The mobile inspection unit of Brazil’s Regional Labor Office (DRT) freed 50
rural laborers held under slave-like conditions on the Mandacaru estate, in the
state of Pará. Among those rescued was a 12 year-old boy. The workers were
discovered in deplorable conditions and without safety gear.
According to the DRT of Pará, their housing was inadequate, and they lacked drinking water and clean bathrooms. Moreover, they were prohibited from leaving the estate until they paid off all their debts for equipment, food, and medicines.
The proprietor will be required to pay an indemnity and will be tried in federal court. The Federal Police and the Public Interest Defense Ministry will join in the prosecution of the case. 1,051 workers have been freed this year, nearly half of them in the state of Pará.
Another 31 workers were also freed Wednesday on the Santa Teresa estate, in the municipality of Arapoema, in the state of Tocantins. According to the coordinator of the group, the auditor Fausto Rosas, the workers were subjected to slave-like conditions and were barred from leaving the estate.
Among the 31 workers who were liberated, there was a 16 year-old who toiled together with the others clearing pastureland.
Brazil’s Minister of Human Rights, Nilmário Miranda, says that the National Plan to Eradicate Slave-type Labor, launched 18 months ago, has had positive results.
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 labor situations.
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.
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