By Dariy Esenov
American citizens often find themselves recognizing the fact that the most prestigious universities and historical landmarks were built on the back of slavery. But since its abolishment we seek to make sure that basic human rights are constantly upheld by corporations and firms within our country's border and are something every citizen innately owns. But just across the equator Brazilian politicians are still accepting large donations from corporations running on slavery.
Although the idea of paying off debts through labor may not be a strange concept, statistics show currently 1 in every 10 high-position holding politician in Brazil, especially those under the jurisdiction of ex-President Temer are linked to modern-day slavery. As politicians within the US receive their support through Super PACs and corporate donations, so do the campaigns of politicians in Brazil. Except the corporations that donate, such as OAS, a brazilian construction company, has been found housing over one hundred workers who had been forced to work under slave-like conditions. Reports of large donations summing roughly over 600,000 USD have been made by 21 of the 52 currently investigated corporations. Although it’s not deemed illegal for such donations to be made, due to the fact that they are coming in from upper management rather than a forced donation by the workers, it puts into question the responsibility of other countries must take into consideration, such as intervention into the government of Brazil or a potential instigation of a human rights movement.
For those who are confused on what qualifies as slavery in Brazil it is distinguished from regular labor by 4 characteristics. The first of which is being forced to work, the way this is achieved is by putting the workers under strict supervision by management and allowing minimal breaks in between shifts, sometimes resulting into injuries in the workplace. The second is forcing workers to pay off debts through additional work, similar to workers in India who choose this “bonded repayment” strategy Brazilian workers are not allowed to leave the country until the debts are repaid. The third quality of this form of slavery is inhumane conditions
A private statement from President Temer’s office was released when prompted about the workplace slavery and the response was “the money was passed down to other candidates” and was concluded with a denial of any further accusations. The issue with this statement is that by not acknowledging corporate funding through slavery and allowing the congress to keep creating bills that allow the same corporations to not only continue their slavery but earn more profits from doing so.
But not all hope is lost, organizations within the Brazilian community are beginning to acknowledge this mistreatment and are beginning to take action. Reporter Brasil a Brazilian news outlet has created a tool called “Ruralomitor” which analyzes the impact of the decisions made by deputies on the environment and the rural workers as well as the indigenous people.
If this tool paired with cross-referencing donations to federal organizations from companies that are fueled by slavery does not change the precedent set by these companies then a further intervention by the U.S. or local forces will be more than necessary.