You won’t believe who’s behind the decision to stop selling crack cocaine in the slums around Rio: the drug dealers themselves.
In the slums of Rio, in a metropolitan area that is home to 12 million people, teenage boys armed with automatic weapons sell cheap cocaine and marijuana in what has become a lucrative narcotics trade for the Brazilian city. But what has practically disappeared from the scene is crack, and the reason for its scarcity is even more surprising.
It’s not due to a police crackdown or government drug policy; it’s because of the drug lords themselves. Many dealers have actually stopped selling the drug in Rio’s slums on orders by drug bosses who found it too hard to control areas where crack took over. It’s ironic that the very criminals responsible for introducing the dangerous drug to their local communities are now shying away from it for the way it destabilizes those same communities.
Despite these reports, officials and local dealers are at odds over just who is responsible for crack’s waning availability in Rio’s slums. The police are all too happy to take the credit, while dealers suggest they have stopped pushing crack because they’ve seen what it can do.
Dealers who saw the drug take hold over the past six years, changing the landscape of these poor areas, have realized that unlike other drugs that are popular with Rio’s rich population, crack is staying close by. It’s why, in what seems like an attack of social conscience, many are signing on to kick crack to the curb.
Meanwhile, the government allocated special funds to combat it, including a $253 million campaign launched by President Dilma Rousseff in May 2010 to stem the drug trade. Last November, another $2 billion was allocated for the creation of drug treatment centers.
According to an estimate by the country's Security Committee of the House and the Federal Police, Brazilians consume between 800 kilos and 1.2 tons of crack a day, a total valued at about $10 million. It will take more than this one move to stop that, but in the war on drugs, even small victories are worth celebrating.
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