Drug war in Rio's slums

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