SAO PAULO, Brazil — When it comes to emancipating slaves, Brazil is making up for lost time.
After a decade of debate in Congress, the Brazilian Senate on May 27 passed a constitutional amendment that calls for the expropriation, without compensation, of the land of those found guilty of exploitative labor practices. According to the legislation, the seized acres will be redistributed under a land reform program or used to build affordable housing.
The decision came during months of protests and strikes by the unions of teachers, police and bus drivers seeking better wages and working conditions. And this year's extremely contentious World Cup, according to labor judge Homero Batista Mateus da Silva, has "turned out to be a tremendous opportunity for wages and better conditions efforts."
Brazil was the last country in the hemisphere to abolish slavery, which it did in 1888, but it has since emerged as one of the most proactive nations when it comes to attacking the problem of modern-day slavery.
This new amendment follows other novel approaches to fighting slavery, a condition that includes debt bondage, being forced to work without pay or under threat of violence, as well as working exhausting hours in undignified conditions. The problem affects 21 to 30 million people around the world, and perhaps 200,000 people in Brazil, according to the Washington-based group Free the Slaves.