Bound by Promises: Contemporary Slavery in Rural Brazil| 17mins
Director: Beatriz Affonso | Producer: CPT, CEJIL, WITNESS
Focus Years: 2009 | Country: United States
This video addresses many aspects of contemporary slave labor in rural Brazil, through the testimonies of several workers and their families.
Every year, more than 25,000 workers are enslaved by landowners in rural Brazil, mostly in the Amazon region. This video tells the story of men who set out in search of work and are taken to isolated ranches, only to find that they have been lured into debt bondage. Forced to do backbreaking work and to live in overcrowded shacks with no running water, they are treated like animals. "A bullet from my shotgun is what you have a right to here,â€ one worker was told. With no way out, they toil in the hope of buying back their freedom.
Since 1995, the Brazilian Ministry of Labor has operated the Mobile Inspection Squad to investigate the claims of runaway workers. Every year, nearly 250 complaints are filed, involving nearly 8,000 workers. In 2003, Brazil launched the National Plan to Eradicate Slave Labor, committing to end the slave labor within 4 years. That same year, the Ministry of Labor created a "list of shame" that publicizes the names of offending landowners. Since then, inspections have increased substantially, releasing over 4,000 workers a year. Still, half of the claims remain uninvestigated. While offending landowners have been sentenced to pay fines for moral damages, few have been criminally charged. Cases have been stalled due to a controversy as to whether they should be tried in federal or state courts. As a result, impunity is rampant and no landowner has ever been imprisoned for slave labor.
Brazilian authorities acknowledge that at least 25,000 rural workers enter the cycle of slavery every year.
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