By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The president of the national congress, Renan Calheiros, has finally announced that the Brazilian ‘rubber soldiers’, who procured much needed rubber for the Allies during World War Two, will be paid in full and compensated for their work after a twelve year legal battle.
In 1943 the Brazilian government sent thousands of workers to the Amazon rainforest as part of a deal with the United States after Japan invaded Malaysia in 1941 which cut off their most important source of rubber, the key ingredient for making latex for weapons and vehicles.
55,000 mostly impoverished Brazilian’s were dispatched to the rainforest where many did not survive due to fighting among the men, diseases such as malaria, hepatitis and yellow fever as well as animal attacks from jaguars and snakes. A reported 20,000 men died in the sweltering heat and there are only 6,000 of the aptly nicknamed ‘rubber soldiers’ left alive today.
Seventy years on from the war, with many of the remaining men in their 80s and 90s, a new law was passed in the Brazilian national congress which has awarded all the present day survivors a one off payment of R$25,000 (US$11,300) each, 7,000 decedents of the deceased soldiers will also be given the compensation.
“Congress lives up to those who spent years of their life doing their national duty during the Second World War to help those who wanted to live in a free world,” said Congressman Marcio Bittar, while senator Anibal Diniz labelled the workers as “national heroes.”
During the Second World War Brazil sent around 25,000 men and women to fight in the Mediterranean and was the only South American country to send ground troops into battle. Brazil’s navy was also active across the Atlantic Ocean from 1942 until the end of the war in 1945. Rio de Janeiro has a monument (pictured) in memory of those who died during World War Two in Aterro, Glória.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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