Brazil is a significant transit and destination country for cocaine. Its border with Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay is porous and over three times the length of the U.S. border with Mexico. The majority of cocaine transiting Brazil is destined for European markets, often via West Africa. The Brazilian drug trade is controlled by large, violent, and well-organized drug trafficking organizations operating throughout the country. Brazil suffers from a substantial and growing domestic drug consumption problem. It is the world’s second-largest consumer of cocaine hydrochloride and likely the largest consumer of cocaine-based products. The Government of Brazil realizes the gravity of the country’s illicit drugs challenges and is committed to combating drug trafficking, but does not have the institutional capacity to stem the flow of illegal drugs across its borders.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
The Government of Brazil’s lead agency for combating drug trafficking is the Federal Police (DPF). After threats to strike during the World Cup, DPF agents received a 12 percent pay raise in July, and were slated to receive another three percent pay-raise in January 2015. The DPF is capable and well-paid by global standards, but tensions continue over issues of benefits and autonomy. The increase in workforce announced in 2013 has not yet taken place; the last increase was in 2012, by 500 agents. Though the DPF numbers about 12,000 agents, more are needed for effective drug control.
The National Secretariat for Drug Policy (SENAD), housed in the Ministry of Justice, is the nation’s lead policymaker for reducing drug demand. It continued the implementation of programs that comprise the national Integrated Plan to Confront Crack and Other Drugs, created in 2010. Its signature campaign, “Crack: It’s Possible to Beat It,” focused in 2014 on the challenge of implementation in municipalities. Institutional barriers continue to hamper speedy disbursement of funding, with less than half of planned prevention and treatment programming completed to date. SENAD’s goal was to spend $1.5 billion by the end of 2014.
Brazil maintains bilateral narcotics control agreements with the United States and every country in South America, in addition to formal partnerships with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission, and INTERPOL. Brazil also has extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States which are utilized to the benefit of both countries.
2. Supply Reduction
Brazil’s Strategic Border Plan, begun in 2011, is now a permanent operational program to confront drug trafficking and transnational crime, with two supporting complementary operations. Operation Sentinela, overseen by the Ministry of Justice, is an ongoing intelligence-building effort to coordinate state, local, and federal police forces on the border. Operation Ágata, coordinated by the Ministry of Defense, is now in its eighth iteration and conducts periodic tactical missions at strategic points on the border. In May, Operation Ágata 8 mobilized 30,000 police officers in 11 states to sweep, Brazil’s entire 10-country border for the second time. Forces seized 41 metric tons (MT) of drugs, with the greatest quantities interdicted on Brazil’s borders with Bolivia and Paraguay, a doubling of previous Ágata totals. The Brazilian government also provided medical and dental camps for basic health services for isolated border communities.
Brazil remains a major transit route for cocaine emanating from the source countries of Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. Cocaine product continues to be smuggled across land borders via small aircraft and trucks, as well as boats using the Amazon river system. The majority of cocaine entering Brazil is destined for the domestic market and Europe, often through West Africa via international air shipment and containerized cargo ships. On September 18 in Porto Velho, Rondonia, the DPF seized 814 kilograms (kg) of cocaine hydrochloride hidden in the wood planks of a shipping container. The container was headed for Manaus before its final destination of Madrid, Spain. The DPF reported seizing 25.6 MT of cocaine and 159.6 MT of marijuana during the entirety of 2014.
Brazil also performed marijuana eradication operations in the states of Bahia and Pernambuco and continued joint marijuana eradication operations with Paraguay. In January, the DPF launched Operation Four Elements in Pernambuco, destroying 403,000 marijuana plants with an estimated future yield of 134 MT. Synthetic drugs are present in Brazil, though combating them is of lower priority given the overwhelming cocaine problem.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
In 2014, the Institute of Scientific and Technological Communication and Information (ICICT), in coordination with the Ministry of Health and SENAD, published the “National Investigation on the Use of Crack,” as required by the Integrated Plan. The ICICT presented a qualitative survey, following preliminary statistics published in 2013 that estimated there are nearly 370,000 users of cocaine-based products in Brazilian capital cities, or a usage rate of about one percent (the study did not provide an estimate of users nationwide.) The Federal University of Sao Paolo’s National Institute of Policies on Alcohol and Drugs (UNIFESP INPAD) published national estimates in January in the journal Addictive Behaviors. It concluded that 2.2 percent of the Brazilian population used cocaine-based products in the preceding year, or about 3.2 million people. UNIFESP used World Health Organization data to arrive at the widely cited estimate that one-fifth of global cocaine users live in Brazil, the second-largest consumer population in the world, after the United States.
According to ICICT, it is difficult to study female users in Brazil, who tend to use drugs in secret. Drugs are perceived as a male activity, and as such, female users are less likely to access treatment services than male users.
Brazilian federal and state authorities actively promoted drug abuse awareness, demand reduction, and treatment programs in 2014, as required by the national Integrated Plan. Its program, “Crack: It’s Possible to Beat It,” received applications for 7,000 in-patient treatment spots. State and local police forces continue to teach the Brazilian version of DARE in public and private schools. National media campaigns run on television and billboards.
According to the ICICT survey, use of treatment and social services by cocaine users is low in Brazil. Brazil takes a holistic approach to reintegrating drug addicts into society, providing a range of services from medical care to job training. Despite the institutional and legal emphasis on awareness, demand reduction, and treatment, Brazil’s programs are not yet commensurate with the size of the addicted population.
As a matter of government policy, Brazil does not encourage or facilitate illegal activity associated with drug trafficking, nor the laundering of proceeds thereof, and there has been no evidence to suggest that senior government officials are engaged in such activity.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The 2008 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Brazil on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement established projects designed to enhance the capacity of Brazilian federal and state agencies to address illicit narcotics trafficking and provide drug demand reduction services. In 2014, the United States provided training support to Brazilian law enforcement on topics ranging from investigative techniques to money-laundering. The United States also provided support to non-governmental organizations creating anti-drug community coalitions targeted to vulnerable populations in four states. Cooperation has created strong relationships at the working level, furthering capacity-building in Brazil and investigations in both countries.
Brazil has institutionalized its commitment to combating drug trafficking and addressing a growing domestic consumption problem. It has increased engagement with its neighbors, especially Peru and Paraguay, and would benefit from expanded cooperation with Bolivia and Colombia.