Brazil: in the haciendas, slavery is disguised as religion

565 Brazilians in conditions of slavery or 565 Brazilians convinced by a religion?

Brazil: in the haciendas, slavery is disguised as religion

On May 13, 1888, the Golden Law abolished slavery in Brazil. 130 years later, it seems that some sectors of Brazilian society continue to point to the social production relationship adopted in colonialism. Last March 15th,  565 Brazilians were found enslaved on the plantations of a religious sect.

Leer en español: Brasil: en las haciendas, la esclavitud se disfraza de religión

Despite the great efforts that organizations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) have carried out against modern slavery and other forms of labor exploitation, there is still slavery in Latin America and in the world.

Leja em português: Brasil: nas fazendas, a escravidão é disfarçada de religião

Religious sect?

That's right, if in 1988, in the case of Fazenda Brasil, Verde, it was a case of slavery based on economic vulnerability, now in 2018 it is a case of religious conviction.

For the Ministry of Labor of Brazil, in charge of carrying out the operation, the most surprising thing was not to find 565 people in conditions of slavery, since since 2013 this sect has already been investigated. What surprised the officers of the operation was the reaction of the workers to see the authorities. The indoctrination that these people had received from the Evangelical Jesus Community, the Truth that Marca generated, that the workers rejected the presence of the Ministry of Labor. An anomalous situation in cases of slavery.

These 565 workers were recruited in São Paulo by leaders of the sect who convinced them to donate their goods to the associations of the religious group and additionally, they transferred them to haciendas to work in agricultural crops and in establishments such as garages, service stations, restaurants, property of the leaders of the sect.

While in 1988, they took advantage of the workers of Green Fazenda Brazil because of their situation of vulnerability and they were deceived with promises of better life expectancies; in 2018, according to Marcelo Campos, the prosecutor who coordinated the operation, they were persuaded to go with the idea that "these haciendas are protected from the end of the world. They say it's a wonder and the dream of their lives". The prosecutor stressed that, despite the fact that the owners were criminally accused, the workers will only be able to leave the haciendas when they themselves declare it. Although the workers are not aware of the seriousness of the crime, the prosecutors will oblige the owners of the establishments to pay them retroactively all the salaries and guarantees due since they were recruited.

The change in modern slavery

Apparently slavery has had a change of modus operandi, it has gone from using elements of coercion, physical violence, abuse and exploitation to fanatical ideas of an end of the world, an unfounded fear that takes advantage of a religious belief.

The concern for modern forms of slavery in Latin America becomes greater when it is identified as one of the crimes with the highest levels of under-registration according to the IACHR. One of the main barriers is the lack of information about the profile of the perpetrators and the victims themselves. This situation that Brazil is facing today puts in check two decades of successful initiatives in the fight against these practices.

A case 30 years ago

It seemed that the scandals of Brazil for slavery had remained in the past after the case of Fazenda Brasil Verde, in which case a ranch located in the state of Pará, since 1988 presented a series of complaints about the practice of slave labor and the disappearance of two young people. As a result of the denunciations, in 2016 the IACHR condemned the Brazilian State to be internationally responsible for not guaranteeing the protection of 85 workers subjected to contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking, in addition to not guaranteeing access to justice to the other 43 workers rescued in these same circumstances.


Latin American Post | Catalina Martínez

Translated from "Brasil: en las haciendas, la esclavitud se disfraza de religión"