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Title: Ecuador Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Ecuador is a constitutional republic with a president and a 77-member 
unicameral legislature chosen in free elections.  President Sixto Duran 
Ballen's governing coalition controls only nine seats in the Congress.  
Congress 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 Duran Ballen administration was targeted for censure when Congress 
threatened the Vice President, Alberto Dahik, with impeachment for 
obstruction of justice.  Dahik fled the country, leaving Eduardo Pena as 
his successor.  Members of the Supreme Court preside over a judiciary 
that is constitutionally independent but in practice is susceptible to 
outside pressure.

The Ecuadorian military enjoys substantial autonomy, reinforced by 
guaranteed revenues from the nation's oil exports, as well as from civil 
aviation, shipping, and other economic sectors.  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, members of 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.  The gross domestic product at $1,570 per 
capita, provides most of the population with a low standard of living.  
The inflation rate for the year ending in November was 22 percent.  The 
principal exports are oil, bananas, and shrimp, which are the country's 
leading sources of foreign exchange.  Manufacturing for regional export 
markets is of growing importance.  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 and inefficient 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 isolated instances of extrajudicial killings; 
torture and other mistreatment of prisoners and detainees by the police; 
poor prison conditions; government failure to prosecute and punish human 
rights abusers; and violence and pervasive discrimination against women, 
Afro-Ecuadorians, and indigenous people.  In the wake of renewed border 
hostilities with Peru in January, a number of Peruvian nationals were 
arrested by security forces on charges of espionage, and were not 
released until several months after armed hostilities had ceased in 
March.  The Government made progress toward prosecuting those 
responsible for two longstanding human rights cases in 1995, although 
the escape from military custody of the highest ranking defendant in one 
case renewed questions about the impunity of senior military officials.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings.  There 
continued to be credible reports of police involvement in extrajudicial 
killings, although the number of such reports continued to decline.  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 cases revoked this right and tried officers in 
civil courts.

The Catholic Church-based Ecumenical Committee for Human Rights (CEDHU) 
reported a total of eight extrajudicial killings.  Four of these 
involved the death of individuals in police or military custody, while 
two others appear to be the result of personal fights between victims 
and a policeman in one case and a soldier in another.  One case involved 
the death of a high school student who was hit by a stray bullet during 
student protests in January.  Forensic experts determined that the 
bullet, presumably fired by the police, had hit a hard surface before 
ricocheting and hitting the victim.  Four other students were injured by 
tear gas canisters fired by police in the same incident.  During student 
protests in November, a bystander was killed when police fired tear gas 
canisters into a crowd.

While most of the abuses were committed by the police, CEDHU reported 
that the military was responsible for the death in custody of Luis 
Enriquez Mera in June.  Sailors from the navy base at San Lorenzo, in 
the province of Esmeraldas, detained Enriquez during an unsuccessful 
search for his brother, who was accused of killing a marine sergeant, 
and took him to the base for questioning.  Four days later, military 
authorities gave his dead body, which bore signs of torture, back to the 
family saying that he had died of heart failure.  Four enlisted men were 
detained and face criminal charges in this case.  There were other 
credible allegations of abuses committed by army and navy units 
participating in anticrime activities in the province of Esmeraldas, 
which has Ecuador's highest crime rate.

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 brothers, the 
Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the police officers implicated in 
the case and ratified their sentences.  The sentences varied in length 
from 16 years for those who murdered the brothers to 2 years for those 
who covered up the crime.  The former police commander, General Gilberto 
Molina, was among those convicted of participation in the coverup.  He 
had escaped from police custody in 1992, but turned himself in to 
authorities in July to serve the remaining 11 months of his sentence.

The Supreme Court ruled in March that there was sufficient evidence to 
try Navy Commander Fausto Morales and Sergeant Sagnay Leon in the case 
of Consuelo Benavides, a school teacher who was murdered in 1985 for 
alleged participation in a guerrilla organization.  Both defendants were 
in preventive detention, pending a ruling by the court.  Three days 
after the ruling, Morales escaped from the brig and has not been 
recaptured.  Three other navy officers were subsequently indicted by the 
court for their alleged role in the disappearance and murder of 
Benavides.  Two were found guilty of illegal arrest and were sentenced 
to 2 years' imprisonment.  The President of the Supreme Court expedited 
the case against the three defendants in custody and concluded the 
appeal process only days before the expiration of statute of 
limitations.  Sergeant Sagnay was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his 
role in Benavides' murder.  Other suspects in the case, including 
Captain Fausto Morales, remain at large.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

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 who charged the police with torture.  In these 
reports CEDHU frequently named police officials alleged to be 
responsible, and often included photographs of the victims with their 
wounds.  In most cases, the police appeared to have abused such persons 
during investigations of ordinary street crime.  According to CEDHU, the 
victims reported that the police beat them, burned them with cigarettes, 
or threatened them psychologically.

In August four Colombian nationals were detained by the army on 
suspicion that they planned to assassinate Colombian President 

Ernesto Samper during a visit to Quito.  The detainees, who were 
eventually released 6 weeks after their detention following President 
Samper's departure, told reporters that they had been tortured while in 
army custody.  A police doctor who examined the detainees certified that 
all had bruises from apparently recent beatings.  One had to have 
restorative surgery to his left eye.

The CEDHU reports have not prompted a reply from the Government.

The law permits police or military courts to try police officers and 
military defendants in closed sessions, in accordance with the 
respective military and police court martial manuals.  The police court 
in particular does not announce verdicts or punishments, if any, 
creating the strong impression that the police are immune from 
prosecution.  Cases involving flag rank officers can only be tried by 
the Supreme Court (as in the Benavides and Restrepo cases noted in 
Section l.a.).

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.

  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 may have the legality of their detention reviewed 
within 48 hours of their arrest.  This review is supposed to be 
conducted by the senior elected official (usually the mayor) of the 
locality in which the suspect is held.  Regardless of the legality of a 
detention, a prisoner may only be released by court order.  In some 
cases, detainees who are 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 prisoners' 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 they were overworked or because 
the accuser bribed them.  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 court orders were signed and often 
failed to bring charges against suspects within 48 hours of arrest.  
Preventive detention up to and including trial is legal under certain 

In the wake of hostilities with Peru in January and February, a number 
of Peruvian nationals were arrested by the military and the police on 
charges of espionage and detained for several months beyond the end of 
hostilities.  The weak evidence presented against them left the 
Government open to charges that they were being detained arbitrarily.  
By July all had been released.

In December 1993, the army arrested 11 alleged supporters of the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a sweep along the 
Putumayo River following an ambush in which 11 soldiers and police 
officers died.  In August 1994, four of those arrested were released for 
lack of evidence, and a fifth was released in July.  The remaining six 
are still in jail despite claims by local human rights groups that they 
are innocent and were detained arbitrarily.

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

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The regular court system tries most nonmilitary defendants, although 
some indigenous groups try members independently 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 

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 right 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.

A reform to the Constitution which was passed by the legislature in 
early 1995 and signed into law after the end of the year establishes 
that no testimony taken from a prisoner can be used as evidence in court 
unless the individual's lawyer was present at the taking of testimony.  
This is expected to cut down on the large number of confessions 
extracted from prisoners often by unlawful means.

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.  A mid-
year census of the penitentiary system found that only 37 percent of the 
10,312 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 reports of political prisoners.

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

The law prohibits such practices, government authorities generally 
respect these prohibitions, and violations are the subject of effective 
legal sanctions.

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.  In October an independent congressman, Fernando Larrea, 
gave an interview on a provincial radio station in which he ridiculed 
the president of the Supreme Court and the commander of the army.  He 
spoke derisively of the role the army commander had played in the recent 
border hostilities with Peru.  While not releasing the tape or 
transcript of Larrea's intemperate remarks, the military proceeded to 
charge Larrea with treason under the National Emergency Decree then in 
force and initiated proceedings against him in a military court.  The 
Supreme Court has yet to determine if the military court has 
jurisdiction in this case.

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 broadcast media is limited by law.  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.  
The Government used this authority broadly during the armed border 
confrontation with Peru during January-February.  The media and 
opposition political figures often criticized the Government for using 
the media for its own political ends.

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.  During the border conflict 
at the beginning of the year, press support for President Duran Ballen's 
positions was uncharacteristically unanimous.  An opposition politician 
made unsubstantiated charges that the Government paid large sums of 
money to journalists to report favorably on its handling of the war and 
ensuing peace negotiations.

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, and the Government generally 
respected these rights in practice.  Public rallies require prior 
government permits, which are generally granted, although exceptions 
occur.  Numerous political demonstrations took place in the capital and 
the outlying regions, including a major national protest by labor and 
peasant groups and large scale student demonstrations in Quito.  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, two students were killed 
by police during separate demonstrations, and police shot three peasants 
blocking a road during a national peasant protest, seriously injuring 

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  Numerous foreign religious orders and 
missionary groups are active.

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

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice.  The Government cooperates with the United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in 
assisting refugees.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice 
through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of 
universal suffrage.  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 14 legally registered political parties spanning the 
ideological spectrum, 12 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, and a corresponding 
realignment of power within the legislature.

Voting is mandatory for literate citizens over 18 years of age and 
voluntary for illiterate citizens.  By law, active duty members of the 
military are not allowed to vote.  The Constitution bars members of the 
clergy and active duty military personnel from election to Congress, the 
Presidency, or Vice Presidency.

Traditional elites tend to be self-perpetuating.  Consequently, very few 
women, Afro-Ecuadorians, and indigenous people are found in 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 

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

A number of human rights groups, both domestic and international, 
operate without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings 
on human rights cases.  Domestic human rights groups, such as CEDHU and 
the Regional Latin American Human Rights Association (ALDHU), were 
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.

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, Afro-Ecuadorians, and indigenous 
people face significant discrimination.


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 perpetrators.  Women may only 
file complaints against a rapist, or an abusive spouse or companion if 
they produce a witness.  While some communities have established their 
own centers for counseling and legal support of abused women, the 
Government only began to address this question seriously with the 
formation of the  "Comisaria de la Mujer," or Women's Bureau, in 1994.  
However, although the Comisaria can accept complaints about abuse of 
women, it has no authority to act on them.

On November 29 President Duran Ballen signed a law against violence 
affecting women and children.  The legislation, which was drafted by a 
coalition of women's organizations, criminalizes spousal abuse for the 
first time, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.  It 
also creates family courts and reforms the Penal Code to include 
legislation giving courts the power to separate an abusive spouse from 
the home.  Congress approved the law in record time.

Discrimination against women is pervasive in Ecuadorian society, 
particularly with respect to educational and economic opportunities for 
those 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 and 
skilled trades than men, and pay discrimination against women is common.


The Government is committed in principle to the welfare of children but 
has not taken effective steps to promote it.  There is no pattern of 
societal abuse against children.  Government resources to assist 
children have traditionally been limited, although 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 years of age 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.

  People With Disabilities

There is no official discrimination against disabled persons in 
employment, education or the provision of other state services.  
However, there are no laws to guarantee disabled people access to public 
buildings or services, nor are they provided any other special 
government assistance.

  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 where high infant mortality, 
malnutrition, and epidemic disease are also common.  In addition, 
electricity and potable water are 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 
particularly true in the Amazon area where indigenous groups have claim 
to specific tracts of land.  These groups also have begun to play an 
active role in decision making with respect to the use of their lands 
for oil exploration and production, by lobbying the Government and 
enlisting the help of 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.

During the January-February border conflict with Peru, some Shuar-Achuar 
indigenous people were displaced, either by hostile actions or by their 
anticipation of hostile actions, to areas further north in Morona 
Santiago province.  Estimates of the number of displaced Shuar-Achuar 
range from a few hundred to several thousand, depending on the source.  
The continued presence of landmines planted during the conflict has 
impeded the return of some of the indigenous peoples.  However, others 
reportedly decided not to return to the sites of their original 
villages.  The Shuar-Achuar Federation and Salesian Missionaries assist 
those indigenous people who opt to resettle.

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 May to express opposition to the Government's privatization 
program, indigenous and peasant groups blocked roads in the highland 
region of the country, isolating cities from other regions and from 
food-producing areas.  In confrontations during the protest police shot 
and seriously wounded three demonstrators and arrested 13 others.  
Indigenous groups defended their political interests through the 
democratic political process in November by organizing to oppose a 
constitutional referendum which indigenous leaders claimed undermined 
the interests of the indigenous population.  The reforms were 
overwhelmingly voted down in part due to the significant "no" vote in 
provinces where indigenous groups make up a large sector of the 

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population of the rural, northern coastal area includes large 
numbers of Afro-Ecuadorian 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.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and Labor Code provide most workers with the right to 
form trade unions.  Members of the police and the military, and public 
sector employees in nonrevenue producing 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's Committee on Freedom of Association 
considered too stringent a limitation at the plant workers' council 

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.  Although the five umbrella  
organizations are politically independent, the two largest single labor 
unions, the Teachers' Union and the Union of Social Security Workers, 
are allied with the Movimento Politico Democratico, the far-left 
socialist party.

Approximately 12 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 the right of workers to strike, although a 
20-day cooling-off period is required before a strike is declared.  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 strikes were by public sector 
employees such as teachers and medical workers.  None of the strikes 
resulted in violence.

  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.  Although approximately 12 percent of the workforce is 
organized, only 188,779 workers (roughly 3 percent of the workforce) 
were covered by collective bargaining agreements in 1995, according to 
the Ministry of Labor.

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 that a 
dismissal is 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 comprising 
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.  
Since temporary workers are not recognized by the Labor Law, they do not 
enjoy the same level of protection offered to other workers.  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 Constitution establishes that children must attend school until the 
equivalent of 14 years of age.  However, because of the lack of schools 
in many rural communities and the need for children to work, this 
provision is rarely enforced.  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 years 
to have the permission of their parent or guardian to work.  The law 
prohibits children between the ages of 15 and 18 years from working more 
than 7 hours per day or 35 hours per week, and it restricts children 
below the age of 15 years to a maximum of 6 hours per day and 30 hours 
per week.  In practice, the Ministry of Labor fails to enforce 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 14 
years of age 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 through 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 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.  The statutory minimum wage is not adequate to provide a 
decent standard of living for a worker and family.  As of September, the 
minimum wage plus mandated bonuses provided a gross monthly compensation 
of approximately $143 (S/375,583).  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 majority of workers, 
however, work in the large informal and rural 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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