Brazil drug gangs move to ban crack

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, August 20, 2012 9:47 EDT
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A statue of Jesus in Brazil's capital of Rio. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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Crack is whack, and even the most powerful drug gangs in Rio aren’t disputing that fact.

Amid a painful and violent uptick in crack-cocaine usage and facing increasingly successful police strategies pushing them out of the favelas, the most powerful drug gang in Brazil’s capital of Rio de Janeiro has opened up a public relations front, telling members of the press that they will no longer sell crack because it destabilizes communities.

Authorities in Rio aren’t buying it, however. They believe the new twist in strategy is part of a smokescreen to confuse continued efforts at pacification, a police strategy that’s successfully pushed heavily armed drug gangs out of many areas in Rio’s notoriously violent slums, where civilians all to often wind up as innocent victims of stray gunfire.

Pacification techniques factor heavily into the city’s plans to host the 2016 summer Olympics, especially since Brazilian officials do not want visiting athletes or tourists to see the city’s open-air drug markets or relatively common violent side. By pacifying areas near where the games will be held, authorities have succeeded in creating a relatively safe public space, gradually winning hearts and minds.

But now the drug gangs are trying to win them back, vowing to stop selling crack for the sake of the community. According to The Associated Press, it started with the leader of Comando Vermelho, Rio’s most powerful gang, watching his brother succumb to crack addiction. And once Vermelho stopped selling crack, others were persuaded to stop as well after seeing how it has destabilized their customer-base.

“Today we can say with certainty that we’re looking at the end of crack in Rio de Janeiro,” a lawyer for the gangs told AP reporter Juliana Barbassa.

This video is from The Associated Press, broadcast Monday, August 12, 2012.


Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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