On January 28, 2004 Erastótenes de Almeida Gonçalves, Nelson José da Silva and João Batista Soares Lages were driving in the State of Minas Gerais to visit the property of a landowner who was suspected of employing slave labour when they were each shot in the head by individuals driving a Fiat Strada. Erastótenes de Almeida Gonçalves, Nelson José da Silva and João Batista Soares Lages were employed as auditor fiscale by the Brazilian Ministry of Labour to oversee compliance with Brazilian labour law. Part of their fob was to make on-site inspections of complaints. They were empowered to impose administrative fines and to recommend prosecutions. People holding the position of Auditor Fiscal are required to have a law degree but do not have membership in a bar association. Aílton Pereira de Oliveira, the driver of the vehicle, was found critically wounded and later died in hospital in Brasilia.
Slave labour is still very common in the State of Minas Gerais, but the Brazilian government has made its eradication a top priority. The three men from the Ministry of Labour had reportedly been previously threatened for their work trying to put and end to slavery. The Brazilian government has launched an investigation into this attack, and has offered financial compensation to the families of the deceased and set up scholarships for their children. Despite the government’s swift action to resolve this matter, allegations have emerged that members of the Brazilian military may have been involved in the attack . These concerns have been raised within the Brazilian congress and are being investigated.
Letter Written February 18, 2004 by Jenna Virk