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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Brazil

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1998
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Brazil, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa23a.html [accessed 25 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.

BRAZIL

Brazil is a constitutional federal republic composed of 26 states and the federal district. The federal legislative and judicial branches of government exercise authority independent of the executive branch. In 1994 voters elected a new president, two-thirds of the Senate, and 513 federal deputies. It was the second time since the end of military rule in 1985 that citizens freely chose their president and elected the legislative bodies in accordance with the 1988 Constitution. All parties are able to compete on the basis of fair and equal procedures. Fernando Henrique Cardoso became president on January 1, 1995, and is serving a 4-year term, reduced from 5 years by a 1994 constitutional amendment. The judiciary is independent but inefficient and subject to political influence.

Police forces fall primarily under the control of the states. State police are divided into two forces: The civil police, who have an investigative role, and the uniformed police, known locally as the "military police," who are responsible for maintaining public order. Although the individual state governments control the uniformed police, the Constitution provides that they can be called into active military service in the event of an emergency, and they maintain some residual military privileges, including a separate judicial system. In September the Justice Ministry created a public security secretariat to coordinate efforts to reorganize and modernize the police forces. The federal police force is very small and plays little role in maintaining internal security. The state police forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.

Brazil has a market-based, diversified economy. The Government, which traditionally played a dominant role in shaping economic development, is encouraging greater private sector participation in the economy through privatization of state enterprises, deregulation, and removal of impediments to competition. Industrial production, including mining operations and a large and diversified capital goods sector, accounts for approximately 34 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); agriculture contributes about 13 percent. Brazil exports both manufactured and primary goods. Among the principal exports are coffee, soybeans, textiles, leather, metallurgical products, and transportation equipment. Per capita GDP was about $5,000 in 1997, and the economy grew at a rate of 3.5 percent. Although income distribution improved slightly in 1997, the poorest tenth of the population received only 1 percent of national income while the richest tenth received 48 percent.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but numerous serious abuses continued. State police forces committed many extrajudicial killings, and officials reportedly tortured prisoners. The police also were responsible for abductions for ransom and instances of arbitrary detention. The state governments concerned did not effectively punish perpetrators of these abuses. In many cases, special courts for the uniformed police were overloaded, rarely investigated effectively or brought fellow officers to trial, and seldom convicted abusers. This separate system of special state police courts contributes to a climate of impunity for police officers involved in extrajudicial killings or abuse of prisoners. Legislation enacted in 1996 gave civil courts jurisdiction over intentional homicide committed by uniformed police officers, but left control of the initial inquiry in the hands of the police, which can preempt investigation and prosecution of cases.

The poor bear the brunt of most violence. Prison conditions range from poor to harsh. The judiciary has a large case backlog and is often unable to ensure the right to a fair trial. Justice is slow and often unreliable, especially in rural areas where some powerful landowners use violence to settle land disputes and influence the local judiciary. Violence against women, minorities, and homosexuals, and discrimination against women and minorities are problems. Child prostitution is also a problem. Despite constitutional provisions safeguarding the rights of indigenous people, they continue to be victimized by outsiders who encroach on Indian lands and to be neglected by governmental authorities. The authorities do not adequately enforce laws against forced labor, including that by children. Child labor is a serious problem.

In April the Government created a human rights secretariat in the Justice Ministry to oversee implementation of its 1996 Action Plan to address human rights abuses. The Government also passed a law defining and penalizing torture and expanded scholarship programs to reduce child labor. However, because of jurisdictional and resource limitations, the increased commitment by the national Government did not have a significant impact in some of the states where human rights violations are most common.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Extrajudicial killings continued to be a serious problem throughout the country. In urban areas, high crime rates, failure to apprehend most criminals, and an inept and inefficient criminal justice system all contribute to public acquiescence in police brutality and killings of criminal suspects. Human rights groups report that the uniformed police, who openly doubt the judiciary's ability to convict those they apprehend, often summarily execute suspected criminals rather than apprehend them, and then file false reports describing the executions as shootouts. A Human Rights Watch/Americas report described the unjustified use of deadly force in police raids in urban shantytowns; extrajudicial killings, justified in official reports under "resisting arrest;" and executions by off-duty officers in response to minor provocations or to resolve personal vendettas. Failure to investigate, prosecute, and punish police officers who commit such acts creates a sense of impunity that encourages continued human rights abuses. The need for police reform was brought to the forefront by widely publicized incidents of police involvement in criminal activity and police strikes in at least 15 states, which drew attention to their low pay and inadequate training.

A 1996 law giving civil courts jurisdiction over intentional homicide committed by uniformed police officers was used in some high-profile cases. However, in most less prominent cases, the decision whether a policeman acted in self-defense or committed an intentional homicide is based on an investigation performed by the police force itself; almost without exception, the police investigators conclude that suspects were "resisting arrest." All crimes less serious than murder committed by uniformed police officers against civilians remain in the military justice system. According to one leading newspaper, a majority of criminal cases involving police in the state of Rio de Janeiro were never tried in court. Of 1,472 cases against police that were sent to the military court between January 1996 and July 1997, 68 percent were "retired" without a court hearing. Cases were retired for insufficient evidence and lack of knowledge of the author of crime. Cases were also retired in which police killed or wounded civilians while the latter were resisting arrest.

The number of citizens killed in conflicts with police fell in Sao Paulo but continued to rise in Rio de Janeiro. A study by the Institute for Religious Studies (ISER) concluded that 10 percent of all Rio de Janeiro homicides were civilians killed by police. The ISER study also documented that in a sample of 697 cases of fatal police shootings between 1993 and 1996, Rio de Janeiro police officers rarely fired to immobilize rather than kill; half of the victims were killed with four or more bullets, and the majority of victims were shot in either the shoulders or the head. Forty cases clearly demonstrated execution-style deaths, where victims were first immobilized and then shot at close range. Victims were generally young, black, and without criminal records. Human rights groups continued to criticize "bravery" awards conferred by the Rio de Janeiro authorities which have had the effect of encouraging police to use excessive force.

In a report released on December 8, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stated that the police forces require widespread reform to curb repeated instances of violence and other abuses. The report said that the number of deaths in Rio de Janeiro attributed to state police officers averaged 20 a month in 1996, which it termed an alarming phenomenon. It said that one battalion that covers slum areas was responsible for one-third of the deaths. The IACHR also said that the number of deaths in civilian confrontations with the state police was three times the number injured by them, a reversal of normal patterns. The IACHR said this is evidence of the use of excessive force and even shows a pattern of extrajudicial executions by the Rio de Janeiro police. The report added that there had been instances in which officers guilty of victimizing suspects have been rewarded. It cited one case in which a corporal was decorated and elected officer of the year even though he had been accused of 49 killings. State security officials continue to champion an approach to crime that effectively rewards police officers for killing suspects, and leaves the poor neighborhoods unpoliced and open to the violent rivalries of drug gangs.

In February Sao Paulo state police killed Osvaldo Manoel da Silva. On December 11, the state attorney general?s office charged five policemen with Da Silva?s murder. The policemen claimed that Da Silva died as a result of wounds suffered while resisting arrest, but a reconstruction of the events by a credible university forensic team indicated that he was shot three times in the ambulance en route to the hospital. The judged assigned to the case set evidentiary hearings for early February 1998.

On May 20, uniformed police killed 3 homeless persons and injured 11 in violence that erupted at a low-income housing project in greater Sao Paulo. The police were carrying out a court order to remove over 400 families that had illegally occupied the "Fazenda da Juta" housing complex on May 3. The police operation was broadcast on television and criticized as an excessive use of force.

Police involvement in criminal activity often produces killings. The most notorious case occurred in March, when police in the Sao Paulo suburb of Diadema were filmed at a roadblock mounted to extort money from residents. The video implicated the police in murdering Mario Jose Josino and beating and torturing numerous others. Ten police officers charged with the murder were expelled from the force and were in jail awaiting trial at year's end. The commander of the police battalion, after initially being relieved of duty, was reinstated; the officer in charge of the group actually involved in the incident suffered only administrative punishment.

In Rio de Janeiro, police were believed to have been involved in the fatal kidnaping of the son of the mayor of Teresopolis and several other abductions. In September off-duty Sao Paulo police officers were implicated in the kidnaping and murder of an 8-year-old boy. On his first day in office, the new Sao Paulo police chief dismissed 20 uniformed police officers for abuse of authority and other crimes and promised to purge future violators from the force.

In January witnesses identified five uniformed police officers as having arrested four men who were found dead a few hours later. The deaths occurred in May 1996 in Franco da Rocha, one of Sao Paulo state's poorest communities, and location of a clandestine dumping site for the victims of death squads. Since 1993, at least 212 bodies have been found there, 50 victims killed with bullets to the head, while the arms and heads of some of the bodies had been removed in an apparent attempt to conceal the victims' identities.

Policeman Nelson Cunha, who was sentenced in 1996 to 261 years in prison for his role in the 1993 killing of eight street children near Candelaria church in downtown Rio de Janeiro, was acquitted on appeal. Cunha remained in prison, serving a sentence of 18 years for the attempted murder of Candelaria survivor and key witness Wagner dos Santos. Another defendant in the Candelaria case, Marcos Vinicius Emmanuel, had his prison term reduced from 309 years to 89 years on appeal. Two other defendants were in jail and awaiting trial at year?s end.

Paulo Roberto Alvarega, one of 56 policemen accused of participating in the 1993 killing of 21 Vigario Geral residents in Rio de Janeiro, was sentenced to 449 years in prison (although, under the law, no prisoner may serve more than 30 years). In November a judge found one of them, Arlindo Maginario Filho, guilty of 20 counts of murder and 4 counts of attempted murder and sentenced him to 441 years in prison. Four years after the massacre, Maginario Filho was only the second of the accused police officers to be convicted for the Vigario Geral killings. The trials of 10 other officers named in the first indictment were postponed a number of times. In the meantime, one of the defendants named in the second indictment, former policeman Sirley Alves Ferreira, escaped from prison on December 29.

There was no progress in the investigation of the 1996 killing of three Belo Horizonte street children in Taquaril plaza. A group calling itself "Reaction" had claimed responsibility, writing in a note that the minors had been killed to protest the low salaries paid to civil police. According to human rights groups in Belo Horizonte, there is significant evidence that Reaction is composed of active duty and former police officers. One police officer was charged in the slaying and several others were under investigation.

In the April 1996 police killing of 19 landless workers in Eldorado de Carajas, Para, the authorities decided in November to try before a jury 153 police officers charged with intentional murder, as well as 3 landless workers charged with bodily harm. One policeman was dropped from the indictment because of insanity, and another policeman and one gunman were not indicted because they are in hiding. The authorities finished taking depositions from eyewitnesses and will schedule trials after the state court reviews appeals filed by the defense. In a related development, the federal Government assigned a team of police officers to protect journalist Mariza Romao after she fled Para in December. Romao had received a series of death threats after testifying against the police officers implicated in the Eldorado de Carajas killings.

In March a court sentenced Sao Paulo jailkeeper Jose Ribeiro to 45 years in prison and civil police investigator Celso Jose da Cruz to 53 years for their roles in the 1989 killing of 18 prisoners in the "42nd Delegacia." The precinct chief, Carlos Eduardo de Vasconcelos, was originally found innocent of wrongdoing, but in March the state attorney general's office convinced the court to reconsider the charges against him. Cases against another 29 police officers indicted by a military court for participating in the 42nd Delegacia killings have been transferred to civilian court. At year?s end, the state governor signed a decree authorizing payment of compensation to the victims? families. Each dependent is to receive about $33,000 for psychological damages, plus a yet-to-be-determined amount for physical damages.

In rural areas, conflicts continued between rural landowners and the landless, in part due to land invasions organized by the rural Landless Workers' Movement (MST) to pressure the Federal Government to speed up settlement of landless families. The MST illegally occupied hundreds of plots of land identified as unproductive, blocked highways, and occupied government buildings, raising tensions and increasing confrontations with landowners, their gunmen, and, in many cases, policemen. At least 26 persons died in land disputes. Such killings usually go unpunished, because the landowners thought to be responsible for many of them reportedly control the police in isolated areas and intimidate local judges and lawyers with violence and threats of violence. A jury in the small, rural town of Pedro Canario, Espirito Santo, sentenced MST leader Jose Rainha to 26-1/2 years for the 1989 murders of landowner Jose Machado Neto and police officer Sergio Narciso da Silva. The jury convicted Rainha even though the prosecution presented no material evidence, and witnesses testified to Rainha's presence 1,500 miles away from the scene of the crime. Since Rainha's sentence exceeded 20 years, he was entitled to a new trial. Rainha's lawyers persuaded the judge that Rainha would face a biased jury in a small, rural town, and the second trial was therefore moved to Vitoria, the state capital.

The authorities charged the commander and 19 other police officers involved in the August 1995 massacre of 9 squatters in Corumbiara, Rondonia, with intentional homicide, meaning that those accused are to be tried in regular courts rather than a special police tribunal. They also charged four squatter leaders with intentional homicide for the deaths of two policemen, as well as for the deaths of the nine squatters. The authorities justified the latter charges by declaring that the leaders were responsible for the land invasion that sparked the confrontation. The medical examiner reported that most of the squatters killed had been shot in the back at short range and that many of the bullets had traveled from the top of the body downward, indicating that the victims had been killed from behind while kneeling. At year?s end, the authorities were still taking testimony from witnesses and were awaiting the judge?s decision on which cases would go to a jury.

The cases against the 121 Sao Paulo police officers accused of killing crimes ranging from homicide to use of excessive force (111 inmates died) while quelling a 1992 riot in the Carandiru prison were transferred from military to civilian court, but are proceeding slowly, with depositions still being taken.

In September the former mayor of Rio Maria, Para, was charged with the 1985 murder of Joao Canuto, the first president of the rural workers union in Rio Maria, after the case was transferred to Belem, the state capital.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

However, off-duty police reportedly were involved in several abductions for ransom, at least one of which resulted in the death of the victim (see Section 1.a.). The Human Rights Division of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Belo Horizonte reported that, in the last 7 years, it had received nearly 100 complaints of "disappearances" of persons from Belo Horizonte in which the police allegedly were involved. In the majority of cases, the alleged victims were criminal suspects.

In 1995 Congress passed legislation recognizing and assuming government responsibility for the deaths of political activists who "disappeared" during the military regime while in the custody of public officials, and obligating the Government to pay indemnities of between $100,000 and $150,000 to each of the families. On September 7, President Cardoso signed a decree awarding reparations to the families of 43 such persons. A commission created by the law continued to evaluate requests for, and authorize payment of, indemnities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture and contains severe legal penalties for torture or acquiescence in it. In April the Government passed a law defining and penalizing torture. However, there are frequent credible reports that police beat and torture criminal suspects to extract information, confessions, or money. Such torture has resulted in death (see Section 1.a.). No cases of torture were successfully prosecuted under the new law by year?s end.

On November 18, the state of Rio Grande do Sul enacted a law providing compensation for persons tortured in the state during the military regime.

In March and April police officers in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo were caught on videotape torturing citizens. In Sao Paulo the police were taped on two occasions, once abusing 15 persons on a single street. For example, at midnight on March 6, police ordered three persons out of a car. Police officers Octavio Lorenco Gambra and Nelson Soares de Silva Junior removed the shoes of Jefferson Sanches Caput and beat him repeatedly on the soles of his feet with a nightstick. The two officers were taped hitting Sanches 39 times in 8 minutes, at times appearing bored by the process. After the three men were allowed to leave, Gambra fired through the car?s rear window, killing Mario Jose Josino. The authorities arrested 10 police officers in Sao Paul in connection with these incidents (see Section 1.a.). On March 12, an amateur video captured 6 uniformed Rio de Janeiro police beating, torturing and extorting 12 residents--including women-- of the "Cidade de Deus" neighborhood. Originally set for September, their trial was postponed repeatedly. The incident prompted a state legislature investigation of police violence and the establishment of a hot line for reporting instances of police violence and impunity.

In the past 7 years, the Human Rights Division of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Belo Horizonte has indicted more than 500 civil police officers (nearly 15 percent of the force) for battery or abuse of authority (torture). In the last 3 years, the division filed indictments against 439 civil police and 116 uniformed police for these crimes. A state legislature committee investigating torture in prisons in Minas Gerais concluded its work in September with a report asking the governor to initiate reforms at the highest level of the Secretariat for Public Security and Justice. The committee also recommended the dismissal of the Chief of Special Operations and various officials, including the director of the Nelson Hungria maximum security prison, who are accused of having tortured prisoners.

According to the National Association of Newspapers, police in Teresina, Piaui, detained and beat a photographer on April 2 after he photographed policeman Francisco Soares Rocha torturing 23 youths. In August a member of the Chamber of Deputies asked state authorities in Goias to investigate a report that the police tortured four persons in Aruana while investigating the disappearance of two police officers. Police in Pernambuco were accused in February of dumping a 17-year-old into a vat of chemicals, seriously injuring him.

According to a report by the Sao Paulo ombudsman, 8 percent of all complaints against the police specifically mentioned torture or beatings, and 40 percent of all complaints involved some form of mistreatment. The Government estimated in its 1994 report on the internal human rights situation that fewer than 10 percent of cases of mistreatment by police are reported. Victims are generally poor, uneducated about their rights and--most of all--afraid to come forward for fear of reprisals.

Prison conditions range from poor to harsh. Severe overcrowding is prevalent, especially in larger cities. According to figures for 1995 released in December by the Justice Ministry, the inmate population was 149,000, but prison capacity was only designed for 76,000. During the year, the Federal Government spent about $150 million in the prison system, a major increase over previous years. Because of the shortfall in prison capacity, police stations were often used as prisons, with convicted criminals sharing cells with detainees. In the state of Sao Paulo, which holds 40 percent of the national prison population, 52 percent of inmates are serving their sentences in police stations or local jails. Most penal authorities do not have the resources to separate minor offenders from adults and petty offenders from violent criminals.

As a result of overcrowding, prison riots were almost daily occurrences. Sao Paulo state officials reported a 147 percent increase in prison revolts from 1996 to 1997 (from 72 to 178 incidents). Prison officials and police often react with excessive use of force. In May the second major rebellion at Sao Paulo's Praia Grande prison left 3 prisoners dead and 17 wounded. In April prisoners in Ribeirao Preto killed three fellow inmates, allegedly to protest prison conditions. The facility, designed to hold 198 persons, had 625 prisoners. In December inmates at the Sorocaba prison seized about 650 hostages, mostly inmates? relatives, and took control of the facility after a failed escape attempt left 1 inmate and a female visitor dead. While the prisoners dragged out negotiations for the release of the family members, other inmates were finishing an escape tunnel. After the prisoners reneged on their promise to release the hostages, the police learned of the tunnel and stormed the prison, regaining control without firing a single bullet. Some leaders of the revolt were transferred to another facility for their own safety.

In the northeastern state of Ceara, eight inmates were killed and three hostages wounded when authorities put down a December prison revolt in Fortaleza. One of the hostages later said she saw police shoot at least two inmates who had already surrendered and were lying prostrate on the ground.

In November students at the Escola Joao Luiz Alves juvenile penitentiary in Rio de Janeiro revolted over alleged brutality by institution guards. Of a total of 312 internees, 247 escaped from the institution. One youth died at the hands of school guards in the melee. Complaints about incidents of torture and violence and the school's failure to separate youths by age and by crime committed had been filed in 1996 with the IACHR.

Sao Paulo's prison system, in particular, suffers from chronic overcrowding, corrupt and abusive local prison management, and prisoner access to weapons and drugs. Discipline is difficult to maintain under such conditions, and prison officials often resort to inhuman treatment to maintain order. In January 14 police officers put down a riot at the Santa Rosa do Viterbo women's penitentiary by punching, kicking, and beating 80 inmates with nightsticks; they seriously injured 22 persons and caused a pregnant inmate to miscarry. According to separate reports by the police ombudsman and a church-affiliated group, Santa Rosa police chief Elton Testi Renz ordered the systematic beating of the 80 women. Renz was transferred to another district; the civil police involved are awaiting trial in civilian court. Sao Paulo state is building 21 new prisons, which are expected to be completed by the end of 1998.

In January the Legal Medical Institute of Parana state opened an investigation into allegations of torture at a prison in Foz do Iguacu. Seven prisoners had been taken to the Institute with serious injuries, including external and internal wounds allegedly sustained during police beatings. The Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo continued to be the scene of serious prisoner abuse. In a section of the prison known as "the dungeon," prisoners are typically kept in isolation for months without any sunlight. According to a church-affiliated group, approximately 15 prison guards entered the dungeon on February 19 and beat prisoners with wooden clubs and iron bars.

Prisons do not provide adequate protection against violence inflicted by inmates on each other. Prisoners are subject to dismal health conditions as well. Scabies and tuberculosis, diseases not common in the general population, are widespread in Sao Paulo prisons. Prison officials believe that within 5 years 50 percent of the prison population could be HIV positive. Denial of first aid and other medical care is sometimes used as a form of punishment.

The Government permits prison visits by independent human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observes this prohibition. The Constitution limits arrests to those caught in the act of committing a crime or those arrested by order of a judicial authority. The authorities usually respect the constitutional provision for a judicial determination of the legality of detention, although some convicted inmates are held beyond their sentences due to poor record keeping. The law permits provisional detention for up to 5 days under specified conditions during a police investigation, but a judge may extend this period. According to groups that work with street children, however, the police sometimes detain street youths illegally without a judicial order or hold them incommunicado.

The Government does not use forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is an independent branch of government, but it is inefficient and subject to political influence. In many instances, lower-income, less-educated citizens make limited use of the appeals process that otherwise might ensure the right to fair trial.

At the appellate court level, a large backlog of cases hinders the courts' ability to ensure fair and expeditious trials. In a press interview, the president of the Federal Supreme Court complained about the volume of appeals that by law the Supreme Court must review. The 11 judges on the court received over 35,000 cases in 1997. It takes 8 years to reach a definitive decision in the average case, a delay that the Supreme Court president considered unjust.

The judicial system, with the Federal Supreme Court at its apex, includes courts of first instance and appeals courts. States organize their own judicial systems but must adhere to the basic principles in the Constitution. There is also a system of specialized courts dealing with police, labor, elections, juveniles, and family matters.

Special police courts have jurisdiction over state uniformed police (except when charged with intentional homicide); the record of these courts shows that conviction is the exception rather than the rule. A human rights group in the northeast, which studied police crimes against civilians tried in police courts from 1970 to 1991, found that only 8 percent of the cases resulted in convictions. In Sao Paulo, another study found that only 5 percent of cases resulted in convictions. The courts (which are separate from the courts-martial of the armed forces, except for the final appeals court) are composed of four ranking state uniformed police officials and one civilian judge. With too few judges for the caseload, there are backlogs, and human rights groups note a lack of zeal among police charged with investigating fellow officers.

In 1996 the President signed legislation giving ordinary courts jurisdiction over cases in which uniformed police officers are accused of intentional homicide against civilians. However, the internal police investigation determines whether the homicide was intentional or not, and the police tribunal decides whether to forward a case to a civil court for trial.

A federal law approved in September 1995 created small claims courts to handle, and resolve quickly, less serious criminal and civil cases. In Sao Paulo, the new courts resolved 80 percent of their cases within 60 days, and cleared from the state docket some 45,000 backlogged cases.

Defendants are entitled to counsel and must be made fully aware of the charges against them. According to the Ministry of Justice, approximately 85 percent of prisoners cannot afford an attorney. In such cases, the court must provide one at public expense; courts are supposed to appoint private attorneys to represent poor defendants when public defenders are unavailable, but often no effective defense is provided. Juries decide only cases of willful crimes against life; judges try all others.

The right to a fair public trial as provided by law is generally respected in practice, although in rural areas the judiciary is generally less capable and more subject to the influence of local landowners, particularly in cases related to indigenous people and rural union activists. Similarly, local police are often less zealous in investigating, prosecutors are reluctant to initiate proceedings, and judges find reasons to delay when cases involve gunmen contracted by landowners to eliminate squatters or rural union activists.

The need for judicial reform is widely recognized because the current system is inefficient, with backlogs of cases and shortages of judges. Lawyers often drag out cases as long as possible in the hope that an appeals court might render a favorable opinion and because they are paid according to the amount of time they spend on a case. According to the Institute of Economic, Social, and Political Studies of Sao Paulo, however, 90 percent of appeals court decisions confirm decisions made in lower courts. Low pay, combined with exacting competitive examinations that in some years eliminate 90 percent of the applicants, make it difficult to fill vacancies on the bench. The system requires that a trial be held within a period of time from the date of the crime (similar to a statute of limitations). Due to the backlog of cases, old cases are frequently dismissed. According to a former judge, this encourages corrupt judges purposely to delay certain cases, so that they can be dismissed.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for freedom from arbitrary intrusion into the home, although wiretaps authorized by judicial authority are permitted. The law regulating the conditions under which wiretaps may be used appears to strike a fair balance between giving the police an effective law enforcement tool and protecting the civil liberties of citizens. There were no reports of illegal entry for political reasons, but illegal entry into homes without a warrant occurs in searches for criminal suspects. The inviolability of private correspondence is respected.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The 1988 Constitution abolished all forms of censorship and provides for freedom of speech and a free press. The authorities respect these rights in practice.

Newspapers and magazines, which are privately owned, vigorously report and comment on government performance. Both the press and broadcast media routinely discuss controversial social and political issues and engage in investigative reporting. Most radio and television stations are privately owned; however, the Government has licensing authority, and politicians frequently obtain the licenses. Many television and radio stations are owned by current or former congressmen, some of whom are or were members of the committee overseeing communications. It is difficult to determine how many media outlets are indirectly controlled by politicians since concessions are often registered in the names of family members or friends linked to them. In addition, concessions are regularly transferred to other names, with little oversight by the Government.

The penalty for libel under the 1967 press law--a prison term--is considered extreme by judges and is rarely imposed. Press criticism has described it as an archaic and authoritarian law inherited from the military regime.

In November the authorities held six members of the music group "Planet Hemp" for 5 days under a law forbidding incitement to use drugs. A judge in the Federal District also prohibited the broadcast of 14 of the group's songs.

There were few reports of harassment of journalists; however, there was a case of torture involving a photojournalist and death threats were made against a journalist who testified against the police (see Sections 1.a and 1.c

Foreign publications are widely distributed; prior review of films, plays, and radio and television programming is practiced only to determine a suitable viewing age.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to assemble peacefully, and the Government respects this right in practice. Permits are not required for outdoor political or labor meetings, and such meetings occur frequently. However, in Salvador, the head of the legislative assembly's Human Rights Commission claimed that the right of assembly in the downtown area had been denied by state authorities for 9 months, following violent clashes with police during demonstrations in April.

The Constitution provides for the right of freedom of association, and the Government respects this right in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. There is no favored or state religion. All faiths are free to establish places of worship, train clergy, and proselytize, although the Government controls entry into Indian lands.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on movement, except for the protected Indian areas, nor are there any restrictions on emigration or return. A parent, however, is not allowed to leave the country with children without the permission of the other parent.

In July the Government passed legislation with provisions for asylum and refugee status intended to conform with the principles of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government provides first asylum and cooperates with the office of the U. N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. There were 207 requests for refugee status covering 277 persons; 68 cases (for 80 persons) were granted and 176 cases (for 198 persons) were denied. According to the UNHCR, there were 2,260 refugees in the country at year?s end.

There were no reports of forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. Voting is secret and mandatory for all literate citizens age 18 to 70, except military conscripts who may not vote. It is voluntary for minors age 16 to 18, for the illiterate, and for those age 70 and over.

Women have full political rights under the Constitution and are becoming active in politics and government. They comprise 7.6 percent of the national Congress; 39 women serve in the Chamber of Deputies (out of 513 seats), and 6 serve in the Senate (out of 81 members).

Brazil's diverse ethnic and racial groups are not represented in government and politics in proportion to their numbers in the general population.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Federal officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

The IACHR?s December report noted President Cardoso?s objective treatment of human rights problems and the positive thrust of the national human rights Action Plan. The report also strongly criticized Brazil for violating a broad range of human rights, including police violence and involvement in extrajudicial killing, violence against and exploitation of minors, and general impunity for human rights violators. President Cardoso publicly accepted the conclusions of the IACHR report, acknowledging in a speech that We cannot, as in the past, pretend these things do not exist.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, and nationality is unconstitutional, yet women, blacks, and indigenous people continued to experience discrimination. The International Labor Organization (ILO) notes that important differences in wages continue to exist to the detriment of women and blacks, particularly in rural areas. The Government passed a law in May with prison penalties and fines for racism, including promulgation of pejorative terms for ethnic or racial groups, use of the swastika, or acts of discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, or ethnic origin.

There continued to be reports of violence against homosexuals, although it was not always clear that the victims' sexual orientation was the reason. The Grupo Gay da Bahia, Brazil's best known homosexual rights organization, compiled media reports indicating that 109 homosexuals were killed in the first 10 months of the year. While some of those reports showed clear evidence of a hate crime, most did not provide evidence that the victims were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

Women

There is a high incidence of physical abuse of women. Most major cities and towns have established special police offices to deal with crimes of domestic or sexual violence against women; such offices total over 200. The special police office in Brasilia has seen a steady increase in reports of crimes against women during the last 7 years, but police and social workers attribute the increase in reported complaints not to a rising level of violence against women, but to greater awareness by women of their rights and less willingness to tolerate abuse than in the past.

In rural areas, abused women have little recourse since there are no specialized police offices available to them. Men who commit crimes against women, including sexual assault and murder, are unlikely to be brought to trial. Although the Supreme Court in 1991 struck down the archaic concept of "defense of honor" as a justification for murder of a wife, courts are still reluctant to prosecute and convict men who claim they attack their wives for infidelity.

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex in employment or pay and provides for 120 days of paid maternity leave. However, the provision against wage discrimination is rarely enforced. According to the most recent official statistics, women earn, on average, 54 percent of the salaries earned by men. A recent study by a sociologist showed that women who started working in positions in which they earned twice the minimum wage advanced in pay after 10 years to a wage of seven times the minimum wage. Men starting in the same positions earned 2.6 times the minimum wage and advanced to a wage of 10.9 times the minimum wage after 10 years. A Ministry of Labor survey revealed that the average starting salary for high school-educated women in Sao Paulo was one-third less than the average starting salary for high school-educated men.

In response to the maternity leave law, some employers seek sterilization certificates from female job applicants or try to avoid hiring women of childbearing age. Hoping to clamp down on such practices, President Cardoso signed a law in April 1995 prohibiting employers from requiring applicants or employees to take pregnancy tests or present sterilization certificates. Employers who violate the law are subject to a jail term ranging from 1 to 2 years, while the company must pay a fine equal to 10 times the salary of its highest paid employee.

Children

Despite progressive laws to protect children and a growing awareness of their plight through media and NGO campaigns, millions of children continue to fail to get an education, must work to survive, and suffer from the poverty afflicting their families. A report issued by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) stated that the number of children between the ages of 10 and 14 who were employed decreased by 163,000 from 1993 to 1995. However, more than 3.8million children in the same age range continue to work, many of them together with their parents, under conditions approximating forced labor or debt bondage (see Sections 6.c. and 6.d.). Many other children beg on the streets of cities. Schooling is free and compulsory for the first six grades and available in all parts of the country. The education system does not exclude any groups, and most children remain in school until age 14.

There are no reliable figures on the number of street children, some of whom are homeless, but the majority of whom return home at night. In Rio de Janeiro, an organization aiding street children estimated recently that 30,000 frequent the streets by day but probably less than 1,000 sleep there. NGO's have made enough shelters available for homeless children, but some children prefer the freedom and drugs that street life offers. In Sao Paulo, NGO's aiding street children estimated that some 12,000 children roam the streets by day and that from 3,000 to 5,000 of them live permanently on the streets. The NGO's report that extreme poverty at home or sexual abuse by fathers and stepfathers are the principal reasons so many children choose to live on the streets. An IBGE study reported that 47 percent of Sao Paulo children come from families that earn less than $200 per month. In Salvador, Bahia, the NGO?s estimate the number of children who sleep in the streets to be less than 1,000, although this number fluctuates widely during the weeks between Christmas and Carnival, when children from the region are attracted to the city by the large number of tourists and festivals. Nationwide, the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that some 30 million children live below the poverty line and increasingly come from households headed by women.

Because street children have a high rate of drug use and have been involved in assaults and robberies, a significant portion of the public supports harsh police measures against them, viewing the issue as one of crime and security, not human rights. Government and NGO resources for street children have not been able to keep up with the high demand.

Homicide became the leading cause of death among 15- to 17-year- olds, with its rate more than tripling since 1980, according to a survey published in November. The survey, conducted by IGBE and the United Nations Children?s Fund, found that 23.5 percent of deaths in that age group were homicides, compared with 7.8 percent in 1980. Among children between the ages of 10 and 14, homicide accounted for 5.1 percent of all deaths. In Rio de Janeiro, according to the Division for the Protection of Children and Adolescents and the Court of Infancy and Youth, approximately 659 minors were shot to death in 1996, up from 596 in 1995.

The Government continued its campaign against sex tourism and child prostitution, a significant problem throughout the country, but particularly prevalent in the major tourist cities in the northeast. The Federal District has a 24-hour number for reporting cases of sexual abuse; a special police unit to investigate sexual crimes against children; and special teams at all clinics and hospitals to treat child victims of violence or sexual abuse.

People With Disabilities

The Constitution contains several provisions for the disabled, stipulating a minimum wage, educational opportunities, and access to public buildings and public transportation. Groups that work with the disabled, however, report that state governments failed to meet the legally mandated targets for educational opportunities and work placement. There was little progress in the elimination of architectural barriers to the disabled.

Indigenous People

Brazil's approximately 330,000 Indians, who speak 170 different languages, have a constitutional right to their traditional lands. Indigenous rights groups, however, expressed concern that in practice the authorities allow most indigenous people only limited participation in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of natural resources. The 1988 Constitution charged the Federal Government with demarcating indigenous areas within 5 years, but the authorities have yet to complete the process.

In January 1996, the Government issued decree 1775, altering the demarcation process to permit challenges to proposed demarcations from nonindigenous interested parties, despite the fact that the Constitution allows the Federal Government to expropriate land with just compensation. A total of 419 separate challenges, covering 34 Indian areas, were filed. FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, rejected all of the claims, and forwarded them to Justice Minister Nelson Jobim. Eventually the Ministry rejected all the challenges. In November President Cardoso signed decrees ratifying the 22 indigenous reserves, which encompass 8.4 million hectares where 9 indigenous groups live. With these new reservations, the Government has set aside a total of 28.2 million hectares for indigenous reserves, representing about 5 percent of the country's territory.

The Constitution provides Indians with the exclusive use of the soil, waters, and minerals found on their lands, subject to congressional authorization. The regulations necessary for economic exploitation, however, are still pending before the Congress. Illegal mining, logging, and ranching are a serious problem on Indian lands, as a majority of these lands also have been occupied by non-Indians. In November FUNAI, with help from the army and air force, began clearing out an estimated 800 to 1,000 wildcat miners from indigenous lands in Roraima.

Due to the Federal Government's failure to provide adequate medical care, as required by law, indigenous people have suffered epidemics of malaria, measles, and tuberculosis. The Catholic Church-affiliated Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) and the coordinator of Brazilian Amazon Indigenous Organizations (COIAB) have reported on the lack of health care for Indians in the Amazon region. According to a report by the Manaus-based Institute of Tropical Medicine, the average life expectancy of Brazilian Indians dropped from 48.2 years in 1993 to 42.6 years in 1995.

A federal judge convicted 5 gold miners in December 1996 for killing 17 Yanomami on the Venezuelan border in 1993, but only two of the miners are in custody. Indigenous rights groups expressed concern that the others may never be brought to justice.

In August a federal judge dismissed murder charges against four young men accused of dousing an Indian leader with gasoline and setting him on fire, saying that they did not realize he was an Indian nor did they intend to kill him. One defendant was the son of a federal judge. The victim was Galdino Jesus dos Santos, age 44, of the Pataxo tribe. The judge?s decision was widely criticized, and President Cardoso denounced the murder as unjustifiable.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although racial discrimination has been illegal since 1951, darker skinned citizens say they frequently encounter discrimination. Most blacks are found among the poorer sectors of society. Even though nearly half of the population has some African ancestry, very few senior officials in government, the armed forces, or the private sector are black. Black consciousness organizations challenge the view that Brazil is a racial democracy with equality for all regardless of skin color. They assert that racial discrimination becomes most evident when blacks seek employment, housing, or educational opportunities.

According to government statistics, blacks earn on average 43 percent as much as whites. The monthly per capita income for white males is 6.3 times the minimum wage; for white women, 3.6 times the minimum wage; for black men, 2.9; and for black women, 1.7. Illiteracy is also a problem; 32 percent of blacks are illiterate, compared with 14 percent of whites. Of 30,000 students at the University of Sao Paulo, there are about 1,000 blacks.

Blacks are often the victims of violence at a level disproportionate to their percentage in the population. For instance, a well-respected human rights NGO active in the northeast, the Luiz Freire Cultural Center, reported that, of the 1,378 murder victims in Recife in 1994, 87 percent were black.

A much higher percentage of blacks are convicted by courts than whites, according to professor Sergio Adorno, of the University of Sao Paulo's Nucleus for the Study of Violence. Adorno analyzed 500 criminal cases judged in Sao Paulo courts in 1990 and found that 60 percent of whites able to afford their own lawyers were acquitted, while only 27 percent of blacks who hired lawyers were found not guilty.

In September a government working group on racism and discrimination issued 29 recommendations, including the creation of affirmative action programs for university admissions and government hiring. The group was charged with proposing public policies to increase the participation and access of Afro- Brazilians in society. The President's public acknowledgment in November 1995 that racism and discrimination exist was unprecedented, for presidents had maintained in the past that people were discriminated against because they were poor, not because of their skin color.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Labor Code provides for representation of all workers (except for members of the military, uniformed police, and firemen) but imposes a hierarchical, unitary system, funded by a mandatory union tax on workers and employers. Under a restriction known as "unicidade" (one per city), the code prohibits multiple unions of the same professional category in a given geographical area. The 1988 Constitution freed workers to organize new unions out of old ones without prior authorization by the Government, but retained other provisions of the old Labor Code. All elements of the labor movement and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) criticize the retention of unicidade.

Unicidade has proven less restrictive in recent years, as more liberal interpretations permitted new unions to form and, in many cases, to compete with unions and federations that had already enjoyed official recognition. The sole bureaucratic requirement for new unions is to register with the Ministry of Labor which, by court decision, must accept and record the registration. In practice, unicidade is enforced by the system of labor courts, which retain the right to review the registration of new unions and to adjudicate conflicts over their formation. This can often result in complicated jurisdictional quarrels. The power of the labor courts to define jurisdictions came to the fore when the Workers' Unitary Central (CUT--the largest and most activist of the three labor confederations) ABC metalworkers' federation was riven by a 1996 attempt by a group of dissidents to establish their own local union in one of the suburban Sao Paulo municipalities that the federation comprises. Although a majority of federation members clearly appeared to favor the unified structure, the dissidents were able to seek redress through the labor court, where a suit still was pending at year?s end.

Otherwise, unions are independent of the Government and, at least nominally, of political parties. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the work force is organized, with well over half this number affiliated with an independent labor central. Intimidation of rural labor union organizers by landowners and their agents continues to be a problem (see Section 1.a.).

The Constitution provides workers, including most civil servants, with the right to strike. Enabling legislation passed in 1989 stipulates that essential services must remain in operation during a strike and that workers must notify employers at least 48 hours before beginning a walkout. The Constitution prohibits government interference in labor unions but provides that "abuse" of the right to strike (such as not maintaining essential services, or failure to end a strike after a labor court decision) is punishable by law. In the case of public employees, the Constitution specifies their right to strike, subject to conditions enacted by the Congress. Since the Congress has yet to pass the complementary legislation, labor and legal experts debate the limits of the right to strike for public employees. In practice, the Government has not interfered with their right to strike, although a month-long strike by Petrobras (the state-controlled oil company) employees in May 1995, which greatly inconvenienced the public, was judged abusive by the Supreme Labor Court, and caused many--including some labor leaders--to call for limits on public employees' right to strike.

The CUT, the parent central to the petroleum workers, submitted a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in May 1995 arguing that the firing of 59 union members for their involvement in the strike violated their right to strike. In November 1995, the ILO body found that the nature of the labor court's procedures, which allow either party to submit a dispute for what amounts to binding arbitration, "may effectively undermine the right of workers to strike and does not promote effective collective bargaining." The ILO suggested that the legislation be amended to permit submission of disputes to judicial authorities only with the permission of both parties or in case of the interruption of essential services. The ILO also suggested that the 59 workers be rehired and that the high fines levied on the local unions for defiance of a court order to return to work amounted to a serious limitation on the right to strike. President Cardoso maintained that since the fines were levied by the courts, the executive branch should not interfere and the unions should seek relief in the courts.

Postal workers and teachers, police, train and municipal transit workers, autoworkers, metalworkers, electrical generating authority employees, and dockworkers all went on strike in 1997. Formerly, the courts almost automatically ruled strikes abusive. In recent years, however, the courts have applied the law with more discretion. The 1989 strike law prohibits dismissals or the hiring of substitute workers during a strike, with certain exceptions, provided the strike is not ruled abusive.

Although the law makes no provision for a central labor organization, three major groups have emerged: The Workers' Unitary Central, the Workers' General Confederation, and the Forca Sindical. The centrals do not have legal standing to represent professional categories of workers, but all three centrals can effectively acquire such standing by affiliating with existing statewide federations or nationwide confederations or by forming new federations and confederations.

Unions and centrals freely affiliate with international trade union organizations. All three major confederations are affiliated with the ICFTU.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for the right to organize. With government assistance, businesses and unions are working to expand and improve mechanisms of collective bargaining. The scope of issues legally susceptible to collective bargaining is narrow. The labor court system exercises normative power with regard to the settlement of labor disputes, thus discouraging direct negotiation. The Cardoso Government has made expansion of collective bargaining one of its major objectives in the labor sector. In mid-1995, the Government promulgated a provisional measure that simultaneously ended inflation-indexing of wages, allowed for mediation of wage settlements if the parties involved so desired, and provided greater latitude for collective bargaining. Unions have welcomed these changes, since labor courts and the Labor Ministry previously had mediation responsibility in the preliminary stages of dispute settlement. In many cases, free negotiations set wages; labor court decisions set them in others. Under the provisional measure, parties may now freely choose mediation.

The ILO notes that important differences in wages continue to exist to the detriment of women and blacks, particularly in the rural sectors (see Section 5).

The Constitution incorporates a provision from the old Labor Code prohibiting dismissal of employees who are candidates for or holders of union leadership positions. Nonetheless, dismissals take place, with those dismissed required to resort to a lengthy court process for relief. In general, the authorities do not effectively enforce laws protecting union members from discrimination. Union officials estimate that only 5 percent of such cases reaching the labor court system are resolved within days through a preliminary judicial order. The other 95 percent generally take 5 to 10 years (and sometimes more) to resolve.

Labor law applies equally in the free trade zones. However, unions in the Manaus free trade zone, like rural unions and many unions in smaller cities, are relatively weaker vis-a-vis industry than unions in the major industrial centers.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although the Constitution prohibits forced labor, there were credible reports of forced labor in many parts of the country. The Catholic Church-affiliated Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) continued to report cases of forced labor in various states. In 1996 the CPT reported 21 cases of forced labor, involving a total of 26,047 workers in 8 states. The number of workers involved represented a small increase over the 25,193 reported in 1995 and a large increase over the 19,940 reported in 1994. Forced labor is common on farms producing charcoal for use in the iron foundries, steel mills, and in the sugar industry (see also Section 6.d.).

Federal authorities admit that enforcement resources are inadequate and, as a result, state and federal officers have been unable generally to conduct timely investigations of compulsory labor, although their record is improving.

Local police acknowledge that overseers or owners of many farms withhold pay from migrant laborers and use force to retain and intimidate them, but such violations fall within the jurisdiction of the federal Ministry of Labor, which has 3,000 inspectors for the entire country. Because of its limited resources, the Ministry generally investigates only those cases for which it has received a complaint. In an effort to combat forced labor, the CUT initiated a 24-hour hot line with a toll free number for reporting instances of forced labor.

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, but it is not adequately enforced. Labor organizations allege that in mining and the rural economy thousands of workers, including minors, are hired on the basis of false promises, subjected to debt bondage, with violence used to retain or punish workers who attempt to escape (also see Section 6.d.). The Government's interagency task force deploys federal law enforcement officers to combat forced labor. The CPT has noted that the task force's effectiveness is sometimes hampered by its inability to arrive in an area without advance warning and by the often spotty collaboration of the federal police. The people responsible for exploiting forced labor usually go unpunished because freed workers are often afraid to testify against those who recruited and oversaw them, and because the authorities have found it difficult to identify and locate the owners of farms or businesses that exploit forced labor.

The Labor Ministry decreed in 1995 that farms caught a second time using forced labor would be seized and used to settle landless families as part of the Federal Government's agrarian reform program. The authority was used when 220 laborers were freed at the Fazenda Flor da Mata in Para and the farm was turned over to the land reform agency to resettle landless families.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, but enforcement varies considerably depending on location (see Section 6.c). Schooling is free and compulsory for the first six grades. Most children remain in school until at least age 14. The minimum working age under the Constitution is 14 years, except for apprentices. The Government announced in June that it would raise the minimum working age to 15. Judges can authorize employment for children under 14 years of age when they feel it appropriate. The law requires permission of the parents or guardians for minors to work, and they must attend school through the primary grades. The law bars all minors from night work, work that constitutes a physical strain, and employment in unhealthful, dangerous, or morally harmful conditions. The Government estimates, however, that 60,000 children work in unhealthful conditions. The authorities rarely enforce legal restrictions intended to protect working minors under the age of 18, however, and the problem is serious.

Despite these legal restrictions, official figures state that nearly 3.8 million children under age 14 were employed, accounting for 4.6 percent of the work force. Many children work alongside their parents in cane fields, cutting hemp, or feeding wood into charcoal ovens; frequent accidents, unhealthy working conditions, and squalor are common in these cases.

Enforcement of restrictions is limited by the small number of inspectors available. Inspection suffers from a lack of resources and, as with forced labor, inspectors generally act on the basis of complaints and tips concerning the use of child labor. When inspections do take place, however, they are effective. Employers illegally using child labor have been fined heavily for their offenses.

Sugar cane growers illegally employ children and adolescents ranging in age from 7 to 17 years of age, many cutting cane with machetes. In September 1996, the Labor Ministry created a special fund supported by a percentage of income from the production of sugar cane, alcohol, and sugar, which is used to combat child labor in cane cultivation. The charcoal industry, hemp cultivators in the northeast, and orange growers have all used illegal child labor. Children also perform various tasks in the mining and logging industries in the Amazon region. In addition, although strenuous efforts have been made to eliminate it, there is still some child labor in the shoe industry.

The private sector, and particularly the Toy Manufacturers Foundation for Children?s Rights (ABRINQ), have been active in trying to remedy many of these abuses. The ABRINQ reached an agreement with the Sao Paulo state sugar producers to cease using child labor. In addition, the ABRINQ persuaded Abecitrus, the citrus export organization, to agree to remove child labor from its operations. Because of ABRINQ's efforts, Volkswagen and General Motors, as well as other automakers, are studying the role of child labor in the production of auto parts. Both Volkswagen and GM have agreed to remove child labor from their own operations. The government is reviewing an ABRINQ proposal to create a quadripartite group coordinated by the ILO and UNICEF with representatives from government, business, labor and NGO?s to investigate and eliminate cases of child labor.

ABRINQ's efforts have been particularly distinguished by the foundation's emphasis not just on ending child labor, but in putting the children into good-quality schools. Shoe manufacturers in the city of Franca have, with the help of the ABRINQ, eliminated child labor there and enhanced the educational opportunities for children who were formerly employed. Following a pilot project in 1996, the state government of Mato Grosso do Sul instituted an innovative program designed to eliminate child labor in the charcoal industry and the shoe industry. The state offered scholarships to the families of working children on the condition that they stop working and attend school. The program is being expanded to five other states.

On October 7, the Sao Paulo state government promulgated a law that prohibits the state from using contractors who exploit child labor.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The official minimum wage is 120 reals ($110) per month. It is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The Interunion Department for Socioeconomic Studies and Statistics estimated that the minimum wage is slightly more than one-fourth that necessary to support a family of four (the standard set by the Constitution). Many workers, particularly outside the regulated economy and in the northeast, reportedly earn less than the minimum wage.

The Constitution limits the workweek to 44 hours and specifies a weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours, preferably on Sundays. The Constitution expanded pay and fringe benefits and established new protection for agricultural and domestic workers, although not all of these provisions are enforced. All workers in the formal sector receive overtime pay for work beyond 44 hours, and there are prohibitions against excessive use of overtime.

Unsafe working conditions are prevalent throughout the country. The Ministry of Labor sets occupational, health, and safety standards, but its resources are insufficent for adequate inspection and enforcement of these standards. There were also credible reports of corruption within the enforcement system. If a worker has a problem in the workplace and has trouble getting relief directly from his employer, the worker or union can file a claim with the regional labor court, although in practice this is frequently a cumbersome, protracted process.

The law requires employers to establish internal committees for accident prevention in workplaces. It also protects employee members of these committees from being fired for their activities. Such firings, however, do occur, and legal recourse usually requires years for resolution. While an individual worker does not have the legal right to depart a workplace when faced with hazardous conditions, workers may express such concerns to the internal committee, which would conduct an immediate investigation.

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