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A look at the company that owns the Juarez maquila that exploded last week

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Oct 30 2013 07:49:07 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 06:33:08 PM CST

Courtesy NorteDigital

Explosion at Blueberry mauiladora in Ciudad Juarez on Oct. 24 injured more than 40 people - 11 of them critically.

EL PASO, Texas -

A fourth worker from the Dulces Blueberry factory in Ciudad Juarez has died as a result of his injuries and burns from a fiery explosion at the maquila.

The 35-year-old man died Tuesday at a hospital in Guadalajara, where he was being treated for third-degree burns.

The factory makes jelly beans, gummy bears and gummy worms, among other candy and Halloween favorites. They distribute all over the United States.

The factory is part of Sunrise confections, which is owned by Mount Franklin Foods, a company with headquarters in El Paso. Mount Franklin Foods is owned by Elamex, a large mexican company owned by Juarez and Chihuahua City businessman Eloy Vallina.

Vallina's family owns tens of thousands of acres of land in Mexico just across the border from Santa Teresa. Mexican media have reported accusations his family has acquired land there far below its real value. Vallina is also a member of the Paso Del Norte Group in El Paso, a group of elite public and private sector leaders who's listed mission includes spurring economic development.

The most recent annual report for Elamex indicates sales in the U.S, it's main customer base, increased by 22 percent in 2012. The report, conducted by ACCEL, the corporation that oversees Elamex, also boasts its reduced labor costs are a big part of the company's success.

Dr. Kathleen Staudt, who researches the border economy said it's important for Americans to find out where the products they purchase are manufactured. "Unsafe conditions in Mexico can actually transfer back to the U.S. Of the 300 maquilas in Ciudad Juarez there are some that emit toxic pollution. The air knows no borders and that air can blow into our region. When there are fires there, or conditions that poison the water supply, we as a border region will be influenced by those kinds of things."

ABC-7 has called the El Paso headquarters of Mount Franklin Foods and has stopped by twice, including Wednesday, seeking comment. Company officials have said they are unavailable or have refused an interview.

Staudt said American consumers should be cognizant of the human toll that comes with products manufactured in Mexico and other countries.

"We should be as horrified for the people who died in Juarez as we are for the (hundreds of) people who died in Bangladesh from (the garment factory) fire. It's tragic and unfortunately there are greedy profiteers that will get the most out of workers."

Staudt referred to general forces in the global economy, not about the specifics of the Juarez factory fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Chihuahua State officials said.

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