Alma S., a fifteen-year-old from a rural community north of San Salvador, planted sugarcane in December 2002 and January 2003. An hacienda close to here came looking for women to go plant, she told Human Rights Watch. We took the crude cane, and the machine would come along, a tractor, making rows for the cane. We planted the cane in the rows behind it. . . . The machine doesnt stop, and one has to go along quickly. At the beginning we planted five manzanas in a day, and later it was four manzanas. (A manzana is an area equal to 7,000 square meters, about the size of a soccer field.)
The workers ranged in age from nine to sixty years old, Alma said. They worked from 5:30 a.m. until about 11 a.m. To get to work, Alma walked an hour and a half, leaving her house between 3:30 and 4 a.m. The first few days felt hard, but then one became accustomed to it, she said. I had huge blisters and scars on my hands, especially on my palms, the first day.1 Sugarcane leaves are covered with a substance that is a skin irritant.
While Alma and her coworkers were planting, other workers, including children as young as eight, cut sugarcane on fields that had been planted the previous year. Carlos T., an eleven-year-old in Sonsonate, described the work he did during the harvest. I grab the cane, cut it; grab it, cut it. I use a chumpa, a small knife. He began cutting cane when he was nine. Last year was the second year I worked, he said. I would leave the house at 5 a.m. The fields were spread out over a large area. When it was far away, we would go by bus; when it was close, we would walk. If we only had one tarea, we would finish early. We could do three. Literally work or job, a tarea in the sugarcane harvest is an area of land that contains approximately two tons of sugarcane.
Carlos worked with his father. As far as the owners of the plantations are concerned, he and many of the other children who cut cane are helpers, not employees. They didnt pay me; they paid my father, he told us. There are many children working with their fathers.2 Characterizing the youngest children as helpers is convenient for employersthe minimum working age is fourteen in El Salvador, and both the labor code and international law forbid the employment of any child under eighteen in harmful or hazardous labor. We asked seventeen-year-old Moises B. if the foremen know the ages of their workers. When people share the tarea they give you, then, yes, they know, he said, telling us that plantation foremen know that some workers are under the legal working age. Age doesnt matter to them. What matters is the work that a person can do.3
Cutting cane is backbreaking work, and accidents are common. Theres a high level of risk in sugar, said Benjamin Smith, principal technical advisor with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in El Salvador, noting that sugarcane workers labor in direct sunlight and use machetes and other sharp tools. In addition, because cane is often burned before it is cut to clear away leaves, workers risk smoke inhalation and sometimes suffer burns on their feet.4 Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former labor inspector told Human Rights Watch that of all forms of agricultural work, sugarcane is the most hazardous. Sugarcane has the most risks, he said. Its indisputablesugarcane is the most dangerous.5
As this report documents, childrens health and safety are not guaranteed in sugarcane cultivation, and plantation foremen turn a blind eye to the fact that children as young as eight cut cane. Even though many businesses that use Salvadoran sugar do not condone or permit child labor in their own or their direct suppliers operations, the use of child labor is rampant in planting and harvesting sugarcane, meaning that El Salvadors sugar mills and the businesses that purchase Salvadoran sugar use the product of hazardous child labor.
One such business is The Coca-Cola Company, which uses sugar from El Salvadors largest mill, Central Izalco, located in the Department of Sonsonate.6 Coca-Cola uses Salvadoran sugar in its bottled beverages for domestic consumption in El Salvador and in its canned beverages sold throughout Central America. At least four of the plantations that supply sugarcane to Central Izalco regularly use child labor, Human Rights Watch found after interviewing children and adults who work on those plantations. When Human Rights Watch brought this information to Coca-Colas attention, Coca-Cola asked its supplier mill to conduct its own investigation into the use of child labor on plantations that supply the mill.7 Coca-Colas extensive response to the information provided by Human Rights Watch did not contradict our findings. Instead, Coca-Cola responded only in terms of its direct suppliers: Our review has revealed that none of the four cooperatives identified in the letter supplied any products directly to The Coca-Cola Company, and neither TCCC [The Coca-Cola Company] nor the Salvadoran bottler have any commercial contracts with these farm cooperatives, Coca-Colas director of public affairs wrote to Human Rights Watch.8
Coca-Colas supplier guiding principles provide that its direct suppliers will not use child labor as defined by local law.9 With the adoption of these principles, Coca-Cola has recognized its responsibility under international standards to take steps to ensure that human rights are respected in its supply chain as well as in its directly owned corporate facilities.10 But Coca-Colas guiding principles apply only to its direct suppliers; they do not address its suppliers responsibility to ensure that their own suppliers do not use hazardous child labor. This omission is significant because it means that Coca-Colas supplier mill can comply with Coca-Colas guiding principles even though it is aware or should be aware that that the sugar it refines is harvested in part by child labor.
Coca-Cola is by no means the only multinational corporation that indirectly receives the benefit of hazardous child labor in El Salvadors sugar sector. El Salvador produces over 225,000 metric tons of sugar each year, accounting for 2.28 percent of the countrys gross domestic product in 2002.11 Coffee is the only agricultural product that accounts for a higher percentage of the countrys gross domestic product, and representatives of the industry suggest that sugar will prove to be El Salvadors most important agricultural product in 2003 and 2004. Five percent of El Salvadors sugar production is exported to the United States, and industry representatives expected El Salvadors share of the U.S. market to increase if the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) enters into force.12
At least five thousand boys and girls work in the sugarcane harvest in El Salvador, a 2003 baseline study by the ILOs International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) found. Other studies have concluded that in addition to that number, another 25,000 children are indirectly involved, meaning those who accompany their parents or family members and help them with different tasks involved in the harvest.13
Human Rights Watch interviewed many more boys than girls who told us that they cut sugarcane. Similarly, over 85 percent of the child sugarcane workers interviewed for the IPEC study were boys.14 Some of the girls and women we spoke with told us that they cut cane, but they more commonly reported planting sugarcane, as Alma S. did. There are a lot of girls who plant cane, Gilbert C.s mother told us. Lots go at age fourteen or so.15
Much of the work performed by children on sugar plantations is hazardous and interferes with their education, in contravention of Salvadoran and international law. Harvesting cane is particularly dangerous, with children suffering frequent injuries from the sharp tools they must use. Fifteen-year-old Javier R.s experience was typical of the children we interviewed. When we asked him if he had cut himself while harvesting cane, he said, Here, pointing to a scar on his finger and raising his pant legs. I have a lot of scars on my legs. His most recent injury was in January, one month before our interview, when he cut himself with a corvo, a short, thick, crescent-shaped blade with a wooden handle. I didnt go to the doctor. I wrapped it up and returned to work the next day, he said. When we asked him why he had not seen a doctor, he replied, We dont have the money to pay him. Its about $2 that we have to pay.16 Planting cane does not carry the same risk of accidents, but it does expose children to skin irritants if they do not wear gloves. Both planting and cutting cane require children to labor for up to nine hours each day in the hot sun.
In addition, children who work on sugarcane plantations, particularly those who harvest cane, often miss the first several weeks or months of school. The end of March is when they come, after the zafra, said Elba Ganira Martínez, a teacher in a rural area north of the capital, referring to the sugarcane harvest.17 Others drop out of school entirely.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits the employment of children in work that is likely to be hazardous, intefere with their education, or be harmful to their health or development.18 Child labor in sugarcane cultivation also ranks among the worst forms of child labor, as identified in ILO Convention No. 182, concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention). Under the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, children under the age of eighteen may not be employed in work which is likely to harm their health, safety, or morals.19 As interpreted by ILO Recommendation 190, concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (the Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation), prohibited labor includes work with dangerous tools, work that exposes them to dangerous substances, and work under particularly difficult circumstances.20 El Salvador has ratified both of these treaties. The Salvadoran labor code generally prohibits the employment of children under the age of eighteen in hazardous or unhealthy work,21 but it leaves open the possibility that those sixteen and older may perform such work provided that their health, security, and morality be fully guaranteed.22
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This is Human Rights Watchs eleventh report on child labor (not including our extensive research on the use of children as soldiers, an abusive practice that is an extremely hazardous form of work) and our fourth on labor rights issues in El Salvador.23 Our first child labor reports addressed slavery, bonded child labor, and other practices akin to slavery that violate the Slavery Convention; the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery; ILO Convention 29, concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour; and ILO Convention 105, concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour. In subsequent reports, we have examined other forms of child labor that amount to economic exploitation and hazardous work in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and those that rank among the worst forms of child labor as identified in the ILOs Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. To date, we have investigated bonded child labor in India and Pakistan, the failure to protect child farmworkers in the United States, child labor in Egypts cotton fields, abuses against girls and women in domestic work in Guatemala, the use of child labor in Ecuadors banana sector, child trafficking in Togo, the economic exploitation of children as a consequence of the genocide in Rwanda, and abuses against child domestic workers in El Salvador. In addition, we have published fourteen reports on the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, a practice the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention includes among the worst forms of child labor,24 documenting such abuses in Angola, Burma, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Uganda.
Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in El Salvador in February 2003 and subsequently by telephone and electronic mail from New York. During the course of our investigation, we spoke with thirty-two children and youths between the ages of twelve and twenty-two, all of whom planted or cut sugarcane while they were under the age of eighteen. (The names of all children have been changed in this report to protect their privacy.) We also conducted over fifty other interviews for this report, speaking to parents, teachers, activists, academics, lawyers, government officials, representatives of the Salvadoran Sugar Association, and representatives of one sugar mill. Our researchers visited nine of El Salvadors fourteen departments, traveling to Ahuachapán, Cabañas, Cuscatlán, La Libertad, San Miguel, San Salvador, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, and Usulután.
We assess the treatment of children according to international law, as set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, and other international human rights instruments. These treaties establish that children have the right to freedom from economic exploitation and hazardous labor and the right to an education, among other rights. In this report, the word child refers to anyone under the age of eighteen.25
 Human Rights Watch interview with Alma S., Department of San Salvador, February 13, 2003. The names of all children have been changed in this report to protect their privacy.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Carlos T., Department of Sonsonate, February 16, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Moises B., Department of San Salvador, February 13, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Benjamin Smith, principal technical advisor, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, International Labour Organization, San Salvador, February 6, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a former labor inspector who asked to remain anonymous, San Salvador, February 18, 2003.
 See chapter V, Following the Supply Chain: The Link Between Child Labor and The Coca-Cola Company section. Human Rights Watch wrote to Coca-Cola and all of the other multinational corporations and local mills named in this report. Our letters and the replies we received appear in the appendices to this report.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Carol M. Martel, director, Public Affairs, The Coca-Cola Company, May 7, 2004.
 Letter from Carol M. Martel, director, Public Affairs, The Coca-Cola Company, to Kenneth Roth, executive director, Human Rights Watch, May 20, 2004.
 Guiding Principles for Suppliers to The Coca-Cola Company (2002), p. 1. The guiding principles are reprinted in Appendix A.
 See, for example, U.N. Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (the U.N. Norms), U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/12/Rev.2 (2003), para. 15; Commentary on the Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (Commentary on the U.N. Norms), U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/38/Rev.2 (2003), para. 15, cmt. c.
 See Asociación Azucarera de El Salvador, Mercados, available at http://www.asociacionazucarera.com/ mercados.asp (viewed October 15, 2003) (production estimates); Asociación Azucarera de El Salvador, Nuestra gremial, available at http://asociacionazucarera.com/gremial.asp (viewed October 15, 2003) (percentage of gross domestic product).
 Human Rights Watch interviews with Julio César Arroyo, coordinator of international negotiations, Salvadoran Sugar Association (Asociación Azucarera de El Salvador), San Salvador, February 10, 2003; Ricardo Esmahan dAubuisson, executive director, Agro-Fisheries and Agro-Industrial Chamber of El Salvador (Cámara Agropecuaria y Agroindustrial de El Salvador, Camargo), San Salvador, February 10, 2003; Mario Ernesto Salaverría, president, Camargo, San Salvador, February 10, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Benjamin Smith, principal technical advisor, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor, International Labour Organization, San Salvador, May 6, 2004; Judith E. Quesada Lino and Alfredo Vargas Aguilar, El Salvador: Trabajo infantil en caña de azúcar: Una evaluación rápida (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, 2002), p. ix (citing university studies of child labor in sugarcane).
 Judith E. Quesada Lino and Alfredo Vargas Aguilar, Trabajo infantil en caña de azúcar, p. 19. The IPEC study was based on interviews with 168 children in cane-producing communities in the departments of La Libertad, San Miguel, San Salvador, San Vicente, Santa Ana, and Sonsonate. The children interviewed for the report were not necessarily a representative sampling of child sugarcane workers in El Salvador. See ibid., pp. 13-17.
 Human Rights Watch interview with mother of Gilbert C., Department of Sonsonate, February 16, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Javier R., Department of San Salvador, February 13, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Elba Ganira Martínez, teacher, Centro Escolar El Chaparral, Department of San Salvador, February 13, 2003.
 Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 32(1), adopted November 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force September 2, 1990). El Salvador ratified the convention on July 10, 1990.
 ILO Convention 182, concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention), adopted June 17, 1999, 38 I.L.M. 1207 (entered into force November 19, 2000). El Salvador ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention on October 12, 2000.
 ILO Recommendation concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation), ILO No. R190, June 17, 1999, art. 3.
 Constitución de la República de El Salvador, art. 35; Código de Trabajo, art. 105.
 Código de Trabajo, art. 105.
 For other Human Rights Watch reports on labor rights issues in El Salvador, see Human Rights Watch, Deliberate Indifference: El Salvadors Failure to Protect Worker Rights (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2003); Human Rights Watch, No Rest: Abuses Against Child Domestics in El Salvador (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2004); Americas Watch, Labor Rights Abuses in El Salvador (New York: Americas Watch Committee, 1988).
 See Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, art. 3(a).
 Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child defines as a child every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 1.