Bonded labour – Modern Day Slavery in 2011

Andre from CAFOD partner CPT explains the horrific truth that a modern day slave trade is continuing in Brazil in spite of government efforts to control unscrupulous farmers. In the states of Para and neighbouring Mato Grosso, rich powerful farm  owners drive to poor areas of Northern Brazil to recruit cheap labour offering them 700 Reais (£275 ) a month wages. They then drive their newly recruited workers to their large remote farms. Because of their location and its remoteness the only way the workers can get food and drink is to buy it from the rich and powerful  farmer.  The cruel farmer then charges exorbitant amounts of  10 Reais (£4) for a 2 Reais (80p) bottle of water to the labourer,  plus much more for food and expensive boots.

After a month or so the  worker will have built a large and impossible debt to the farmer and will be not allowed to leave the farm because of the debt he owes. The large farming corporation also employes armed guards around the perimeter of the farm  to ensure no one escapes.

The Brazilian Government has tried to tackle this by putting laws in place. However in such a vast country this is very hard to monitor and control.

CAFOD’s partner, CPT (Land Commission of the Brazilian Catholic Church) has teams working across Brazil to support the rights of landless farmers and combat the practice of bonded labour.

Only last Monday, the CPT in Xinguara was registering the name of 40 bonded labourers who had just been freed from a large farm. This is to ensure they are supported by the government to get benefits such as food and accommodation for the first few weeks and tracks details of the offending farmer.

Marilande Dos Santos Silva of CPT said, “For us the Martyrs Pilgrimage is about the CPT mission to work in support of excluded people. In spite of the injustices, we are resisting the pressure and continuing the fight. I hope that by remembering those who have died we will be strengthened and return with renewed energy to continue our walk alongside people who are excluded or living as bonded labourers.

Marilande (second from left) with other CPT workers

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