Defensora outlines the plight of the uninsured coffee harvesters

The defensora de los habitantes described the condition of some coffee harvesters in a way that resembled the treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the brutal Spanish conquerors.

The defensora, Monserrat Solano, told a legislative commission that the Ngäbe people on the coffee farms in the Los Santos zone do not have adequate health services, and sometimes not even adequate water.

She told the Comisión Permanente Especial de Derechos Humanos that her agency had been seeking better treatment for the native people for 17 years without success.

The migrant workers, mostly coffee pickers, have no health insurance or insurance for job-related injuries. She said that the health workers at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social only care for the migrants’ children and pregnant women.

She cited a case where 40 workers claimed their salaries had been withheld, but by the time the legal process moved ahead, the workers had gone. Most live in northern Panamá and travel freely across the international border to work.

The temporary living conditions sometimes also are grim, she said. The defensora was pushing at least for minimal health and workmen’s comprehensive coverage for the migrants as well as recognition that the work day should be six hours.

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