Impunity, greed, vulnerability, misery
French Dominican friar Xavier Plassat is dedicated to fighting modern-day slavery in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil.
Plassat shows us a safe house run by the Pastoral Commission where workers who have been rescued by the mobile units can eat and sleep while they fight for compensation.
He says conditions have improved in the region, but says modern-day slavery is far from being eradicated. “Slavery is a system and it has several roots: impunity, greed, vulnerability, misery. If you don’t address all of it at the same time you will probably have the same persons coming back to the same cycle of enslavement,” he says.
He is concerned that Brazil could actually be sliding backwards on the issue.
An increasingly powerful rural lobby in the national congress has pushed to relax the country’s very broad definition of slave labor while the resources to fight it have shrunk.
One of the main tools used to shame employers into compliance has also been undermined – every year the Labor Ministry publishes a “Dirty List” of companies caught exploiting workers. But recently, its publication has been repeatedly blocked or delayed.