The law prohibits what it calls “slave labor,” defined as “reducing someone to a condition analogous to slavery,” including subjecting someone to forced labor or exploitative working conditions in general, such as long workdays, unhygienic work conditions, extremely arduous labor, and labor performed in degrading working conditions. While not all individuals in forced labor, as defined by the country’s law, were victims of trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation, many were. The government took a number of actions to enforce the law, although forced labor occurred in a number of states. Violations of forced labor laws are punishable by up to eight years in prison, but this was often not sufficient to deter violations. The law also provides penalties for various crimes related to forced labor, such as illegal recruiting or transporting workers or imposing onerous debt burdens as a condition of employment.
The National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor coordinated government efforts to combat forced and exploitative labor and provide a forum for input from civil society. The commission’s members included representatives from 10 government agencies or ministries--including Human Rights, Justice, Federal Police, Agriculture, Labor, and Environment--and 20 civil society groups. The International Labor Organization was also a member.
The Ministry of Labor’s Mobile Inspection Unit teams conducted surprise inspections of properties on which forced labor was suspected or reported, using teams composed of labor inspectors, labor prosecutors from the Federal Labor Prosecutor’s Office, and federal police officers. Mobile teams levied fines on landowners who used forced labor and required employers to provide back pay and benefits to workers before returning the workers to their municipalities of origin. Labor inspectors and prosecutors, however, could only apply civil penalties; consequently, many cases were not criminally prosecuted. Workers removed by mobile units were entitled to three months’ salary at the minimum wage. State governments in Mato Grosso, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and the “Bico do Papagaio” region of the state of Tocantins provided funds to a program that offered vocational training to rescued slave laborers. As of October in the state of Mato Grosso alone, rescued workers received 1.1 million reais ($314,000).
In July labor inspectors rescued two Chinese citizens who were victims of forced labor conditions in a snack bar in Rio de Janeiro.
Forced labor, including forced child labor, occurred in many states in jobs such as clearing forests to provide cattle pastureland, logging, producing charcoal, raising livestock, and other agricultural activities. Forced labor often involved young men drawn from the less-developed northeastern states--Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins, and Ceara--and the central state of Goias to work in the northern and central-western regions of the country. In addition there were reports of forced labor in the construction industry also involving young men mainly from the Northeast. Cases of forced labor were also reported in the garment industry in the city of Sao Paulo; the victims were often from neighboring countries, particularly Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay, while others came from Haiti, South Korea, and China.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.