Illegal Drugs–Contributing to the Violence?

After reading yesterday’s post about the growing violence in Sao Paulo, it’s natural to question why it occurs. Again, as I said, I’m far from being an expert on Brazilian sociology, but based on the information I’ve read, much of it boils down to power struggles to control the drug trade. Of course, there are other factors, such as poverty, but these causes all become intertwined, and drug trafficking is a major reason. Brazil, and especially Sao Paulo, is a major exchange point in the drug trade between Latin America, the USA, and Europe. In fact, there are more drugs apprehended at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport than any other airport in the continent. I’ve seen it first hand, while visiting female inmates at a women’s prison in the city, the majority of whom were just poor women, caught at the airport for being drug mules—desperate people who made a bad decision and became mixed up in the drug trafficking trade, but I’ll write more about that another time.

With Brazil’s growing economy, size, and location, it is an ideal place for illegal drug traffickers to do business. Think about it, Brazil has roughly 11,000 miles of borders, and much of that land is jungle, and difficult to regulate. It’s fairly easy to pass through the borders, and end up in the larger metropolises to distribute illegal substances. As a major city near the ocean, Sao Paulo has become the perfect drug hub between countries such as Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay to the rest of the world.

Brazil has about a year and a half before the World Cup in 2014 to get its act together, so it makes sense that the military police are trying to gain control of the organized crime related with the drug trade. Nevertheless, the drug cartels won’t give up so easily, hence the surge of recent violence.  It’s an uphill battle, especially when faced with the fact that it isn’t just the gangs that the police have to deal with, but rather, a global societal problem, with an ever-growing demand for illegal drugs. According to an article from Forbes Online, the estimated annual revenue for illegal drugs is $300 billion.

As long as the demand for illegal drugs continues in the USA and Europe, I don’t believe this nightmare has an end in sight. Of course, efforts have been made to legalize substances such as marijuana, which certainly would help with regulation, but in the end, I feel that it would just contribute to the consumption of more drugs. So, the next time you think that you are just sitting down smoking a joint, talking about life, hanging out with friends, and not harming anyone (other than yourself), think again. Where did that marijuana come from? How did it end up in your hands? You could be contributing to this wave of violence and struggle in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as well as all of Latin America.

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