What percentage of America do drugs

The second largest cocaine market in the world

Brazil is the sixth largest country in the world, the sixth largest economy in the world and, according to the International Monetary Fund, the fifth largest food exporter in the world. What is less well known is that, according to its own authorities, the country has the most cocaine users in the world after the USA. It's also one of the most violent - with a homicide rate of 30 per 100,000 people. In 2018 alone, 60,000 people were murdered in Brazil, almost twice as many as in the same year in the drug cartel war in Mexico.

Looking at the activity of organized crime in other parts of the world makes it possible to see the problem in your own country from a different perspective and then to find the similarities. The complex situation in Brazil is a case study that should be of global concern. It has repercussions on the United States, from where a large number of arms come to Brazil, and on Europe, because criminal organizations like the Italian 'Ndrangheta or the Juarez cartel from Mexico have found fertile ground in Brazil for panning for gold - and a springboard for the cocaine trade to Europe.

Terrifying data

From August 20th to 22nd, I was invited to an interdisciplinary seminar organized by the Brazilian Federal Police on the subject of "Intelligence work in the fight against criminal organizations". It was Brazilian police officers who uncovered the multi-billion dollar "Lava Jato" scandal. The corruption network between the state oil company Petrobras and private companies such as Odebrech extended to many countries in Latin America and as far as Africa. The scandal even put former President Lula Da Silva behind bars.

DW columnist Anabel Hernandez

Now the Brazilian federal police seem to be setting their sights on a new target: Based on the experiences of other countries such as Mexico and Italy, they want to better understand the functioning of the country's three main criminal organizations, those due to the violence they cause, drug trafficking and the Threat to the territorial control of the country represent the greatest problem for national security.

When one of the police directors spoke about cocaine use in Brazil in a private conversation, the data were impressive: The second largest market for cocaine? Yes, confirmed the chief of police. But how did it come to this?

For one, the country shares a border of more than 11,000 kilometers in length with ten other countries, three of which, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, are the world's suppliers of cocaine. Bolivia produces 10 percent, Peru 20 percent, and Colombia 70 percent of world production, according to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Production in the region is growing steadily while the US consumer market is declining. About 1.46 million Brazilians use cocaine. If one takes into account the consumers of all cocaine derivatives, such as crack, the number of consumers in Brazil reaches 5.6 million.

The price of a pack of cigarettes

One reason for these numbers is that the selling price of one gram of cocaine in the three producing countries is one dollar. In Brazil it is five dollars, which is the price of a pack of cigarettes. In the US, a gram of cocaine costs between 30 and 50 dollars, in Europe between 58 and 180 dollars. The cost of transport to Brazil across a very permeable border is obviously much lower. In many countries cocaine users belong to the upper middle class. In Brazil, on the other hand, everyone has affordable access to cocaine and its derivatives.

The commercial risk of cocaine trafficking is minimal for Brazilian criminals. The cost-benefit calculation is ice cold and simple, says the sociologist Gabriel Feltran, author of the book "A History of the PCC". The "First Command of the Capital" (Primeiro Comando da Capital, PCC) is one of the best positioned groups in the national drug trade.

In Brazil, many cars are stolen to finance cocaine and gun purchases. The vast majority of the stolen vehicles are sold on the black market in Paraguay, where until recently they were slightly legalized and then sold to other parts of the country or across the border. A halfway up-to-date Toyota pickup stolen in Brazil brings about $ 3,000 in Paraguay. You can buy about 3 kilos of cocaine in Colombia, Bolivia or Peru, which makes about $ 15,000 for a sale in Brazil. This money will be reinvested in buying more cocaine and guns or in cigarette smuggling.

The PCC was founded in Sao Paulo in 1993 from a group of highly dangerous prison inmates who protested against the conditions of their detention. Although the leaders of the PCC have been imprisoned for over 20 years, it is from there that they lead the criminal organization that controls the majority of prisons in other Brazilian states. According to the Brazilian authorities, the PCC has over 20,000 members and generates annual sales of $ 200 million.

Although the prisons in which the PCC was founded in 1993 continue to be the most important trading centers for drugs, the organization is expanding its radius - also to Europe. A few weeks ago the Brazilian federal police arrested Nicola Assisi, an important broker of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, in Sao Paulo. The Italian mafia organization imported cocaine into Europe through him. The PCC was the supplier and made millions in profits.

This text is the first in a series of reflections on the situation of organized crime in Brazil, based on research by the Brazilian Federal Police and that of scientists such as Gabriel Feltran, the sociologist Sergio Adorno and Camila Nunes Dias.