Modern Slavery in the Land of the Maya - FreedomUnited.org

Modern Slavery in the Land of the Maya

  • Published on
    September 26, 2017
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Law & Policy, Supply Chain, Survivor Stories, Worker Empowerment
Hero Banner

In Sayaxché municipality in northern Guatemala, residents are holding out as the last frontier of resistance to the advance of palm oil plantations in the region as reported by Equal Times.

Residents are part of the Manos Unidas (United Hands) Cooperative, the only community in the area that has maintained collective ownership of its land. This strategy has helped locals resist pressure from palm oil companies to sell their land, but that hasn’t stopped the palm oil industry from overtaking neighboring communities, degrading the environment and trapping workers in modern slavery.

The lake that the people of Manos Unidas have depended on for years for water and fishing is now polluted with toxic chemicals that have seeped in from nearby palm plantations. As one local fisherman recounted, “Without water, we can’t live: without water there is nothing.”

Desperate for income, locals have had to turn to working for the very palm plantations that caused their suffering, forced to accept slave-like labor conditions. A farmer explained:

“They work long hours for little money, with no fixed working hours, and they have to buy their equipment themselves. But there is nothing else. If there were another source of income, they wouldn’t do this, but we have to eat.”

Workers say they are paid less only 60 quetzales (7.50 Euros) a day – less than the minimum wage — and employers threaten to throw them out if they protest. According to a local community leader, the basic economic need to support their families is what’s “driving [workers] to the slaughterhouse.”

The links between ecocide and modern slavery due to palm oil are clear in Sayaxché, and palm cultivation threatens to render lands infertile for decades, degraded by palm monoculture.

Subscribe

Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

Passing of CSDDD blocked – human rights in danger

What could have been a day to celebrate, has turned into a day full of disappointment. On February 28, 2024, the European Council blocked the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) after the vote had been postponed due to insufficient support, as reported by Reuters. Thirteen out of the 27 member states voted against the law or abstained from the vote, leaving the ‘qualified majority' of 15 countries short of one. A timeline of

| Wednesday February 28, 2024

Read more