Brazil's Minister of Human Rights, Nilmário Miranda, says that the
National Plan to Eradicate Slave-type Labor, launched 18 months ago, has had
According to Miranda,
out of a total of 76 action plans, 65 have been implanted. The result was
that up to July 2004, Ministry of Labor inspection teams had undertaken 99
operations in 387 rural properties, freeing 6,465 workers from slave- type
Miranda said one of the
highlights of the effort was the approval by the Chamber of Deputies, in a
first vote, of a constitutional amendment (PEC), which would permit the expropriation
of land used to exploit slave-type labor. The amendment still must be approved
in a second vote and return to the Senate.
Finally, Miranda called
the arrest of land owner, Norberto Mânica, in the case of the assassination
of three inspectors and their driver at the beginning of this year, an example
of a crackdown on impunity.
"Some people think
they are above good and evil, above the law. Well, those who practice slave-type
labor in Brazil are going to pay a price for it. And with the constitutional
amendment, we will take their land away, as well," said the Minister.
Berzoini for Expropriation
The debate on how to punish
land owners who practice slave-type labor has going on for some time now in
the Brazilian Congress. The controversial item in the debate is whether or
not land used for slave-type labor should be expropriated by the government.
Because the constitution guarantees private property, such expropriation would
require a constitutional amendment.
Minister of Labor, Ricardo
Berzoini, testifying, in mid March, at the special commission dealing with
the matter, said the hearings were a positive factor in the attempt to understand
exactly what slave-type labor was.
"Legally the concept
is clear. But it is not always clear for the layman. Slave-type labor is an
infringement on the fundamental rights of workers," explained the Minister.
Berzoini made it clear
that he is in favor of expropriating land belonging to people who use their
land for slave-type labor because this is, according to him, an appropriate
punishment for the criminal use of labor for economic advantages.
Representing a different
opinion, the vice president of the CNA (Confederação Nacional
da AbriculturaNational Agriculture Confederation), Rodolfo Tavares,
Tavares declared that
existing punishments for people who practice slave-type labor are already
"extremely grave." He added that exacerbating the punishment was
a return to the Middle Ages.
He pointed out that expropriating
property was extending punishment beyond the criminal to his family, his children
and wife. "Removing the property of a person to benefit the state cannot
be justified," he declared.
Also testifying at the
hearings, minister of Human Rights, Nilmario Miranda, disagreed with Tavares
saying existing legislation on slave-type labor was not severe enough.
"Our first concern
should be with the fate of workers who receive no compensation and face hunger,
misery, sickness and early death," he declared.
Miranda also pointed out
that nowadays a person found guilty of keeping workers in slave-type labor
conditions is likely to be sentenced to giving poor people basic food baskets
and nothing else.
Juliana Andrade works
for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian
government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.