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

South Africa: Stopping Human Trafficking before the WorldCup

Julie Tanner published an article on globalpost.com in which she unveiled her opinion on how  the tourism industry and international travellers can help stoppig human trafficking in the host country 2010: South Africa.

I think it is an article that is worth reading. Below you find the first abstract, followed by the link to the full article.

“NEW YORK — With the start of the FIFA World Cup Finals quickly approaching, it’s easy for soccer fans to get caught up in the excitement of the matches, the grandeur of new stadiums and the rush of people visiting South Africa from around the world. But the influx of half a million tourists will have the unintended consequence of creating new opportunities for human trafficking…”

To read the full article, go here: http://bit.ly/aejIvu