Escalating riots in Brazil between police and drug dealers

Last Sunday the military police from the 16º Battalion of Rio de Janeiro was attacked by drug dealers from the favela “Comando Vermelho”. The reason behind this attack was because in this section of Rio, drug dealers pay the police to keep out from their business. In fact,last Tuesday morning the BOPE (Brigada de Operaçoes Policiais Especiais) took their territory back by entering into a scenario of war.

According to the Official Study on Firearms of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2007 there were approximately 875 million of firearms all around the world of which just the 3% belongs to Law Enforcement bodies while the biggest majority (74%) it is owned by civil society and for military resources it is 23% of the total of firearms.





The data regarding firearms and the illegal trafficking has not been updated since 2007, which is a remarkable issue. In fact, the latest data collected by the Official Study on Firearms by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are extremely outdated. Being the United Nations as worried as they claim to be regarding terrorism and being the main organ that deals with international peace and security, it is difficult to believe these claims, given the lack of current figures.


Favelas, frequently linked to the city of Rio de Janeiro, are one of the poorest neighbourhood of Brazil and nowadays mafias take advantage of this fact to carry out illegal acts such as weapons and drugs trafficking. Last years several killings happened in the area mainly committed by mafia members in order to expand its influence, with illegal firearms.


Fuente ABC Color

Surprisingly, for western society, police is involved in this mafia environment. Brazilian police is corrupted and Brazilians do not trust national security forces. According to Amnesty International, Brazil´s National Police is responsible for about 13% and 21% of murders in Rio including many other illegal acts.This is shown in last report made by Transparency International where Brazil holds the 79th position out of 176. This report takes into account the perception of corruption in the country

The results from this operation took 45 drug dealers into jail with around 32 machineguns apprehended. The estimated value of these weapons is around 1 million euros and most of the arsenal apprehended used to belong to the American government. The police has communicated that 100% of these weapons come from U.S and Russia.

Truthfully, It is seem to be that during the last decades huge efforts had been done regarding the reduction of firearms trafficking.  Both, international and national measures has been developed as for example the creation of different international organizations as the previous one mentioned (UNODC), or the development of  a more effective control of customs thanks to the support of the World Custom Organization. Others like the Brazilian government, according to La Nación, in 2011 announced the increasing security measures to fight the firearms trafficking.However, it has not reached the government expectations.Therefore this issue is still on the checklist from Governments and International Organizations.

Time to take a turn: Opening up for drugs

For years Europe has been hidebound and paternalistic about drugs legislations. Time to take the arguments under the loop and open up the debate.
Authors: Paloma Álvarez, Derek J. W., Suzanne Vink,
Raquel Envó, Alba Montoya


(Photo source: Indian Express)

Aside from a few countries that have partial or full decriminalization of certain types of drugs, most countries in Europe have strict prohibitions for all types of drugs. Research has shown many good reasons for reform, yet time and time again one-sided views and a special treatment are preferred.

In the Netherlands for example, back in 2007, a girl committed suicide while under the influence of mushrooms. Immediately the government banned most species of mushrooms. In perspective, worldwide 736, 000 people die of sugar and fat; 115, 000 of tobacco and 63, 000 of alcohol each week.  Time to shake up the debate and become more open-minded about how we  can truly make a healthier and safer society.

Moreover, an indispensable fact to mention is how criminalization of drugs has a negative consequence on people. In fact, as drugs are not regulated, it involves not only the use of unsafe drugs mixed with all sorts of things due to the lack of information, but also lower quality standards. Thus, by regulating drugs, the amount of people dying from overdoses will decrease since they would be knowing exactly what they are consuming and the appropriate amount to take, avoiding any risks.

An example to look at is Portugal, where drug decriminalization was approved in 2000, resulting in a decrease from 1,016 HIV infection cases to 56 in 2012, and overdose deaths have also declined from 80 on the year the law was implied to 16 in 2012.  Ricardo Fuertes, project coordinator at GAT, an organization for people living with HIV, says: “Usually the focus is on the decriminalization itself, but it worked because there were other services, and the coverage increase for needle replacement, detox, therapeutic communities, and employment options for people who use drugs”.

Besides, services among citizens would increase with the money saved in customs, legal and juridical systems.

Additionally, are different types of drugs really that addictive? It has been the favorite argument for strict regulations, but research might prove otherwise. Bruce Alexander showed addiction has more to do with social circumstances than with the actual chemicals. However, he did his experiments with rats, and rats are not people. Nevertheless, he might be onto something. Anneke Goudriaan (Professor Treatment of Addictions) explains: “Many substances are addictive for some people. How addictive a substance is depends on how strong the effect of the substance is and how long it has effect on the body”.

There is no need to immediately turn 180 degrees and overturn all existing legislation. However, we would serve ourselves and victims-to-be well if we would open up the debate. Let us take thorough research as the standard for our arguments instead of emotional statements based on fear. Making good policies is difficult, so much the more it is important to inform ourselves well.