Argentina: Child Working at the Age of 7 Pays with His Health

Editor’s Note: On Tuesday at 1:35 a.m. Ezequiel, the seven-year-old boy who had been enslaved by the poultry farm, Nuestra Huella, passed away. Ezequiel had undergone surgery for a second time a week ago, but the tumor had spread throughout his entire brain. Ezequiel spent most of his short life surrounded by chicken blood and guano, and manipulating the company’s poisons that contained carcinogenic particles, in order to meet the production quotas that their employers imposed on his family.
Below follows a report on what happened:
Source: Página/12

The seven-year-old boy belonged to a group of exploited families, according to a video filmed at the farms of Nuestra Huella company. The images of that video were published by Página/12 in 2008. On November 8th, La Alameda filed a new complaint.

On November 8th, La Alameda filed a complaint against Nuestra Huella company, owner of several agricultural farms, over the serious state of health of a seven-year-old boy, who remains in intensive care after having manipulated poisonous toxics for months. The boy performed jobs that are considered illegal and was also working under illegal contracts, which were run by the aforementioned company, according to the plaintiff. The boy, E.F., suffers from cancer. In 2008, his case and the ones of many other children and their families were revealed on film –and their images spread by Página/12- which showed the exploitation that these children went through in Nuestra Huella facilities, in Zárate, Pilar and Capilla del Señor. Furthermore, the complaint states that E.F. did not receive any kind of cancer treatment once the disease had been detected. The reason was that the company refused to do so.

E.F.’s job was to collect eggs in a henhouse at La Mimosa III facility, in Capilla del Señor, a place which was fumigated to fight off flies. The boy is now in the hospital, in the intensive care unit of Centro Gallego, located in 2199 Belgrano Avenue, Buenos Aires, after the doctors diagnosed him with cancer. The complaint filed before the criminal justice requests an investigation, based on suspicion that the disease was “a consequence of the manipulation of agrochemicals, that was done without taking the required safety measures.” The complaint adds that the poisons “were placed within reach of the children and that some minors, such as E., prepared them.”

The story of E.F., like the story of other children, became known after a hidden camera of La Alameda filmed images inside the poultry facilities, on August 10th, 2008, when Children’s Day was being celebrated across the country. These images were spread by this newspaper the following day. The video shows the children’s routine: they had to collect eggs in the henhouse every day, combating flies and the smell of excrement. In the video, Ezequiel explained that he helped his father “prepare” the poisons used by Nuestra Huella company in its industrial activities at the poultry farms, which are owned by the company.

According to the people who file the complaint, Ezequiel’s mother received reprimands from her manager at Mimosa Farm III, “Ceferino Vieira (who expressed) ‘you have to choose between taking care of your child or keeping your job’ (sic).” And it is suspected that in spite of the delicate health state of the boy, the company “refused to give the parents the hours needed to assist their child with cancer treatment.”

Also, according to the complaint, sections 3 and 4 of article 32 of the Job Hazards Law, and corresponding articles, have been “systematically breached” by Nuestra Huella company and its members. The criminal justice hasn’t taken any registered measures. What is more, the complaint highlights that the people who complained about E.’s state were victims of forced labor, a crime, and that they suffered retaliation from the poultry company. Precautionary measures have been requested in the face of these facts, but the criminal justice has yet to grant them.

In this way, the complaint points out that despite prosecutor Colombo’s requisition to put forward a thorough inspection and appraisal of the working conditions in the farms of the reported company, and his following request to formally question the ones responsible of such crimes, “to date we have only had meetings with the staff from the Federal Police”. They are still waiting for an answer.

Lawyer Rodolfo Cleto García, who wrote the complaint against the managers of Nuestra Huella company, also asked to formally question the individuals who make up the company and those who “have participated with intent in the commission of crimes that have caused damage to the victims of forced labor with regards to the workers of said company.”