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Slavery in Modern Day Brazil

Slavery in Modern Day Brazil

Report by Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University

Over the last few years, the Government of Brazil has been attempting to end the use of slave labor. In the course of doing so, the Ministry of Labor has been collecting information on owners of slaves in contemporary Brazil (Decree 540 of 15.10.2004). Between October 2004 and December 2009, the Ministry compiled a “Dirty List” that contains the names of slave owners, the Brazilian states where they are based, their addresses, as well as the number of enslaved workers who have been liberated and the year when the slave owners were included in the list. In 2007, more than 5,000 enslaved workers were liberated throughout the country. At one fazenda in the state of Pará (North Brazil), 1,064 enslaved workers were liberated. In 2009, the company, Agrisul Agricola (Mato Grosso do Sul), was discovered with 1,011 enslaved workers. The list does NOT include the names of slave owners who agreed to pay workers’ benefits and the fines imposed by the government. If slave owners cooperated, their names were removed from the list two years after the infraction. Hence the actual number of enslaved people is much greater than these figures suggest.

The living conditions of these workers are squalid. People, including young children, live in huts with straw roofs and earthen floors, sleeping in hammocks. There are often no doors or windows, and no access to water, electricity, toilets or places to cook.  

The “Dirty List” can be viewed at:  
http://www.mte.gov.br/trab_escravo/lista_suja.pdf

A video showing degrading “living” conditions of enslaved workers can be viewed here.

The official Brazilian National Plan to Eradicate Forced Labor (English version) can be viewed at: http://www.mte.gov.br/trab_escravo/7338.pdf