November

Cutting cane in Colombia, workers win sweet victory

Colombian sugar cane production is confined to 500,000 acres in Valle de Cauca and Cauca, departments situated in the country’s southwest. From legalized slavery on, Afro-Colombians have done most of the cutting. Recently they’ve worked 12-14 hour days, every day, under contract with facade cooperatives, an arrangement allowing landowners and refinery operators to avoid paying for tools, transportation and workers’ retirement costs. After deductions, cutters earn less than Colombia’s minimum wage of $222 per month.