Fast Food Drive-thru Inspiring Brazil’s Cocaine Dealers

drive-thru cocaina Brasil

Cocaine dealers in Brazil's largest city, São Paulo, are implementing an innovative "drive-thru" system for buyers.

There are reports as far back as 2006 detailing the dynamics of people purchasing drugs in the favelas of São Paulo without ever leaving their cars, in the same way you would use a fast food drive-thru. If you drive down the right street, dealers appear at your window and there is a quick exchange with little conversation and no need to leave the car or even fully stop driving.

After 3 months of investigation, Brazilian news site R7 Notícias published a short documentary-style report last month looking at how this method has now moved into the central party district of São Paulo.

Rua Augusta and Rua 13 de Maio are the focus of the investigation, with both streets popular hubs for partying, eating and drinking for Brazilians and tourists alike.

Dealers have cottoned on to the middle class demand for cocaine and the fact these users don’t want to risk going into the dangerous favela areas of Zona Sul and Zona Oeste.

According to the report, it is not hard to spot the people selling on these roads; they are seen to shout out to potential customers the equivalent of “powder here."

Due to the nature of the areas in question, there are typically police patrolling, with officers aware of this way of dealing. However, their presence has little or no impact. Rua Cristóvão Pereira in the Campo Belo district of the city is a good example of this as highlighted by both G1 and Bem Paraná reports on the futility in policing this phenomenon.

Even when the police do clamp down on these dealers, they achieve relatively little because it is mostly young teenagers who do the selling. Adolescents receive much shorter jail sentences when convicted and there is an endless stream of them willing to do the job. For dealers higher up the chain, youth are completely expendable; when one goes another will be there within a few hours. They also never work for more than a few hours a day and change locations so that it is harder for the police to begin to recognize faces and patterns.

The R7 report included some surprising statistics, claiming that nearly 90 percent of the 13,000 young offenders in Brazil are in prison for drug dealing and trafficking. It also mentions that around 200 kg of cocaine are seized every week in São Paulo alone by the police.

This method of selling only takes a few seconds and reduces the risk of getting caught for the buyer. It’s better for the dealer, also, since they can sell at a higher price in the center of the city, with the price of a gram in these areas coming in at the higher end of the R$10 to R$30 (£2.30 - £6.90) average. The product can also be of a much lower quality in this scenario as dealers are less concerned about building a steady client base given the shifting nature of their work. 

One of the dealers interviewed by R7 explained how profitable this new way of selling is, stating that he can easily afford to buy a house with the money made from drive-thru selling in the center.

In a huge city like São Paulo, many people don’t have time to stop for anything; there are drive-thru supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and restaurants. The emergence of this phenomenon is, therefore, just a natural progression in a megalopolis like São Paulo.