A Pointless War
In this issue of Drugs & Conflict, the background to the drugs-related violence in the Brazilian North-East marijuana cultivation area, as well as in the favelas in Rio, is described.
The illicit drugs industry fuels Brazil's tremendous social and criminal violence problems.The levels of violence related to drug trafficking in urban centres are comparable to a war zone. Guns kill more young people below the age of 18 each year in Rio de Janeiro than in Colombia. In the rural North-East of Brazil, in the socalled "marijuana polygon", the levels of violence are sometimes even higher due to brutal land disputes and conflicts related to the illicit cultivation of marijuana.
In this issue of Drugs & Conflict, the background to the drugs-related violence in the North-East marijuana cultivation area, as well as in the favelas in Rio, is described. The new drug law that is being evaluated in Congress is also reviewed. Although the new law is a step forward for making a clear distinction between a trafficker and a user, the question remains whether that will effectively address the problem give the limited scope of the new law.
It is clear that drugs are not the root of the problem and that current drug control policies only boost the violence that accompanies social conflicts in Brazil.This is a enormous challenge for the government of president Lula. In coalition with other reform-minded nations, Brazil could help construct a harm reduction policy in the area of drug control, comprising the complete chain from production to consumption - a policy in which the cure is not worse than the disease.