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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Brazil

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Brazil, 30 January 1996, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
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.


Brazil is a constitutional federal republic composed of 26 states and the federal district. In 1994 voters elected a new President, two-thirds of the Senate, 513 federal deputies, 27 governors, and members of state legislatures. It was the second time since the end of military rule in 1985 that Brazilians freely chose their President and elected the legislative bodies in accordance with the 1988 Constitution. Fernando Henrique Cardoso became President on January 1 and will serve a 4-year term, reduced from 5 years by a 1994 constitutional amendment.

Police forces in Brazil 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, "military" police, who are responsible for maintaining public order. According to the Constitution, the states' military police serve as army reserves; they maintain some residual military privileges, including separate judicial systems. The federal police force is very small and plays little role in maintaining internal security. The state police are charged with serious human rights abuses.

Brazil has a market-based economy, although governments traditionally played a dominant role in shaping economic development. The Government 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 35 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); agriculture contributes about 12 percent. Brazil exports both manufactured and primary goods. Among the principal exports are coffee, soybeans, textiles, leather, metallurgical products, and transportation equipment. GDP was $565 billion in 1994, and the economy grew at a rate of 5.7 percent. Large disparities in income distribution continue to exist, with the poorest fifth of the population earning only 2 percent of national income, while the richest tenth receive 51 percent.

The most serious human rights abuses continued to be extrajudicial killings and torture. Justice is slow and often unreliable, especially in rural areas where powerful landowners use violence to settle land disputes and influence the local judiciary. In urban areas, the police are frequently implicated in killings and abuse of prisoners, but the special military police courts are overloaded, rarely investigate effectively or bring fellow officers to trial, and rarely convict abusers. The separate system of state military police courts contributes to a climate of impunity for police elements involved in extrajudicial killings or abuse of prisoners and is thought to be the single largest obstacle to eliminating such abuses by police. The poor bear the brunt of most violence, whether committed by the police or by criminals. Prisons are severely overcrowded. Violence against women and discrimination against women and minorities are problems. Despite constitutional guarantees, indigenous people continue to be victimized by outsiders who encroach on Indian lands and to be neglected by governmental authorities. Laws against forced labor are not adequately enforced, and children are exploited in the sugar and charcoal industries. A free press and active human rights organizations expose abuses and demand action to stop them.

Brazil was one two nations which assumed lead responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the human rights plank of the Declaration of Principles proclaimed at the December 1994 Summit of the Americas. The Government took steps to address its human rights abuses. President Cardoso called for an end to impunity and harsh punishments for violators. He criticized Congress for its failure to pass legislation defining torture, despite the constitutional requirement to do so, and for not strengthening the Council for the Defense of Human Rights located in the Ministry of Justice.

The Government released its own report on human rights problems, appointed a ministerial-level task force on forced labor, and created roving inspection teams to clamp down on those using forced labor. The Foreign Ministry created its own human rights department, while the federal police formed a special division to investigate human rights abuses and added a human rights component to the training curriculum for new agents. The Chamber of Deputies created a standing human rights committee. Both houses of Congress passed legislation to indemnify the families of political activists who disappeared during the military regime, and the President signed this law on December 4. However, the increased commitment by politicians at the national level has yet to have a significant impact in 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. There are no reliable statistics on the number of people murdered by police, vigilante groups, or hired gunmen since city morgue statistics frequently fail to distinguish between murder and accident victims. However, a local human rights group in the northeastern state of Pernambuco attributed 10 percent of that state's homicides to the police. The group speculates that the actual number may be higher since no suspects have been found in one-third of these cases. According to a recent study in Rio de Janeiro by the Advanced Institute for Studies of Religion (ISER), police investigations in 90 percent of 3,236 probable homicide cases produced insufficient evidence for any trials.

Civilian deaths at the hands of the Sao Paulo police have risen steadily during the past 2 years from an average 34.1 per month in 1993 to 43.5 in 1994 and 56 per month in the first half of 1995. These figures do not include civilians who are wounded and die later in a hospital. At the same time, the Sao Paulo police have lowered their ratio of persons killed to wounded from police action, from 3 to 1 prior to 1995 to approximately 0.8 to 1 during the first 8 months of 1995.

The trial of the 121 military police accused of the 1992 Carandiru Prison massacre remained mired in the special police courts. Only 65 of the 96 victims and witnesses for the prosecution have testified. Since every defendant has the right to call six witnesses, the trial could last into the next century. In another high profile case in Sao Paulo--the "42nd delegacia"--military and civil police were accused of the 1989 murder of 18 prisoners asphyxiated when police crammed 51 prisoners into a tiny, unventilated cell as punishment. Although the civil police defendants have been tried and sentenced in civil court, the 6-year-old case against military policemen continues to languish in the police tribunal. (Police courts are special courts with jurisdiction over the state police; see Section 1.e.).

In the first 11 months of 1995, there were 49 instances of "mass murder" in Sao Paulo, with a total of 158 victims. In 17 of the mass murder cases, police have been unable to find any suspects and have no leads. Human rights activists and public prosecutors believe that military police are responsible for many of these unresolved cases, which often result from police involvement in drug deals gone awry or from retaliation for witnesses' cooperation with prosecutors or investigators. A Sao Paulo state assembly investigative committee uncovered numerous instances of police involvement in drug trafficking and robbery.

One of the poorest municipalities in Sao Paulo state, Franco da Rocha, has been used as a clandestine dumping site for the victims of death squads. Since 1993 at least 212 bodies have been encountered there, 50 killed with a bullet to the head and thought to be victims of extermination squads. The arms and heads of some of the bodies had been removed in an apparent attempt to conceal the victims' identities. Only half the victims have been identified, but 80 percent of them are linked to petty crime. The principal suspects for the murders are military policemen; all the bodies were found in, and all identified victims lived in, the area served by the 26th military police battalion. According to civil police investigators, there is circumstantial evidence linking police to eight killings, but insufficient evidence for prosecution.

In Rio de Janeiro, execution-style killing of street children continued, according to reliable reports from organizations aiding the youths. Three policemen, indicted for the July 1993 killings of eight street children in downtown Candelaria Square, were still in jail awaiting trial by regular courts at the end of the year. Their case was kept out of special police courts because they were not on duty at the time they allegedly killed the children and apparently did not use police equipment in the crime. Wagner dos Santos, a key witness in the Candelaria case, was shot twice in the head in December 1994 by two men he said he recognized as civil policemen. Dos Santos recovered and is under the protection of a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) at an unidentified location.

The regular court system tried the cases of police gang members accused of murdering 21 Vigario Geral residents in 1993. A plethora of both new accusations and accused individuals (at last count 35 people may stand trial) complicated the case and effectively guaranteed postponement of a trial date. In May seven individuals in Rio de Janeiro were arrested at the request of the state Attorney General on suspicion of being members of a death squad. Three of the suspects were military policemen, three were firemen, and one was a civil policeman. The group was accused of 10 killings, 9 of them in 1995. Five of the victims were themselves police officers, including a military police major responsible for investigating corruption and death squad activities within the military police.

On March 17, a group of 15 hooded individuals entered the city jail in the border city of Uruguaiana in Rio Grande do Sul. They removed Everaldo Silva Santos from his cell and executed him in front of the jail by a dozen gunshots. Santos had been jailed the day before for the fatal stabbing of a military police officer. The same group is suspected of killing Francisco Goncalves Filho 2 days earlier in the mistaken belief that he was Silva Santos. Twelve members of the Uruguaiana police were arrested for suspected involvement in the two murders and are awaiting trial.

Sao Paulo's new State Secretary for Public Security took steps to curb abuses by the military police. In May he reassigned to administrative billets the 200 military policemen with the most civilian deaths on their records in what many human rights observers welcomed as an attempt to get "killers" off the streets. Sao Paulo's first civilian Ombudsman took office on November 20; he will have the power to conduct special investigations of police, order disciplinary action, and forward specific cases of police abuse to the Attorney general for prosecution.

Rio de Janeiro State Secrectary for Security Nilton Cerqueira threatened in a public statement on August 2 to get rid of the civil police if the force did not regain the public's confidence by year's end. Cerqueira reported that he had begun 261 investigations of policemen allegedly involved in irregularities, but indicated that more would be required. According to a report produced by the civil police's own Inspector General, at least 20 percent of policemen hired in the last 3 years have criminal records, involving crimes ranging from car theft to murder.

Throughout Brazil, local human rights organizations point to excessive use of force by police. In March Rio de Janeiro military policemen apprehended Cristiano Moura Mesquita in front of the popular Rio Sul Shopping Center as he fled after robbing a pharmacy. As a crowd of people watched, Mesquita was dragged behind a police van and summarily executed with three gunshots. The incident was photographed by a television crew which happened to be in the area and was featured on news broadcasts around the world. A military police court convicted a military police corporal of the murder of Mesquita on September 15 and sentenced him to 20 years. Polls taken immediately after the incident showed that a majority of Rio de Janeiro residents approved of the summary execution, a reflection of the frustration felt by the city's residents with the rising levels of violence and the inefficiency of the judicial system.

A high crime rate, a failure to apprehend most criminals, and an inept criminal justice system all contribute to public acquiescence in police brutality and killings of criminal suspects. Acts of intimidation often hindered investigation into these incidents, including death threats against witnesses, prosecutors, judges, and human rights monitors. Military police Prosecutor Stella Kuhlmann, who is prosecuting the Carandiru case, and two of her colleagues, continued to receive telephone death threats. Although Kuhlmann has shared tapes of the threats with the State Secretary for Public Security, police claim to be unable to identify the perpetrators despite more than 2 years of investigation. Similarly, Sao Paulo civil police delegates Luis Hellmeister, Edelcio Vieira, and Henriqueta Caruso received death threats warning them to stop investigating a group of military policemen for involvement in murders and extortions. Cristina Leonardo, who heads an NGO serving street children and who has been sheltering Wagner dos Santos, the witness in the Candelaria case, has received a number of death threats. Investigators in the Vigario-Geral case uncovered a plot to murder the presiding judge, Maria Lucia Capiberibe.

In rural areas in the north and northeast, landowners often intimidated judges, lawyers, and police with violence and threats of violence. New conflicts between rural landowners and the landless intensified in 1995, in part because of the slow progress of the Federal Government toward reaching its goal of granting land tenure certifications to hundreds of thousands of landless families. In an attempt to prod the Government to step up its agricultural resettlement program, 12,820 families illegally occupied 40 plots of land identified as unproductive, raising tensions and increasing confrontations with landowners, their gunmen, and, in many cases, policemen.

The August 9 massacre of 10 landless workers by military police in the western state of Rondonia illustrates the tensions created by the land invasions and the excessive violence often used by policemen in dealing with the squatters. Acting on a judicial order, 187 military policemen went on August 9 to the Santa Elina Farm in the town of Corumbiara to evict the 500 families who had been squatting there since July 14. In the ensuing firefight, 9 squatters, including a 7-year-old girl, and 2 policemen were killed, and 130 squatters were injured. Nine squatters are still unaccounted for. According to the medical examiner's report, most of the squatters killed had been shot in the back at short range, and many of the bullets had traveled from the top of the body downward, indicating that the victims had been killed from behind while kneeling. Fifteen days after the massacre, the body of one of the squatters, Sergio Rodrigues Gomes, was found floating in a nearby river with a fractured skull. The day of the massacre, a city councilman and the mayor of Corumbiara had seen Gomes handcuffed in the custody of several military policemen. When Gomes had tried to speak to the city councilman, a policeman kicked him in the back, put him in a vehicle, and drove off with him.

After visiting the site as head of a special congressional committee to investigate the massacre, Nilmario Miranda, President of the Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Committee, cited the clear evidence of excessive police violence. His report blamed the Federal Government, first and foremost, for not having an adequate agrarian reform policy. He also singled out the judge who ordered the eviction despite a high level of tension in the area and the state of Rondonia for not exercising better control over its military police. Several days after the massacre, Rondonia Governor Valdir Raupp removed from command positions the commandant of the state's military police and the battalion commander of the unit which carried out the operation. However, although Raupp acknowledged excessive violence by the police, he insisted that the squatters were to blame because they had fired first. Investigations of the massacre by the military and civil police are progressing slowly; in the interim, all of the policemen involved remain on active duty.

Manoel Ribeiro, a city councilman in Corumbiara who supported the landless workers' occupation of land, was fatally shot outside his home on December 16. Ribeiro had been gathering information on alleged malfeasance by the mayor just before he was killed.

On August 31, the Para state court upheld the December 1994 conviction of a gunman, and the ranch foreman who hired him, for killing union leader Expedito de Souza in 1991. The gunman was sentenced to 25 years in prison and the ranch foreman to 21 years. However, the ranch owner--also accused of the crime--remains at large (see Section 1.e.), and the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) has received reports that he circulates freely and openly in southern Para. The case of the 1985 murder of Joao Canuto, the first president of the Rural Workers Union in Rio Maria, Para, has been in the state prosecutor's office awaiting a trial date since August 1993, 8 years after the beginning of the investigation. No one has been charged in the case.

The CPT reported that land disputes resulted in the murders of 47 persons in 1994, and 26 such murders and 23 disappearances in the first 8 months of 1995, including the victims of the Rondonia massacre. A typical example of the conflicts which occur in rural areas is the case of Oseas Jose de Oliveira and Jose Candido Oliveira, who were shot to death in Riacho de Santana, Bahia, an area where the ownership of land has been in dispute for more than 50 years. A farmer reportedly was angered by the Oliveiras' gathering of wood from an area he claimed was his and by their refusal to leave. Two employees of the farmer have been charged with the murder.

Human rights groups cite the high level of crime and the failings of the judicial system as contributing factors to public tolerance of vigilante lynchings of suspected criminals.

The most recent year for which reliable comprehensive statistics on lynchings are available is 1993. According to the University of Sao Paulo-affiliated Nucleus for the Studies of Violence, 14 people were lynched in all regions of Brazil in 1993, down from 40 in 1991 and 18 in 1992. No suspects were arrested in any of the 1993 lynchings.

The case of a military policeman convicted in Sao Paulo, in both military and civilian courts, of killing transvestites provides a basis for comparing decisions of the two judicial systems. In military police court the soldier was convicted in March 1994 of killing one transvestite and sentenced to 12 years in prison. In October 1994, the military appeals court reduced the sentence to 6 years, noting that being a transvestite was a "high risk" activity. Although he had vowed to do so, the prosecutor never appealed the decision. In March a civilian court convicted the same soldier for killing three other transvestites and sentenced him to 44 years in prison. In August indictments were brought against a military police sergeant and two soldiers for the grisly August 1993 murder of

Renildo Jose dos Santos, a city councilman in Coqueiro Seco, Alagoas. Although an open homosexual, Dos Santos' murder was more likely a result of his outspoken criticisms of the mayor, whom he had accused of corruption. The mayor's son was also indicted in the case.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated abductions. However, human rights groups often blamed the police or vigilante groups for the disappearance of street children or persons believed to be criminals.

Sergeant Idalessio Costa Rodrigues of the 19th military police battalion in Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, was accused of the disappearance of Mauricio Borges Ribeiro dos Santos, after he arrested him in April. During the subsequent investigation, police discovered that Rodrigues had a notebook with the names of 505 people whom he considered to be criminals along with photographs, birthdates, addresses, parents' names, and the alleged crimes. Rodrigues had written "dead" next to 16 of the names, along with a date and a red cross. Police are investigating the circumstances of the deaths of these 16 persons.

In March 1994, Rosalvo Jose da Silva disappeared from the northeastern state of Alagoas. Da Silva had alleged he would sue the landowner who wanted to expel him and his family from land in Colonia de Leopoldina, where they had lived for 10 years. Da Silva's wife, who has been very public in her demands for an investigation of her husband's disappearance, received death threats from the landowner as well as from a soldier who was the last person seen talking with her husband.

After a woman claimed to have seen him badly beaten and lying on the floor of the civil police antikidnaping division, authorities reopened the August 1993 disappearance case of Jorge Antonio Carelli, an employee of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. The woman, who is currently serving a prison sentence on kidnaping charges, told authorities that Carelli managed to tell her his name and say that he worked for the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation before civil policemen took her to another room. The civil police Inspector General's office considered the woman's testimony sufficiently credible to reopen the investigation of the 22 policemen who were formerly exonerated of all charges in this case.

In Rio de Janeiro there was an alarming rise in kidnapings, most of which appeared to be economically motivated. In the first 7 months of the year, there were 62 kidnapings, in contrast to 82 cases in all of 1994. Policemen, including members of the civil police antikidnaping division, have been implicated in several of the cases. Two cases in particular reflect both police complicity and incompetence. In the first, 13-year-old Juliana Lutterbach was kidnaped on April 18 as she left her home in the Santa Teresa district. In the process of negotiating with her family, the kidnapers made more than 20 telephone calls, including one that was traced to a public telephone booth near the offices of the civil police antikidnaping division. The civil police initially claimed that there was no way they could identify the telephone booth in question. After the family provided police with a map of telephone booths obtained from the telephone company, the police took action--identifying the telephone booth and arresting one of the kidnapers--a military policeman--as he was calling the girl's family.

In the second case, 13-year-old Paula Zamboni was kidnaped on April 24 in the Minas Gerais town of Alem Paraiba, on the boundary with Rio de Janeiro state. After monitoring telephone calls made to the girl's family, Minas Gerais police determined that she was being held in a Rio de Janeiro suburb. A squad of Minas Gerais policemen crossed state lines to raid the house where Zamboni was being held, freeing Zamboni and arresting three of her captors: two active duty Rio de Janeiro military policemen and one former military policeman. These two high-profile cases prompted public outrage, and led Rio de Janeiro Governor Marcello Alencar to declare a crackdown on the state police, vowing publicly to abolish the antikidnaping division if it did not improve its performance.

In a move praised by many human rights advocates, President Cardoso submitted to Congress on August 29 a bill recognizing, and assuming government responsibility for, the deaths of 136 political activists who disappeared during the military regime. Both houses of Congress passed legislation signed by the President on December 4 which obligates the Government to pay indemnities of between $110,000 to $160,000 (100-150,000 reais) to each of the families. President Cardoso stated that it was the State's responsibility to recognize and make restitution for excesses committed during the military regime. He dismissed, however, any possibility of the Government investigating the circumstances of those who disappeared, saying that would violate the August 28, 1979, Amnesty Law.

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, but the Penal Code fails to define torture. In June 1994, a divided Supreme Court ruled on a torture case; five justices voted to absolve a policeman, based on the argument that Congress had failed to incorporate torture into the Penal Code, but six justices prevailed, convicting the defendant based on the statutes defining norms of juvenile justice, which do specify penalties for torture. The victim was a minor when he was beaten into confessing to a crime in 1991.

There are frequent credible reports that police beat and torture criminal suspects to extract information, confessions, or money. 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.

In late 1994, the Government sent in the armed forces to control crime in Rio de Janeiro, placing civil and military police forces under the command of a general. "Operation Rio," the joint military-police operation to seize arms and illegal drugs in Rio's slums, was popular with the city's residents, although there were credible reports that slum occupants were harassed and beaten. Slum resident Francisco Jose Reis de Oliveira complained of having been beaten, suffocated, and subjected to electric shocks. An examination performed by the police medical service found marks on Oliveira's body but no conclusive proof of torture. A Catholic priest, Olinto Pergoraro, complained that his chapel in Borel, where the army established an operational base, was used as a place to torture residents, but the army vigorously denied any involvement in torture.

The reopening of the investigation into the disappearance of Jorge Antonio Carelli (see Section 1.b.) led the chief of the civil police in Rio de Janeiro, Helio Luz, to lament publicly that torture has long been a common practice of the Brazilian police, declaring that society had accepted torture as a just punishment for common criminals and a legitimate means of obtaining information. Luz added, however, that he thought that society was gradually coming to reject torture as a legitimate police practice.

Reflecting sensitivity to the country's image abroad on the torture issue, President Cardoso ordered that the Brazilian military attache in London, whom human rights groups accused of having tortured political prisoners during the military regime, be removed from his post.

According to the Government's 1995 penitentiary census, Brazil's overcrowded prisons held 129,169 inmates in space designed for 59,954. There are often six to eight prisoners in a cell meant for three; some prisoners force others to pay for the use of a bed. The Ministry of Justice reported that 33 prison rebellions occurred in 1994, while attempted or successful escapes averaged almost 9 per day. Due to the severe overcrowding in prisons, police precincts are often used as prisons, where sentenced prisoners share cells with detainees. Sao Paulo's prison system in particular suffers from chronic overcrowding, corrupt and abusive local prison management, and prisoner access to weapons and drugs. The state's 43 penitentiaries--the majority of them dilapidated and dirty--house 34,000 prisoners in facilities designed to hold less than 24,000. In the first 7 months of 1995, there were 19 revolts in Sao Paulo state penitentiaries. All but one were resolved peacefully; however, in one incident, when it appeared that 22 hostages taken by the prisoners were in danger, the State Secretary for Justice and Penitentiary Administration ordered military police to storm the prison. In contrast to the 111 prisoners killed at Carandiru, only 3 prisoners died in this incident. Human rights activists praised State Secretary of Justice dos Santos for leading the military police invasion and videotaping the entire procedure to promote the transparency of police actions.

Prisoners at Recife's maximum security prison staged a hunger strike in June to protest conditions in the prison, which holds 906 prisoners in space designed for 534.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

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. However, the police sometimes detain street youths illegally without a judicial order or hold them incommunicado.

The Constitution prohibits forced exile, and it is not practiced.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is an independent branch of government, but in many instances it is unable to ensure the right to fair trial. 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 Federal Constitution. Brazil also has a system of specialized courts dealing with police, labor, elections, juveniles, and family matters.

Special police courts have jurisdiction over the state military police; the record of these courts shows that punishment is the exception rather than the rule. A human rights group in the northeast, studying 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 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 military 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. An attempt in Congress to pass a law giving ordinary courts jurisdiction over police crimes against civilians remained stalled.

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 cases in which a defendant cannot afford an attorney, 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 try 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 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 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 appeal 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. Due to the backlog of cases, under the Brazilian system where a trial must be held within a certain period of time from the date of the crime (similar to a statute of limitations), 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. There were no reports of illegal entry for political reasons, but illegal entry into homes without a warrant occurs in searches for criminal suspects. Those conducting military searches during Operation Rio were accompanied by a policeman with arrest authority, along with a search warrant. According to the Brazilian Bar Association, search teams obtained generic search warrants, which were used to enter houses at will. The inviolability of private correspondence is respected.

Wiretaps are unconstitutional except when authorized by a judicial authority for purposes of criminal investigation and prosecution, and provided implementing legislation exists regulating the conditions under which wiretaps may be used. Wiretapping was a common police practice until an incident targeting a presidential aide led Justice Minister Jobim to forbid further wiretapping until passage of the constitutionally required implementing legislation, which was awaiting Congressional approval at the end of 1995.

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; but the Government has licensing authority, and politicians frequently obtain the licenses. Eighteen television and 115 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 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. Stating his intention to put an end to the distribution of television and radio concessions based on political considerations, President Cardoso submitted a proposal to Congress setting out strict requirements, based exclusively on technical criteria, that must be met by applicants for television and radio concessions.

A report by the Brazilian National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) claimed four journalists were murdered. In May a policeman allegedly shot Marcos Borges Ribeiro, owner of the Rio Verde (Goias state) newspaper, The Independent, in his sleep. Unknown assailants killed Aristeu Guida da Silva, owner of the Gazeta de Sao Fidelis newspaper in the state of Rio de Janeiro, after his paper published articles on city government irregularities. No suspects have been charged in this crime.

The penalty for libel under the 1967 Press Law--a prison term--is considered extreme by judges. Press criticism has described it as an archaic and authoritarian law inherited from the military regime. The 1994 Inter-American Press Association report on freedom of the press in Brazil said, "there has been increasing recourse to the (1967) Press Law, especially by the executive and the judiciary, against journalists." According to the ANJ report, two journalists were convicted in July of libel and defamation of character, and sentenced to 4 months and 20 days' imprisonment. The two had published a 1993 article in the now-defunct Jornal Brasil Central involving a legal case against the family of the Tocantins state governor. The two are appealing the conviction. Lucio Flavio Pinto, an independent journalist in Belem, Para state, had to close his weekly newsletter in 1994 to defend himself against lawsuits brought by the owners of the city's major newspaper for libel and defamation under the 1967 Press Law. He is currently appealing his conviction on libel charges. Congress has considered, but has not yet eliminated, the Press Law's provisions for prison terms.

There were reports of harassment against journalists. A photographer for the daily Jornal do Brasil lodged a complaint against three soldiers for seizing his camera and beating him while he was photographing an army operation during "Operation Rio". Antonio Bonfim and Cesar Gomes Gama, journalists in Aracaju, Sergipe, have been harassed and have received death threats since writing an article in July 1994 for the weekly Cinform, charging that a death squad operation in the area was composed of military policemen. Seven potential witnesses have been killed since the investigation of the death squad began. Bonfim and Gama are accompanied by armed bodyguards 24 hours a day.

Foreign publications are widely distributed in Brazil; 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 this right is respected in practice. Permits are not required for outdoor political or labor meetings, and such meetings occur frequently.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion. 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 within Brazil, except for the protected Indian areas, nor are there any restrictions on emigration or return. Women, however, are not allowed to leave the country with children without the permission of the children's father. Brazil has admitted few immigrants recently, is selective in granting asylum, and does not formally accept refugees for resettlement. However, in 1995 the Government did agree to accept 200 Bosnian refugees.

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

The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to change their government through free elections, and citizens most recently exercised this right in 1994, filling executive and legislative offices throughout the country. Voting is secret and mandatory for all literate Brazilian 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. However, they comprise only 6.5 percent of the National Congress; 33 women serve in the Chamber of Deputies (out of 513 seats), and 5 serve in the Senate (out of 81 members). In the 1994 elections, voters elected one female governor. To boost the participation of women in government, Congress passed legislation requiring that 20 percent of each party's candidates in the 1996 municipal elections be women. The 1988 Constitution gave Indians the franchise, but their ability to protect their own interests is severely limited (see Section 5).

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

Nongovernmental organizations actively investigate allegations of human rights violations and often initiate legal proceedings.

Government officials are generally cooperative with them.

Several international NGO's either maintain offices in Brazil or visit periodically. In April the Secretary General of Amnesty International made a well-publicized 2-week visit to Brazil where he met with President Cardoso, several state governors, and the Deputy Minister of Justice, and addressed the Chamber of Deputies. The visit by the executive director of Human Rights Watch also received widespread media coverage. Government offices such as the Ministry of Justice's Secretaries for Citizenship and Human Rights and the federal prosecutor's office respond readily to inquiries about human rights cases and launch their own investigations.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Brazil, at the government's invitation, for the first time since Brazil ratified the American Convention on Human Rights in 1993. Although the IACHR identified a number of areas of concern, the team was impressed with the openness of officials in discussing Brazil's human rights problems and by their commitment to find solutions.

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.

There continued to be reports of violence against homosexuals, although comprehensive data were not available. In February a group of Rio de Janeiro military policemen assaulted a group of transvestites working as prostitutes along the Mem de Sa Avenue. Several gay rights groups organized a protest several days later in front of the 13th military police battalion. None of the policemen allegedly involved in the incident has been charged. In May, Luis Mott, an anthropologist and leader of the gay community in Salvador, Bahia, alleged in two newspaper interviews that Zumbi, a legendary black freedom fighter of the 17th century, was a homosexual. Mott's allegation led to an exchange of insults and threats between gay rights and black rights groups, who were outraged by Mott's remarks. Mott hired bodyguards after he was threatened, and vandals damaged his house and car with graffiti.


There is a high incidence of physical abuse of women, and 125 cities have established special police offices to deal with crimes against women. Sao Paulo, which has 128 special police stations dedicated to preventing crimes against women (up from 120 in 1994), registered an 18.4 percent increase in complaints of violence against women during the first 6 months of 1995 over 1994 levels. An estimated 80 percent of complaints involved abuse by a spouse or former spouse. 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 the 7 years they have been in existence, Rio's special police units have registered 13,000 complaints of violence against women, involving 24,000 victims. The women who made complaints generally asked police to reprimand their husbands, rather than take legal action.

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 wife murder, courts are still reluctant to prosecute and convict men who attack their wives.

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 Brazilian 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.

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 employers, President Cardoso signed a law in April 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. In July employees of three Rio de Janeiro companies filed complaints with the State Council for the Rights of Women, charging the companies with discrimination. A complaint was filed against General Electric for allegedly limiting the times female employees were permitted to go to the bathroom; against FAET, an electric appliance company, for requiring applicants to take a pregnancy test; and against Fabrimar, a producer of bathroom products, for subjecting female employees to inappropriately intimate searches at the end of each working day.


Despite progressive laws to protect children and a growing awareness of their plight through media and NGO campaigns, the Government still has not been able to help millions of children who fail to get an education, who must work to survive, and who suffer from the poverty afflicting their families. A 1994 report issued by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics indicated that as many as 2 million children between 10 and 13 years of age work, many of them together with their parents, under conditions approximating forced labor or debt bondage (see Section 6.d.). Many other children beg on the streets of cities.

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 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 prefer the freedom and drugs that street life offers. In Sao Paulo, government and NGO officials estimate that between 4,500 and 20,000 children spend their days in the streets of greater Sao Paulo, but return home at night. Approximately 900 to 1,800 lack access to shelter and sleep in the street.

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. Of the 562 reported homicides in the northeastern state of Pernambuco in the first 8 months of 1995, 10 percent of the victims were under 18 years of age. A local human rights group suspects that many of these minors are killed by off-duty policemen and private security guards hired by area businessmen to rid their areas of street children. Federal, state, and local governments devote insufficient resources to street children. NGO's sponsor relief efforts, but demand far outstrips available resources.

The report of a congressional investigating committee on child prostitution, published in 1994, called for more targeted social programs, changes in the Penal Code, and enforcement of existing laws to protect children, noting police complicity in child prostitution in most states. The committee concluded that there was no evidence to back the claim that an estimated 500,000 minors are involved in prostitution in Brazil, but they found cases in all 10 states visited. In Rio de Janeiro, a study cited by the committee found 500 girls between the ages of 8 and 15 involved in prostitution, all of them glue sniffers or drug users, and most first raped before age 10. In October the Ministry of Justice launched a national 3-month media campaign to educate the population about the significant problem of child prostitution and to encourage people to report individuals they observed engaging in, or soliciting, child prostitution. The media campaign targeted Brazil's principal tourist cities, where child prostitution is most prevalent.

People With Disabilities

The 1988 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 completely failed to meet the legally mandated targets for educational opportunities and work placement. In January Sao Paulo Governor Mario Covas vetoed a bill that would have implemented a special education program for the state's disabled population, citing insufficient funds.

There was little progress in the elimination of architectural barriers to the disabled. However, the city government in Recife (the country's sixth largest city) made some efforts to eliminate architectural barriers by cutting access ramps into some street curbs. In addition, several local transportation companies began to install access lifts on public buses. A Rio de Janeiro court ordered each of the city's 34 transportation companies to equip at least one bus serving each route with an access lift. By the end of August, 14 buses had been equipped with such lifts, and the number was expected to rise to 200.

Indigenous People

Brazil's approximately 320,000 Indians, who speak 170 different languages, have a constitutional right to their traditional lands. In practice, however, 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 519 indigenous areas within 5 years, but the authorities have yet to complete more than half the demarcations and entitling decrees. The Government announced its intention to change the way Indian lands are demarcated, to allow for the right of non-Indian current occupants to dispute proposed demarcations, despite the fact that the Constitution allows the Federal Government to expropriate land with just compensation. Indian rights groups and the federal prosecutor's office were concerned that such a change in the demarcation process would reopen land claims in previously demarcated Indian reserves, and encourage land invasions by non-Indians hoping to stake new claims, resulting in increased violence.

The Constitution provides Indians with the exclusive use of the soil, waters, and minerals found in their lands, subject to congressional authorization. The regulations necessary for economic exploitation are still pending before the Congress as part of the bill known as the Statute of Indigenous Societies. Illegal mining, logging, and ranching are a constant problem on Indian lands, as an estimated 84 percent of these lands have been occupied by non-Indians. Approximately 200 gold miners remained in the Yanomami Reserve at the end of 1995, in the state of Roraima, causing another surge in the number of Indians dying from malaria. At least 22 Yanomami died from malaria, and 78 from other diseases, in part due to the Federal Government's failure to provide adequate medical care for indigenous people.

The 1993 case against the Brazilian gold miners who killed 16 Yanomami on the Venezuelan side of the border remains mired in legal problems. None of the accused miners is in custody. Yanomami witnesses failed to recognize two of the accused, and other witnesses have disappeared. Indigenous rights groups expressed concern that the process was completely paralyzed and that those responsible for the massacre may never be brought to justice.

The order to demarcate the Raposa-Serra do Sol area in Roraima remained stalled in the Justice Minister's office for the second year in a row, as tensions in the area increased. In January a group of Macuxi and Wapixana Indians built huts and cleared fields in an area where the state government intended to build a hydroelectric dam, a project that would have flooded 3,700 hectares of indigenous territory. The state government sent in 70 military policemen, who destroyed the huts and beat a number of the Indians. In retaliation, the Indians set fire to bridges and telephone towers in three nearby villages. The Minister of Justice used the army to maintain order, but soldiers were soon accused of harassing Indians in the area and taking the side of non-Indian occupants. In March a federal judge in Roraima ordered the state electric company to halt plans to build the hydroelectric dam, ruling that the electric company had to obtain congressional permission to build the dam since the area had been identified as traditional Indian land. In May a federal judge ordered the army to withdraw from the area, ruling that the federal police bore responsibility for maintaining order in cases involving indigenous groups. The federal police have been able to maintain an uneasy peace between Indians, on one side, and non-Indian occupants of the land on the other.

The Catholic Church's Indigenist Council reported in 1995 that more than 7,000 Indians were trapped into forced labor (see Section 6.c.). The majority were Guarani Indians in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where a high rate of suicide (54 among the Guarani through mid-December) was reported.

In the absence of government action, indigenous groups have begun to take matters into their own hands. Guajajara Indians in the state of Maranhao threatened to force out 75 families living on their demarcated land. Partly as a response to that threat, the Government began gradually to resettle each of the 75 families. In August approximately 50 Ful-ni-o Indians occupied the headquarters of FUNAI, Brazil's Indian Affairs Agency, in Garanhuns, Pernambuco, to demand better medical treatment on their reservation and to insist that the state FUNAI administrator be fired. Also in August, Kaiapo Indians occupied a company guest house near their reserve in Alto Xingu, on the border of Para and Mato Grosso, and threatened to burn it down. Frustrated by what he said was 3 years of government inaction, Raoni, a well-known leader of the Kaiapo, demanded that FUNAI forbid fishing expeditions along the river, charging that they were depleting the Kaiapo fishing supplies, and put a stop to hunting expeditions into the Kaiapo reserve. Several months earlier, three American citizens on a fishing expedition on the Xingu river were briefly held hostage by Kakramoro Indians, who demanded that the Americans relinquish their boat and 8,000 reais (approximately $8,500); they settled for confiscation of the boat only. It is unclear whether the kidnaping was motivated by anger at the depletion of the fishing supply, or common robbery.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although racial discrimination has been illegal since 1951, darker-skinned citizens 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, 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.

An April survey conducted by a prominent polling service provided insight into the perceptions of different segments of the population about the problem of racism. The survey showed that 89 percent of the population believes that whites are prejudiced against blacks. Ten percent of nonblacks admitted that they were prejudiced against blacks, and, according to the pollsters, 87 percent of whites displayed signs of racism in their answers to at least 1 of 12 questions asked in the poll.

The news magazine Veja reported in 1994 that whites in the predominantly black city of Salvador, Bahia, earn on average three times more than blacks, while in the southern city of Curitiba, whites earned 1.5 times the black average. The magazine attributed the difference between the two cities to better public education in the south.

Blacks are often the victims of violence at a level disproportionate to their percentage in the population. For instance, the 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.

Racism, as a crime, is difficult to prove in courts, although both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have designated special police units to investigate it. In a comprehensive story on the problem of racism, the daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported that in Florianopolis, in the southern state of Santa Catarina, a labor court ordered the state-owned firm Eletrosul to reinstate electrical technician Vicente do Espirito Santo after finding that Santo's charges that he had been fired in 1992 because he was black were well-founded.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Labor Code provides for union representation of all workers (except for military, military 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. Elements of the labor movement and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) criticize the retention of unicidade and the union tax.

In practice, unicidade has proven less restrictive in recent years, as more liberal interpretations of its restrictions 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 judicial decision, is bound to receive and record their registration. The primary source of continuing restriction is the system of labor courts, which retain the right to review the registration of new unions and to adjudicate conflicts over their formation. Otherwise, unions are independent of the Government and of political parties.

Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the work force is organized, with well over half of 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 with the right to strike, including civil servants (except again, for military, police, and firemen). 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.

The Constitution specifies the right of public employees to strike, subject to conditions enacted by the Congress. Since the Congress has yet to pass the complementary legislation, labor law attorneys continue to debate the limits on the right to strike of public employees. In practice, the Government has not interfered with their right to strike. A month-long strike by Petrobras (the public oil monopoly) employees in May was judged abusive by the Supreme Labor Court. A majority approved of the firm handling of the strike by President Cardoso, who used soldiers to ensure that those who wanted to return to work were able to do so. The strike, which greatly inconvenienced the public, led many--including some labor leaders--to call for limits on public employees' right to strike.

Autoworkers, teachers, university professors, health workers, train and municipal transit workers, dock workers, and post office, telephone, and electrical generating authority employees also went on strike. Formerly, the courts ruled almost automatically that strikes were 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 Sole Workers Central (CUT), the General Workers Confederation, and 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, however, and the labor court system exercises normative powers 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. On June 30, the Government promulgated a provisional measure which ended the indexing of wages to inflation, reduced the role of labor courts in wage negotiations, allowed for mediation if the parties involved requested it, and provided greater latitude for collective bargaining. Unions welcomed this reduction in the power of labor courts to set wages, since previously labor courts and the Labor Ministry 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 terms of the provisional measure, parties may now freely choose mediation.

The Constitution incorporates a provision from the Labor Code which prohibits the 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 usually 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, the unions in the Manaus Free Trade Zone, like rural unions and many unions in smaller cities, are relatively weaker vis-a-vis industry compared to 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 Brazil. The Federal Government admits that existing enforcement resources are inadequate. In 1995 the CPT denounced 28 cases of forced labor, involving a total of 25,193 workers in 9 states, an increase from the 19,940 reported in the previous year. Forced labor is common on farms producing charcoal for use in the iron foundries and steel industries and in the sugar industry (see also Section 6.d.).

Local police admitted 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 Ministry of Labor, which has only 2,300 inspectors for the entire country. 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 and forced prostitution, with violence used to retain or punish workers who attempt to escape.

Despite no increase in financial resources to fight the problem, the Federal Government has made attempts to clamp down on forced labor. The new Secretary for the Labor Ministry department responsible for enforcing labor laws has taken an activist approach. She created roving inspection teams (starting with three and later increasing to six), which in a number of surprise inspections, well-publicized after the fact, freed hundreds of workers subjected to forced labor. 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 authorities have found it difficult to identify and locate the owners of farms or businesses that exploit forced labor.

In mid-1995 the largest trade union confederation, CUT, initiated a 24-hour hotline with a toll-free number for reporting instances of forced labor. CUT President Vicente Paulo da Silva inaugurated the campaign by personally inspecting charcoal refineries in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Shortly after the CUT initiative, President Cardoso delivered a radio address condemning the practice of forced labor and announced the formation of an interministerial task force to devise a comprehensive government approach to combat the problem. Cardoso said that the Government would no longer provide loans, subsidies, or rollover of outstanding debt to farms or companies found to employ forced labor and that they would be ineligible to bid on public contracts.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum working age under the Constitution is 14 years, except for apprentices. Judges can authorize employment for children under 14 years of age when they feel it appropriate. The authorities rarely enforce legal restrictions intended to protect working minors under age 18, however, and the problem is widespread. 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.

Despite these legal restrictions, official figures state that nearly 3 million 10-to 14-year-old children (or 4.6 percent of the work force) were employed. Many children work alongside their parents in cane fields, cutting hemp, or feeding wood into charcoal ovens; accidents, unhealthy working conditions, and squalor are common in these workplaces. According to a comprehensive report in the weekly news magazine Veja on the problem of child labor, it is common to find children in the interior of Bahia who have lost fingers and forearms feeding sisal into grinding machines. Carlos Silva de Jesus, age 14, for instance, has been blind since the age of 8 when, while working in a sisal field in Retirolandia, Bahia, he stabbed his left eye with a sisal leaf and shortly afterward punctured his right eye with a knife because he could not see very well.

Independent shoe manufacturers in Franca (Sao Paulo) continue to purchase products from cottage industry subcontractors who employ thousands of children under age 14, in violation of the law. Public prosecutors brought two suits in late 1994 against two groups of major Franca shoe manufacturers for illegally subcontracting work which led to the exploitation of child labor. In March the regional labor court found the first group of five manufacturers guilty of using child labor, ordered the practice stopped immediately, and specified daily fines to be paid by the companies if the practice continued. The case of the second group of five manufacturers remained under consideration by the court, which requested additional evidence. A third suit was brought in mid-1995 against another group of five companies.

According to a recent 2-year study carried out by an NGO based in Pernambuco, the Centro Josue de Castro, the use of child labor is common on sugar cane plantations. The study estimated that 54,000 minors work on sugar cane plantations in Pernambuco, and 40,000 in Sao Paulo. In 40 percent of the families the researchers interviewed, children contributed 30 to 50 percent of the family income. In the sugar cane industry in Pernambuco, 25 percent of the workers are younger than 18 years, 90 percent of whom began working on the plantations between the ages of 7 and 13. CUT, the nationwide labor confederation, reported that child labor is common among orange pickers in Sao Paulo. The CPT received reports of child labor in the charcoal production industry in Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Para; on sisal plantations in Bahia and Paraiba; on cotton plantations in Parana; and in the area of reforestation, where children are used principally to put toxic chemicals on trees and anthills, in Minas Gerais, Bahia, and Espirito Santo.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of child labor laws, but it has too few inspectors to do so effectively. The widely held view that it is better for minors to work than to be involved in street crime also hampers enforcement efforts.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Prior to July 1994, the Government adjusted the national minimum wage every month. Upon introduction of the economic stabilization plan in 1995, it set the minimum wage at $83 (70 reais) per month. In May President Cardoso raised the minimum wage to $111 (100 reais) per month. The Interunion Department for Socioeconomic Studies and Statistics estimates that the minimum wage is less than one-fourth that necessary to support a family of four (the standard set by the 1988 Constitution). The most recent national survey (for 1990) showed that 35 percent of economically active individuals, including minors from 10 to 14 years of age, earned no more than the minimum wage. Many workers, particularly outside the regulated economy and in the northeast, reportedly earned less than the minimum wage.

The 1988 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 protections for agricultural and domestic workers, although not all of these provisions are enforced.

Unsafe working conditions are prevalent throughout the country. Incomplete figures from the Government's Social Security Administration for workplace accidents and fatalities in 1994 showed 350,210 reported accidents, of which 3,129 were fatal and 5,962 caused permanent disabilities. Fundacentro, part of the Ministry of Labor, sets occupational health and safety standards. However, the Ministry has insufficient resources for adequate inspection and enforcement of these standards. There were also credible allegations of corruption within the enforcement system. If a worker has a problem in the workplace and has trouble getting relief directly from his employer, he or his 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 commissions for accident prevention in workplaces. The law protects employee members of these commissions from being fired for their activities. Such firings, however, do occur, and legal recourse usually requires years for resolution.

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