Mar 31, 2009

Comment - Drugs: a time for violence and blaming

A colleague from the Eurodrug e-group astonished about the news I sent them (about Brazilian government authorities blaming drug users for the drug trafficking violence), asked me to better clarify this current relation, that seems to be so obvious to the majority of people in Brazil. That was my response:

I can't really say when this kind of statement started coming from authorities in Brazil (maybe Luiz knows) but it's very current in our media, specially when fighting among drug trafficking groups or between them and the police, restarts in the slums of Rio de Janeiro (to be more precise).

It was recently published in one of the major Brazilian newspapers with the title: Drugs: time for violence and blaming - a report of the tendency to blame drug users for the drug war. This news mentions Hillary Clinton's recent declaration about the drug war in Mexico and the partial blame she attributes to America's huge demand for drugs. She also takes some responsibility for the flow of guns from the US to Mexico as a major factor of the escalating violence. In the same news, they show the most recent declaration of the Public Security Secretary of Rio de Janeiro state - José Mariano Beltrame - attributing blame to drug users for the violence related to drug trafficking gangs.

The idea is to over simplify a very complex issue that violence is, in Brazil (and probably in Mexico as well). In their idea, if there was no drug use in Brazil (and in the world), there will be no violence in the slums of Rio. If drug users stop buying drugs from drug traffickers (called Cartels in Mexico) these violent criminals would have no money to buy heavy guns and would not be fighting each other to take the power over trading territories, killing thousands a year and bringing fear to the community. So we have no peace, because there are too many drug users in the world.

Is this unbelievable, right? But this is our reality. There's always somebody saying this outrage in our media and not long time ago there was a drug campaign on TV that showed a reaction chain that starts with a guy buying some drugs, and ends up with someone being killed by a trafficker with a gun (I could not find it at You Tube yet). That's the idea that they want to pass along, thinking that, this will be a very efficient way to convince people to stop using drugs and magically end with the violence in Brazil.

Why this will not help?

1- This, of course, would never work to reduce demand for illicit drugs. Even if all Brazilian users can magically stop using drugs, what about the international market, isn't it true that the majority of drugs only pass by Brazil?
2- What is the point on finding another source of guilty feelings for drug addicts, that already suffer from many, specially those coming from moral and religious beliefs? And even with only those last two big ones, many can't stop using, and guilty and shame only pushes people away from treatment.
3- The origins of crime and violence in the slums of Rio (and other places in Brazil) are far more complicated than that. Even if there was no demand for drugs, or if there was no drugs what so ever, we would still struggle with crime and violence, only the object would be another (maybe kidnappings, bank, car, home robberies, who knows?!). Violence in Brazil is a result of a huge social inequality and a lack of opportunities, good jobs, and social and educational support for the poor.

So why they keep saying those things on TV?

1- because they are mean?
2- or because they truly believe that?

Maybe both, but I believe they are mean and as they can't finish with drug traffickers, because they are powerful and have guns they will try to end with drug users that are weak, disorganized and that have only some minor organizations and politicians that try to defend them, sometimes.

But we, the minor organizations, will be confronting them, each time they say something like that, and through other actions help drug users to fight for their rights and don't let anyone minimize the knowledge and the power they have as citizens.

If you can read Portuguese, please see other related news in my blog.

Post: Drogas: tempos de violência e de culpas - JB online - 29/03/2009
and at

I hope I could answer your question! : )
Fell free to pass it along.

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