An ugly truth in the war on drugs

March 11, 2013

Fernando Henrique Cardoso , Ruth Dreifuss – The New York Times, 03/10/2013

This week, representatives from many nations will gather at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to determine the appropriate course of the international response to illicit drugs. Delegates will debate multiple resolutions while ignoring a truth that goes to the core of current drug policy: human rights abuses in the war on drugs are widespread and systematic.

Consider these numbers: Hundreds of thousands of people locked in detention centers and subject to violent punishments. Millions imprisoned. Hundreds hanged, shot or beheaded. Tens of thousands killed by government forces and non-state actors. Thousands beaten and abused to extract information, and abused in government or private “treatment” centers. Millions denied life-saving medicines. These are alarming figures, but campaigns to address them have been slow and drug control has received little attention from the mainstream human rights movement.

This is a perfect storm for people who use drugs, especially those experiencing dependency, and those involved in the drug trade, whether growers, couriers or sellers. When people are dehumanized we know from experience that abuses against them are more likely. We know also that those abuses are less likely to be addressed because fewer people care.

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Brazil’s fight against drug traffickers stretched thin along its porous borders

January 29, 2013

Juan Forero – Washington Post, 01/29/2013

The jungle frontier between Brazil and Bolivia is longer than the US-Mexico border, but the task of stemming the cocaine that drug officials say is flooding the country falls to a handful of Brazilian policemen.

In tiny border hamlets, the officers make their rounds, urging villagers to report what they’ve seen. In a speedboat, others patrol the Mamore river separating the two countries, guessing which of the countless motorised canoes is carrying drugs bound for Brazil’s big cities.

“Here, the problem is grave, with lots of drugs crossing constantly,” said Alexandre Barbosa, one of 35 federal police officers assigned to this sector in Rondonia state in far western Brazil. “You see this region, where the frontier is separated by a river. Every 100 metres, or sometimes less, you see a port. So you can move from one port to the other very fast.”

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Brazil tries to fight cocaine trafficking at huge, porous borders

January 25, 2013

Juan Forero – The Washington Post, 01/24/2013

The jungle frontier between Brazil and Bolivia is longer than the U.S.-Mexico border, but on a recent day the task of stemming the cocaine that counterdrug officials say is flooding the country fell to a handful of Brazilian policemen.

In tiny border hamlets, the officers made their rounds, urging villagers to report what they’ve seen. In a speedboat, others patrolled the Mamore River separating the two countries, guessing which of the countless motorized canoes was carrying drugs bound for Brazil’s big cities.

“Here, the problem is grave, with lots of drugs crossing constantly,” said Alexandre Barbosa, one of 35 federal police officers assigned to this sector in Rondonia state in far western Brazil. “You see this region, where the frontier is separated by a river. So there are many ports. Every 100 meters, or sometimes less, you see a port. So you can move from one port to the other very fast.”

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Sao Paulo crack addicts face obligatory treatment

January 14, 2013

BBC, 01/14/2013

Officials in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo are to begin making people addicted to crack cocaine get treatment.

A new law allows mandatory treatment for drug users in “advanced stages of addiction” and at risk of death. Social services, not police, will identify potential patients on the streets, the state government says.

A similar policy already targets addicted minors living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

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Death of boy, 10, sheds light on Brazil’s large-scale raids on ‘cracklands’

January 11, 2013

Rodrigo Viga Gaier – Reuters/NBC News, 01/10/2013

A 10-year-old Brazilian boy was hit by a car and killed on Thursday as he fled a drug sweep by police and social workers, reigniting debate over the government’s tough response to a surge in crack cocaine use.

The incident occurred around 4 a.m. on one of the main thoroughfares in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s main tourist destination, the city’s social welfare department said in a statement.

The boy, whose name was not released, was part of a large cluster of crack users who scattered as police and social workers approached.

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Brazil’s drug epidemic: welcome to ‘crackland’

January 2, 2013

Juan Forero – NPR, 01/01/2013

Brazilian health officials say an epidemic is taking hold — an outbreak of crack cocaine use nationwide, from the major cities on the coast to places deep in the Amazon.

It’s an image at odds with the one Brazil wants to project as the country prepares to host soccer’s World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics two years later. But the problem has become too big to ignore.

The Luz district of central Sao Paulo was once grand, with its old train station and opulent buildings. Now, this neighborhood is known as Cracolandia — Crackland.

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Brazil’s crack cocaine boom

September 11, 2012

Samantha Pearson – Financial Times, 09/11/2012

Curbing imports has been high on the Brazilian government’s priority list recently but it seems the authorities should be spending less time fretting about cheap Chinese cars and electronics and more time worrying about cocaine.

Brazil is the world’s biggest market for crack and the second biggest for overall cocaine use, according to new figures published by the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP). About 3 per cent of Brazil’s adult population (almost 6m people) has tried cocaine or some form of the drug.

They’re shocking stats in themselves, but even more so when you consider that Brazil doesn’t even have any significant coca plantations. A huge chunk of the white stuff comes from Peru and Bolívia.

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Brazil is world’s crack market: study

September 6, 2012

Sapa/AFP/Times,  09/06/2012

A survey by UNIFESP’s National Institute of Science and Technology for Public Policy on Alcohol and Other Drugs found that four percent of Brazil’s adult population, nearly six million people, have experimented with cocaine or its derivatives in their lives.

Among adolescents, the percentage reached three percent or 442,000 youths.

Over the past year, 2.6 million adults and 244,000 adolescents said they used the drugs.

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Brazil cracks down on cocaine trafficking

August 27, 2012

Hector Velasco – AFP, 08/27/2012

Faced with rising cocaine consumption linked to economic prosperity, Brazil is cracking down harder on trafficking along its borders with three top neighboring coca leaf producers: Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.

“Our country is making headway economically and rising income translates into higher drug use,” said Oslain Santana, head of the federal police’s anti-organized crime task force.

“Cocaine consumption is the highest in the south and the southeast, where 60 percent of the population and 75 percent of the country’s GDP are concentrated,” he added.

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Panetta targets drug and arms deals in South America tour

April 23, 2012

Viola Glenger – Bloomberg, 04/23/2012

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is embarking today on a week-long visit to Colombia, Brazil and Chile for talks on drug trafficking, arms deals and bolstering smaller militaries in Latin America and elsewhere.

His agenda includes potential military aircraft deals with Brazil and a request from Colombia for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aid to fight the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group, known as FARC, two U.S. defense officials said in briefing reporters before the trip.

Panetta also is looking to coordinate with the three regional powers to provide military training for smaller countries in Central America and Africa that are fighting the drug trade, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks in advance.

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