Victims of Repression organized weekly demonstrations in the 
main plaza of Quito and lists 11 cases of disappearances since 
1985 in its pamphlets, the latest occurring in 1992.  In seven 
of these cases the perpetrators are unknown; the group alleges 
police involvement in the other four.  

Prosecution of those responsible for the 1988 disappearance of 
the Restrepo brothers continued to move very slowly.  The 
highest ranking official charged in the case, ex-Commander of 
the Police General Gilberto Molina, who escaped from custody in 
October 1992, remained a fugitive.  In June the charge against 
Molina was changed from covering up the disappearance and 
presumed deaths of the two to being one of the perpetrators of 
the crime itself.  Molina issued a statement attacking the 
court for making such a charge without any solid evidence that 
a murder had taken place.  Two other police officers charged in 
the case remain in custody.  

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

Although torture and similar forms of intimidation and 
punishment are prohibited by law, there were continued reports 
of physical mistreatment by police of suspects and prisoners.  
There were few reports of officials being punished for such 
abuses.  The CEDHU published detailed reports on suspects 
claiming to have been tortured by the police, frequently naming 
police officials alleged to be responsible and often including 
photographs of the victims with their wounds.  The Government 
took no action to respond to the CEDHU reports.

By law, police officers may be tried only before police courts 
in closed sessions.  The practical effect of this is immunity 
from prosecution, with the occasional exception of some 
high-profile cases, such as that of the Restrepo brothers.


Prison conditions in Ecuador's overcrowded detention centers 
generally continued to be very poor.  Prisons in the tropical 
coastal areas tend to be worse than those in the temperate 
highlands.  The women's prison in Quito has notably better 
conditions than other facilities.  There are no separate 
facilities for hard-core or dangerous criminals, nor are there 
rehabilitation programs.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution and Penal Code provide that no one may be 
deprived of liberty without a written order from a governmental 
authority, but these legal protections against arbitrary arrest 
or detention are often violated.  Specific written orders must 
be signed within 24 hours of detention--even in cases in which 
a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime.  The 
suspect must be charged with a specific criminal offense within 
48 hours of arrest.  All prisoners have the right to a review 
of the legality of their detention within 48 hours of arrest, a 
review which is supposed to be carried out by the senior 
elected official (usually the mayor) of the locality in which 
the suspect is held.

Incommunicado detention is not uncommon although it is legally 
prohibited.  Despite provisions of the Penal Code, the police 
often detain suspects without the required written order.  Even 
when an order is obtained, appropriate authorities charged with 
reviewing it to determine its validity often allow frivolous 
charges to be brought, either because of overwork or because 
bribes are paid by the accuser.  In many instances, the system 
is used as a means of harassment in civil cases in which one 
party seeks to have the other arrested on criminal charges.  
Suspects are frequently detained longer than 24 hours before 
orders are signed, and few are charged within 48 hours of 
arrest.  Preventive detention up to and including trial is 
legal under certain circumstances.  

In late August, the courts ordered a census to be taken in the 
30 penitentiaries in the country to determine the number of 
people being held and their legal status as inmates.  Several 
hundred prisoners were released for having served more than the 
maximum sentence for the crime for which they were accused 
without actually having been convicted and sentenced.

Exile is not used as a tool of political control.


     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Most nonmilitary defendants are tried by the regular court 
system, although some indigenous groups try members privately 
for violations of tribal rules.  To depoliticize and modernize 
the court system, a major reform of the Supreme Court began to 
be implemented in January.  The Supreme Court is now composed 
of 31 justices and 3 alternates chosen by Congress from lists 
of candidates submitted by the executive, the legislature, and 
the Court itself.  The Court appointments are no longer 
coterminous with the term of the President, and terms of the 
judges are staggered so that one-third of the Court changes 
every 2 years.

While these reforms were intended to distance the judiciary 
from political influence, the ensuing selection process was no 
less political than in the past, with each party in the Congress
demanding its proportionate share of the Supreme Court.  This 
made it much more difficult to arrive at decisions, and the 
Supreme Court failed to complete restructuring the superior 
courts because members could not agree on the candidates.

Due process rights for criminal defendants are provided for by 
law but often not observed in practice.  In theory, the accused 
is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.  Defendants 
have the right to a public trial, defense attorneys, and 
appeal.  They may present evidence but have the privilege not 
to testify against themselves, and they may confront and 
cross-examine witnesses.  Although a public defender system 
exists, in practice there are relatively few attorneys 
available to defend the large number of indigent suspects.  
Trial is supposed to begin within 15 to 60 days of the initial 
arrest.  In practice, however, as noted in Section 1.d., 
initiation of the trial phase can take years.  Indigenous 
people and other minorities are disproportionately affected by 
these delays as they are more likely to be poor and unable to 
buy their way out of pretrial detention.

Bail is not generally available.  Families of detainees 
sometimes intervene in an attempt to secure the prisoner's 
freedom through illegal means.

Political activity is not sanctioned in any way by the judicial 
system, and there are no political prisoners.


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

Police are required to have a warrant to enter a private home 
or business, except in the case of hot pursuit.  The police 
generally respect the sanctity of private homes and 
correspondence.  Police surveillance is permitted, but 
wiretapping is prohibited by the Constitution and the results 
of a wiretap are not admissible as evidence in court.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, and this 
provision is generally respected in practice.  However, the 
media and opposition political figures criticized the 
Government's use of the media for its own political ends.  With 
the exception of two government-owned radio stations all of the 
major media organs--television, newspapers, and radio--are in 
local private hands (foreign investment in the media is 
prohibited).  Using a law (promulgated by the last military 
regime) that requires the media to give the Government free 
space or air time, the Government frequently required 
television and radio to broadcast government produced programs 
featuring the President and other top administration 
officials.  It also required newspapers to carry a minimum 
amount of news prepared by the National Secretariat of Social 
Communications.

The media represent a wide range of political views and often 
criticize the Government.  However, some degree of 
self-censorship in the print media occurs, particularly with 
respect to stories about the military or corruption at high 
levels of national, provincial, or municipal government.  There 
are 2 major daily newspapers in the capital, Quito, 5 in the 
principal commercial center, Guayaquil, and more than 20 
additional papers published daily in other regions and cities.  
There are 4 national television networks, 4 local and 
provincial television networks, and about 300 radio stations. 
All are free of overt government censorship.  Journalists 
working in the preparation and reporting of news (as opposed to 
opinion) must be graduates of an accredited Ecuadorian 
university journalism school, but the quality of investigative 
reporting is generally poor.


Ecuador has a large university system comprising both 
state-subsidized and private universities.  The state 
universities are active in politics, particularly on the left 
of the political spectrum.  The Government did not interfere in 
issues involving academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the rights of free assembly and 
association for peaceful purposes.  These rights are generally 
respected in practice.  Public rallies require prior government 
permits, which are generally granted, although exceptions exist 
(see below).  Numerous political demonstrations took place in 
the capital and the outlying regions, including two national 
strikes.  In general, the security forces intervened in 
demonstrations only when there was violence against persons or 
property, and police showed restraint in the use of force.

In January the Government refused to renew the permit for what 
had become a regular weekly demonstration by the Restrepo 
family and their supporters in the main plaza in front of the 
presidential palace.  Then Minister of Government Roberto Dunn 
asserted that the demonstrations were too great a disruption 
and that, with the progress of the case through the courts, 
their usefulness had ended.  Nonetheless, the family and an 
increasingly smaller group of supporters continued to gather 
near the plaza each Wednesday in silent protest.  On several 
occasions when the protesters attempted to become more vocal, 
the police used tear gas to break up the demonstration.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution prohibits discrimination for religious 
reasons, and citizens are free to practice the religion of 
their choice.  There is no official state religion.  The 
population is nominally over 90 percent Roman Catholic, but 
there are active Protestant and Jewish communities in the major 
cities, and evangelical movements continue to attract new 
adherents.  Numerous foreign-based religious orders and 
missionary groups are active in Ecuador.

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

The Constitution assures the right of all citizens to travel 
freely throughout the country, to choose their place of 
residence, and to depart from and return to Ecuador.  These 
rights are respected in practice.  Ecuadorian citizens who 
return to the country after residing abroad are not harassed or 
discriminated against by the Government.

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

Since the return to civilian rule in 1979, Ecuadorian citizens 
have actively exercised their right to change their national 
and local governments.  Free elections resulted in the peaceful 
transfer of power to parties of opposing ideologies in 
presidential elections every 4 years.  There are 17 legally 
registered political parties, spanning the ideological 
spectrum.  Thirteen of the 17 parties, including 3 leftist 
parties, are represented in the Congress.

Voting is mandatory for literate citizens over the age of 18 
and voluntary for illiterate citizens.  There are no 
restrictions on voting by women or by minority groups.  Police 
officers and active-duty members of the military forces cannot 
vote and there is no provision for absentee voting.  All 
citizens, regardless of sex, religion, socioeconomic status, or 
ethnic origin, have the right to form and join political 
parties and to run for local or national office.  Members of 
the clergy, however, are barred by the Constitution from 
election to the Congress, the presidency, or vice presidency.  
Candidates must belong to one of the recognized parties and 
cannot run as independents.

Traditional elites tend to be self-perpetuating, and blacks, 
Indians, and women continue to be underrepresented in high 
positions in government.  There are no specific laws, customs, 
or policies that prevent women and minorities from attaining 
leadership positions.  This underrepresentation results from 
the fallout of past practices as well as present cultural and 
social forces which result in fewer women and members of 
minorities having the educational background or personal 
influence to enter leadership positions.  Nevertheless, 
grassroots community groups, particularly among the indigenous 
population, enjoyed increasing success in pressuring the 
central Government to assist them.

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

Domestic human rights groups such as CEDHU and the regional 
Latin American Human Rights Association (ALDHU) are independent 
and actively monitor human rights issues in Ecuador.  These 
groups, particularly CEDHU, have been outspoken in their 
criticism of the Government's record on specific cases, and 
CEDHU has taken a particular interest in defending the human 
rights of the poor.  In August the armed forces contracted with 
ALDHU to provide human rights training to the military, and the 
police concluded a similar training agreement with ALDHU in 
December.  International human rights organizations also 
operate without hindrance in Ecuador.  

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

     Women

Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on 
race, religion, sex, or social status, discrimination against 
women is pervasive in society, particularly with respect to 
educational and economic opportunity.  The women's movement 
blames culture and tradition for inhibiting achievement of full 
equality for women.  There are fewer women in the professions 
or working as skilled laborers than men, and salary 
discrimination is common.  Although violence against women, 
including within marriage, is prohibited by law, it is a common 
practice.  Many rapes go unreported because of the victims' 
reluctance to confront the perpetrator.  To date the Government 
has not addressed this question as a serious public policy 
issue.

     Children

The Government is committed in principle to the welfare of 
children, but has not taken effective steps to promote it.  
Government resources to assist children are limited, although 
several private organizations are very active in programs to 
assist the street children.  Especially in the urban areas, the 
children of the poor often experience severe hardships.  It is 
common to see children as young as 5 or 6 years old selling 
newspapers or candy on the street to support themselves, or to 
augment the family income.  There also were reports in the 
media of growing prostitution among girls under 18 in urban 
areas.  In rural areas, young children often must leave school 
at an early age to help out on the family's plot of land.  


     Indigenous People

The vast majority of the rural population of approximately 
5 million (slightly less than 50 percent of the population) is 
made up of peasants of Indian or mestizo ancestry, most of whom 
live in varying degrees of poverty.  Land is scarce in the more 
heavily populated highland areas; infant mortality, 
malnutrition, and epidemic disease are common; and potable 
water and electricity are often unavailable.  The rural 
education system is seriously deficient.  Efforts to improve 
living standards for indigenous people were hampered by the 
Government's reluctance to change traditional spending 
patterns, especially those favoring the cities.  Indigenous 
people enjoy the same civil and political rights as other 
citizens and also have several special privileges designed to 
allow them to manage their own affairs within their own 
communities.  This is especially true in the Amazon area, where 
indigenous groups have claim to specific land areas.  (These 
areas are more like park reserves than Indian reservations.)  
The Amazon indigenous groups in particular have begun to play a 
very active role in the decisionmaking process involved in the 
use of their lands for oil exploration and production.  Many 
indigenous groups participated actively with the Ministry of 
Education in the development of the bilingual education system 
used in rural public schools.

Private paramilitary groups, sometimes working in conjunction 
with the police, were used to break up occupations of land by 
indigenous groups in rural areas.  In 1991-92, the Government 
announced strengthened controls over private guard forces and 
other armed groups that were not properly registered.  In 1993 
the Government arrested the members of a private security 
force, who had been hired to protect the property of the 
Yuracruz Agroindustrial Company, following the rape and murder 
of a 77-year-old indigenous woman.  The security force at 
Yuracruz was replaced by periodic patrols by the police.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population of the rural, northern coastal area of Ecuador 
includes large numbers of black citizens.  They suffer 
widespread poverty and pervasive discrimination, particularly 
with regard to educational and economic opportunity.  There 
were no special government efforts to address these problems.  


     People with Disabilities

While people with disabilities are not legally discriminated 
against, there are no laws to guarantee access for the 
handicapped, nor are they provided any other special government 
assistance.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and Labor Code provide most workers the right 
to form trade unions.  Workers not free to form trade unions 
include public security and military officials, and public 
sector employees in nonrevenue earning entities.  The 1991 
Labor Code reforms raised the number of workers required for an 
establishment to be unionized from 15 to 30, which the 
International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of 
Association (CFA) considers too stringent a limitation at the 
plant works council level.  In 1993 the ILO reiterated that the 
Government should bring the Labor Code into compliance with 
international standards on this issue.

While employees of state organizations enjoy full rights 
similar to that of the private sector, the majority of public 
sector employees technically are prevented from joining unions 
and lack collective bargaining rights.  Nevertheless, most 
public employees maintain membership in some labor 
organization, and the Government frequently is hampered by 
"illegal" strikes.  Despite official threats, action is 
virtually never taken against striking public workers.

Approximately 8 to 9 percent of the work force is organized.  
There are four large labor centrals or confederations, three of 
which maintain international affiliation.  Ecuador also has 
numerous labor federations unaffiliated with the four labor 
centrals, such as the Teachers' Organization, the National 
Artisans and Mechanics Confederation, and numerous peasant 
groups.  None of the main labor centrals is firmly connected to 
any one political party.

There are few restrictions on workers' right to strike, except 
for public servants and workers in some state enterprises.  A 
20-day cooling off period is required before declaring a 
strike.  The 1991 Labor Code revisions limit solidarity strikes 
or boycotts to 3 days, provided that they are approved by the 
Labor Ministry.  In a legal strike, workers may take possession 
of the factory or workplace, thus ending production at the 
site, and receive police protection during the takeover.  All 
salaries and benefits must be paid by the employer during a 
legal strike; and strikers and their leaders are protected by 
the Labor Code.  Illegal strikes, however, far outnumbered the 
legal ones as public employees protested the Government's 
proposals to modernize government operations and privatize 
state enterprises.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Ecuador has a highly segmented labor market with a minority of 
workers in skilled, usually unionized, positions in state 
enterprises or in medium- to large-sized industries.  The vast 
majority of the economically active population is either 
unemployed or underemployed in the informal sector, and most 
rural labor is not organized.  The Labor Code requires that all 
private employers with 30 or more workers belonging to a union 
must negotiate collectively when the union so requests.

The ILO CFA found that a 1991 Labor Code provision calling for 
the formation of a single central committee composed of at 
least 50 percent of the workers concerned in institutions, both 
public and private, which deal with social or public functions, 
and in which there is no works council, did not take into 
consideration the possibility that less than 50 percent of the 
workers could be organized.  The CFA also dealt with a 
complaint concerning a requirement that collective bargaining 
agreements involving entities of the State be cleared with the 
National Secretariat for Administrative Development (SENDA) to 
assure that funds had been budgeted.  In this case, the ILO 
requested that the Government establish a means for direct 
consultation on agreements among employers, workers, and 
SENDA.  Finally, the ILO decided that a special cooling off 
period prior to any strike action for public entities which 
deal in essential services was acceptable.

The new Labor Code streamlined the bargaining process in state 
enterprises by requiring workers to be represented by one labor 
union only.  It prohibits discrimination against unions and 
requires that employers provide space for union activities upon 
the union's request.  Despite the reforms promulgated in 
November 1991, employers consider the Labor Code to be highly 
unfavorable to their interests and a disincentive to the hiring 
of union members and to employment in general.  Employers often 
try to avoid hiring additional workers and unionization by 
substituting machinery for workers or "atomizing" their 
production processes to maintain plants employing less than the 
number needed to form a union.  Employers are not permitted to 
dismiss a worker without the express permission of the Ministry 
of Labor, rulings which are not subject to judicial review.  
Dismissals ruled as unjustified by the Ministry of Labor 
require payment to the worker of large indemnities or 
separation payments by employers, although the reforms have set 
a cap on such payment.

The Labor Code provides for resolution of labor conflicts 
through an Arbitration and Conciliation Board comprised of one 
representative of the Ministry of Labor, two from the union, 
and two from management.  The CFA expressed concern that the 
1991 Labor Code revisions provide for compulsory arbitration if 
no agreement is reached, contrary to the principals of freedom 
of association.  The Government provided the ILO an explanation 
of the law but did not change it.

A maquila (in bond) law passed in 1990 permits the hiring of 
temporary workers for the maquila industries only.  While there 
is no express prohibition on association rights in the maquila 
law, in practice it is difficult to organize temporary 
employees on short-term contracts.  The maquila system allows a 
company and its property to become a free trade zone wherever 
it is located.  Many such zones have been established; most are 
dedicated to textiles or fish processing.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is prohibited by both the Constitution and the 
Labor Code and is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Persons less than 14 years old are prohibited by law from 
working except in special circumstances such as apprenticeships.
Those between the ages of 14 and 18 are required to have the 
permission of their parent or guardian to work.  In practice, 
enforcement of child labor laws is seriously inadequate.  In 
rural areas, many children begin to attend school sporadically 
at about 10 years of age in order to contribute to household 
income as farm laborers.  In the city many children under age 
14 work in family "businesses" in the informal sector, shining 
shoes, collecting and recycling garbage, or as street peddlers.


     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Ministry of Labor has the principal role in enforcing labor 
laws and carries this out with a corps of labor inspectors who 
are active in all 21 provinces.  The Labor Code provides for a 
40-hour workweek, a 15-day annual vacation, a minimum wage, and 
other variable employer-provided benefits such as uniforms and 
training opportunities.

The minimum wage is set by the Ministry of Labor every 6 months 
in consultation with the Commission on Salaries, but also may 
be adjusted by Congress.  Enforced by the Ministry of Labor, 
the basic minimum wage is very low and is not adequate to 
provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.  
As of September, the minimum wage plus mandated bonuses totaled 
approximately $88.43 (s/172,000) a month.  Most organized 
workers in state industries and formal-sector private 
enterprises earn substantially more than the minimum wage and 
also have significant other benefits.  Because it is so low, 
the minimum wage is the operative wage in many informal sector 
activities where the majority of the economically active 
population is employed.

The Labor Code also provides for general protection of workers' 
health and safety on the job.  In the formal sector 
occupational health and safety is not a major problem.  A 
worker may not leave the workplace of his own volition even if 
there is a hazardous situation.  The worker is allowed to 
request that an inspector from the Ministry of Labor come to 
the workplace and confirm the hazard; that inspector may then 
close down the workplace.  The Government enforces health and 
safety standards and regulations through the Social Security 
Institute.  There are no specific regulations governing health 
and safety standards in the agricultural sector, and, in 
practice, there is no enforcement of safety rules in the small 
informal sector mines that make up the vast majority of the 
mining sector.


[end of document]

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