As Brazil’s economy expands, so too do cocaine seizures

The consumption of the rich man’s drug is down in the U.S. as Brazilian crime groups monopolize their domestic supply

Rise of the rich man’s drug

Marcos Tristao / Getty Images

The rapid expansion of one of the developing world’s fastest-growing economies has come at a cost, it seems: Brazil is also seeing an explosion in the use of illegal drugs, according to the United Nations’ latest “World Drug Report.” Cocaine seizures have tripled in the country since 2004, reaching 27 tonnes in 2010, and trafficking has increased dramatically, says Thomas Pietschmann, a research officer with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which releases the annual report. Brazilian organized crime groups monopolize the domestic market, which has expanded significantly. Latin America has always been an exporter of drugs to the Western world, but cocaine consumption is down in the U.S. Now that demand has decreased in wealthier countries, Brazil has an increase in supply.

Guilherme de Freitas, who lives in the southern municipality of Taquari, says cocaine is a party drug, something his friends do socially at clubs. The real issue, he says, is the prevalence of crack. “That’s blowing things up here,” he says. “A lot of people are getting lost in this drug.” The UN noted an increase in crack use as well, says Pietschmann, adding that weapons are widely available in favelas, the country’s slums. He fears the combination of crack and weapons is a recipe for extreme violence.

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