From the beginning of the year till the end of March, 583 Brazilians who were working as slaves were released by the Brazilian government's Mobile Inspection Group from the Labor and Employment Ministry. Last year, during the same period, the number of slave workers was smaller: 565 people.
The new number was announced this Tuesday, April 10, by the Labor Ministry's communication office. In the first quarter, the Mobile Group guaranteed the payment of close to 918,000 reais (about half a million dollars) in labor indemnities. The government held 17 operations in 40 farms.
Last year, during the same period, 51 farms were visited in 21 operations, which brought almost 763,000 reais (US$ 377,000 reais) in compensations.
Pará, in the North, was the state with the largest number of released workers, 192. It was followed by Piauí (155), Bahia (97), Maranhão (78), Goiás (36) and Mato Grosso (25).
The activities with more employees exploited as slaves are cattle breeding, agriculture, and wood, coal and vegetable exploration.
Among those who participated in the Mobile Group there were labor inspectors, Federal Police chiefs and agents, and prosecutors from the Labor Public Ministry.
At the time of their rescue, workers receive the money they are owed plus unemployment insurance, food, housing and transportation to their hometowns. They also receive legal assistance and are included in federal social programs.
Brazil exported over US$ 11.7 billion in agricultural products between January and March this year. The value is 20% greater than exports in the same period of 2006, when the country sold abroad a total of US$ 9.795 billion.
Imports also grew in the first quarter of 2007: they were 33% greater than in the first quarter of last year, when they totaled US$ 2.012 billion.
The sectors that contributed the most to the growth in exports, according to figures supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, were meats, sugar and alcohol, coffee and fruit juice.
The ministry also pointed out the increase in exports to the Middle East, the European Union (EU) and Africa, respectively 79.2%, 23.5% and 20.6% in March this year when compared to the same month in 2006.