Slavery in Brazil

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently published a small article about the contemporary slavery happening in various regions of Brazil. “The Government of Brazil has put in place exemplary policies to combat contemporary forms of slavery in Brazil. However, some landowners, businesses and intermediaries such as the ‘gatos’ have found a way to avoid criminal prosecution by taking advantage of legal loopholes that delay justice and foster impunity,” said Ms. Gulnara Shahinian, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, modern day slavery is more common in Brazil than most people would imagine, especially as it is one of the most developed and promising countries of all those on the verge to move from “developing country” to “developed country”. It might (will) soon be the 5th largest economy in the world. Yes, Brazil has safety and corruption problems, but they have been minimized in the last years and its economy in tourism and agronomy (cattle and crops) is enormous and very promising. Now, how can it be possible that under those circumstances slavery is possible? How can it be, that Brazil has one of the most rigid labour / work force laws especially for this farm work in the world, yet this is the sector where (mostly men) are victims of forced labour? That those who defend the rights of victims have been threatened, harmed and killed?

In my opinion, and ultimately in the conclusion of the article, Brazil has a tremendous issue with law enforcement. Simply because a law has been established, everyday practice will not automatically change. As Ms. Gulnara Shahinian says in the article, Brazil needs to really show the people that they are serious about punishing this crime. The Brazilian government could do so by passing a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the expropriation of land, where forced labour is used. Personally, I would like to add that afterwards they have to actually, really take some land away from someone before people will believe it. (I am not assuming that it’s the only way, but after seeing how little impact the zero tolerance law for drunk driving had until it was enforced seriously, I consider it the most promising option. Btw, people here still drive drunk. Very drunk at times.)

So lets all hope that the amendment is passed, rather sooner than later.

Thanks for reading! Krisenkind

You can find the article here (english version):
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10073&LangID=E

Or download the portuguese version here (word document):
http://www2.ohchr.org/SPdocs/Press/Bras%C3%ADlia_Slavery28May%202010.doc

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Brazil’s Slavery Black List

Brazil, being one of the BRIC countries, is growing fast. Other than maybe China, Brazil is not relying on foreign industries entering the country for cheaper production. One could rather say, that Brazil has natural ressources which fire up that growth. And by natural ressources, I am not talking about Oil, or gas, or gold. I am talking about soil. Area. Land. Brazils economy is driven by agriculture and the resulting industries and exports. It is the world leader in beef export, and produces 8.7 million tonnes of beef every year, as well as broiler export. Next to cattle and other farm animals, Brazil also produces coffee, tropical fruits, corn, soybean, cotton, rice, wheat and sugarcane in extremely large amounts, whereas soybean (>51 million metric tons, largest exporter worldwide), sugarcane (>560 million metric tons, largest exporter and producer of sugar worldwide), cotton (5th largest exporter worldwide) and corn (>35 million metric tons) are the main crops. In this are Brazil is leading the exports

If you have looked at a map lately, you for sure know that Brazil is one of the biggest countries in this world. Even if we subtract the Amazon Region, for it being strictly legally separated from farmland, inner Brazil still offers a tremendous amount of space with very fertile soil. Many of the farms are huge, and work with areas in the thousands of hectares.

I work in the agricultural business and I have travelled around Brazil and visited many farms in various states, producing various crops, and varying from a mere 200ha to 50.000ha. I am happy to say, that in all my visits I have not seen any farm that had their workers live in unbearable conditions. Some even had great cafeterias, beautiful hang out areas and a lot of free-time possibilities for their seasonal workers (as farms are usually far away from the city, they cannot just “go to the movies” etc.). Most of them are 100% concording with the very tough farm work legislation that the Brazilian government provides (a lot stricter than what you would expect, definitely stricter than in Germany for example). However, there are always some black sheep.

In Brazil, these black sheep are published with all their farm information on a “lista suja”, black list, where companies working or buying from farms and agricultural entrepreneurs can check if their partner is working according to the rules. The list is updated regularily and can be found here: http://www.mte.gov.br/trab_escravo/lista_suja.pdf or be downloaded: Lista Suja – Black List

Of course, the Ministry of Work (MTE) also gives an explanation for the list, however it is in portuguese, so here is a translation, followed by the link to the original:

The MTE (Ministério de Trabalho e Emprego) creates a registry of companies and individuals fined by exploitation of slave labor.
The Employers Register provided for Ordinance No. 540/2004, which contains offenders caught exploiting workers in a condition which is analogue to slavery received a new update in December 2009.

The biannual update of the Register consists primarily of the inclusion of employers who were found to have severe deficiencies and exclusion of those over two years, counted from its inclusion in the Register, manage to succeed in remedying deficiencies identified at inspection and meeting the requirements of Ordinance No. 540, 15.10.2004.

For deletion, the procedure is the following: analysis of information obtained by direct and indirect monitoring of those farms, through verification on site and through information from the agencies / institutions and non-governmental government, in addition to information obtained from the General Coordination Process Analysis of the Secretariat of Labor Inspection.

In this new update we’re permanently deleting ten (10) , as employers meet the requirements. The main causes of maintenance of the name in the Register are: no discharge of fines imposed, recurrence of illegal practices, and because of the effects of actions pending in the Judiciary.

Another aspect to be clarified relates to employers who resorted to the judiciary aiming be excluded from the Register. In compliance with the court order (injunction), the name is deleted immediately and remaines deleted until the possible suspension of the injunction or ruling on the merits. […]

To make the new inclusions, inspection reports were analized, the postings in the system “sisacte” were searched to check the status of the cases pending, and further queries were conducted on databases of the federal government. This resulted in the inclusion of twelve (12) new employers in the Register.

The records from this update contains 165 (one hundred and sixty-five) offenders, including individuals and companies, not counting the exclusion cases under court order.

For the portuguese original on the site of the Ministério de Trabalho e Emprego go here: http://www.mte.gov.br/trab_escravo/cadastro_trab_escravo.asp

What is Human Trafficking?

Okay guys,

so you might find this post alittle boring. Outdated, maybe. I know you all can hit google, maybe you are even an author on wikipedia and know how to handle stuff there. Or you might even be someone who has followed the issue for years. None the less, it is important to me to clear up what Human Trafficking really means before I dig deeper into this blog. It not only explains the issue, but it also explains why I am doing this to a great extend.

So here we are, I am spending my lunchtime to post an explanation of one of the biggest issues we have nowadays. One lunch hour only, is all it takes. 11 minutes or less, all it takes for you to read it. Not much, if you think about it…

Human Trafficking.

According to the US Administration for Children and Families, Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor; a modern-day form of slavery; and the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest, after the drug-trade. With 32billion US$ profit, which is more than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined, it is the second largest criminal industry in this world. It is a tie with the illegal dealing with arms. Moreover, Human Trafficking is the fastest growing illegal industry. Who knows?, maybe, if we don’t do something against it, it will kick drug dealing of it’s throne.

The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:

  1. Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, OR
  2. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Of course, that sounds like a lot of big words and terms and categorizing. So what you should take away from this is: Trafficking does not only mean people being smuggled out of their countries to perform services of whatever matter to a customer; and its not solely about the image of a pimp many might have in mind. Trafficking in the end comes down to modern day slavery, where peopl are held hostage by someone or a group of people in oder to gain those a profit.
Yes, the Act does move away a bit from the literal meaning of trafficking, which means to rob someone from one place and to bring it to another, to there work. Automatically, it mixes in prostitution of minors and includes slaves that are held in any place, may it be there hometown, or a country at the othe end of the world. But then again, rather include those into the illegal actions then leave them out, right?

Let’s look at Brazil for example. It is a huge state, with huge farms and many workers. Most of those farmers, actually one should call them agricultural entrepreneurs, concord with all rules and legislations and do there best. I work with a lot of them, and I am proud to speak about the effort most of them bring up, in order to not only provide the world with proven standards in terms of food and environmental safety and sustainability, but also to provide their seasonal workers with the best standards. I have eaten in cafeterias on farms in Mato Grosso which were better than what I have been served in some restaurants… but there is always black sheep. If the workers dont have huts with real walls, matrasses to sleep on, water near by, etc. it falls under “slavery” and should be abolished. Even more so, if those people are thratend in case they talk. I am happy to say I have not worked with any farm like that, but they exist. Brazil even has a public listing, “black list”, of farms that are under the suspicion of holding “slaves”. [LINK to follow]

Or lets take a look at sex trafficking. The stereotype image thatcomes to mind, is young asian girls and rich pimps. But it is so much closer, so much more real than that. Just take a look at the recent news about child prostitution in Portland, Oregon: http://huff.to/aYyf9b
Can you imagine, that a mother sends her daughter in to prostitution? To have he sell her teenage years to truck drivers, so the family can pay its bills? It exists, I have seen it. And that also falls under the terms slavery, and under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

A common misconception is that trafficking only occurs in poor countries, but thats just looking at one side of the medal. Every country in the world is involved in the underground, lucrative system, be it as source, tansit or destination of the trafficked person.
A “source country” is a country from which people are trafficked. Usually, these countries are destitute and may have been further weakened by war, corruption, natural disasters or climate. After the earthquake destroyed Haiti’s Port-Au-Prince for example, Red Cross and other NGOs warned endeeringly, that all those children that lost their parent or guardian in the devastating shaking of the earth, are now in another severe danger: Children could get robbed and sold, trafficked in other countries to be child soldiers, work in prostitution, illicit adoption and more. (For more info about child trafficking, check out the wikipedia article: http://bit.ly/cWAqkw )
Let’s get back though,to the fact that all types of countries are involved… A “transit country”, like Mexico or Israel, is a temporary stop on trafficked victims’ journey to the country where they will be enslaved. A “destination country” is where trafficked persons end up. These countries are generally affluent, since they must have citizens with enough disposable income to “buy” the traffickers’ “products”. Japan, India, much of Western Europe, and the United States are all destination countries. So basically, where ever you are: Your country is also part of the problem.

I mean, think about it… we, or at least most of us who have access to internet and read blogs like this one, live in a world that seems happy and mostly safe in terms of robbed people, human beings stolen from their lives to live in slavery. Yet, it is happening. Everywhere.

There are many organizations out there, that help to raise awareness and som that take action. However, for the first post, I want to introduce you to UN.Gift, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
It’s mission is, to mobilize state and non-state actors to eradicate human trafficking by reducing both the vulnerability of potential victims and the demand for exploitation in all its forms; ensuring adequate protection and support to those who fall victim; and supporting the efficient prosecution of the criminals involved, while respecting the fundamental human rights of all persons.
UN.Gift is based on an international agreement and the simple, and obvious, fact, that trafficking is a problem across borders and thus cannot be dealt with by each country on its own.

If you want to know more about UN.Gift, you can visit them on www.ungift.org There you also find a lot of downloads that will help you to look deeper into the matter and to understand what is being done.
You can also support them on their facebook page. Check it out, it’s worth it.

Human Trafficking is a crime and needs to be fought. Slavery, of any kind, is not an optio. Never. Never ever.

Thanks for reading! 🙂