Verité has previously carried out research on labor conditions in coffee and palm oil production in Guatemala, and has generally found workers employed in agriculture, including sugar production, in Latin America to be highly vulnerable to exploitation, including labor trafficking. While there have been no recent in-depth studies on worker vulnerability to labor trafficking in the Guatemalan sugar sector, Verité findings from previous research in the Guatemalan agricultural sector and reports from other organizations that have carried out research in other Central American countries indicated a high level of risk among Guatemalan sugarcane harvesters. Therefore, Verité chose to carry out research in the Guatemalan sugar sector.
Coffee represents Guatemala’s largest export—valued at over USD $1.1 billion in 2012—with the United States as its leading importer, meaning prominent brands source significantly from the country. The Guatemalan agricultural sector constitutes its largest source of employment, with coffee as the country’s most important crop—providing employment for 90,000 small coffee farmers and 473,000 workers (seven percent of the workforce).
Unaccompanied Children: Violence and Conditions in Central American Agriculture Linked to Border Crisis
Verité research has documented the ways in which high levels of violent crime and the incursion of maras (street gangs) and Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have displaced a large number of Guatemalans from their homes and forced them to migrate. The Northern Triangle of Central America is the most violent region in the world; Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are first, fourth, and fifth in the world, respectively, in terms of homicide rates. In the case of Guatemala, which registered the bloodiest civil war in all of Latin America with over 200,000 killed, today the per capita rate of killing surpasses the rate of killing during the civil war.
Today (March 31, 2014), Verité releases an in-depth case study of the risk of human and labor rights abuses in the production of palm oil in Guatemala. This report is the outcome of weeks of on-the-ground field research and expert consultation led by Research Program Manager Quinn Kepes.
Verité Influences Major New Federal Policy on Human Trafficking; Announces Release of Research Series on Commodities and Forced Labor
At a special session today of the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, President Obama announced several new Administration policies to fight human trafficking. One of these, an Executive Order Strengthening Protections in Federal Contracts, ensures that goods purchased by the U.S. Government—the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world—are not tainted by trafficking via exploitative labor recruitment practices at any point in the production and supply chain. The Executive Order will apply to all federal contractors and subcontractors—both in the US and worldwide—and provides federal agencies with additional tools to foster compliance.