March 21, 1999
Brazilian government team frees hundreds of slaves

                  RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- The government has helped free 777
                  people from slave labor since 1995 but hundreds more people still work
                  against their will in Brazil, a newsweekly reported Sunday.

                  The Employment Ministry has set up an armed team to rescue enslaved men,
                  women and children, said the newsweekly, which cited previously
                  undisclosed ministry figures.

                  The team targets the poor central and northern Brazilian states of Mato
                  Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Maranhao and Para, where unemployed
                  workers are attracted to farms by offers of work.

                  Some farm owners force the workers to work as long as 15 hours a day at
                  unpaid manual labor and threaten them with violence if they try to leave, the
                  magazine reported.

                  One 32-year-old worker, freed three weeks ago, told the newsweekly his
                  brother was killed and that he himself was threatened at the funeral.

                  Though Brazil in 1888 became the last country in the Americas to abolish
                  slavery officially, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso admitted in 1995
                  that the practice continued and he vowed to combat it.

                  In 1998, a farm owner in Para state was given a 2 1-2 year suspended
                  prison sentence for keeping slaves. A second farm owner, accused of
                  enslaving 220 workers in the same state, is currently on trial, the
                  newsweekly said.

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.