Brazil Accused of Getting Biofuel with Slave Labor

Sugarcane is cut many times by slave labor

Sugarcane is cut many times by slave labor Producing fuels from sugarcane, castor bean, and soybeans – the so-called biofuels – is being proposed as an economic alternative for small farmers and as an alternative to burning fossil fuels, which are expensive and pollute the environment.

The topic was much talked-about early in February, after a UN report on global warming was issued, and it was addressed in recent negotiations with Uruguay for the country to remain in the Mercosur.

And continues to be emphasized in March as one of the topics to be discussed during the visit of the president of the United States of America to Brazil. George W. Bush announced his interest in developing a partnership with Brazil for producing biofuels.

In a letter issued after a seminar of the international peasant movement Via Campesina on the growth of the sugarcane industry in Latin America that was held in São Paulo last month, representatives of social organizations and movements from Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic challenged the discourse according to which biofuel is a clean energy that can generate income for rural populations in Brazil.

"The current bioenergy production model is based on the same elements that have always brought oppression to indigenous people: appropriation of territories, of natural goods, of the labor force," said Via Campesina in the letter, which is called "Full Tanks at the expense of Empty Stomachs."

"The Brazilian government is now encouraging the production of biodiesel also, mainly to ensure the survival and expansion of soybean monoculture in large areas. With the aim of legitimizing this policy and disguising its devastating effects, the government has been encouraging the diversified production of biodiesel by small farmers for the purpose of creating the so-called "social seal." Monoculture is increasing in indigenous areas and other territories of original indigenous people," he added.

One of the main concerns is with working conditions in farms. And this includes the use of indigenous labor which, particularly in sugarcane plantations, often faces conditions similar to slavery: low pay, no safety, long months away from their villages and homes.

In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul alone, there are projects to set up 32 ethanol plants over the next three years, with promises of 51,000 new jobs and credit lines from BNDES (National Economic and Social Development Bank). Biofuel crops are also increasing in the Brazilian northeast region.

On February 28, the president of the Brazilian Cáritas, Bishop Demétrio Valentim, recalled problems created by monoculture for workers during a ceremony for launching the book  Direitos Humanos no Brasil 2 – Diagnósticos e Perspectivas (Human rights in Brazil 2 – Diagnosis and Prospects).

He mentioned sugarcane plantations as examples of areas where even ensured rights – such as labor rights – can be threatened. "The battle for human rights must be continually supported. A clear example is that of labor rights, which have been ensured already but are threatened. Biofuel, for example, leads to larger sugarcane plantations, where working conditions are similar to the ones experienced during the slavery period," he said.


  • Show Comments (4)

  • CH.C.

    Hey hey !!!!!!!
    Who remembers what I wrote….on that subject ?????

    And to AES, you dont even know what you are tralking about.
    THERE ARE NOT 50’000 sugarcane cutters but nearly 1 MILLION !!!!!

    Thus if you went to basic school, please try to figure out how many periods of 5 years are needed if they suppress 50’000 workers every 5 years !!!!!! In my view…..this should make 20 times 5 years….or 1 CENTURY provided there are 1 million actual sugarcane workers.

    Where is the mute issue that you are talking about ?

    These poors workers are working like slaves. They must cut 10 tons of sugarcane per day, MINIMUM !

    And as you said a nation of vast unemployment f is a problem in need of a solution. But this is exactly what Brazil did and does : they hire sugarcane cutter and have them work like slaves….for a very small salary, they live in HUTS !!!!

    Furthermore the new jobs in plants will not reduce the sugarcane cutters, since they there will be far more sugarcane fields.
    Meaning…there will be even far more of these workers AND NOT LESS !!!!!

    i CAN ONLY SUGGEST YOU TO surf the Net…and read the sad reality…in many hundreds on articles ! Just go to Google and type
    …….sugarcane cutters workers Brazil

    Ohhhh and by the way….who do you believe that Brazil employ for producing the pig iron in the forest using charcoal smelters????????
    Of course, just the same as for their sugarcane cutters : they uses slaves all over the country.
    Here too, please surf the Net and type …….charcoal slaves pig iron Brazil.

    And finally do you really believe that the Brazilian government will ever spend real money FOR INFRASTRUCTURE ????
    Just impossible, the government spends far too much money for its own maintenance and pensions for retirees.

    It really looks like you watch far more the Brazilian TV soap operas, rather than reading the news !

  • aes

    After mechanization
    Well mechanization will supplant the 50,000 promised jobs in five years. Slave labor will be a mute issue. What will be of issue is JOBS. . .it is self evident that the infrastructure of the nation of Brazil is in grave need of attention. Pipelines, highways, hydro electrics. . .a nation of vast unemployment is a problem in need of a solution.

  • Forrest Allen Brown

    lets drive
    go from Recife to Jaoa paossa . and look at the 1000 meter stare that most of the cain farmers have on there faces .
    look at the mud huts they live in the water they drink and the food they eat .

    while the richest man to run for a govermental office lives fat dumb and happy off the backs of the people that works for him
    now the land grab is on even the indans land is at the end of the gun

    i have had people comming out to my place trying to get my wife to sell it to them before we loose it to govermental rights .


    what are they thinking

  • bo

    [quote]He mentioned sugarcane plantations as examples of areas where even ensured rights – such as labor rights – can be threatened. “The battle for human rights must be continually supported. A clear example is that of labor rights, which have been ensured already but are threatened. Biofuel, for example, leads to larger sugarcane plantations, where working conditions are similar to the ones experienced during the slavery period,” he said.[/quote]

    I’ve personally witnessed this in Alagoas. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting.

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