28 people who lived as slaves are found on a yerba mate farm in Paraná
by Rafael Moro Martins
On Monday (25), in a joint operation by the Polícia Federal (PF or Federal Police), Ministério Público do Trabalho (MPT or Public Ministry of Labor) and the Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego (MTE or Ministry of Labor and Employment) 28 people who were living in conditions similar to slavery on a farm in Inácio Martins (200 km west of Curitiba) were liberated. No one was arrested.
According to the PF, workers and small children lived in a degrading situation, with no hygienic accommodations, poor food and no medical care in the middle of a forest, where they cut yerba mate.
“We heard about the case because a worker escaped and reported the situation. During the operation, we saw that the story was true. In the lodging, there lacked food and there was no milk for the children. The food was basically biju (a mixture of cassava flour with salt) To deceive the hunger, the employer gave cachaça rum to the people,” says Maurício de Brito Todeschini, chief of the PF in Guarapuava, which is located about 158 miles (255 km) from the capital city of Curitiba.
Debt to the employer
“In addition, all the workers owed debts to the employer. It’s the usual scheme in these cases, in which one is charged for food and lodging. Accordingly, the worker always owes, remains restrained and does not even have money to leave. It’s configured to the regime of slavery,” says the officer.
In hearings that were scheduled to be held on the afternoon of Wednesday (27), the MPT will confirm who was legally responsible for the workers. The owners of the farm and the contractor will have to respond to the crime of Reduction to Condition Analogous to a Slave, which carries a penalty of two to eight years in prison.
Note from BW of Brazil: While the race or color of the persons freed in this article is not mentioned, it would not be a stretch to assume that the majority of the persons freed from this slave labor were Afro-Brazilian considering the findings of a recent study.
Three of four people working in conditions analogous to slavery are black
Three in four workers freed from conditions similar to slavery are preto (black) or pardo (brown) (1). It is what was confirmed in the research of Marcelo Paixão, Economics professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The study was done from the registration of these workers in the Bolsa Família program, included in the benefit after their release.
The finding of the research was not surprising for the coordinator of the Centro de Estudo das Relações de Trabalho e Desigualdades (CEERT – Center for the Study of Labor Relations and Inequalities), Maria Aparecida da Silva “Cida” Bento. She said the study expressed that racism still determines the treatment for blacks and whites in Brazil.
“It’s inconceivable. Brazil is a country that doesn’t learn from its own history, that doesn’t do its homework for a more democratic society. There’s a group that sustains this country that are black workers. It scares me how society still pretends not to notice racism.”
In the study by Marcelo Paixão, 73.5% of the 40,000 workers released between the years 2003-2009 reported were preto (black) or pardo (brown). For the researcher, skin color does not determine this, but it increases the chances of a worker experiencing exhaustive work shifts and unhealthy work conditions.
For Maria Aparecida, while blacks are conditioned to slave work, whites are in positions of command in Brazil.
“What about the other side? Only whites in command. The group that runs the country – Be they companies, universities or governments – pretend that we have already overcome racism and we have to stop talking about race.”
1. The two combined make up the Afro-Brazilian population