Volkswagen faces legal ire in Brazil over ‘slavery-like’ practices in 1970s

  • Former labourers have accused Volkswagen of abuse and violence at a time when there was a military dictatorship was in power in Brazil.
File photo of Volkswagen logo. (REUTERS)
File photo of Volkswagen logo.

Volkswagen is facing the heat in Brazil after allegations that the car maker was guilty of using ‘slavery-like’ practices during the 1970s and in the first few years of 1980s. Facing charges of human rights violations, the German automaker has been summoned before a labor court in Brasilia, as per a report in German media.

The allegations pertain to plans of Volkswagen to construct a large agricultural site near the Amazon basin for meat trade. Reports suggests that labourers were brought on to clear the land which was spread across around 173,000 acres. But the accusation is that at this point in time, Volkswagen was guilty of ‘human trafficking’ and ‘slave-like’ practices, apart from massive human rights violation with either abuse, violence or both. It is further alleged that those who tried to escape and were caught were subjected to mistreatment and often disappeared without a trace.

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This was also a time period when a military dictatorship was in power in the country.

In 2020, Volkswagen had agreed to pay around 36 million reais or $6.4 million in compensation. "We regret the violations that occurred in the past. For Volkswagen, it is important to deal responsibly with this negative chapter in Brazil’s history and promote transparency," Volkswagen Executive Hiltrud Werner had said at the time.

In the face of new summon, Volkswagen has once again stated that it is taking matters at hand seriously. “We can assure you that we take the possible events at Fazenda Rio Cristalino, to which the investigation by the Brazilian investigating authorities refers, very seriously," the company reportedly told Reuters. "Please understand that we are not commenting further due to possible legal proceedings in Brazil."

First Published Date: 31 May 2022, 11:27 AM IST
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