Humans Sold as ‘Pets’ for Free Labor
A young man was sold for 300 dollars to a woman in Brazil who locked him up, together with 150 others, in a big garage to sew brand clothing; he was forced to eat, sleep and work in the same place, an hour sleep to give the mattress to the next man, was all he could aspire to.
‘The mattresses were rotten, the milk was sour and the meat, when available, hard and rotten’, recalled Rafael Quispe, a young, hard working Bolivian man who accepted a job abroad with high hopes of making a small capital. He listened to the sweet talk of a man who offered free tickets to Paraguay, that took him and his family directly to hell.
His body showing the stress, his soul struggling to leave the terror of slavery behind, he got to the attorney’s office to file his complain. PAT channel was there to interview him, and the first surprise was to know that this experience, was not his first.
He came back to Bolivia the first time with the minimum possible resources, and once again was confronted with the reality of my country: scarcity for young families. The pain of not having anything to feed his daughter and the lack of family support made his case extreme. He ended up accepting a sewing job again, this time in Brazil, where he thought it would be different.
‘My wife almost died because of the bad food’, he recalled in tears. ‘We were fed only water and bread… I never thought this could happen to me… twice’. ‘People are trafficking with us, promising good salaries that never come true’.
The attorney’s office detained the owner of the Rio Paraguay bus liner. ‘This is the bus line that took 150 of us to a false hope, God is great and I could find the person who sold the ticket to me, no one will suffer the same thing again, I will prevent it, with the help of God’, said Rafael.
The Attorney at Law in Santa Cruz, where Rafael is from, said the penalty for slavery and trafficking goes from two to eight years of imprisonment, besides paying for the damage infringed to the people. They shut down the offices of the bus liner and began their search for other people in the ‘business’.
But Rafael is not the first case in Bolivia, neither the last. Tarija, Potosí and Chuquisaca have provided labor for Buenos Aires, Argentina, and other big cities there, for the last four decades. Not all of them were slaves, neither badly paid. There are indeed success stories that when repeated, convince other Bolivians to take the route out. The last estimated number of Bolivians living in Argentina is … a million and a half people!
Other Bolivians chose Europe, especially Spain, where many of them ended up living in a state similar to slavery. Bolivian labor is appreciated abroad. Bolivian people are known for their hard work, their resilience, their capacity to suffer all kinds of inhumane conditions, and they are called ‘pets’ by the traffickers.
The population of Bolivians living in this land is about 10 million, according to recent projections made by the National Institute of Statistics. And the population of Bolivians living abroad is about other 10 million. This means this land has not been able to give them hope, or a decent job, to stay here all their lives. They are looking for ‘the American dream’ version everywhere they go. One of every two Bolivians has left the country in the last 50 years.
Why does this happen? According to the theory that I have created, The Ecology of Societies, this has to do with the survival strategy of this society. There are two kinds of survival strategies: the k and the r. Bolivia has an obvious r survival strategy.
There are many traits of the k and r survival strategies that make them interesting, but the one characteristic that has to do with migration is that the k strategy allows for the species to live in one place most of their lives, while the r strategy does not. Societies living in the r strategy are not supported by their part and parcel, because their ecosystem is not capable of holding them.
To change this, it is necessary to change the mindset of the population, it is necessary that each community acknowledges that the survival strategy must change towards the k set. This means working with societies as ecosystems, which includes changing the charge capacity of the ecosystem to hold the number of people who live there, and to make them supportive of each other and of the ecosystem’s resources. This means that human beings, natural resources and money will be considered equally important to the sustainable life of the ecosystem.
It is not a matter of being good or bad, from the left or from the right wing ideology. It is a matter of allowing new principles of coexistence, a new survival strategy that makes the real change, take place. Integrity plays a big role in this.
It will be interesting to see if my words find echo in this community or not. I hope that the reader starts thinking of this new concept: Ecology of Societies, and the Survival Strategies associated to this.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.