Brazil convicts Odebrecht Group for slavery-like practices in Angola

Jeb Blount – Reuters, 9/01/2015

A Brazilian labor court convicted units of Brazil’s Odebrecht Group of holding workers in conditions akin to slavery at an ethanol refinery construction project in Angola, Brazilian prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.

Judge Carlos Alberto Frigieri of the 2nd Part of the Labor Court of Araraquara, Brazil, ordered Odebrecht to pay 50 million reais ($13 million) in damages.

The ruling comes as Odebrecht’s chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht, is in jail as part of a giant corruption probe in Brazil. According to Brazilian courts and prosecutors, Odebrecht helped form part of a cartel of construction and engineering companies that defrauded Brazilian state-owned oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA of billion of dollars through a contract-rigging, bribery and political kickback scheme.

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Missing Japan, balanced in Brazil

Jean-Philippe Dedieu – The New York Times, 6/5/2014

It doesn’t matter that oceans are vast, deep and imposing. For much of history they have had to be crossed by force or necessity.

Japanese started migrating to the Americas at the turn of the 19th century to escape from poverty. Initially they went to the United States, but the progressive enactment of restrictive immigration laws made them shift their destination to Central and South America, especially Brazil.

Brazil’s abolition of slavery in 1888 had forced authorities to seek alternative sources of cheap labor for their coffee estates, or fazendas. Because of exploitative working conditions, planters could not attract enough willing Europeans migrants. Despite their racial prejudices, the planters were forced to turn to Asian laborers, mostly Japanese whose government sponsored their emigration and settlements.

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Rio’s race to future intersects slave past

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 3/8/2014

Sailing from the Angolan coast across the Atlantic, the slave ships docked here in the 19th century at the huge stone wharf, delivering their human cargo to the “fattening houses” on Valongo Street. Foreign chroniclers described the depravity in the teeming slave market, including so-called boutiques selling emaciated and diseased African children.

The newly arrived slaves who died before they even started toiling in Brazil’s mines were hauled to a mass grave nearby, their corpses left to decay amid piles of garbage. As imperial plantations flourished, diggers at the Cemitério dos Pretos Novos — Cemetery of New Blacks — crushed the bones of the dead, making way for thousands of new cadavers.

Now, with construction crews tearing apart areas of Rio de Janeiro in the building spree ahead of this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, stunning archaeological discoveries around the work sites are providing new insight into the city’s brutal distinction as a nerve center for the Atlantic slave trade.

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Brazil’s slaves are being freed, but owners go largely unpunished

Tim Padgett – NPR, 01/29/2014

I bought Francisco Lima his first taste of freedom in decades.

A cheeseburger.

It was 2004, and Brazil was starting to confront one of its most distressing problems: slavery. I was in northern Pará state, in the Amazon, observing a special police unit that raided slaveholding farms and firms and liberated workers like the 74-year-old Lima.

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