10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil

Brazil has a long history of human trafficking dating back to the 1400s. Slavery was legal in the region until 1888, the year Brazil officially abolished slavery. Even 130 years later, human trafficking still remains rampant as thousands of Brazilians are used for forced labor or prostitution every year. Here are nine facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

9 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Brazil is considered a “source, transit, and destination country” for human trafficking. Source countries provide traffickers with the human capital they need. Transit countries help move victims from one country to another and destination countries are where trafficked humans arrive and are exploited the most.
  2. In 2004, Brazil’s government created a list of companies that were involved in slave labor and blocked those companies from receiving state loans. The list is effective at dissuading businesses from using slave labor and human trafficking. For example, Cosan appeared on the list in 2009 which led to a decrease in the business’ stock value and also caused Walmart to end business relations with the company as well.
  3. In 2017, the U.S. Department of State ranked Brazil as a “Tier 2” country, which means that human trafficking is still a significant issue despite the government’s efforts to eliminate it. Countries receive a new ranking every year depending on how well it complies with international standards. If Brazil wants to fully comply with international standards, it will need to increase its efforts of reporting human trafficking and caring for victims.
  4. Tourists from the U.S. and Europe come to Brazil for child sex tourism which is often located near the “resort and coastal areas”. Although law enforcement cooperation and information sharing with foreign governments have increased to try and combat the problem, the Brazilian government is not doing enough as there were no “investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2017”.
  5. In 2016, a minimum of 369,000 people in Brazil lived “in conditions of modern slavery”. Modern slavery consists of anyone who is forced to work against their will. Modern slavery also includes adults and children who are treated like property and who cannot escape from their owners.
  6. To change the nation’s view of slavery, Brazil is creating television programs and documentaries that highlight the problem of human trafficking. The funds to create these films are seized from human traffickers by judges and prosecutors and are then given towards anti-slavery screenplays intended for schools, labor unions or regions where slavery is still widespread.
  7. Debt bondage is often used to keep Brazilian slave laborers from leaving. Debt bondage refers to a slave having to use their services to pay back a debt to their owner. Often times, the debt is almost impossible to pay back.
  8. When Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, sexual exploitation of adults and children increased. It is common for global sporting events to lead to an increase in sexual exploitation. Traffickers are lured to these events due to the influx of workers needed to construct stadiums and the rise in tourism during the games. For example, in 2016, eight teenage girls were rescued from a sex trafficking ring located next to Brazil’s Olympic hub.
  9. In 2016, Brazil passed Law 13.344/16 which aims to prevent human trafficking and severely punish perpetrators. The law intends to prevent future human trafficking by creating a database of past offenders and by raising the penalties for those who are caught. The law also outlines provisions for providing assistance to victims of human trafficking.

There are reasons to remain hopeful as the Brazilian government is working hard to combat human trafficking in Brazil. For example, the government recently created a second list that will be used to publicly shame and denounce companies that use slave labor or human trafficking. Furthermore, one of the best ways to combat human trafficking is to reach out to local, regional or national government representatives and urge them to support legislation fighting against international human trafficking. Human trafficking is an immense issue that cannot be solved without the help of powerful government agencies.


– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

The World Cup truly defines the idea of international competition. With the current 2014 World Cup only two weeks in, the viewership of clips, games, advertisements and the like are higher than any other international competition. According to, people have watched over 1.2 billion minutes of World Cup-affiliated advertisements, which is four times more views than the 2014 Super Bowl ads received.

FIFA research supports this, demonstrating numbers from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Over 3.2 billion people tuned in for at least one minute of the games, compared to 900 million that tuned into the Olympics Opening Ceremony, which is the most highly watched portion of the event.

3.2 billion people represents a large demographic of the world, many of whom represent developing countries. The World Cup represents the level of accessibility isolated countries have to opportunities even to just watch a game. There is a level of danger to watching games in some countries such as the 48 people who died in Kenya at a viewing party, but the dedication to their countries trumps their socio-economic status.

Few events draw the attention of billions, however the World Cup bonds nations. The U.S. typically has a low viewership rate of Major League Soccer in comparison to the NBA, NFL and NHL views.

The Miami Herald reported that 15.9 million Americans tuned into ESPN and Univision to watch the U.S. versus Ghana game, which is the second highest recorded viewership for a World Cup match in the U.S. It pales only to the U.S. versus England match of 2010 which held 17.1 million viewers. Trumping this, are the 18.2 million people who tuned in to watch the U.S. and Portugal battle it out, according to CNN Money.

The possible reason for this is the higher number of countries filming and reporting on the event, with 48 countries present and 34 ultra-high definition cameras watching from all angles. The more access countries have to the games, the more people who will flock to small businesses who play the games for those without home access.

Many of the countries competing represent developing countries, such as Colombia, Uruguay, Nigeria, Ghana and many others. These countries typically have low participation and success in other international competitions such as the Olympics, so they find their nationalism and support in the World Cup due to the accessibility and commonality of soccer.

The number of people tuning to watch their home countries fight for international competitive prestige shows that even in times of turmoil and struggle, nations can be united through watching a small, fuzzy screen of their teams playing everyone’s favorite sport.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: CNN, Latin Post, Miami Herald, Reuters
Photo: Zap 2 It

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What was supposed to be a community gathering to watch countries from all over the world compete in the World Cup turned into a bloodbath in a local bar in Mpeketoni, on the coast of Kenya.

Later events showed the men wielding the weapons were part of Somalia’s Islamist group al-Shabaab. The reasoning for their attack was that they were performing revenge killings due to the Kenyan presence in Somalia and the killing of Muslims there. It appears that the victims were of a specific ethnic group — the same one as the President — and all the Muslims were spared.

This is not the first time this part of the world has dealt with ethnic cleansing-based killings. Sudan has been experiencing such events for many years as well.

As the world progresses in what seems like a direction of acceptance and tolerance, events such as this, highlighting growing instability in Kenya, push it back. The 58 people who died for being a member of a certain ethnicity will receive no explanation for their death, and more often than not these events go under the radar of national news. This type of violation of human rights needs to be highlighted to show the presence of intolerance in so many nations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has suggested a different idea, theorizing that the shootings were not a terrorist attack but a politically driven attack. This musing has heightened the tension between Kenyan political rivalries and complicated the security levels of a region that is already on the cusp of descending into greater violence.

Many are concerned that Kenyatta turning the attack into a commentary on the government will damage the future of the security situation. “Politicians are politicizing the security situation and it’s not good for anyone,” said J.M. Waiganjo, a member of the Kenyatta’s jubilee party and member of parliament.

Other analysts see Kenyatta’s statement as a sign that Kenyan terrorists groups are targeting the weak spots in the government’s security plan and purposely drawing lines between the opposing parties to bring down Kenya’s government.

Kenyatta has a difficult duty ahead of him as he must determine an appropriate and beneficial way to handle the terrorist threats while building levels of security that are lacking in Kenya.

— Elena Lopez
Sources: BBC, CNN, WSJ
Photo: BBC

An eclectic group of celebrities is teaming up to raise awareness for World Environment Day 2014. Model Gisele Bundchen, film stars Don Cheadle and Ian Somerhalder, and footballer Yaya Toure are all championing unique environmental causes in conjunction with United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to involve more people in the little-known holiday that occurs June 5.

The “Message in a Bottle” Campaign for World Environment day will provide the public with a unique look into these stars’ lives. Jeffrey Nachmanaoff, director of Public Service Announcements for UNEP, indicated that short movies focusing on each individual will be displayed on CNN, Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus. Viewers will learn how Yaya Toure is preparing for the upcoming world cup, or watch Cheadle practice the trumpet to practice for his upcoming role as Miles Davis. Bundchen’s short video includes footage of her Kung Fu lessons, a staple of her everyday life when she’s not modeling. These clips will also provide more information about the various environmental causes chosen by these celebrities.

“These global celebrities are giving fans a unique glimpse into the private moments that make them who they are. They are then interrupted in these moments by a message in the bottle which is an unexpected play on their roles and provides a twist that should get the viewer’s attention and encourage them to want to go to the site to get involved.”

In the spirit of the upcoming World Cup, these talented individuals are competing against one another for supporters. Toure is sponsoring a campaign to end the pollution of plastic bags, while Cheadle’s and Somerhalders’s teams hope to increase activism to combat global warming. Finally, Gisele is focusing on reducing everyone’s carbon footprint by limiting food waste.

To get involved with the campaign and choose a team, you can visit the UNEP World Environment Day Website. In addition, you can also tweet your vote by partnering your message with #WorldEnvironmentDay or #WEDchallenge.

This endeavor for World Environment Day is piggybacking off a previously successful UNEP initiative headed by Nachmanaoff that recruited more musically-inclined celebrities to fight climate change. Most notably, The Police granted the rights to their hit song “Message in a Bottle” to headline the 2009 campaign.

Because of the project’s popularity, UNEP decided to employ the same theme for this year’s endeavor. With such dedicated and talented celebrities at their side, the organization is expecting to experience similar success.

– Sam Preston

Sources: Daily Independent, The Star
Photo: News Orena

While the world looks at Brazil in excitement for the FIFA World Cup, national dissatisfaction persists among many of its citizens. People from all walks of life are taking part in demonstrations, strikes and riots to have their voices heard.

The protesters had several specific issues they want dealt with but were able to agree that the common factor amongst their concerns was rooted in the economics of hosting the tournament. Many believe Brazil should not be hosting the World Cup when its economy is too weak to uphold the country’s needs.

Citizens’ discontent regarding the decision to host was made clear at the Confederations Cup (a World Cup “dress rehearsal”) in 2013, at which over a million people protested in dozens of Brazilian cities to demand better public services.

Since then, protests have increased in number and severity, with many being organized by unions, leftist parties and activist groups. In the weeks leading up to the opening games, police, teachers, bus drivers and bank security guards have gone on strike due to World Cup related issues.

On May 26, protesters surrounded the World Cup squad’s hotel and later the squad’s bus when en route to a training camp. The protesters chanted things like “There will be no World Cup, there will be a strike” and placed stickers on the team’s bus.

On May 27, about 1,500 people were part of a demonstration that blocked one of the main roads near the National Stadium. Once the police intervened, the streets were filled with a variety of people, including cops on horseback, indigenous leaders with bows and arrows and dissatisfied teachers. A popular chant was “Who is the cup for? Not us! I don’t want the Cup, I want money for health and education.”

Groups of educators have been on strike since May 12, believing that the $11 million budget for the month-long tournament should be allotted to more worthy causes, such as education for the children or better working conditions and pay raises for the teachers.

Recently, the indigenous population of Brazil has decided to use the protests to bring light to their problems. Around 100 ethnic groups joined in the demonstrations to fight for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. They have accused President Dilma Rousseff’s government of stalling the demarcation of their ancestral lands in order to pursue large-scale farming.

The protests are not expected to let up any time soon, so the government is increasing the police force and security, with 157,000 soldiers and police dedicated to maintaining order during the tournament. The added security has caused additional economic controversy, with the civilian police force requesting an 80 percent pay raise during the World Cup.

Brazilian soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo expressed that citizens should not blame the country’s problems on the World Cup when they existed beforehand:

“This is what people should understand: it’s down to governments. The governments they have elected. It’s nothing to do with football or the World Cup.”

A slightly different angle is expressed by Eric Cantona, former soccer player, stating that he believes the protests will continue despite FIFA executive committee vice president Michel Plantini’s requests, but that “people just need to be heard, and they will be heard thanks to the World Cup.”

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: Daily Mail, ESPN FC, BBC 1, BBC 2
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Poverty in Brazil
Brazil is set to play host to one of the biggest international sporting events in the world. The World Cup brings in billions of dollars of revenue and puts Brazil on the forefront of the global stage. Brazil is also playing host to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, which will again place both Brazil’s successes and struggles in the eyes of the world.

Brazil is one of the more developed countries in South America, but it also has a high rate of poverty. According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2013, Brazil’s poverty rate stood at 21.4 percent, which is one of the highest in South America. According to ESPN, the Brazilian government is reported to be spending over $13 billion on the various stadiums, airport renovations and other sites, while an additional $3.5 billion being spent on venue sites. According to the International Business Times, Brazil’s Institute of Tourism project that international visitors to the World Cup will spend $2.6 billion, while Brazilian residents will spend almost $8 billion, these estimates still fall short of what Brazil’s government is spending.

There have also been reports of forced evictions of hundreds of family’s homes in order to make way for stadiums for the World Cup and the Olympics in 2016. The Huffington Post reported the story of a family who were given no notice or warnings of any kind before several men turned up at their door and proceeded to reduce their home to rubble and ash. The Global Post reports that upwards of 15,000 families have been removed from Rio de Janeiro as well.

However, according to many reports, the potential overall economic impact of the World Cup in Brazil will be about $24 billion, according to Bloomberg, while Forbes reports that Brazil’s Ministry of Sports calculates that Brazil’s economy will receive a $70 billion injection from the games. The International Business Times points out, however, that there can sometimes be a “World Cup effect” on countries where there is a promise of a large injection of capital to boost the country’s economy as a result of the games being hosted there, but in the end, it falls short.

South Africa is a prime example of this “World Cup effect.” South Africa invested nearly $5 billion in various renovations and restorations of buildings and has only made 11 percent of it back as of 2010. Brazil can only wait and see if it will incur a similar fate.

The World Cup and other international sporting events are superb testament to international cooperation and the ability of countries to set aside common goals to celebrate the universal languages of sports. However, a worrying trend in recent years of developing countries pushing aside and marginalizing those who are already marginalized by poverty and inequality is emerging. The responsibility to ensure that these peoples are not forgotten or pushed to the way side for the sake a country’s bottom line and international news coverage rests with those who attend these events as well concerned and socially active citizens around the world.

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: International Business Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, Index Mundi, ESPN, CIA World Factbook, Global Post, Huffington Post
Photo: Open Knowledge

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In the midst of international mourning for Nelson Mandela and in an attempt to drive home the message of International Human Rights Day, a Brazilian NGO posed a provocative question on Tuesday, December 10.

A billboard designed by Conectas Human Rights, featured an image of Nelson Mandela and the question, “Do you feel moved by his legacy?” The text then urged the Brazilian population to act upon their emotions and “Do more than be moved.”

This campaign is driven by recent public opinion polls that reveal a negative feeling toward human rights issues in Brazil and support for more stringent laws and regulations.

Respondents to surveys administered across 134 municipalities in June 2013, support the reduction of maximum crime penalties from 18 years of age to 16, based on a belief held by 60% of the sample population that criminality is the result of ‘bad character.’

Moreover, the Datafolha Research Institute released data that reveal 26% of self-identified conservative-leaning respondents believe that homosexuality must be discouraged by society as a whole, whilst 33% believe that poverty is the result of laziness.

These emerging public opinions are linked to a reduction in funding for human rights groups, namely through foreign aid.

Brazil is widely considered to be an emerging market, the country’s role as 2014 World Cup host is evidence of this image but it disguises the fact that a growing economy does not automatically address human rights issues as seen through the need of foreign aid in assisting structural development.

It is estimated that 60% of the country’s NGOs relied on foreign aid for 80% of their budgets in 2003. Between 2008 and 2009 this aid decreased by 30% and again by another 49% in 2010 alone.

Executive Director of the Brazil Human Rights Fund, Ana Araújo, reminds us that Brazil was marked by dictatorship as recently as 30 years ago, a type of legacy that differs greatly from the one being celebrated across the globe on International Human Rights Day 2013.

Araújo argues that domestic support for human rights groups is the next, though not imminent, step, suggesting that emerging powers require more support, not less, to ensure that their emergence is ‘just.’

– Zoë Dean

Sources: Global Voices Online, Universo Online: CNT, Universo Online: Rightist Leanings, Open Democracy