Brazil’s new unelected government is looking to introduce new measures that would “soften the definition of slavery” in the country in what is being seen as a roll back of many of the reforms introduced by the leftist government of President Dilma Rousseff.
The new measures will be introduced by the newly appointed Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi and are expected to worsen conditions for vulnerable workers in farming and food processing, according to a report by The Guardian Friday.
Maggi, one of the richest men in Brazil who owns the world’s largest Soya company, has proposed legislation that would separate “degrading conditions” and “exhausting shifts” from the definition of slavery, the newspaper reported, citing public record documents available online.
In February, Brazil's Ministry of Labor fined 340 Brazilian companies for slave labor practices, including forced labor and people working in degrading conditions for little or no pay in rural and urban areas.
The companies were included in a “dirty list" published by the Ministry of Labor of employers benefiting from modern slavery in the country. The list was part of the Rousseff government’s efforts to crack down on modern day slavery practices.
About 400 workers have been freed from slave-like conditions in Brazilian coffee plantations since 2002, according to rights groups and activists.
The Guardian also reported that the controversial billionaire and his lobby group have also been seeking to reverse measures introduced by Rousseff that acknowledged several quilombolos (territories inhabited by the descendants of runaway slaves), created 56 million hectares of conservation land and recognized Indigenous claims on other areas.
Maggi and the new government want to retake these lands and territories from their rightful owners and open them up for large-scale agriculture and cattle-ranching by massive corporations.
Maggi is an agribusiness mogul, known as the “Soybean King,” who has been accused of destroying large portions of the the Amazon rainforest in order to turn it into areas for soybean production.
Maggi received the Golden Chainsaw Award in 2006 from Greenpeace for being the Brazilian who most contributed to the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest.