19th August 2012
Don’t worry about crack at the 2016 Rio Olympics. When Rio began courting the 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government started to clean up the drug-riddled city slums. As the move pinched the drug trade – then mostly marijuana and cocaine – dealers resorted to making up for losses with quick-buck crack sales.
That was about six years ago. Since then, a violent crack epidemic has swept through Rio that even has drug dealers worried.
In an AP report, after crack was introduced to Rio six years ago, sections of Rio slums turned into “cracolandia,” or crackland, “where users bought the rocks, smoked and lingered until the next hit. Hordes of addicts lived in cardboard shacks and filthy blankets, scrambling for cash and a fix.”
The drug bosses, according to the report, say crack destabilizes their communities, making it harder to control areas long abandoned by the government.
“Crack has been nothing but a disgrace for Rio. It’s time to stop,” one drug said.
For the ban to really take hold, it would need the support of the city’s two feuding drug gangs. That would mean giving up millions in profits, according to the report. An estimate by the country’s Security Committee of the House and the Federal Police showed that Brazilians consume between 800 kilos and 1.2 tons of crack a day, a total valued at about $10 million.
Yet, many dealers are jumping on the crack ban.
“They’re joining en masse,” a sourse told the AP. “They realized that this experience with crack was not good, even though it was lucrative. The social costs were tremendous. This wasn’t a drug for the rich; it was hitting their own communities.”
Rio state’s former police chief Mario Sergio Duarte confirmed that Rio’s crack problem is new, and that dealers turned to crack when their other business started losing ground within the city when the World Cup 2014 and 2016 Olympics made bids.
“Rio was always cocaine and marijuana,” he said. “If drug traffickers are coming up with this strategy of going back to cocaine and marijuana, it’s not because they suddenly developed an awareness, or because they want to be charitable and help the addicts. It’s just that crack brings them too much trouble to be worth it.”
“Crack was profit; it’s cheap, but it sells. Addiction comes quick. They were trying to make up their losses,” he said.
Robberies, violence and gang activity all grew. To combat the problem, the government launched a $253 million campaign in 2010 to stem the drug trade. Last November, another $2 billion were set aside to create treatment centers for addicts and get them off the streets.
Now, Rio social services are preparing for the mass fallout from the crack ban.
Rev. Antonio Carlos Costa, founder of the River of Peace social service group, said the ban has severe consequences.
“There will be a great weaning of all these addicts as they’re deprived of drugs,” she said. “We’re not prepared to take on all the people who will need care.””They won’t be welcome. This society wants them dead,” he said.
“This won’t be a problem that can be solved only with money. We’ll need professionals who really take an interest in these people. We’ll need compassion. It’ll be a challenge to our solidarity.”