COVID-19 killing many young maquiladora workers, study shows


SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — A new report in Mexico has identified that young people who contract COVID-19 in Baja California are dying at a rate 25 times higher than the same demographic just north of the border in San Diego County.

The same study discovered most of the young people who are dying live in border cities like Tijuana and had jobs or ties to maquiladoras, which are assembly plants in Mexico operated by foreign interests including the United States.

Corporations rely on a labor force willing to work for low wages to increase profits. Most of the workers are young between 25-45 years of age.

Baja California, located just south of California, has close to a thousand of these factories.

Workers of a cross-border plant work in a production line in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on June 13, 2011. While local businesses have been devastated by high murder rates and criminal gangs in Mexico’s most deadly city of Ciudad Juarez, multinational industry is booming. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP via Getty Images)

People in the state of Baja California, especially the young, have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

Mexican mathematician and computer scientist, Dr. Raul Rojas, addressed the findings.

“In this country, young people who are not at risk are dying,” he wrote in a newspaper in Mexico.

Initially, state and federal officials in Mexico shut down almost all of the maquiladoras in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus.

But in recent weeks, faced with pressure from car manufacturers and other industries in the United States, many maquiladoras have re-opened despite of warnings against it.

Factory workers halt their work to protest against the lack of safety measures against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, outside Electrocomponentes of Mexico, a company in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, on the US border, on April 20, 2020. – Thousands of Mexicans are still working in similar “maquiladoras” — factories set up mainly by US companies to avail of cheap labor — all along the 3,100-kilometer (2,000-mile) border with the United States. In Juarez alone, among the 160 largest maquiladoras — which together employ 300,000 workers — nearly 30 factories deemed non-essential by the government were still operating last Friday, according to Chihuahua Labour Secretary Ana Luisa Herrera. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Data shows some plants have been forced to shut down again after noticing large numbers of positive cases among their workforce.

Numbers show that at least 400 workers in Baja California working in these plants have gotten COVID-19 and at least 83 of them have died, according to the state health secretary.

“The vast majority of infected people are factory workers,” said Sergio Moctezuma, the state labor secretary for Baja California.

According to stats released last week, death among people ages 40 to 49 is about 25 times higher in Baja California than it is in San Diego County, which has a similarly sized population.

And for those age 50 to 59, the number of deaths is nearly 10 times higher.

Maquiladora leaders defend their industry saying workers could be infected anywhere.

“Coronavirus cases are high among maquiladora workers simply because they make up a high percentage of the general population,” said Kurt Honold, who represents the maquiladora sector.

“Fifty percent of the people who work in Tijuana work in the maquiladora industry,” he said.

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