54 children and teenagers were rescued from the Prokarne farm
Torreón - AFP
Mexican authorities rescued 54 minors that were forced to work long hours in grueling conditions on a farm, and arrested three people accused of exploitation, officials said Thursday.
The children and teenagers were rescued from the Prokarne farm in the northern state of Coahuila, where the youth were forced to pick vegetables in nine-hour shifts.
The minors were between the ages of eight and 17 years, the regional government said.
Three men, aged 36, 39 and 50, have been arrested in connection with the labor abuse, it added.
The minors were paid 100 pesos ($6.00) for their long shifts and were forced to work from Monday to Saturday, given only half a day to rest on Sundays, according to testimonies from the rescued laborers.
They were fed two meals a day, at noon and one later in the afternoon, and provided only with salt water to drink during work, before heading back to sheds where they were housed and forced to sleep on mattresses on the ground.
The minors were recruited through advertisements and were taken to the industrial city of Ramos Arizpe, about 280 kilometers (174 miles) from the US border.
After they were rescued, the victims were sent to a government-run shelter.
There are more than two million agricultural workers in Mexico, which has a population of 118 million, many of whom live in semi-slavery conditions, without contracts or social security benefits, according to official figures.
Many are forced to work in harsh conditions, for up to 10 hours a day, and receive only $4.00 to $7.00 per day.
In March, about 30,000 poor farmworkers revolted in the San Quintin Valley in the northwest Baja California state to protest what they called unfair working conditions.