Friday, November 04, 2005

Brazil Steps Up Anti-Slavery Raids

Marcelo Campos, chief of Brazil's anti-slavery task force, is stepping up armed raids on ranches, farms and work camps he says force people to work against their will.

About 25,000 people in Brazil work under conditions similar to the slavery the government abolished in 1888, according to the Catholic Church. They often have jobs in backland ranches, covert brick factories and rainforest camps that make charcoal used to produce pig iron. In the last 15 years, 17,000 captive workers have been freed by police, the Labor Ministry said.

``This has been a crime since abolition, but in spite of that people are still being exploited,'' said Campos, 43, who has run the Labor Ministry's Division of Investigation for the Eradication of Slave Labor for five years. ``We continue to find people forced to work like slaves.''

Slaves are used to clear the Amazon rainforest for cattle ranches and soybean fields from the northeastern state of Para to Mato Grosso near the border with Bolivia, Campos said.

They also cut wood for charcoal that mills in the eastern Amazon states of Para and Maranhao buy to produce some of the world's cheapest and purest pig iron.


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