We were scared to say anything as it was clear he

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"Wewerescaredtosay anything,asitwas clearhewoulddoanythinghewantedtous.verysoonwe realized that he wasn't goingtopayus.When we askedformoneyhewould beatus.SomeofmyfriendsfromBahia ran away,but the gato chased after them withdogsand caught them. He broughtthem backatgunpointandbeat them infrontofus.He kept thedogsaround usatnightsothat they would barkifanyone triedtoleave. Fi-nallymyfriendsfromBahia managedtoslip awayatnight andescape.Notlong after that the gato disappeared, then in a fewdaystheemprei-tero[themanwho had subcontracted the charcoalmakingtothe gato]cameanditturned out that this gato had stolen his moneyaswell.
140IBRAZilUIUsedtoBeaGato..."So faritwould seemthatthe villainsofthis piece are the gatos.Theyexploit whole families and children, entice and trick workers into slav-ery, abuse them, and sometimes kill them.Thereisnoexcusing theircrimes. Nevertheless,notall gatos are slaveholders. Some pay theirworkers and treatthemwell. I would estimatethat10to15percentofbatterias arerunrelatively fairly. Unfortunately, these arenotthe ga-tosthatlast in the charcoal business, because gatos are just subcontrac-tors answerable to the big companiesthatown the land and the timber.Thisiseasier to understandifwe take a quick look at the economicsofcharcoal.Wecan understand how profits are made in charcoalifwe lookat one small batteriaoftwenty-five ovens with just four workers.Inone month, a batteria this size can maketentruckloadsofcharcoal,which are sold to the smelter in Minas Gerais for18,750reais (around$17,000).Take away the costoftruckingthecharcoal tothesmelter,and about12,000reais are left.Ifthe workersarepaid, insteadofen-slaved,itreally doesn't eat into the profits. At most a charcoal workermakes between200and300reaispermonth. So the whole workforcecosts1,200reais amonthin wages, plus another400-500for food.Throwin some tools and fuel and extras, and the monthly profitisstill100percent. Setting up the batteria in the first placeisvery cheap:itonly costs about100reais to build a charcoal oven, and the workers'shacks are mostly made from free wood. About3,000-4,000reais getsthe batteria into production, and those costs can be made back in thefirstmonthwith some profit left over. So, this one little batteria can po-tentiallyneta profitof100,000reais($90,000)peryear. True, a batteriacan only produce for twoorthree years before all the nearby forestiscut down,butitiseasy to move the charcoal camp when the timecomes.Thevery healthy economicsofcharcoal making raises an obviousquestion:ifthe labor costs are so low when compared to everything
BRAZilI141else, why bother to enslave workers? A wageof300reais amonthisn'tvery much,butthere are plentyofBrazilians who are ready to workfor that.Justaseasily workers can be hired for10reais aday,oratpiece ratesofso muchpercubic meterofcharcoal,orby thenumberofovens loadedor

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Term
Spring
Professor
JenniferTappan
Tags
disposable people

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