José Pereira
A glimpse into the conditions of slavery and inhumane treatment faced by thousands of agricultural workers in Brazil

José Pereira, along with 60 other workers, is detained against his will and forced to work in inhumane and illegal conditions without compensation in the Espirito Santo estate, located in the state of Pará. He attempts to escape the estate with a partner. Both are shot at by their supervisors.

The case of the young José Pereiralitigated by CEJIL, Americas Watch and Commissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT), is representative of the conditions of slavery faced by many seasonal, agricultural workers from the northeastern states of Brazil, where poverty is rife and work opportunities are minimal. Most are recruited with false promises, are transported to distant estates, and are detained against their will by way of violence and indebtedness. Once at the location, they are obligated to work in inhumane conditions and are frequently injured or killed by their employers if they seek to escape. This situation often develops in a context of impunity and complicity with the State. Despite complaints and concrete evidence presented of the extreme violence occurring over many years, no recruiter, foreman, or estate owner has ever been convicted.

Case Impact

  • For the first time ever, the State assumed international responsibility for being unable to prevent, investigate, or punish these acts. Brazil also promoted public policies to eradicate slave labor in its territory, among them the National Plan to Eradicate Slave Labor and the National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor.
  • Additionally, Brazil developed training for people working to eradicate slave labor and has since seen progress in citizen empowerment due to specific actions that raised workers’ awareness of their rights and their risks. 
  • Thus far 44,270 people have been released from slavery, according to the report produced by the Commissao Pastoral da Terra titled “Balance of Agrarian Reform 2014.”
  • According to a 2003 update of the National Commission to Eradicate Slave Labor’s Employer Registry, 409 employers have been caught subjugating workers to conditions analogous to slavery.

However, delays are occurring: Minister Ricardo Lewandowski has suspended the “dirty list” of slave labor. The list is considered one of the principal tools in the battle against slave labor, and has been referenced by the United Nations.