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Brazil Company Linked to the Clintons Has Hundreds of Slave-Like Workers

Brazil's Brenco Seventeen Brazilian workers hired by Brenco, a biofuel company in which former American president Bill Clinton is one of the investors, have been rescued by a team from Brazil's Labor Ministry, which alleges that the  men were being subjected to degrading, slave-like conditions.

According to the ministry, there were over 1500 laborers working in degrading living conditions and residing in hazardous installations in the company's locations in the Brazilian midwestern states of Goiás and Mato Grosso. The firm has promised to promptly remedy the situation.

Besides Clinton, Brenco, Brazil Renewable Energy Co, counts among its investors on AOL's founder Stephen Case, Sun Microsystem's founder Vinod Khosla and former World Bank's president, James Wolfensohn.

Brenco, which started one year ago in Brazil has big plans: among them to own 10 ethanol producing plants throughout the country with a capacity to produce 1 billion gallons of ethanol a year. The company is run by Henri Philippe Reichstul, the former president of Petrobras, Brazil's state-controlled oil multinational.

According to Brazil's public prosecutor, the Labor Ministry inspectors started their work on February 26 by visiting a "gato" (cat), the person responsible for recruiting workers for the biofuel company in Campo Alegre de Goiás.

Brazil's largest daily, Folha de S. Paulo, tells that it was in a house rented by the recruiter that the government investigators found the 17 rescued workers, who complained that they were not getting enough food. The inspectors also found out that the laborers were sleeping in wet mattresses due to the rain because the place had a leaky roof.

Public prosecutor Antônio Carlos Cavalcante, who took part in the raid, announced that he will file three public civil actions against the company, each one in the value of  5 million reais (US$ 2.96 million) for collective moral damages. He wants the money to be used to help the three communities where the violations were found: Campo Alegre de Goiás, Mineiros and Alto Taquari.

In downtown Mineiros, in the state of Goiás, the labor ministry agents found a hotel where 116 men were being housed. The housing weren't much better here and the public prosecutor cited Brenco in this instance for overcrowding.

In the canvas-made lodging offered by the company, known as Urtigão 1, the government employees didn't find any egregious violation, but they noticed that employees were forbidden to go out or drink at night, apparently in an effort to increase workers productivity.

The inspector team also discovered a series of irregularities at Fazenda Laranjeiras,  a sugarcane farm leased by Brenco. The company was ordered to stop all activities until the irregularities are remedied. Among the problems: lack of toilet paper and soap. Workers also didn't have decent sanitary installations or a covered place where they could eat a lunch time.

In Alto Taquari, in the state of Mato Grosso, in a place housing 1400 workers, there were found exposed electric wire and feces floating in the toilet.  Most of the workers were from the northeastern states of Ceará, Maranhão and Piauí­. 250 workers were able to get their final payment plus a bus ticket to their hometown. But others will wait hoping conditions will get better now.

Bill Clinton has invested in Brenco through The Yucaipa Cos., a U.S. fund in which the ex-president used to be a senior advisor. According to a financial disclosure presented last year by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the Brenco investment is worth between US$ 15,000 and US$ 50,000.

Bill Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told AP that the former president's investment was small and that he had been assured that the Brazilian ethanol company was "committed to the highest ethical standard with regard to the treatment of its workforce and of the environment."

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  • Show Comments (6)

  • Zingadoon

    Slavery
    “Slavery” in many guises exists in Brazil.Everyone knows this; it’s a given. In rural Goiais, practically all farm workers are de facto enslaved. Pay is aften months in arrears, and employers provoke or fabricate dismissal to avoid back pay. Workers shift to other fazendas or sitios and the process is repeated. If you’ve been to rural Goiais — Tocatins, or Mato Grosso — you can’t miss it.

  • João da Silva

    [quote]WITH MORALITY LIKE THAT GIVE ME A DESPOT ANYDAY.[/quote]

    A good despot that comes to my mind is “Emperor Bokasa” of the Central African Republic. I wonder if his empire and he are still alive. Lately I am not keeping track of what is happening in that part of Africa.

  • ch.c.

    What a joke…the critics !
    If someone invests BRL 20’000.- into the listed company COSAN……
    HOW CAN THE INVESTOR KNOWS THAT THE COMPANY USES SLAVES…OR NOT ??????????????????????
    The only thing he knows is that the company….PROMISES…..there are none.
    Both in its internet site and in their quaterlay and annual report.

    Your accusation is typically Brazilian !
    Why Lula and his 4000 thieves dont make public in what Brazilian or foreign company they invested their own money ????????????

    Should all foreigners withdraw ALL their money from Brazil…to be sure this money is not tied to slave labor ?????

    Hmmmm….more idiot that the government of Brazil there is not !

    Lets face it, Brazil does very little to reduce slavery.
    The people in charge say they dont know where the slaves are….and that anyway they dont have the necessary budget.
    PURE LIE.
    Just ask NGO local and foreign, local churches and they KNOW excatly where slaves are…but nothing is done.
    One can even look at hte many internet sites…..telling and showing excatly where slaves are !!!!!!!!!!

    What a bunch of crooks…these Brazilians !

    Including Your Vice President AÀƒ§ucar (Alencar) who a year ago or so PUBLICLY AND LOUDLY said…there is NOOOOOO
    slavery in the sugarcane plantations !!!!!!!!!

    Pfuiiit !

  • JAY GLENN

    CHANGE?? SAME OLD STORY
    ANY INVESTER knows that if you invest over seas conditions are not that of America. Why do you think the return is so good? People working for next to nothing, in squalid conditions. DID BILERY THINK ALL OF BRAZILS WORKERS LIVED LIKE THEY DID WHEN THEY VISITED BRAZIL? YES THE SAME OLD CHANGE WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO. JUST LIKE THE NEW LEVEL OF MORALITY SHE WAS GOING TO BRING TO WASHINGTON AFTER BILLS FIRST ELECTION. WITH MORALITY LIKE THAT GIVE ME A DESPOT ANYDAY.

  • bo

    exactly forrest…
    isn’t the way it always is in Brazil. They’re being abused in Brazil by Brazilians, but find a foreign investor or two, and pronto! Deflect blame!

  • forrest allen brown

    so only the forgin investors are named
    Has any of the investors ever been too the plant does any of there names show up on the rental
    contract for the men .

    if you look at the rate of investment for theis people you will find they are invested in many
    countries and many business

    you should see how the republican party is going to spin this one i bet

    go back out there go through the books and see who is in charge of houseing for the men

    and then send the inspectors to PB & PE states and see who has all the slaves
    i have seen them live in tar paper huts , with dirt floors , sleeping in
    hamocks . having there wives and children help in the fields to meet quoata

    now fine the company give the money too whom is going to steal it and move on

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