1. Brazil covers a widespread expanse of land with a huge capacity for production and social settlement. But for historical reasons, the way the land is distributed has been extremely uneven, and as a result, conditions propitious to social confrontation and violations of human rights are created.

2. Officials of the Ministry of the Environment admitted that Brazil has an extremely unjust land distribution system. About 1% of the population--i.e., 1.5 million persons--control 47% of all real estate. High authorities(1) stated that 120 million hectares of arable land has not been utilized, and is thus subject to appropriation under the terms of the Constitution. In all of Brazil, there are 10,735 properties consisting of more than 80,000 hectares each (in other words, they measure 20 by 40 km). In the group of those containing more than 50,000 hectares alone, there are 35,318,198 unproductive hectares. The Movement of the Landless (a nongovernmental organization) points out that about twelve million persons, i.e., 4.5 million campesino families, own no land, while the Minister of Agrarian Reform estimates that the number of families in this situation is two million. The total deficit of urban and rural employment in Brazil amounts to 15 million job vacancies.

3. The situation is not the same throughout the country. Generally speaking, in the South, where economic development is more advanced, the predominance of large landed estates is much smaller, so to is smaller the expanse of land where nothing is produced. It is in the Amazon region and in the Northeast where the incidence of those two phenomena prevails.

4. A survey conducted by the INCRA in the State of Roraima found there are 2,394,686 hectares of unproductive land on the group of properties larger than 5,000 hectares alone. In the State of Par�, there are more than 265 properties measuring more than 10,000 hectares which account for a total of 16,547,651 hectares, 175 of which with 14,552,549 hectares, are producing nothing. In the State of Par� alone, unproductive land covers an expanse equal to four and one half times the size of Belgium.(2)

5. Despite the swift pace of urban development in recent years, coupled with the growth of the industrial sector as the leading contributor to the economy, official figures show that one fourth of the economically active population (fourteen out of 62 million) earn their living from agricultural pursuits. Four million of those 14 million have no fixed source of income, and in many cases are forced to accept employment on terms below the minimum standards; or are driven to join groups which resort to desperate measures to solve their problems of access to land.(3)

6. Nongovernmental religions organizations(4) note that in 1995 alone, 554 rural disputes were reported: 440 of them concerned land tenure problems, 21 dealt with forced or semi-slavery labor, and 93 were work quarrels caused by drought or the agrarian reform. In all, there were 69 more such disputes than in 1994 and over 3,250,731 persons were involved therein. As a result of such conflicts, 39 persons were murdered or suffered violent deaths. Other sources(5) report that in excess of one thousand workers have died over the past decade owing to disputes relative to agrarian reform and land distribution.


Constitutional Background

7. Brazil's Constitution embodies the concept of agrarian reform and allows for the expropriation of land not being used to perform a social function. A productive unit of land tenure is defined as one on which 80% of the surface is completely and effectively utilized; where appropriate use is made of the natural resources, ecological and labor standards are respected and the use is considered to be of common benefit to land owners and workers. The Constitution contemplates expropriation in cases of public utility or need, and even for social purposes, subject to fair and prior compensation in cash (CP, Art. 5.XXIV). A constitutional exception to such compensation is authorized in the case of agrarian reform, in which the indemnity is paid in the form of agrarian debt bonds (Art. 184), securities containing a clause that preserves the real value and can be cashed twenty years from the date they are issued.(6) In general, such expropriation must be limited to minifundia or latifundia, since the Constitution itself declares that small and medium-sized properties cannot be expropriated.(7) The 1988 Constitution also contemplates the recognition of land ownership of the property Alos quilombos,@ for black communities autonomously organized in the interior, in the last decade.


Government Actions

8. The Government informed the Commission that despite the conditions arising from the state reform and maintaining economic stability, the present government expropriated, as of February 1997, almost 4,500,000 hectares of land. This area is greater than that of Belgium. It holds to its objective of reaching the figure of 14,000,000 hectares of expropriated land. It also noted that in 1993 an average of 518 days lapsed between the expropriation and the settlement but today that time is 130 days, and the goal is to get down to 80 days. Added to all these efforts is the completion of the first national agrarian reform census.

9. In December 1996 new laws were passed to foster more efficient use of land and to encourage the sale of large unproductive properties for agrarian reform purposes, especially by raising the tax on large properties and eliminating differentiation based on geographic location. The National Congress adopted the Summary Procedure Law which reduces to a minimum the time period in which major land conflicts occur, that is, the time between the expropriation and the issue of right of ownership.(8) Other reform measures such as easier extension of credit and regional land development also tend--according to the government--to afford greater fluidity and openness to the agrarian reform, to decentralize its implementation and to discourage land occupations.

10. The Commission wishes to note the passage in February 1997 of law 9437/97 which made a felony, not just a misdemeanor, of illegally carrying a weapon. This law makes it possible to undertake large scale seizures of arms in the countryside from both landed and landless persons.


The fight for the agrarian reform and its victims

11. According to information received by the Commission, the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) had a budget of 1.25 billion dollars in 1995, which it hoped would suffice to settle some 40,000 families during the year. The present administration has stated that it expects to settle 280,000 families during the four years of its mandate.

12. To that end, the position of Special Minister of Agrarian Reform was created in May of 1996. This Ministry informed the IACHR that it has been in continuous dialogue with the agencies that represent land claimants: the National Confederation of Farm Workers and the Movement of the Landless.

13. At the same time, it indicated that the agrarian situation is "critical" and that there exist numerous conflicts and de facto occupations, which in August of 1996 included 50,000 rural families living in ramshackle camps in the squatter areas, with problems of health, work and education, as well as confrontations with the landowners and police forces.

14. The plan now being carried out by the INCRA grants a provisional title to the land assigned, based on which credit in the amount of US$3,000 is automatically issued for food, housing and initial planting; and in the second year credit of US$7,500 per family (or US$15,000, if the family belongs to a cooperative) is given for planting and equipment. When the amount of the credit has been repaid, the "campesinos" are given permanent title of ownership.

15. As mentioned earlier, this situation between the real status and the constitutional postulates makes for a high degree of instability, and there are continuous disputes over the ownership and usufruct of land.

16. In April of 1996, in El Dorado de Carajas, 650 km south of Belem do Par�, 19 persons died and 40 were wounded in a confrontation resulting from a takeover of land by landless campesinos. To prevent their eviction and call attention to their plight, they blockaded Highway PA-150, which links Curionopolis and Maraba. The State Military Police, using war tactics to force them from the road after shooting into the air, aimed directly at the demonstrators, including bystanders in the surrounding areas. Some of the soldiers were also wounded by stones thrown by the demonstrators. The President of Brazil acknowledged the tragedy and the responsibility of the police for the abuse of force, and indicated his indignation over the incident, repudiating this type of action. Forensic pathologists indicated that ten of the dead had been executed when they had already been wounded.(9) That same night, the Governor of the State of Par� ordered that the police colonel who led the slaughter be placed in "disciplinary imprisonment."



Forced work and slavery

17. Article 6 of the American Convention on Human Rights contains the following provision:

Freedom from Slavery

1. No one shall be subject to slavery or to involuntary servitude, which are prohibited in all their forms, as are the slave trade and traffic in women.

2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor....(10)

18. For its part, the Brazilian Penal Code (Penal Code Article 149) prohibits the abasement of a person to conditions analogous to those of slavery, for which a penalty of two to eight years in prison is imposed; and it prohibits malicious persuasion of workers to take them to some other part of the national territory, for what the penalty is two months to two years in prison; and it prohibits impairment of the enjoyment of labor rights by means of fraud or violence, for which the penalty ranges from one month to one year, plus a fine (Penal Law, Art. 203).

19. A prominent sociologist from the University of Sao Paulo who has studied this subject has estimated that in 1993 the real number of victims of forced labor (or in conditions of slavery) was 60,000.(11)

20. The Pastoral Committee on the Earth documented 27 cases of forced or semi-forced labor in 1991, involving 4,883 workers; 18 cases with 16,442 workers in 1992; 29 cases involving 19,940 workers in 1993; and 28 cases with 25,193 victims in 1994. The Government has recognized the serious nature of the problem, but has not managed, to investigate more than two of the more than a dozen cases denounced in 1995.

21. The typical method used in this practice is to recruit the workers, generally in another state where there is extreme poverty accompanied by rural unemployment --such as Maranhao and Tocantins-- and offer them an attractive wage.

22. When the workers arrive at the plantation where they are supposed to work, they find that they are already "indebted" to the contractors for the transportation and meals provided. They also have to pay for their food and housing in the establishment, and the working conditions are much worse than promised--and usually illegal. Either because the wage is smaller than those offered or because the figure is based on the sum per hectare worked and the conditions are more difficult than described, the real wage does not suffice to cover the "debts" they are said to owe. At the same time they are told that they cannot leave the hacienda without paying those debts. When at times they attempt to do so, the contractors' hatchet men stop them with the help of firearms, which they will shoot if the threat does not suffice. Since most of the haciendas are in isolated locations, such attempts to get away are fraught with difficulties and danger.

23. Crimes of this kind, where workers are being hauled between states, compete to the federal courts with direct intervention of the Federal Police, which has shown to be less subjected to the political pressures that the States=military polices.

24. As indicated in the section on "Exploitation of Child Labor," in the chapter on "Violations against Minors," official documents report that two million children between the ages of 10 and 13 are working illegally, some of them as forced laborers in agricultural activities.


Government Actions

25. The Commission was informed by the Government that since legislation alone is not enough to eradicate forced labor, it has been implementing a number of mechanisms to suppress it. As part of this, GERTRAF, a body composed of representatives of the ministries of labor, environment, agriculture, land policy, welfare and social assistance, justice and industry, commerce and tourism, has been preparing, implementing and supervising comprehensive programs to suppress forced labor. GERTRAF also proposes regulations and coordinates the activities of the competent organs engaged in putting down forced labor, and works with the public ministries of both the federal and state governments, with the Public Ministry of Labor and with the federal police.

GERTRAF also holds monthly meetings with the National Forum against Rural Violence, a composite group made up of both public and private sector representatives, and with the Pastoral Land Commission and the National Conference of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG). During these meetings complaints are presented and inspection strategies discussed.

26. Since March 1996 the Mobile Inspection Group (GMF) has been in operation to strengthen the inspection system and to make sure that charges of forced labor are systematically investigated. The GMF, under the National Secretariat of Labor Inspection, consists of teams of specially trained and independent labor inspection agents who perform their inspection work throughout the country. In all, 26,242 workers were reached at the 83 business inspected in 1995. In 1996, 239 firms with 82,395 workers were inspected as a result of stepped up action. All reports of charges involving forced labor are forwarded to the Federal Public Ministry.

27. A major weapon for combatting the exploitation of forced labor is Order No. 101, of January 1996, of the Ministry of Labor. Under this order, if an employer is found by the mobile inspection team to have subjected workers a second time to degrading work conditions, this amounts to contravention of the social function of owned land and a detailed report is sent to the National Institute of Land Settlement and Agrarian Reform.

28. The National Human Rights Secretariat, under the Ministry of Justice, created a regulations subgroup which has been working since July of 1996. This body has proposed the establishment of mechanisms to make it easier to implement draft law 929/95. This law makes conduct that assists in or amounts to forced or degrading labor a crime. This draft law is now being discussed by the Constitution and Justice Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.


The situation in the southern part of the State of Par�. Forced work, attacks to work leaders, judiciary inoperance, and impunity.

29. A number of general complaints presented to the Commission, and reports on forced labor in various parts of Brazil led the Commission to investigate the subject and to visit districts where such conduct was alleged to be widespread and chronic--in particular, the southern part of the State of Par�. The Commission received ample testimony from officials in the Executive Branch and the State Judiciary, including the Governor, the President of the state's Supreme Court of Justice, judges, promoters of justice, lawyers, campesino leaders and members of the victims' families. Members of the delegation were given access to files and court hearings on cases of this type.

30. The Commission has receive information--about eleven municipalities in the southern part of the State of Par�--gathered by religious and labor organizations, which tells of 148 complaints against 95 haciendas in the region between 1969 and 1995. Of those claims presented to the police and the federal law authorities, only 47 instances of inspection are known to have been made by state agents(12), whether through the federal police, the Regional Labor Delegation or the civil police. In l8 of those cases, the state agents (275) failed to find evidence of forced labor; in 14 evidence of that crime was discovered; in one case, there were discrepancies in the reports of different state agencies; and the findings in another 14 are not known.(13)

31. Claims about 95 haciendas in southern Par� for the period 1969 to 1995, documented by the courts, and they show 13,322 workers in a situation of forced labor or semi-slavery, 904 of whom managed to escape. At least 90 were murdered; and 746 were set free by the authorities.

32. Over the 1994-1995 period, ten claims were documented in 10 haciendas. They indicated the existence of 2.744 forced laborers. In six cases 387 workers were able to escape; five were killed; and another five were reported to have disappeared, while 171 were freed in five proceedings by the authorities. Most of the forced workers were hired in Maranhao; others in the State of Par�. There were no arrests in any of the cases denounced in 1994 and 1995, and not a single person has been brought to trial.

33. The Commission was able to verify a number of typical cases in court documents and in interviews with judicial authorities and attorneys. At one hacienda (Sao Luiz) in the Municipality of Concepcion de Araguaia, 72 hired workers were taken from Maranhao in March of 1990 to work there, where they were subjected to conditions of forced labor and prevented from leaving by armed guards. In April of 1990, fourteen of them managed to escape and they presented the complaint. Despite all of the accusations and requests from the Public Prosecutor to defend the workers, as well as newspaper reporters, no inspection was carried out, although the workers who had escaped complained that still others were still being held in virtual slavery inside the hacienda. The existence of witnesses and the numerous accusations notwithstanding, the information in the Commission's hands shows that no judicial investigation of the crime has been conducted, and that the persons responsible have still not been punished. Quite the contrary" when a number of workers managed to escape and presented their claim to the police, the police proceeded to hold them in custody for two days.

34. In another case, at the Hacienda Espiritu Santo, where there were forty forced laborers in 1987, two of them tried to escape and one was murdered by the hacienda's hit men. The other was shot and left for dead; but he survived and was able to present the accusation. Years later, police and judicial procedures were conducted and led to the discovery of workers performing forced labor, some of whom were freed. To the time of the in loco visit by the IACHR (December, 1995), the investigation is still going on, and as yet no one has been arrested.

35. Then there was the case of the Hacienda San Antonio in July of 1986, where agents of the Federal Police surprised three armed men keeping watch on forced laborers to keep them from escaping. Some of them who had tried to get away were captured and tortured. The police set the workers free. The Attorney General's Office took eight years and four months to produce the claim, which was not presented until 1994. Thus far no one has been charged or arrested.

36. An example of the impunity prevailing is the case of a contractor, a former counselor and municipal mayor. The Commission had access to documentation alleging his participation over the past fifteen years in 26 crimes of forced labor at 17 haciendas--five of them in the years 1994 and 1995. There are five suits pending against him for five of those 26 cases: no procedure has been instituted in the other 25. He is also charged with various instances of homicide, but has never yet been convicted. When he was finally taken into custody after an order for his arrest had been in effect for almost ten years, this contractor continued his criminal activities from the prison and was released. In a number of cases he was not even sentenced to preventive prison, and is several of them when this had been ordered, the verdict was rescinded, based on statements from witnesses who stated that Mr. Andrade Chagas was known for his good conduct, and promise to appear at the judge's disposal.

37. In a number of these cases, this contractor was tried together with other persons who were his accomplices in various instances of murder and forced labor. When some of the accomplices were arrested, they found it easy to escape from the state prison.

38. Another example of impunity and judicial inaction is that of the Hacienda Vale do Rio Cristalino in the municipality of Santana de Araguaia. It is owned by an industrial firm, Volkswagen do Brasil. In 1983 and 1984, several hundred peons were engaged to clear the land there. They were treated like slaves: were paid no wages, told they would be killed if they tried to run away, and were mistreated and tortured when they attempted to do so. Their situation was denounced by fugitive workers and a delegation of interparty state deputies visited the company and confirmed the statements in the accusations, which were documented in a report from one of the state deputies, the title of which was "Slavery on the Rio Cristalino." The respective judge received the claims in 1984 and requested police intervention. The police delegate in Araguaia confirmed the accuracy of the accusations, but presented no charges. In 1983, the State's Secretary of Public Security himself presented an urgent request to the Governor, asking for a new police investigation. Despite the national and international publicity--owing to the importance of the company that owned the hacienda--thirteen years after the incidents, there is no evidence or information showing that the investigation was completed or that the guilty parties were even identified, let alone charged, be they the material perpetrators or the proprietors responsible.

39. In a recent case that is an equally noteworthy example, on July 16 1995, fiscal agents of the Labor Delegation, accompanied by agents of the Federal Police witnessed in flagrante delicto at the Hacienda Sucuapar� in Santa Maria das Barreiras, Par� the existence of 52 workers performing indentured labor, who were released at that time. The contractor involved is allegedly the same contractor mentioned above. The Labor Inspectors prepared the administrative and labor-oriented report. According to the testimony received, the Federal Police, on the other hand, neither produced the in flagrante report nor did they launch the pertinent investigation process. The Civil Police completed an investigation and the Attorney General's Office opened the criminal proceeding which is in progress. A decree calling for the preventive imprisonment of this contractor was issued in August of 1995. But it was rescinded in October of that year, since witnesses testified to his good conduct and offer to appear at the disposal of the court.

40. During its visit to the area, the Commission's delegates together with the delegates from the Ministry of Justice and Foreign Affairs, received direct testimony from family members of the workers assasinated, from labor union leaders, prosecutors, judges, municipal, civil and religious authorities. There was unanimity that there is a situation in which both people and many authorities are scared of the power of criminal groups, and impotent against impunity. They informed the IACHR that this is the result of inaction, negligence and incapacity of the police and the courts; and to the notorious connections between these criminal groups and some authorities, and even the intimidation under which these authorities are.

41. The consequences of this chronic violation of human rights go far beyond the exploitation of workers and the murders and mistreatment of those who try to escape or those who try to defend them. Three of the previous presidents of the Rural Workers' Union in the region were murdered. The current president, a relative of one of those who were killed, has received threats on various occasions from persons who are associated with illegal contractors. Other recipients of continuous threats are the lawyers who defend them, in particular the religious of the Pastoral Commission on Earth, Father Ricardo Rezende and Father Henri Burin des Roziers. Trials are delayed year after year--and when they do start, they struggle through tortuous and futile labyrinths which many years later end up in a file cabinet. Culprits who have been tried dozens of times, continue their criminal operations brazenly, exhibiting the product of their nefarious activities by means of their ill-gained wealth and making a public display of their impunity and ability to scoff at justice.

42. Reliable information that the Commission has obtained indicates that the judiciary of the state of Par� operates so as to facilitate impunity and the continuation of organized crime in southern Par�. Among the most salient events that occurred in the closing months of 1996 was the suspension of the proceedings against investigator Lucival Haroldo Sampaio Cruz, of the Civil Police of Xinguara, who is accused of facilitating the escape of Wanderley Borges de Mendon�a, a murderer who convicted in the homicide of a judge in Goi�s, and who was being tried in Xinguara (southern Par�) for two additional homicides. Wanderley worked as the manager of Jer�nimo Alves de Amorim, who is accused of being the chief of an organization of paid gunmen at the service of landowners and contractors, and who ordered several crimes, including the homicide of Expedito Ribeiro de Souza, president of the Rural Workers Union (Sindicato de Trabalhadores Rurais) of Rio Maria, in 1991.

43. The suspension of the proceedings against the police agent as of July 1996 is in addition to the delay on the part of the Police in executing the arrest warrant of the police agent in Bel�m. This climate of uncertainty was aggravated in January 1997, when paid gunmen known to be linked to the local landowners murdered three unarmed rural workers at the Santa Clara estate (fazenda Santa Clara), in the vicinity of Ouril�ndia do Norte.

44. Judges and promoters hamstrung by the complexities of an inoperative legal system and by the fear of adopting legal interpretations that could permit greater effectiveness. Federal authorities who are far away and objectively interested now and then in the problem, but always with weak and ineffectual measures. And a population whose ability to exercise its rights of meeting, association, freedom of trade and work (and even political freedom) are severely diminished by the presence of the parallel power of these perverse enterprises for the unlawful exploitation of workers.(14)



45. Based on the above mentioned the Commission concludes that:

a. Brazil has a history of acute inequality in the distribution of land and as regards economic opportunities in the rural areas. Even though the state and authorities have the capacity, pursuant to the Constitution, to resolve the situation, it persists. While the present administration has initiated programs to reduce the seriousness of the problem and to facilitate access to land and credit for small producers, these measures are of limited scope, and in particular in the North and the Northeast, situations of poverty and widespread inequality in the enjoyment of basic rights persist.

b. The frictions and situations of tension provoked by the unequal distribution of land and credit will give rise to confrontations that create the conditions for excesses in repression and human rights violations.

c. The same situation of poverty and the lack of opportunities brought about by the poor distribution of access to land and services leads to the exploitation of rural workers in conditions of servitude. The Commission confirmed the existence, in Par�, of groups that take advantage of these conditions to lead workers from this and other states in semi-slavery, and establishing a climate of insecurity and illegality through physical assaults against both the workers and those who defend them. Their impunity is assured by the sluggishness and inoperative nature of the judicial system, as well as by the ineffectiveness of the authorities when it comes to preventing and punishing their activities.

d. The Commission recognizes the series of legislative, administrative, and police measures undertaken by the Government to solve the human rights problems in relation to the possession and usufruct of the land and the servitude of the labor force. The Commission also recognizes that these measures are properly directed and that the magnitude of these problems makes it difficult to solve them. But this must not lead one to lose sight of the state's responsibility to solve them, and the need for a full-fledged political will on the part of the Government to implement such policies and the necessary measures, and for all people to understa nd the urgency and importance of solving them.

46. Consequently, the Commission recommends:

a. Expand the action of the Ministry of Agrarian Reform and of its implementing entities so as to accelerate its action and offer opportunities for access to the land and credit to poor families.

b. Expand and deepen the policies, systems, and measures for negotiations as a means of reducing tense confrontations and situations, and in turn accelerate the prior process of redistribution of land and credit. Implement firm guidelines for handling the ongoing protests against agrarian inequality, so as to ensure respect for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, life, humane treatment, and liberty by the federal and state security forces.

c. Adopt legislation and effective policies to put an end to servitude and the actions of contractors and criminals who perpetuate their existence. Create special conditions of security and full observance of the rights of trade union leaders and rural workers, especially in the areas with the largest number of allegations with respect to the persistence of rural servitude.

d. Establish special standards and procedures for offenses, related to the exploitation of human labor under servitude, and for crimes, threats, and illegal associations entered into for the purpose of perpetrating and maintaining such situations. Adopt or implement, as the case may be, legislation and measures aimed at making such offenses federal crimes, and to enforce such laws strictly at all levels of the police and judiciary.

e. Establish special measures to protect those who defend the human rights of the rural workers, and in areas where they are especially exposed to risk, in particular in southern Par�, implement special measures to make the monitoring, investigation, judgment, and punishment of those who violate the prohibition on servitude, whether they are intellectual authors or their direct accomplices.

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1. Special Minister of Agrarian Reform, Paul Jungmann. July 29, 1996, Associated Press.

2. In 1977, a case was judged for the buyer of 4.7 million hectares of dense vegetation wetlands, whose title was suspect, recently bought for $6 million. This title and many others like it pertain to enormous tracts of land that were awarded by the Portuguese Crown to courtiers; the ownership of these lands was later challenged by de facto settlers. The state of Para is going to court to nullify or reject those claims. In accordance with a study made by the Friends of the Earth ecology organization, only 10% of these Amazon lands have clear titles. Wall Street Journal, January 30, 1997.

3. Latin America Weekly Report, May 2, 1996.

4. Pastoral Land Commission, June 5, 1996.

5. National Agricultural Workers Confederation, May 28, 1996. Associated Press.

6. Pereira, Rosalino Pinto da Costa Rodrigues, "Agrarian Reform: Legislation, doctrine and jurisprudence," Belem, CEJUP, 1993.

7. These constitutional provisions are regulated mainly by law 8629/93 and supplementary law 76 of 1993.

8. In sending the initial petition for expropriation within the maximum term of 48 hours, the judge must issue to the petitioner, that is, the government, possession of the rural property expropriated for social reasons for purposes of the agrarian reform.

9. Latin American Weekly Review, May 2, 1996.

10. Article 6 sets out exceptions for cases of imprisoned persons and allows as part of the sentencing, in certain conditions, military service, service for situations of danger that threaten the existence or the well-being of a community, or service that is part of normal civic obligation.

11. Dr. Jose de Sousa Martins, quoted in Jornal do Brasil, June 7, 1992.

12. In this connection, the Government of Brazil reported to the IACHR that after promulgation of Law 9437/97, which sets the conditions for registering and bearing arms, and defines crimes and punishments for infractions of the law, the Ministry of Justice conducted, in April 1997, an arms seizure operation in Southern Para for the purpose of strengthening the presence of public powers in the region and to protect citizens' rights. This operation, which took three weeks, was conducted jointly by the Federal Police and the Army. Their targets were gunmen, smugglers, irregular lumbermen and prospectors, traffickers and others involved in attacks. To do this, 206 mobilized federal police agents used 26 vehicles, one helicopter, and one airplane. The items seized were weapons, ammunition, chain saws and lumber extracted illegally. In Xinguara, 11 workers found to be held in circumstances similar to slavery were liberated. The Federal Police intends to repeat this operation once again this year.

Similar operations to this are being studied for other regions. Also being studied by the National Secretariat of Human Rights is a proposal to establish a working group to settle conflicts in sensitive regions. This group would be capable of providing a quick response to emergency situations and guaranteeing the state's presence as a protector of human rights.

13. The 11 municipal districts are: Conceicao do Araguaia, Eldorado, Ourilandia, Redencao, Rio Maria, Sao Geraldo, Sao Felix do Xingu, Sao Geraldo, Tucuma, Xinguara e Redencao.

14. REZENDE FIGUEIRA, R., "Investigation of Forced Labor in Southern Para," letter to the IACHR, Rio Maria, Para, December 1995.