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Latin America: Brazilian Governor Says Legalize Drugs to Fight Crime

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #476)
Politics & Advocacy

The governor of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro told reporters last Friday that legalizing drugs could help stem the violent crime that is making the city of Rio one of the most dangerous in Latin America. In doing so, he took a swipe at United States-style prohibitionist policies.

favela neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro
"A lot of crime in my state and city comes from [drug] prohibition, many young people die in wars over drug selling spots," said Gov. Sérgio Cabral. He called for a discussion of drug legalization in Brazil and internationally. "Is the United States correct in its conservative policy on drugs? In my view, absolutely incorrect," he said.

In the favelas of Rio, drug dealers organized into "commands" control entire neighborhoods and have engaged in uprising and gun battles with police on numerous occasions in the past few years. More recently, paramilitary vigilante groups known as "milicias" have joined the fray, waging war against the commands. This all contributes to a murder rate of about 40 per 100,000, making violent crime a serious social and political problem.

Gov. Cabral campaigned on a pledge to reduce violent crime and moved early in his administration to send federal special police into the city to confront the commands. But so far, it hasn't worked.

"The governor is merely saying out loud what so many more think but fear to say," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Rio today is like Chicago under Al Capone -- times ten. Reforming drug prohibition won't be as quick and easy as repealing alcohol Prohibition was, but there's no hope for breaking the drug-crime nexus unless many more elected officials heed Governor Cabral's call."

Sérgio Cabral
Cabral's comments were greeted cautiously but enthusiastically by Brazil's leading anti-prohibitionist drug reform organization, Rio-based Psicotropicus. In an open letter, the group lauded Cabral for having "the guts to say what the vast majority of people who understand the workings of the drug economy don't have the courage to say." For Psicotropicus, congratulations are in order for a governor "who begins his term with a step in the right direction as he dares to propose paths not yet traveled toward the solution of the grave problems resulting from the criminalization of some psychoactive substances and the barbarian violence produced by such criminalization."

Psicotropicus worries that Cabral will not move forward, but retreat in the face of criticism from drug warriors and moralists. It urges the governor to stand firm and put together a commission to move toward an end to the drug prohibition regime. The life of the city is at stake: "A transition has to be made, one that among other things should reduce the war arsenal in the hands of the several criminalized groups who control the illegal trade of drugs," the group argued. "There is a civil war going on in Rio de Janeiro and we don't realize that one of its main reasons is that we don't control those illicit drugs but instead put them in the hands of outlawed groups to produce and distribute them. And then we mobilize the police to fight these groups who heavily arm themselves, violence explodes and the population is fucked. It couldn't be more stupid."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Genesis 1:29

G-d said, "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. And 30".

Should we be dependent 0n the U.S. or G-d????

Once upon a time the UN + US started a fite with G-d over Genesis 1:29.

Who is winning????

Tue, 03/13/2007 - 12:00am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

People have been here for thausnds of years and ive never heard of drugs being a problem and people have been doing then for this long as well but when we step in and make them illegal now there a problem and a big one at that i say we should just legalize them and get it over with and just let people die the way they want to

Wed, 10/24/2007 - 12:04am Permalink

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