The government maintained prosecution efforts. Article 149a of law 13.344 criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to eight years imprisonment and a fine, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Article 149a required force, fraud, or coercion for child sex trafficking cases, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, 244A of the child and adolescent statute criminalized inducing a child to engage in sexual exploitation, without the need to prove the use of force, fraud, or coercion and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years imprisonment and a fine, which were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 149 of law 13.344 prohibited trabalho escravo, or reducing a person to a condition analogous to slavery, defining forced labor to include degrading work conditions and exhausting work hours, going beyond situations in which people are held in service through force, fraud, or coercion.
Contrary to previous years when law enforcement data occasionally included state and federal efforts, the 2017 investigation and prosecution data included information solely under federal jurisdiction. In 2017, authorities reported 190 investigations (171 investigations under article 149 and 19 investigations under article 149a), compared with 147 investigations in 2016 (103 new and ongoing investigations under the old penal code, 22 new and 20 ongoing investigations under article 149, and 22 investigations under article 149a). The government reported 57 prosecutions (55 under article 149 and two under article 149a), compared with 147 prosecutions in 2016 (135 under the old penal code, three under article 149, and three under article 149a in 2016). Authorities reported 81 total convictions in 2017 (four under article 149a in the superior court, 20 under article 149 in the superior court, two under article 149a in lower courts, and 55 convictions under article 149 by lower courts), compared with a total of 23 convictions in 2016 (22 in lower courts and one final conviction in the superior court). Most sex and labor traffickers convicted by lower courts appealed their convictions; there were 78 appeals related to trafficking cases in the federal court system in 2017 (compared with 29 in 2016). The prolonged appeals process lasted years and hampered Brazil’s overall law enforcement efforts. Authorities estimated 79.7 million cases were pending review in the Brazilian court system in 2017 and rulings in eight of every 10 cases were not enforced due to recurring appeals. The government did not report the length of sentences given for all cases, but media reported sentences for select cases ranged from two to seven years imprisonment. However, most convicted traffickers served sentences under house arrest or by spending only nights in prison while being free during the day.
The government treated forced labor as a distinct crime from sex trafficking. The Ministry of Labor’s (MTE) inspectors handled administrative cases of trabalho escravo while cases with evidence of serious violations were referred to the labor court and public ministry for criminal prosecution. This resulted in uneven interagency coordination of anti-trafficking efforts. Labor inspectors and labor prosecutors could apply only civil penalties. The MTE conducted 7,491 inspections in 2017, an increase from 1,902 inspections in 2016 in part due to the resolution of 2016 strikes by labor inspectors.
The Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) had a unit in every state and was involved in the investigation of most trafficking crimes. In some states, the DPF worked efficiently with state and municipal law enforcement entities; however, law enforcement cooperation and communication among the DPF and state and municipal entities was generally insufficient. Law enforcement units at all levels had insufficient funding, expertise, and staff to investigate trafficking. NGOs indicated that, of Brazil’s three police forces, the DPF was the most competent in handling trafficking cases; however, specialized training for all law enforcement entities on trafficking indicators was lacking. In coordination with international organizations and foreign donors, the government trained law enforcement officials, prosecutors, immigration, and border officials on trafficking. In 2016, the National Justice Council (CNJ) launched FONTET—a national forum tasked with increasing judicial efficiency in the handling of trafficking cases and ensuring victims were not penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. Due to personnel changes, FONTET was active only in the first part of 2017. In December 2016, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights ruled against Brazil in a historic case (Fazenda Brasil Verde vs. Brazil) where for the first time it fined a country for failing to prevent slavery within its borders; it ordered the government to pay $5 million to 128 farm workers who were enslaved from 1988 to 2000 and to reopen the investigation. In January 2018, the attorney general announced the creation of a task force to re-open the investigation. The government did not report updates to cases of official complicity opened in past years, including the investigation of an elected official, who in October 2016 was removed from his position in Parana state after allegations of involvement in a child sex trafficking ring. Similarly, there were no updates on the prosecution’s appeal of an inadequate sentence given to a civil police investigator in 2016 for his involvement in a sex trafficking ring involving children. During the reporting period, an NGO reported that more than one in 10 high-ranking politicians received campaign donations from companies linked to conditions analogous to slavery.