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TITLE:  ECUADOR HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            ECUADOR


Ecuador is a constitutional republic with a president and a 
77-member unicameral legislature chosen in free elections.  The 
1994 midterm elections left President Sixto Duran Ballen's 
governing coalition only nine seats in the National Assembly.  
Members of the Supreme Court preside over a judiciary that is 
constitutionally independent but susceptible to outside 
pressure.  The Assembly has sweeping powers to question and 
censure cabinet ministers; such censure results in automatic 
dismissal of the minister in question.  This is often used as a 
political tool by opposition political parties.

The Ecuadorian military has significant autonomy, reinforced by 
guaranteed access to revenues from the nation's oil exports, as 
well as 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 continued to 
be credible allegations of human rights abuses by the police 
and in some isolated cases the military.

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 was 
about 25 percent in 1994, though it continued a steady downward 
trend begun in 1992.  Most Ecuadorians are employed in the 
urban informal sector or as rural agricultural workers; rural 
poverty is extensive, and underemployment is high.

The most fundamental human rights abuse stems from shortcomings 
in the politicized legal and judicial system.  People are 
subject to arbitrary arrest; once incarcerated, they may wait 
years before coming to trial unless they resort to paying 
bribes.  Other human rights abuses included instances of 
extrajudicial killings; torture and other mistreatment of 
prisoners and detainees by the police; government failure to 
prosecute and punish human rights abusers; and pervasive 
discrimination against women, blacks, and indigenous people.  
Despite these continuing problems, the Government did make 
significant progress toward prosecuting those responsible for  
two longstanding human rights cases in 1994.

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 killings in 
1994.  The police continued to be responsible for extrajudicial 
killings, although the number of such reports dropped 
noticeably.  The police often acted with impunity in such 
cases, because disciplinary action is the responsibility of the 
police itself.  Although special police courts usually try 
cases involving police officers as defendants, the Government 
in some recent cases withdrew this right and tried officers in 
civil courts.

The Catholic Church-based Ecumenical Committee for Human Rights 
(CEDHU) reported a total of nine extrajudicial killings, 
including two individuals who died during an indigenous 
protest, but with no involvement by security forces (see 
Sections 2.a. and 5).  Two deaths involved persons who died in 
police custody while being interrogated.  A stray bullet killed 
one person during a military anticrime sweep in the city of 
Esmeraldas.

For example, CEDHU reported that members of Interpol, part of 
the National Police, arrested Angel Vega at his home on May 5.  
Neighbors reported that police beat him while he was detained.  
Later in the evening, the police delivered Vega's body to the 
morgue of the Isidro Ayora hospital in Loja without 
explanation.  His body showed signs of scrapes, bruises, and 
burns.  The authorities took no action against the Interpol 
officers.  Another extrajudicial killing occurred when police 
killed a striking sugar refinery worker.  There was no 
investigation of this case.

After long delays, there was progress toward prosecution of 
those responsible for two of the principal human rights cases 
in Ecuador--the 1988 disappearance and presumed deaths of the 
Restrepo brothers and the 1985 disappearance and murder of 
Consuelo Benavides.  In the case of the Restrepo bothers, the 
president of the Supreme Court made a series of determinations 
on the case beginning in May when he declared two lower ranking 
police officials as authors of the murders, three midlevel 
officers as accomplices, and General Gilberto Molina (then the 
police commander), and one other officer as involved in a 
coverup.  On November 15, the president of the Supreme Court 
gave these seven defendants the maximum sentences for the 
crimes for which they were charged.  Appeals were expected.

In the Benavides case, after a long internal investigation 
which strongly implicated Navy Commander Fausto Morales in the 
murder, in August the Minister of Defense ordered that Morales 
begin to report to his superiors on a weekly basis.  When 
Morales failed to appear at the second such meeting, the 
authorities sent military police to pick him up and jail him.  
The Minister of Defense announced that the investigation of the 
case had uncovered enough evidence of Morales' guilt that the 
Government would withdraw his traditional right to a military 
court trial and turn him over to a civilian court for 
prosecution.  By the end of the year, the Supreme Court's penal 
chamber had moved into the final stages of the case, and a 
decision was expected soon.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

Although the law prohibits torture and similar forms of 
intimidation and punishment, police continued to physically 
mistreat suspects and prisoners, usually with impunity.  CEDHU 
regularly published detailed reports on suspects claiming that 
the police had tortured them, frequently naming police 
officials alleged to be responsible, and often including 
photographs of the victims with their wounds.  In most cases, 
the police appeared to have abused such persons during 
investigations concerning ordinary street crime.  According to 
CEDHU, the victims reported that the police beat them, burned 
them with cigarettes, or threatened them psychologically.  The 
Government has never responded to CEDHU's reports.

The law permits police or military courts to try police 
officers and members of the armed forces in closed sessions.  
The police court in particular does not announce verdicts or 
punishments, if any, creating the strong impression that the 
police are immune from prosecution.  In some high-profile cases 
(as in the Consuelo Benavides case and the Restrepo case noted 
in Section l.a.), the civilian authorities may decide to remand 
a case to a civil court.

The most significant case of alleged mistreatment of prisoners 
involved the suspects arrested by the military following a FARC 
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla ambush along 
the Colombian border.  The military picked up 11 alleged FARC 
members or supporters, 10 Colombians and 1 Ecuadorian, in a 
sweep following an ambush in which 11 soldiers and police 
officers died.  All but two of the suspects signed confessions 
admitting to taking part in the ambush.  Two, however, later 
recanted saying that they had signed the confessions as a 
result of torture.  Others also claimed the military tortured 
them but did not recant their confessions.  The one female 
prisoner said she was raped.  Several human rights 
organizations examined the prisoners and confirmed that they 
had a variety of injuries ranging from bruises and abrasions to 
a broken arm.  The military said the injuries were a result of 
being handcuffed and of traveling through the jungle on foot.  
According to some human rights observers who were close to the 
case, medical examinations of the suspects indicated that the 
injuries were consistent with either explanation, and that 
there was no conclusive evidence of torture.  In August the 
authorities released 4 of the 11 for lack of evidence, 
including the 2 who had never confessed and the 2 who had 
recanted.

Conditions in Ecuador's detention centers generally continued 
to be poor.  Prisons in the tropical coastal areas tend to be 
worse than those in the temperate highlands.  Overcrowding is a 
chronic problem, although conditions are notably better in the 
women's prison in Quito than in other facilities.  There are no 
separate facilities for hard-core or dangerous criminals, nor 
are there effective rehabilitation programs.

Indigenous organizations continued to charge that private 
paramilitary groups target indigenous people and other peasants 
for violent and lethal reprisals during illegal land invasions 
and other squatter demonstrations.  However, there were no 
substantiated reports of any serious incidents between the 
paramilitary groups and squatters in 1994.  Modifications made 
in the agrarian land reform law changed the former legal 
framework that had prompted many landowners to form their own 
private armed security units to protect their land holdings.  
Under the new law, civil courts settle land disputes.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution and the Penal Code provide that no one may be 
deprived of liberty without a written order from a governmental 
authority, but the authorities often violated these legal 
protections against arbitrary arrest or detention.  By law the 
authorities must issue specific written orders within 24 hours 
of detention--even in cases in which a suspect is caught in the 
act of committing a crime--and must charge the suspect with a 
specific criminal offense within 48 hours of arrest.  All 
detained persons have the right to a review of the legality of 
their detention within 48 hours of arrest, a review that is 
supposed to be carried out by the senior elected official 
(usually the mayor) of the locality in which the suspect is 
held.  Regardless of the legality of a detention, the law 
requires a court order in order to release a prisoner.  In some 
cases, detainees unaware of this, or who do not have the funds 
to hire a lawyer, may remain in prison for an extended period 
before being released.  Bail is not generally available.  
Families of detainees sometimes intervene in an attempt to 
secure the prisoner's freedom through illegal means.

Human rights organizations reported occasional cases of 
incommunicado detention, although the law prohibits this 
practice.  Despite provisions of the Penal Code, the police 
often detained suspects without the required written order.  
Even when an order was obtained, those charged with determining 
the validity of detention often allowed frivolous charges to be 
brought, either because of overwork or because bribes were paid 
by the accuser.  In many instances, the system was used as a 
means of harassment in civil cases in which one party sought to 
have the other arrested on criminal charges.  The authorities 
frequently detained suspects longer than 24 hours before orders 
were signed and charged few within 48 hours of arrest.  
Preventive detention up to and including trial is legal under 
certain circumstances.

The Government does not use exile as a method of political 
control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The regular court system tries most non-military defendants, 
although some indigenous groups try members privately for 
violations of tribal rules.  Despite efforts begun in 1992 to 
depoliticize and modernize the court system, the judiciary 
continues to operate slowly and inconsistently.  Judges 
reportedly rendered decisions more quickly or more slowly 
depending on political pressure or the payment of bribes.  
However, the norm is for lengthy periods before cases come to 
the courts (see below).

The law provides for internationally accepted due process 
rights for criminal defendants, but the authorities often did 
not observe these rights in practice.  By law, the accused is 
presumed innocent until proven guilty, and 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, but in practice, initiation of the trial phase can take 
years.  An end-of-year census of the penitentiary system found 
that only 29 percent of the 9,227 prisoners had been convicted 
of a crime.  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.  However, there was no evidence of a systematic 
effort to discriminate against women or minorities.

There were no political prisoners.

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

The law requires police 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 the 
Constitution prohibits wiretapping, 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 the 
authorities generally respected this provision in practice, but 
with some notable exceptions.  All of the major media organs-- 
television, newspapers, and radio--are in local private hands 
except for two government-owned radio stations.  (Foreign 
investment in media is prohibited.)  However, using a law 
(promulgated by the last military regime) that requires the 
media to give the Government free space or air time, the 
Government can and does require television and radio to 
broadcast government-produced programs featuring the President 
and other top administration officials.  It also requires 
newspapers to carry a minimum amount of news prepared by the 
National Secretariat of Social Communications.  The media and 
opposition political figures often criticized the Government's 
use of the media for its own political ends.

In June, following a protest by indigenous people against an 
agrarian reform law, troops took over several radio stations in 
heavily indigenous areas.  The Government accused the stations 
of inciting the protest which resulted in the deaths of two 
persons in altercations between striking indigenous people and 
other civilians.  The Government allowed the stations back on 
the air after they agreed not to broadcast news or other 
information related to the protest.  The Government said the 
public service stations had violated their charters by 
broadcasting news reports.  (Public service stations are 
prohibited from airing news, opinion, or commercial messages.)

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 politically sensitive issues or stories about the 
military and its related industries.  The media also willingly 
censored issues considered to be in the realm of national 
security when the Government so requested.

The Government does 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.  Numerous political demonstrations took place in the 
capital and the outlying regions, including a major national 
protest by indigenous groups.  In general the security forces 
intervened in demonstrations only when there was violence 
against bystanders or property.  Although the authorities 
usually showed restraint in the use of force, riot police in 
two instances fired tear gas canisters at protesters, causing 
some serious injuries.

Following the court decisions in the Restrepo case (see Section 
1.a.), the Government continued to refuse to renew a permit for 
the Restrepo family to hold its weekly protest in the main 
plaza in front of the presidential palace.  However, the weekly 
demonstrations continued because the boys' father believed the 
convictions should have included higher government officials.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution prohibits discrimination for religious 
reasons, and citizens are free to practice the religion of 
their choice.  Numerous foreign-based religious orders and 
missionary groups are active.

     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.

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

Since the return to civilian rule in 1979, citizens have 
actively exercised their right to change their national and 
local governments.  Free and fair elections resulted in the 
peaceful transfer of power to parties of opposing views in 
presidential elections every 4 years.  There are 15 legally 
registered political parties, spanning the ideological 
spectrum, 13 of which are represented in Congress.  The 1992 
national elections resulted in 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.

Voting is mandatory for literate citizens over the age of 18 
and voluntary for illiterate citizens.  The Constitution bars 
members of the clergy from election to Congress, the 
presidency, or vice presidency.  Candidates must belong to one 
of the recognized parties and may not run as independents.

Traditional elites tend to be self-perpetuating, and blacks, 
indigenous people and women continued to be almost completely 
absent from high positions in government, although no specific 
laws or policies prevent women or minorities from attaining 
leadership positions.  Grassroots community groups, 
particularly among the indigenous population, were increasingly 
successful in pressuring the central Government to assist 
them.  Several traditional political parties began to court the 
rural indigenous vote, and at least one, the Maoist Popular 
Democratic Movement, did unexpectedly well in the May 
congressional elections because of support it received in 
heavily indigenous areas.

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.  These groups, 
particularly CEDHU, have been outspoken in their criticism of 
the Government's record on specific cases.  Nevertheless, the 
Government contracted with ALDHU to provide human rights 
training to the military and the police.

International human rights organizations operate without 
hindrance in Ecuador.

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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, 
religion, sex, or social status.  However, women, blacks, and 
indigenous people face significant discrimination.

     Women

Discrimination against women is pervasive in Ecuadorian 
society, particularly with respect to educational and economic 
opportunity in the lower economic strata.  The increasingly 
active 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 against women is common.  
Although the law prohibits violence against women, including 
within marriage, it is a widespread practice.  Many rapes go 
unreported because of the victims' reluctance to confront the 
perpetrator.  An individual alone may not swear out a complaint 
against a spouse or companion, but must have a third party do 
so.  While some communities have established centers for 
counseling and legal support of abused women, the Government 
only began to address this question with the formation of the 
"Comisaria de la Mujer," or Women's Bureau, which initiated 
work in early November.  Still, while the Comisaria can accept 
complaints about abuse from women, it has no authority to act 
on them.

     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 have traditionally been 
limited, though in October it instituted a program to care for 
the children of the working poor called "Operation Child 
Rescue."  Several private organizations are very active in 
programs to assist street children, and the U.N. Children's 
Fund also runs a program in conjunction with the Central Bank.  
Especially in urban areas, the children of the poor often 
experience severe hardships.  It is common to see children as 
young as 5 or 6 years of age selling newspapers or candy on the 
street to support themselves or to augment the family income.  
There also are instances of prostitution by 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

While at least 85 percent of all Ecuadorians claim some 
indigenous heritage, culturally indigenous people make up about 
25 to 30 percent of the total population.  The vast majority of 
these people live in rural areas and most live in varying 
degrees of poverty.  Land is scarce in the more heavily 
populated highland areas.  High infant mortality, malnutrition, 
and epidemic disease are common, and potable water and 
electricity too often unavailable.  The rural education system 
is seriously deficient.

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.  
Amazon indigenous groups also have begun to play an active role 
in the decisionmaking process in the use of their lands for oil 
exploration and production through direct pressure on the 
Government and through their contacts with foreign 
nongovernmental organizations.  Many indigenous groups 
participated actively with the Ministry of Education in the 
development of the bilingual education program used in rural 
public schools.

Indigenous leaders argue that the Government does not take 
their interests into consideration when making national policy 
and that the only way to get attention is through active 
protests.  In one such action in June to express opposition to 
a newly passed agrarian reform law, indigenous groups blocked 
roads in the highland region of the country, isolating cities 
from other regions and from food-producing areas for almost 2 
weeks.  During confrontations in the protest, persons affected 
by the stoppage of commerce killed two indigenous people.  When 
the Government finally announced a military mobilization to end 
the protest, the authorities restored peace rapidly and without 
further bloodshed.  As a result of the protest, the President 
named a commission with significant indigenous participation to 
redraft the Agrarian Reform Law.  Congress then quickly passed 
a modified reform law.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population of the rural, northern coastal area 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

There are no laws to guarantee disabled people access to public 
buildings or services, 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.  However, public security and military 
officials and public sector employees in nonrevenue earning 
entities are not free to form trade unions.  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) considered too stringent a limitation at the 
plant workers council level.

While employees of stated-owned organizations enjoy rights 
similar to those of the private sector, the law technically 
prevents the majority of public sector employees from joining 
unions or exercising collective bargaining rights.  
Nevertheless, most public employees maintain membership in some 
labor organization, and there are frequent "illegal" strikes.  
Despite official threats, the Government rarely takes action 
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.  None of the main 
labor centrals is firmly connected to any one political party, 
and there are no ties between the Government and any labor 
union.

There are few restrictions on workers' right to strike, 
although 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.  The employer must pay all salaries and benefits 
during a legal strike; the Labor Code protects strikers and 
their leaders from retaliation.  The only significant strike in 
1994 was at the Aztra sugar refinery.  Workers closed down the 
plant to protest the sale of the company as part of the 
Government's modernization program.  As noted in Section 1.a., 
police killed one Aztra worker during street demonstrations 
related to the strike.

     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-run 
enterprises or in medium to large industries.  Most of the 
economically active population is employed in either the 
agricultural sector or the urban informal sector; the vast 
majority of these workers are 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 new labor law 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.  The law does not permit employers to 
dismiss a worker without the express permission of the Ministry 
of Labor, rulings which are not subject to judicial review.  If 
the Ministry of Labor rules a dismissal as unjustified, it can  
require the employer to pay large indemnities or separation 
payments to the worker, although the reforms set a cap on such 
payments.  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 representatives of management.

The 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.  Because the labor law does 
not consider the concept of the temporary worker, they do not 
enjoy the level of protection offered by the Labor Code.  The 
maquila system allows a company and its property to become an 
export processing zone wherever it is located.  Many such 
"zones" have thus been established; most are dedicated to 
textiles and fish processing.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution and the Labor Code prohibit compulsory labor 
and there were no reports of it.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits persons less than 14 years old from working, 
except in special circumstances such as apprenticeships.  It 
requires those between the ages of 14 and 18 to have the 
permission of their parent or guardian to work.  The law 
prohibits children between the ages of 15 and 18 from working 
more than 7 hours per day or 35 hours per week, and it 
restricts children below the age of 15 to a maximum of 6 hours 
per day and 30 hours per week.  In practice, the Ministry of 
Labor is seriously lax in enforcement of child labor laws.  In 
rural areas many children attend school only sporadically after 
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-owned "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 Ministry of Labor sets the minimum wage every 6 months in 
consultation with the Commission on Salaries, but Congress may 
also adjust it.  Enforced by the Ministry of Labor, the basic 
minimum wage is not adequate to provide a decent standard of 
living for a worker and family.  As of December, the minimum 
wage plus mandated bonuses provided a gross monthly 
compensation of approximately $120.50 (277,334 sucres).  Most 
organized workers in state industries and formal sector private 
enterprises earned substantially more than the minimum wage and 
also received significant other benefits through collective 
bargaining agreements.  The great majority of Ecuadorian labor, 
however, works in the large informal sector without recourse to 
the minimum wage or legally mandated benefits.

The Labor Code also provides for general protection of workers' 
health and safety on the job.  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.  In the 
formal sector, occupational health and safety is not a major 
problem.  However, 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 
mines which make up the vast majority of the mining sector.

(###)

[end of document]

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