Reporters on the Job

Rich and Poor, Side by Side: A trip into the Amazon rainforest in Brazil reminded correspondent Andrew Downie that things are not always what they seem. Andrew traveled with a law-enforcement team to witness efforts to free slaves "hired" by landowners to work deep in the forest. He was shocked by what he saw - but not always in ways he anticipated.

"While what they were enduring was terrible, I wasn't that surprised by the conditions these slaves live in - I've seen worse poverty in Brazil," Andrew says. "What's shocking is that not far away you see very rich people with very large houses. They have swimming pools and basketball courts, and 4x4 vehicles that are larger than anything I've ever seen. And they know that nearby are these people living in abject poverty."

Andrew was also surprised by his reaction to the rancher who hired the slaves. "I told him that I saw the expression on his face as he was confronted by the antislavery unit, and he responded that he was in a state of shock, because this was how business was done. He didn't really seem to be a bad guy - to him, this was the culture. He hired a man to hire his workers, and the man did what everyone else does in hiring hands."

But the people who had freed the slaves were unmoved. "They told me that everyone thinks it's OK because they know that others do it. But they felt that these raids to free slaves were not coming out of the blue, and that if they did not apply the law, nothing would change."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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