Brazilian World War II workers fight for recognition





In the Brazilian Amazon, long-forgotten workers drafted in to help the Allies in World War II are dreaming of a home they left when they were still in their teens.

Now in their mid-80s, they are awaiting the outcome of legal moves that may finally bring them the recognition and compensation they were promised 67 years ago.

In 1943, while the US, Britain and their allies were fighting on the battlefields of Europe, North Africa and the Far East, thousands of impoverished Brazilians were being urged to do their own patriotic duty.

Manuel Pereira de Araujo remembers the day that would change his life forever as he joined the ranks of the "rubber soldiers".

"An army official came to my town and told us we could join the fight on the front line in Italy or go to the Amazon. He said we would become heroes in the rubber battle and get rich tapping rubber," he said.

The recruitment drive was part of an agreement signed by Brazil and the US.With the main rubber-producing country at the time, Malaysia, under Japanese occupation, and synthetic rubber not available on the scale needed to supply the war effort, the US needed a reliable source of rubber.

Subsistence farmers

The Washington Accords required Brazil to supply all the latex it could in exchange for $2m (which would be some $25m today) from the US.


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