Drug war in Rio’s slums

posted at 9:43 am on November 27, 2010 by Fausta Wertz

The slums of Rio de Janeiro have been a festering wound of crime, drugs and violence for a very long time. However, with the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the government is trying to bring some semblance of order. Yesterday there was a big shoot-out that finally ended when the police brought in tanks:

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil sent 800 army soldiers to the Alemão complex early Friday after police outposts in the city had come under fire from drug gang members. The death toll from the violence climbed to 41 on Friday, the police said, with nearly 100 cars and buses burned on major roadways, their passengers robbed and sometimes shot.

What provoked this latest incident?

Rio’s secretary of public security, José Mariano Beltrame, told Brazilian news media that the latest violence was “retaliation” by gang members against an ambitious government program to control violence and “pacify” 13 of the more violent slums by invading, rooting out drug traffickers and installing a special community police force.

While we think of Brazil as a far-away place that does not affect us here in the USA (even when we are starting to realize that the drug war in Mexico does), here is something to think about: Drug activity is entirely a demand-driven market. Drug use in the developed countries bankrolls the gangs and cartels (and also the terrorists who take part in the drug trade) involved in illegal drug production and distribution. What we do here affects what goes on there.

It’s not a phony “war on drugs”, it’s a war within, everywhere.

Cross-posted at Fausta’s blog


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What is it about Latin American countries? What is terrifying is how many of them there are.

keep the change on November 27, 2010 at 9:55 AM

My lefty poli-sci prof brother is always telling me what a wonderful nirvana Brazil is and how terrible America is. His fourth wife is Brazilian…

OmahaConservative on November 27, 2010 at 10:01 AM

Drug activity is entirely a demand-driven market

That’s always bothered me. I have trouble understanding it. Yet, I do like the occasional drink and I suppose there’s not a lot of difference in theory. Must be a generational thing because the appeal of drugs for other than illness escapes me…utterly. The fact that it is a billion dollar business escapes me even further. How can so many people be so taken with this habit that it fuels the sorts of things taking place in Mexico and Brazil? Don’t get the sheer scale of it.

jeanie on November 27, 2010 at 10:05 AM

His fourth wife is Brazilian…

OmahaConservative on November 27, 2010 at 10:01 AM

Hah.

steebo77 on November 27, 2010 at 10:06 AM

I was really hoping to attend the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio, but as long as Sergio Cabral is governor and the the PT is still running the country, count me out.

steebo77 on November 27, 2010 at 10:11 AM

Mexican drug rehab patients have been slaughtered – for being in rehab; not all the demand is in the United States.

Some people here think that legalizing drugs will end the problem. I don’t see the gangs giving up their profits so easily, no reason why they wouldn’t turn to some other form of crime.

sloopy on November 27, 2010 at 10:19 AM

I was an active member of the “Drug War” from ’83 – ’90. I resigned after my best friend was arrested for the 3rd time for drug possession. At that point I felt I was risking my life for a lost cause. When your friends watch you get injured several times, once life threatening, and then use the very same drugs. It was time to say F*#K it.

I walked away from the drug war, but now the war is coming to me. So now I do the best I can to protect my family – but I feel we are surrounded. The city In which I presently live was voted one of the best places to live in the US. But every day the crime blotter is filled with drug related crimes (theft, DUI, etc..). The area in which I grew up was just voted the 5th worse for crime in the US. So having lived both ends of the spectrum, I feel a complete since of hopelessness in this country that shows no sign of waning.

Zaire67 on November 27, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Point of order; that’s an armored personnel carrier. Judging by the boat-shaped bow, that looks like the AAV-7 that the Brazilian Marines use rather than the M-113 the Brazilian Army uses.

Still, when you have to call in the armored vehicles and heavily-armed military, it’s a war.

steveegg on November 27, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Brazilian whacks.

JetBoy on November 27, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Willie Nelson hardest hit.

profitsbeard on November 27, 2010 at 10:39 AM

My lefty poli-sci prof brother is always telling me what a wonderful nirvana Brazil is and how terrible America is. His fourth wife is Brazilian…

OmahaConservative on November 27, 2010 at 10:01 AM

nuf said.

chemman on November 27, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Nice choice Olympic Committee…..I sure hope Brazil doesn’t have “a Munich” on their hands.

Rovin on November 27, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Some people here think that legalizing drugs will end the problem. I don’t see the gangs giving up their profits so easily, no reason why they wouldn’t turn to some other form of crime.

sloopy on November 27, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Some measure of the gangs will turn to other forms of crime, no doubt.

But that misses the larger point… the reason so many people are drawn into this criminal activity is the relative ease of it. Other forms of criminal activity (kidnapping, robbery, extortion, etc) all involve people within the criminal activity, i.e. the victims, who actively try to thwart the criminals from successful commission of their crime. In drug activity, the only people involved in the activity are all criminals, and therefore have no desire to see law enforcement involved. That, in and of itself, makes drug trafficking a very low risk enterprise.

On top of that is the huge profits involved in narcotics trafficking. You have a substance which, those who want it want it really bad, which makes for a fairly steep demand curve. On top of that, you have extremely low cost inputs, combined with penalties designed to keep vast amounts of potential competitors out of the marketplace, which leads to a fairly flat, but extremely elevated supply curve. All that ensures that you can guarantee a high profit per unit, even on an enormous scale.

Take out the huge price support (in the form of penalties keeping competitors out of the market), and the low cost of inputs essentially makes drugs into a normal good, i.e., one unlikely to yield extraordinary profits.

Which leads to the question: Why would any consumer deal with a criminal to get their drugs, if they can get it from a legitimate supplier at the same, or nearly the same, cost.

JohnGalt23 on November 27, 2010 at 11:15 AM

That’s always bothered me. I have trouble understanding it. Yet, I do like the occasional drink and I suppose there’s not a lot of difference in theory. …

jeanie on November 27, 2010 at 10:05 AM

So, when you have that occasional drink are you doing so to get drunk? If so, then there is not much difference. If it is really just an occasional drink without the intent to become intoxicated, then there is a huge difference. One does not partake in narcotics for any purpose other than becoming intoxicated.

That said, I don’t know what the right answer is. The harm of narcotics, particularly the addictive ones is evident. The harm to our civil liberties due to the drug wars is equally disturbing.

AZfederalist on November 27, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Not sure, though, that the answer is to double-down on the drug war. We tried prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and early 1930s. While it did reduce alcohol production and consumption, it also led to a whole series of unpleasant side effects like the rise of organized crime syndicates — much like modern cartels. We undid prohibition and the crime syndicates have shrunk ever since until now they are jokes on TV.

Is the answer legalization? I don’t know. But I have the feeling that whichever is the right path is going to be the “lesser of two evils” choice rather than some type of clear victory.

AngusMc on November 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM

So, when you have that occasional drink are you doing so to get drunk? If so, then there is not much difference. If it is really just an occasional drink without the intent to become intoxicated, then there is a huge difference. One does not partake in narcotics for any purpose other than becoming intoxicated.

In my experience, there may be more grey shades here. I have friends who live to get smashed on alcohol on weekends. I also have had friends who have done pot and cocaine as part of socializing — they did the drugs only when at parties, not alone.

To me, I think the general rule of thumb for both alcohol and drugs is: if you do it only occasionally and in a social setting it might not necessarily be healthy for you, but you really don’t have a serious problem. If you do it constantly and by yourself, you have a big problem.

AngusMc on November 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Point of order; that’s an armored personnel carrier. Judging by the boat-shaped bow, that looks like the AAV-7 that the Brazilian Marines use rather than the M-113 the Brazilian Army uses.

Still, when you have to call in the armored vehicles and heavily-armed military, it’s a war.

steveegg on November 27, 2010 at 10:37 AM

The vids I saw showed M113s involved in the operations too.

*****

Drugs are bad, m’kay

/Mr. Mackey

pseudonominus on November 27, 2010 at 12:42 PM

I guess it’s not politically correct to say that illegal aliens will soon turn all American cities into Rio. But it is the truth.

MaiDee on November 27, 2010 at 1:10 PM

To me, I think the general rule of thumb for both alcohol and drugs is: if you do it only occasionally and in a social setting it might not necessarily be healthy for you, but you really don’t have a serious problem. If you do it constantly and by yourself, you have a big problem.

AngusMc on November 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM

People are dying because of your recreational drug use.

unclesmrgol on November 27, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Not a fan of drugs, but I’m starting to wonder if it’d be better to let companies deal in a controlled environment than these massive gang wars.

My main concern is that if drugs are legalized, the libs will make it that much easier for them to get their hits through federal dollars and welfare.

Tim Burton on November 27, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Some people here think that legalizing drugs will end the problem. I don’t see the gangs giving up their profits so easily, no reason why they wouldn’t turn to some other form of crime.

sloopy on November 27, 2010 at 10:19 AM

What nobody seems to get yet is that legalizing marijuana, for instance, will put all the Compassionate Medicine Growers directly in the sights of the Mexican cartels as competition to be eliminated. Overnight.

Also,

Which leads to the question: Why would any consumer deal with a criminal to get their drugs, if they can get it from a legitimate supplier at the same, or nearly the same, cost.

JohnGalt23 on November 27, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Because once the Government gets into the drug business taxes alone will cause prices to soar – plus the undeniable fact that “libertarians” will continue the black-market aspect if only to thwart The Man’s interference in their lives. Don’t ignore the fact that the “Emerald Triangle” counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity, producers of the profound majority of high-grade weed, voted resoundingly against Prop 19, which would have legalized the efforts of the local growers.

Been there (republished on Right Network.)

Done that.

Can’t remember what I did with the T-shirt.

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Another thing, btw, in refutation of the Legalize It And Crime Will Disappear argument is that Mexico already tried that, with predictable results.

Mexico decriminalized all drug use in 2006 – and the much-noted 25,000+ plus murders in their drug wars have all been committed since that time.

Is the answer legalization? I don’t know. But I have the feeling that whichever is the right path is going to be the “lesser of two evils” choice rather than some type of clear victory.

AngusMc on November 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Correctamundo. As I’ve ranted endlessly, the War On Drugs is already over. Drugs won.

Now what?

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Mexico decriminalized all drug use in 2006 – and the much-noted 25,000+ plus murders in their drug wars have all been committed since that time.

But how much of the drug-related violence in Mexico is tied to domestic (Mexican) consumption versus the “export” market? Given that so much of the violence is occurring on the border with the USA, I’m inclined to think it’s largely the result of drug lords trying to move their product into the market that pays the most for the illicit goods, the good ol’ U S of A.

It really boils down to supply and demand. Street prices for drugs in the USA are pressured up each time a big drug seizure occurs, only further encouraging the criminally-inclined to get into the racket. It’s all quite reminiscent of our own futile attempts to outlaw alcohol during the Prohibition era. And don’t get me started on the huge industry the “War on Drugs” supports.

How long will we keep this war-on-drugs charade going? So long as we as a society want to use ‘em, the drug cartels are going to make ‘em. No amount of militarization from any government will kill it. Ever.

swanzoid on November 27, 2010 at 2:37 PM

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 1:58 PM

What an unmitigated crock of sh!t, obviously brought about by a shocking lack of understanding of basic economics.

Because once the Government gets into the drug business taxes alone will cause prices to soar

That assumes that the government would set taxes so high as to exceed the risk premium associated with jail sentences meted out in decades that now exist . Which is, of course, nonsense.

When Prohibition of alcohol ended, taxes were imposed (and continue to be imposed), and yet the overwhelming majority of alcohol is purchased on the legitimate market. If, for no other reason, than by doing so, consumers have the protection of a regulatory regime that ensures standards of production and measures.

plus the undeniable fact that “libertarians” will continue the black-market aspect if only to thwart The Man’s interference in their lives.

Really? A lot of libertarians out there dealing in black-market liquor, is there?

Once a gain, unmitigated horsesh!t.

Don’t ignore the fact that the “Emerald Triangle” counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity, producers of the profound majority of high-grade weed, voted resoundingly against Prop 19, which would have legalized the efforts of the local growers.

Gee… ya think that maybe professional growers might be interested in continuing the price supports that have been making them (cash) rich for the last few decades?

The economic ignorance of alleged “conservatives” still never fails to shock me.

JohnGalt23 on November 27, 2010 at 3:03 PM

How long will we keep this war-on-drugs charade going? So long as we as a society want to use ‘em, the drug cartels are going to make ‘em. No amount of militarization from any government will kill it. Ever.

swanzoid on November 27, 2010 at 2:37 PM

I think you’re right on it here. Americans need to realize that their tacit acceptance of drug use over the last 40 years has served as an encouragement to the bad guys.

The war, if it’s to be called that, can only be fought at home, one family at a time. The necessary realization that “education” in the public media, and indeed in the public schools, is now our enemy will be the only possible route out of this morass – and it will definably not happen overnight.

Wise up, America.

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 3:08 PM

My lefty poli-sci prof brother is always telling me what a wonderful nirvana Brazil is and how terrible America is.
OmahaConservative on November 27, 2010 at 10:01 AM

I have a friend who says the same thing. He ignores the abject poverty of the Favelas in Rio and elsewhere. Those people have no future. They are born, live and die on dirt floors an live in 3 inch single brick walled structures with a tin roof. No heat, no water, no electricity, etc. The only way they can ever earn a buck is to be involved in criminal activity.

Before the World Cup, Rio will use a couple million gallons of paint to cover the graffiti that covers every surface there. The world will think it is such a nice place.

BierManVA on November 27, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Zero just issued a statement that “Our Brazilian-speaking friends are in our thoughts and prayers.”

/s

viking01 on November 27, 2010 at 3:13 PM

JohnGalt23 on November 27, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Gee, John, thanks for the Word From On High.

If you’d read my stuff (linked above) you’d be forced to recognize that I know a lot more about the drug situation than you do, all from personal experience. And if you’d do a little research, you’d realize that the comparison of the Marijuana wars with Prohibition is an egregious shuck. The economics of the Alcohol Trade in the ’20s virtually guaranteed the ascendancy of the Mob in the time since, and if you think they’re not still a power go to Nevada sometime. There’s no reason to think that Legalizing It will have any different effect on the Drug Cartels. They’re richer than many countries, and there will always be new nadirs to seek at the expense of the populace at large.

As for your “arguments,” the big growers don’t want pot legalized because it would put them in direct competition with the G – and with the drug cartels, who are a significantly worse threat. As far as “libertarians” in the liquor business, the moonshiners have been (and continue to be) at full-time war with BATF since its inception in the ’30s.

I’m doing my best not to descend to your level of invective, but really, son, get a clue and stop spitting on your keyboard.

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Warbaby, I have to take issue with your claim that the moonshiners are in any way even remotely comparable to drug cartels. How can you substantiate that? As a percentage of the multi-billion dollar booze market, what could the moonshiners amount to? One tenth of one percent maybe? If even that much?

Besides, why would I seek out a moonshiner when I can go to the neighborhood Seven Eleven and pick up all the Wild Turkey I can drink?

I think Galt’s points make a lot of sense, invective aside.

swanzoid on November 27, 2010 at 3:55 PM

I’ve been married to my Brazilian wife for 17 years. (Yes, she is beautiful) There are some aspects of Brazil that are better than good ol U.S.A. great others that are not.

Government:
Run by socialists. Lulu will be replaced by a convicted terrorist.(Like Ayers) I’m not kidding. Super corrupt. Buy the votes from the poor and then do nothing for them.

Economy:
Booming. With the help of U.S. tax dollars they are investing in oil off their shores.

Law:
A big joke. (Don’t tell my mother-in-law. She’s a lawyer) Got money, stall and never pay up or spend your time.

Crime:
Super high in some cities. I have yet to go to Rio, considered to be the most beautiful city in the world by many. It is not uncommon for the gangs to comb an entire beach for anykind of valuables. I have no idea how they are going to solve this problem before the Olympics in 2016.

shick on November 27, 2010 at 4:36 PM

swanzoid,

The point is not about the moonshiners themselves, but rather that the illegal liquor industry (including everything from counterfeit tax stamps to highjacking to liquor store robberies) has never gone away, despite the fact that most of us live with a liquor store in walking distance – and that we “Legalized It” almost 80 years ago.

The true economics of the marijuana situation are that there has been already an enormous enough profit made that it will never go away either, and the argument that legalization will make the cartels evaporate is just, ah, moonshine. My close-up observation of the illegal marijuana trade (and the attendant criminality) has made it apparent that such beliefs are dangerously naive – and again, I refer you to the links I posted earlier.

The cartels, and the underground marijuana-production industry in the US alone, are on a scale vast beyond imagining by the normal American who’s never lived where it’s going on. It ain’t gonna go away, and dreaming that Government intervention will change that fact won’t help.

“Libertarianism” vis-vis the pot situation remains fantasy-based, and like liberals, it’s notable how quickly the discussion turns to emotional ad hominem when the Received Wisdom is questioned. That oughta tell you something right there.

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Democrat’s wet dream for America.

Inanemergencydial on November 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM

warbaby on November 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

All your arguments do not change the fact that repealing prohibition gutted organized crimes cash flow, and masivly reduced the violence.

Slowburn on November 28, 2010 at 5:49 PM

All your arguments do not change the fact that repealing prohibition gutted organized crimes cash flow, and masivly reduced the violence.

Slowburn on November 28, 2010 at 5:49 PM

Not exactly:

U.S. homicide rate, per 100,000.

1910 – 4.6
1911 – 5.5
1912 – 5.4
1913 – 6.1
1914 – 6.2
1915 – 5.9
1916 – 6.3
1917 – 6.9
1918 – 6.5
1919 – 7.2
1920 – 6.8
1921 – 8.1
1922 – 8.0
1923 – 7.8
1924 – 8.1
1925 – 8.3
1926 – 8.4
1927 – 8.4
1928 – 8.6
1929 – 8.4
1930 – 8.8
1931 – 9.2
1932 – 9.0
1933 – 9.7
1934 – 9.5
1935 – 8.3
1936 – 8.0
1937 – 7.6
1938 – 6.8
1939 – 6.4
1940 – 6.3
1941 – 6.0
1942 – 5.9
1943 – 5.1
1944 – 5.0

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office.

It’s also undeniable, imo, that the comparison between Prohibition and the current drug wars is a red herring. For just one example, the Mob killings during the ’20s and ’30s were primarily internecine, whereas the 25,000+ killings in Mexico since 2006 are largely indiscriminate. Perhaps more to the point is that the profits gained by illegal alcohol during Prohibition are a drop in the bucket compared to the enormous power gained by the drug cartels since 1970. The Mob used its relatively paltry profits to effect the legalization of gambling in the US. What will the cartels do with theirs?

Believing that those guys are gonna go away because California legalizes pot smoking is at least wishful thinking – rather, what is inevitable is that legalization will ensure the establishment of the cartels in California. The sad history of this social experiment is to be observed in the Netherlands, where legalization has resulted in a soaring crime rate. Holland is only now realizing that they’ve invited a monster into their culture.

It’s also true that the illegal drug industry in Mexico alone accounts for a significant percentage of that country’s economy – which would indicate that Mexico has a great disincentive to disrupt that trade (not unlike the even larger $20 Billion annually that flows into the economy via illegal foreign workers’ sending home of much of their income gained in the US.)

If you’ll read my stuff (linked above,) you’ll see that I don’t believe that the prohibition of marijuana will fix the problem – not least because it’s proven to be a massive failure due to the national schizophrenia over the last 40 years regarding drug use: Save The Children, but It’s Hip To Get High. Madness.

Everybody involved, and that now means everybody, period, will eventually have to recognize the true nature of this situation instead of looking for quick fixes like legalization.

Just as further food for thought: Prohibition, which arguably ensured the entrenchment of the Mafia in the US, was in fact a reform measure of the Progressive movement (Prohibition and The Progressive Movement, 1900-1920, James Timberlake, Harvard University Press, 1963.) Cui bono from the Legalization Movement, the latest pet cause of the same people?

warbaby on November 29, 2010 at 12:00 PM