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Brazilian drug pushers agree to halt the sales of crack cocaine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 1st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Crack cocaine addiction has permeated every level of Brazilian society due to its easy accessibility and low price. An average bag of rock can cost as little as $3 American. The rich and poor, young and old strung out on the drug all crowd Brazil's slum communities - called "favelas," to purchase the drug 24/7. In a most surprising move -- drug traffickers have unilaterally decided to stop selling crack in the favelas they control.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In response, both the Mandela and Jacarezinho favelas, the combined area to more than 100,000 residents - crack can no longer be purchased. Two drug bosses, who control each favela, gave the orders to halt sales.

A road typically crowded with crack cocaine users and sellers is now clear of any signs of users or sellers.

"I am not going to lie to you, there is a lot of profit to be made on crack," Rodrigo, a top trafficker in Mandela who used to manage all the crack operations says. "But crack also brought destruction in our community as well, so we're not selling it anymore. Addicts were robbing homes, killing each other for nothing inside the community. We wanted to avoid all that, so we stopped selling it."

The traffickers continue to still sell marijuana and powder. Business remains good for these drugs; bags of money sat out on tables at sales points in the slum. Cocaine and marijuana don't seem to cause the same social problems in the favelas they control.

Crack sales have been halted in just two of Rio's favelas, but Flavia Pinheiro Froes, a lawyer who represents many drug traffickers, said she expects more drug bosses to join in soon.

Pinheiro Froes heads "Anjos da Liberdade" (Angels of Liberty), an organization that provides job training for former drug dealers in Rio. Her group was influential in halting sales at Mandela and Jacarezinho favelas. She is now using her contacts with the powerful gang leaders from all sides to convince even more to stop selling crack.

"Our campaign is not only done in the communities directly with the traffickers that are selling, but also with some of the drug gang leaders that are in jail," Pinheiro Froes said. "I think convincing the seller could be one of the most efficient ways to combat crack because if there is no supply we will be able to solve the problem of the consumer."

Froes says she is hoping for even commitments for the gangs to stop buying from the big suppliers, some of whom are in neighboring countries.

However -- police in Rio de Janiero remain skeptical and dismissive of any gestures by the traffickers, even those who have already stopped selling crack.

Marcello Maia, one of the Rio civil police's top drug crime investigators, believes the move is just an attempt by the traffickers to gain sympathy and divert attention from the other drugs they readily admit them continue to sell.

"I think this is just a trick that the traffickers are doing," Maia says. "What they think is that now the police will stop combating other drugs they are selling, and we still stop entering their strongholds. But this is not what is going to happen."

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