Mashengu wa Mwachofi former parliamentarian, Kenya

By becoming a British colony, you actually became a property, both the country and the people. And, if you look at history, the natives were not recognized as human beings. So, all of you are total property of the Empire. In the particular district I come from, the natives refused to work on those plantations. And if they did come to work, they would come on their own time. Sometimes, they would not come. So, that is why you introduce labor laws through the “ kipande system.” Thekipande system is a system of registration, where every male, the moment you turn 16 you have to have a labor record, and that is the one that is used for ensuring that all male laborers would work, and that is why the colonial labor laws really were slave laws.

Miriam Campos Ministry of Indigenous People, Bolivia In fact, now in the 21st century, we still have families that are captive. We call them “captive” or “retained” but in fact they are slaves. This is the real world. They are slaves, because they do not receive any pay for their work. They have debts that they transfer from generation to generation. They cannot even leave the farms because they are indebted to their bosses. And it is not only individuals but whole families. The children work. They do not go to school because they have to work. Work in exchange for what? Nothing, only food.


Having had their natural economy destroyed forced the people to work for their new masters. It is estimated that today 60 to 80 million people still live in slave-like conditions all over the world. They work sometimes with their families in rural areas on plantations and in mines, as well as in cities in exchange for food and shelter.

Maria Luisa Mendonça Rede Social President, Brazil

Sao Paulo is the largest state that produces ethanol in Brazil and at the same time it is the richest state. And, just to give you an example, last year 17 workers died in the space where they work—they died of exhaustion. Another 419 workers have died in consequence of their work, in addition to several cases of slave labor in the sugar cane workers that the Ministry of Labor has registered.

Jaime de Amorim Coordinator, Landless People Movement, Brazil

The grower sees the worker as a slave. They have not rebelled, so today growers have a much easier way to accumulate wealth than during slavery. Back then, the boss was the slave’s owner. He had to take care of the slave’s health and food; he had to take care of shelter even if it was the slave’s quarters. Today the boss has no such concerns. He just has to drive the truck to the outskirts of the city; the truck loads up, he takes them back. No more worries. Once the cutting is done, the worker, who lives on the outskirts, has to find another way of surviving, selling popsicles or popcorn. Kids go into prostitution, into drugs; they go find other alternatives in the world of crime.

Cane Cutters Pernambuco State , Brazil (15:00 )

Antonio: We were given a lot of promises before we came here. We would be given everything we need: bottles, boots—a complete set. But when we got here we did not find anything. We have to wake up at 1 a.m. without even a fire. There are only four fire burners for 80 people to cook with. We need to wake up at 1 a.m. to fix breakfast; if not, we do not have breakfast.

Edinaldo: The water we use has rust in it. We take a bath today, tomorrow we are sick.

Antonio: The equipment came bit by bit. The hat first, then came the boots and even now, some work barefoot because they did not get the equipment.

Edinaldo: I have been working here for four months. They took my work permit and did not return it to me. I talked to a lot of managers who kept lying to me, without returning my permit.

Antonio: By the time we get here it is 3:30 a.m.; some get here at 4:00 but usually we arrive from our sheds at 2:30 or 3.

Edinaldo: To get a daily wage, we need to cut 40 bundles, or 32 when the cane is as hard as this. If we do not do it, we do not get paid.

Antonio: We make 12 Reais and 34 cents per day [$6.50].

Edinaldo: They do not pay us well here. They pay us but rob us of half.

Antonio: What we eat is cornmeal, the meal of the poor; sometimes a cookie, when we bring one, buy one, and beans.

Edinaldo: I have 6 children. What I make here, if I eat it all, I go home with nothing.

Antonio: The problem is as follows: whoever gets land, gets a home. This time code has been inserted in the transcript every fifteen minutes (approximately) to allow readers to find segments on the DVD.