As the 2016 Olympics continues to proceed, pregnant women are smoking crack in Rio de Janeiro. Children are drug dealing, trafficking, and holding assault rifles in the favela—a Brazilian shantytown or slum. Gangs are running the streets and the city with police control having little to no effect on bringing order. This is a day in the life in the drug hubs of places like São Paulo and Rio, also known as Cracolândia—Crackland.
When it comes to the drug culture, Brazil wins the gold medal.
Rio’s Crackland has citizens relentlessly smoking a crack rock on the side of the street in broad daylight and in the dark of the night, where most addicts have no home besides the road, pavements, and a tent—if they’re lucky.
With drug dealers selling bags of cocaine rocking the Rio 2016 Olympics symbol, the world games should bring more constructive light to the decaying society that is the citizens of Rio and other parts of Brazil. Instead, it has brought Brazil in debt to fund the Olympics as well as forcibly carry drug users and “street children” off the street in the wake of the world event.
The Crack Plague
According to the Daily Mail, Brazil is the No. 1 crack consumer in the world with an estimated count of 1 million users. Crackland gets its name from the drug that is cocaine in its most potent state—a cooked form of the white powder—and its abuse does not discriminate against the children of Rio.
Due to its addictive quality, short-lived high, and cheap costs, Crackland Brazilians like Tatiana, according to CNN, turn to tricking—prostitution—in exchange for a rock. The using community prostitute, steal, and/or trade recycled goods to use, and they abuse this drug to cope with living. In a place where child prostitution is prevalent as well as low employment opportunities, it is a wonder how this problem will be resolved.
In Crackland, drug addicted children as young as age seven “sleep by the roadside and beg for change” in some of Rio’s richest neighborhoods, according to the International Business Times (IBT).
It is also not out of the norm for pregnant women to abuse crack in this drug-ridden place. From 22-year-old Patricia Sebastiao expecting her third child to people like Bobo, who collects recyclables to sell for just one more rock, it is clear the efforts made by the government have not worked as of yet.
Brazil’s attempt to hide the violent, homeless, and shanty truth of the streets of Rio has led police officials to execute a sweep of drug addicts out of plain view. There have been many sweeps in Crackland in an attempt to get addicts into rehabilitation, but most return to smoking this toxic drug.
“The government will make a plan—a huge plan for the Olympic games—with the police, with the army, to clean the area, to let no poor person come in, to make sure no child is on the streets, to make everything beautiful,” said Daniel Medeiros, a Happy Child International volunteer, which grants and operates a shelter for girls in Recife, to IBT.
Unfortunately, sweeping the drug and homeless problem out of the public eye does not get rid of the problem that is Crackland.
With 43 police officers killed, 238 civilians killed by police, and the state being deeply bankrupt while pulling a loan of $860 million for the 2016 Olympics—according to the New York Times—it’s a wonder how Brazil will put everything in order so that fewer people will die.
Crackland Gang Takeover
The favelas of Brazil are not only run by gang leaders and members, but they also take advantage of this privilege and sell their drugs in plain view. At various drug points in Brazil—bocas as they call them, or “mouths”—crack, cocaine, and marijuana are openly sold. Dealers sell their toxic goods on street corners or even on a train’s platform where middle-class drug abusers arrive to buy their drug of choice from near and far.
Many Crackland children and teenage drug traffickers join a gang because they find no other way to survive or be protected. “Nearly all [traffickers] would get out tomorrow if they could,” said Nanko van Buuren, an IBISS advocate, to The Guardian.
IBISS—“Instituto Brasileiro de Inovações em Saúde Social” or “Brazilian institute for innovation and social health care”—is an organization in Brazil whose effort is to enact “empowerment of the socially excluded people in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, so they can participate in society as full citizens.”
Organizations like this aim to get Brazilians trapped in the endless cycle characterized by drug abuse, trafficking, and dealing for a safer, healthier, and happier way of life.
Nonetheless, the crack epidemic is still predominantly in the Cracklands of Brazil, and it would take a lot of police, government, and economic reform to make this country a safer and more progressive place.