Most of the victims of slave labor in Brazil are illiterate males, according to Marcelo Campos, adviser in the Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment’s Department of Work Inspection.
These men work mostly cutting down forests, preparing forests and fields to plant forage grass, and tending livestock. Last year Pará was the state with the largest number of workers freed by the Ministry’s Special Mobile Inspection Group: 1,128 altogether.
Campos observes that the definitions of slave labor and degrading labor conditions are frequently confused. "Slave labor is when workers are prevented from leaving their jobs. They can’t tell their boss they won’t be back to work the next day. If they do, they will be beaten, and their lives may even be threatened," he informs.
Under degrading labor conditions, according to Campos, individuals are free to break their contracts. "They are deprived of all their workers’ rights, as in the case of slave labor, but, in effect, if they so desire, they are not obliged to return to work the following day," he explains.
According to Campos, workers subjected to slave labor conditions are inveigled by promises of employment and a better life. They are recruited by landowners or go-betweens.
"They [the recruiters] go to where there are workers available, most of the time in other states, and they hold out false promises of good wages, good housing, and good working conditions. They delude them. They take these workers to the farms, maybe even advancing them some money," he warns.
"When they get there, the workers realize that nothing they were promised was true. And they are blocked when they try to leave."