Crack cocaine users taken away so contractors can prepare for “The Games”

While the Brazilian Upper House prepares to vote a new Drug Law that allows drug users to be forcefully taken into hospital care, Local Governments in Rio and São Paulo are already doing so, as part of a massive effort to “clear” central areas of those capitals so building contractors can come in and “revitalise” them, building expensive commercial centres and apartment buildings for the upper classes.

The “arrests” of mainly crack cocaine users living in the streets of the two biggest Brazilian capitals, based on a Law that relates to people with mental health issues (non drug related), are just a small part of the effort made by governments to push the poor population off the central areas. Mass evictions with little or no warning given, super fast judicial process and the military force being used to destroy people's houses are becoming an everyday scene, all justified by the “preparations for the World Cup and The Olympic Games”, in 2014 and 2016.

As the evictions are done with little or no consideration on a case by case basis at all, the arrests are being made in the same fashion, with total disregard of the drug addiction problem as a whole. As  Isabel Lima, from the NGO Justiça Global (Global Justice), said in a recent interview, “these decisions are contrary to all the public health, mental health and social care policies that we already have in place in this country.” 

In accordance to Isabel's statement, João Batista Damasceno, a judge in Rio de Janeiro state, puts in doubt the legitimacy of the measures. “The Law being used to justify these arrests doesn't refer itself to people with drug related issues at all, and it is simply impossible to make trustworthy medical reports in such a massive scale and speed”, he says.  

Also, its important to note that the problems with drug abuse in the streets occur in many different areas, but the efforts in applying the new drug policy are concentrated in areas of interest for the property market. As Damasceno says, “people living in the same conditions as the ones being arrested, but in areas of no commercial value, are not being subjected to any governmental action whatsoever”.