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Brazzil - People - February 2004

Brazil: For Some, Slavery Is the Only Option

It is estimated that between 25 and 40 thousand workers live under
slave-like conditions in Brazil. Inspections carried out by Brazil's
Ministry of Labor's discovered workers living in canvas tents,
eating poorly, and drinking the same dirty water as the animals.
A landowner remarked that the workers preferred it that way.

Andréia Araujo

Brazil's Labor Court Prosecutors Office (MPT) liberated 32 workers submitted to slave-like conditions on a farm belonging to Brazilian Senator João Ribeiro, in the municipality of Pirraça, in the south of Pará state. The workers were taken to the municipality of Araguaina, where they testified before the Federal Police. The MPT intends to file a public civil suit in the Labor Court system of Pará for the reparation of damages suffered by the workers.

The head of the MPT's National Coordinating Body to Combat Slave Labor, Luís Antônio Camargo de Melo, informed that the mobile group arrived at the senator's farm after receiving denunciations that the workers were restricted in their right to come and go, but when the MPT began its investigation, it wasn't aware that it had to do with a senator.

The Constitutional amendment proposal that sanctions expropriation of properties where there is proof of slave labor should be ratified by the end of the month at the latest, informed Deputy Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh.

According to Greenhalgh, approval in record time of the bill's constitutionality, in the Constitution and Justice Commission, demonstrates the Chamber's desire to move ahead with the proposal "to clean up slave labor in Brazil."

The legislator recalled that the president of the Chamber, João Paulo Cunha, has already initiated the time period for enrollment in the special commission which will debate the merits of the bill. But, in Greenhalg's opinion, "there should be no resistance, because the great majority is in favor of promulgating the amendment, which has been under discussion since 1995 and has already been approved in the Senate."

Maranhão Is Champion

The state of Maranhão is the national slave labor champion, according to the president of the Açailândia Center for the Defense of Life and Human Rights, Carmem Bacaran. Last year alone, over 700 workers were freed after formal accusations were filed with the Ministry of Labor.

A group of inspectors from the Ministry are expected to investigate accusations of slave labor in three charcoal works and a farm in the municipality. Maranhão also exports slave labor to other states, according to Bacaran. In Pará, for example, around 43 percent of the workers submitted to such conditions come from Maranhão.

Created seven years ago, the Center for the Defense of Life and Human Rights is a non-governmental organization that works to combat slave labor. The Center is also gathering data on the existence of the problem in charcoal works situated in the Tocantins region.

Minister Nilmário Miranda, of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, believes that by 2006 slave-like labor will only exist sporadically, in isolated instances in Brazil.

February 12, at the close of a seminar on slave-like labor sponsored by Radiobrás, in conjunction with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Minister said that the government is devoted to the eradication of slave-like labor in the country. "It is not enough to think only in terms of combating it," he pointed out. "I believe that when the President said that we are going to eradicate it, we will really eradicate it," he added.

Miranda affirmed that various steps are being taken, such as the circulation of a "black list" of 54 landowners whom labor inspection officials have cited for maintaining workers in slave-like conditions on their properties. These landowners are prohibited from receiving government loans. The Minister also emphasized the importance of passing the Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) that permits the expropriation of properties where slave-like labor is used. "It will be a mortal blow," he underscored.

The Minister also said that the government is determined to punish the masterminds and gunmen responsible for the murder of three Ministry of Labor inspectors and a driver late last month in Unaí, northeast Minas Gerais state. "They left a lot of trails, and people are speaking up," he said.

It is estimated that between 25 and 40 thousand workers live under slave-like conditions in the country. The chief characteristic that identifes slave-like labor is the restriction of freedom. Cláudia Márcia Brito, from the Secretariat of Labor Inspection, said that the form of slavery that exists nowadays is crueler than the tradition form. "The contemporary slave is expendable," she declared.

Brito has already taken part in various inspections carried out by the Ministry of Labor's mobile group that checks the existence of slave-like labor on rural properties. She said she discovered various workers living in canvas tents, eating poorly, and drinking the same dirty water as the animals on the property. She said that during one of the visits she heard a landowner remark that it did no good to offer filtered water to the workers, since they preferred the dirty water. The same landowner also admitted that the corral was cleaner and better cared for than the lodgings occupied by his employees, but that the workers liked it that way, Brito reported.

In her view, passage of the PEC that will permit land confiscation is very important and will serve as an educational tool. "We know that employers act only their pocketbooks are stirred," she affirmed. She also said that the only victim of slavery in Brazil is the worker. "He is not a slave because he wants to, but for complete lack of opportunity," she concluded.

List of employers and companies punished for slave work:

State - Employer - Farm - Number of Workers

Alagoas - Lima Araújo Agropecuária Ltda - Fazenda Estrela de Alagoas - 59
Maranhão - Açaí Florestal Ltda - Fazenda Medalha - 265
Maranhão - Agro Industrial Nova Aurora Ltda - Fazenda Nova Aurora - 203
Maranhão - André Mitsuo Igarashi - Fazenda Igarashi - 168
Maranhão - Antônio das Graças Almeida Murta - Fazenda Lagoinha - 65
Maranhão - Florestal Maracaçumé Ltda - Fazenda Entre Rios - 86
Maranhão - Gilberto Andrade - 36
Maranhão - Inocêncio Gomes de Oliveira - Fazenda Caraíbas - 56
Maranhão - Miguel de Souza Rezende - Fazenda Zonga - 70
Mato Grosso - Destilaria Gameleira - Fazenda Gameleira - 318
Mato Grosso - Edmilson José Cesílio - Agropecuária Progresso Agropol - 98
Mato Grosso - José Gilberto Borges de Freitas - Faz. Stº André Agropec. Fischer - 17
Mato Grosso - Josemar da Costa Filho - Fazenda Marcélia IV e V - 30
Mato Grosso - Sebastião Doujas Xavier - Fazenda Santa Luzia - 129
Mato Grosso - Sebastião Vieira - Faz. Gleba Porta do Amazonas - 35
Pará - Agropecuária Carajás Ltda - Fazenda Primavera - 248
Pará - Agropec São Roberto S.A - Fazenda São Roberto 186
Pará - Agropecuária Umuarama Ltda - Fazenda Santa Fé - 118
Pará - ATS Serviços Ltda ME - Fazenda Tuerê - 127
Pará - Aziz Mutran Neto - Fazenda Mutamba - 48
Pará - Carmo Guimarães Giffone - Fazenda Acapulco - 62
Pará - Constantino de Oliveira Guimarães - Fazenda Colorado - 23
Pará - Divino Andrade Vieira - Fazenda Santa Luzia Tuerê II - 52
Pará - Ediones Bannach - Fazenda 5 Irmãos - 77
Pará - Eurélio Piazza - Faz. Diadema IV ou Faz. Surucucu - 18
Pará - Eutimo Lippaus - Fazenda 1200 (Fazenda Boa Fé) - 36
Pará - Fernando Luiz Quagliato - Fazenda Rio Vermelho - 167
Pará - Francisco Donato Linhares de Araújo - 60
Pará - Humberto Rubens Cansanção Filho Fazenda Ouro Verde - 43
Pará - Iolandes Bannach - Fazenda e Irmãos - 26
Pará - Jairo Carlos Borges - Fazenda Ouro Preto - 27
Pará - Jairo de Andrade - Fazenda Forkilha - 97
Pará - Jorge Multran Exportação e Imp. Ltda - Fazenda Castanhal Cabaceiras - 47
Pará - José Coelho Vitor - Fazenda Santa Lúcia - 133
Pará - José Humberto de Oliveira - Fazenda Palmar - 20
Pará - José Vaz da Costa - Fazenda N. S. Aparecida - 90
Pará - Lima Araújo Agropecuária Ltda - Fazenda Estrela de Maceió - 60
Pará - Márcio Carvalho Ribeiro - Fazenda Primavera - 97
Pará - Marcus Ribeiro de Carvalho - Fazenda Taguará - 77
Pará - Miguel Vieira Mesias - Fazenda Boca Quente - 13
Pará - Milton Alonso - Fazenda Dona Francisca - 25
Pará - Newton Cunha Lemos & Outros - Fazenda Marapaí - 64
Pará - Pedro Lopes Lima - Fazenda Pai Eterno - 77
Pará - Reinaldo José Zucatelli - Fazenda Sol Nascente - 71
Pará - Roberto Castanheira de Oliveia Silva - Fazenda Ribeirão Bonito - 23
Pará - Romualdo Alves Coleho - Fazenda São Paulo - 55
Pará - Roque Quagliato - Fazenda Colorado - 81
Pará - Sandra Nancy de Souza Cunha - Fazenda Buriti II - 27
Pará - Senor Ltda - Fazenda Senor - 153
Pará - Vale Bonito Agro Pecuária S. A. - 88
Pará - Wellington Francisco Rosa - Fazenda Maranata 76
Pará - Wilson Moreira Torres - Fazenda Rio Lages - 27

Andréia Araújo works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br

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