Guatemala, Guatemala April 10, 2007

The Guatemalan Ministry of Labor invited Global Workers to train its senior staff and regional directors on the USA guest worker program. Concerned about the abuses in the program, the Ministry of Labor needs to understand how the program works in order to combat the exploitative recruitment practices that occur on Guatemalan soil (many documented in previous blog entries) before the workers leave for the USA. The training focused on the logistics of the H-2 program, abuses both in the USA and Guatemala and the development of a plan of action.

The signing of false loan contracts and turning over property titles in order to force the workers to remain in their contracts in the USA regardless of conditions, are illegal practices under Guatemalan law. According to the national law, companies that recruit workers to labor abroad, must register the labor contracts with the Ministry and divulge the name of the local contractors, among other things. The same law exists in Mexico and El Salvador. The catch is that only the US employers and the US consulate has this information. Presently, they are not willing or able to share the information with the Guatemala government. The Ministry of Labor feels its hands are tied to combat it without knowing the identity of the contractors designated by the US employers so that they can then investigate the recruitment practices. Part of the plan of action was to strategize on how to work with the US consulate to get this critical information.

Previously there had been less initiative on behalf of the government to enforce its own laws. This movement toward the rule of law should be welcomed by the US government, not resisted. Especially with the interest in combating trafficking, efforts by the government to minimize the conditions that provoke trafficking should be encouraged, not discouraged.

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