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English Report

In the ranking of activities in which slave labor is used, farming accounts for 50% of the occurrences of slavery, clearing of the forest and charcoal production for 25%, agribusiness for another 25%. In the areas where slave labor is used, there are many products that we consume on a daily basis.

Confiscation of land as a way to combat slave labor

* Xavier Plassat

 There has been a lot of talk in the last nine years about the legislative course that it took to arrive at the approval of the Proposal for Constitutional Amendment on the confiscation of lands of the slave masters. The text approved on August 11, 2004 by the Chamber of Deputies, which has to go through the Senate owing to alterations, has been dragging for years thought Congress. It’s the result of old proposals presented by parliamentarians (Paulo Rocha in 1995, Marçal Filho and Adão Pretto in 1999, Ademir Andrade in 2001, whose proposal was appended to the others), aiming to establish expropriation without compensation, called “confiscation”, of lands where slave work is found.

 What had been so arduous to overcome is the inertia, if not the resistance, of Congress people in such a matter. There was no lack of cunning maneuvers on the part of the exponents of the ruralist bench (Ronaldo Caiado, Kátia Abreu) to succeed in postponing and altering the proposal or trying to confuse society: as if the human degradation imposed on the victim of slave work could in some way be compared to the patrimonial loss. 

 Who feels threatened by the confiscation of property? They are the same ones who complain about the government’s initiative of publishing the so-called Dirty List of modern slave masters, in which 101 businesses and rural properties lost the right to receive subsidized credit. 

 We also need to condemn ranchers who destroy the Amazon Jungle or the charcoal kilns who complete this deadly task. In the ranking, farming accounts for 50% of the occurrences of slavery, lumber cutting and charcoal production for 25%, agribusiness for the other 25%. In the areas where slave labor is used, there are many products that we consume on a daily basis.

 Charged by the international community, the Lula government can count on the support of civil society. We are in a battle that has already been marked by brutal violence, as in the case of killings of inspectors in Unaí, Minas Gerais state.

 Putting an end to impunity is essential in this fight. First of all, the government needs to guarantee a speedy, rigorous, and independent inspection. The advance carried out in the last 18 months is important. The Inspection Group increased by seven the number of operational teams and has already rescued 7,000 workers during this period in more than 100 operations on 400 properties.

 It is possible to produce an effective and exemplary punishment that will dissuade others, including fines, indemnity, land confiscation, financial and trade sanctions, ensuring at the same time, a real compensation for the damages suffered by the workers. The new performance by the Federal Public Ministry and above all by the Public Ministry of Labor already presented promising results. However, much remains to be done.

 Legislative initiatives will still be necessary to raise the amount of penalties, such as the vote of the National Monetary Council’s on a resolution preventing the granting of loans from public banks, as well as private institutions to the modern slaveholders whose name appears on the “dirty list” and of INCRA (National Institute of Agrarian Reform), and the effective registration of the properties accused of the use of slave labor.

 In a more proactive form, it’s important to implement policies that offer alternatives to wokers in education, training, job creation, and land reform in the principal areas where workers are enticed into slavery, and in the focuses of temporary emigration (interior of Bahia, Piauí, Alagoas, Maranhão, Pará, Tocantins, etc.).

* Xavier Plassat is the coordinator of the Pastoral Land Commission’s Campaign against Slave Labor