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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 10:54 GMT
Brazil unveils anti-slavery plan
The people of the Amazon
Slavery still exists in remote areas
Brazil's newly installed President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has unveiled a plan to wipe out slavery, a practice which still persists in some remote areas of South America's largest country.

He says that the country needs tougher laws allowing farms where slavery occurs to be confiscated, as well as the political will to eradicate the practice.

In areas of the Amazon, there are frequent stories of landless peasants being lured to remote farms with promises of work only to find themselves caught in a web of debt from which they cannot escape.

They are charged exorbitant rates for everything from food and water to the tools they work with.

Armed guards stop them running away.

Fines ignored

A unit set up by the outgoing government has freed almost 850 slaves in the last two months alone.

But human rights groups complain land owners guilty of slavery only face a fine which is hardly ever paid.

Lula, as Brazil's first left-wing president is known, says he wants to change the constitution to allow the land of slave owners to be confiscated, but he said that more important than laws would be the determination to eradicate slavery.

Brazil was the last country in the Americas to officially abolish slavery in 1888 and it imported the most slaves from Africa.

Official estimates suggest that today there are still more than 25,000 enslaved Brazilians.

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