I hope you get a chance to hear the new WORKING profile of Leandro Carvalho, an idealistic young Brazilian whose job is to find and liberate workers who are held against their will or forced to endure illegal and degrading conditions. The profile, co-produced by Sandy Tolan and Brazilian journalist Petra Costa, airs on Marketplace today (Thursday, December 18).
Leandro works with the Special Mobile Inspection Group of Brazil’s ministry of labor. The group has freed more than 30,000 slaves since the mid-1990s. Although Brazil formally abolished slavery in the 1880s, tens of thousands of workers are still thought to be held captive by landowners and middlemen who use intimidation and an ancient system known as debt bondage, in which wages are withheld against money owed to employers, recruiters, and suppliers of food, housing, and other services. Leandro left a comfortable life as an insurance adjuster on Rio’s Copacabana Beach to work in a hot, dusty place known as “The Mouth of Hell,” but he says he has no regrets.
It’s worth noting that forced labor is linked to some of Brazil’s most important exports: sugar, ethanol, beef, soy, and steel. By all accounts, the government is serious about rooting it out, but it’s distressing to think that there may be slave labor buried in our breakfast cereal or automobiles. Please give the piece a listen and let us know what you think!