Brazil Starts Awareness Campaign to Eradicate Slave Labor

Brazil’s federal government, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO), launched, Tuesday, December 13, the countrywide publicity campaign, Eradication of Slave Labor.

The campaign, which will appear on the radio, posters, and booklets, will caution rural workers not to be fooled by false promises and end up in the clutches of exploiters of labor.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the minister of Labor, Luiz Marinho, participated in the ceremony in the Planalto Palace to inaugurate the campaign.

According to an ILO report released in May, Brazil has become an international paradigm in the fight against slave labor. Data from the Ministry of Labor indicate that 17,394 workers were removed from slave working conditions between 1995 and December, 2005.

11,501 of them were freed in the last three years. It is estimated, however, that there are still around 25,000 workers subjected to slave labor conditions in the country.

The states where these conditions are most prevalent are Pará, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, and Maranhão, but there are also cases in Goiás, Rio de Janeiro, Espí­rito Santo, and others. Most of the labor comes from states in the Northeast, especially Piauí­ and Maranhão.

At the ceremony, Minister Marinho said that combating slave labor is a priority of the current Administration but that more must be done than just freeing the workers: "Alternatives must be devised to reintroduce the freed workers into the market."

He reiterated that the eradication of slave labor is everybody’s responsibility. And he urged legislators to apply emergency rules to pass the Constitutional Amendment Bill to Combat Slave Labor: "That is the only way we will definitively erase this national shame."

Other measures were announced for the same purpose, such as a federal government order increasing the number of public agencies that will receive information from the List of Employers, the so-called "blacklist." According to Marinho, "this is a way to enhance the force for repressing the criminals."

An agreement was also signed yesterday between the Ministry of Labor and the Brazilian Bank Federation (Febraban), providing for private banks to suspend loans to individuals included on the "blacklist."

This measure is already in effect for loans from government banks. Finally, a document was signed between the Ministries of Labor and Social Development with a view towards extending the benefits of the Family Grant Program to freed workers.

The "blacklist" was instituted by the government in 2003 to expose publicly the names of employers caught in the act of exploiting workers during the operations of the Ministry of Labor’s Special Mobile Inspection Group.

189 businesses currently face accusations and legal suits for practicing slave labor. The list is published twice a year, and the employers are prohibited from receiving loans from financial agencies and resources from government funds.

Agência Brasil

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