Newsbrief: Crackdown in Sao Paulo's "Crackland" Stirs Criticism 3/18/05

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https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/379/saopaulo.shtml

A police crackdown on crack cocaine users and homeless people in the central Sao Paulo area known as Cracolandia (Crackland) has drawn criticism from Brazilian harm reduction groups. Beginning early this month, a joint action by federal, civil, and military police known as Operation Cleansing has targeted residents of the poor inner city neighborhood for removal as part of an urban development scheme by Mayor Jose Serra.

crack in Brazil
Brazilian press accounts described policemen attacking homeless people and crack users even as Mayor Serra walked down Rua Triunfo declaring that his administration would take a strong stance against illegality without resorting to violence. "They come in here beating everyone up and saying we have to go," one area resident told reporters. "We're drug users, but we're people, too," said another.

But even as police were sweeping the area, harm reduction workers from the Centro E de Lei were setting up shop for their thrice-weekly rounds in the "Stonermobile," a vehicle from which workers dispense condoms, pipe stems, tissues, and lip balm to the at-risk population in an effort to reduce the spread of disease. "This population doesn't have the habit of going to the doctor, and when they do they are often mistreated, so instead we come to them, explained E de Lei director Naime Silva.

According to Silva, Operation Cleansing is doomed to failure, not only because Cracolandia residents have nowhere to go, but also because the mayor and the police failed to coordinate their action with other organizations working with the population there. "If it is not coordinated, it will not work," said Silva. "The medical center in Campos Eliseos, which does wonderful work, was not consulted. We at E de Lei were only told of this the day before it occurred. Only the police were consulted," she said.

E de Lei is not the only group criticizing the offensive on Cracolandia. Brazil's largest drug reform network, the Brazilian Harm Reduction Association (ABORDA), passed a resolution criticizing the crackdown as it met for its fifth annual meeting last week in Campo Grande, Mato Grasso do Sul. The association "repudiates the repressive moves and the 'cleansing' that has been occurring in downtown Sao Paulo," the motion said.

"The so-called decay of downtown Sao Paulo, as well as other urban areas, is a result of the social inequality that has haunted our country for decades and not a result of the presence of one or another social group," ABORDA maintained. "Drug use is a matter of public health; the role of police repression serves only as a device to excite the media."

But with the Brazilian media constantly hyping drug use and violence (and neglecting the nexus between prohibition and drug-related violence), such campaigns are good politics for media-savvy politicians like Mayor Serra.

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Issue #379 -- 3/18/05

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Editorial: How to Launch a Nationwide Drug Menace | Alaska Measure to Recriminalize Marijuana Headed for Hearings Next Week | The UN Vienna Meeting: Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full? | Marijuana Regulation Efforts Moving Forward in Nevada and Vermont | Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs More than $7 Billion a Year -- and Doesn't Work, Says New Report | Coasters to Stop the Drug War | Events and Conferences Coming Up for Drug Reformers -- Come Out and Be a Part of It | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: US Drug War Hurts Women, Says New Report | Newsbrief: Welfare Bill Amended to Cut Funding to States That Fail to Drug Test Welfare Recipients, But None Currently Do | Newsbrief: Police in Missouri Town Seek to Overturn Marijuana Reform Ordinance | Newsbrief: Heroin Maintenance Study Now Underway in Vancouver | Newsbrief: Vancouver Sun Says Legalize It | Newsbrief: UN Predicts Cocaine Price Increase, Cites Colombia "Success" | Newsbrief: European Drug Think-Tank Calls for Legalizing Afghan Opium Crop -- Afghan Government Reaction Mixed | Newsbrief: Crackdown in Sao Paulo's "Crackland" Stirs Criticism | Media Scan: Tony Papa on Artists Against the Drug War for Alternet, Slate on the WTO and Marijuana Laws, Vancouver Sun on Marijuana Legalization, UK Overdosing on Opiates Article | This Week in History | MAPS Benefit Auction | The Reformer's Calendar


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