The renewed commitment to the war on drugs approach of president Bolsonaro is threatening the achievements of the Brazilian harm reduction movement. Watch our videos!
For several decades, Brazil has been known as an archetypal drug war country: fighting gangs in the favelas with a militarised police, guns, and prisons. This approach has not been successful in reducing drug use but has escalated problems by generating even more violence and suffering in poor communities. Since the year 2000, an alternative approach has been slowly taking root in the country based on harm reduction. Programs such as Open Arms (De Braços Abertos) in the Crackland (Cracolândia) neighbourhood of Sao Paolo, provide support to the affected communities (shelter, stipends, work, education etc.) instead of punishing them.
The achievements of the harm reduction movement in the country are now endangered by a new threat. Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist politician, was elected as president of Brazil last year. He declared his renewed commitment to militaristic solutions, and even expressed his support for the extrajudicial killing of people suspected of drug crimes. He decided to cut the funding for harm reduction and to redirect resources to abstinence-only forms of treatment.
International solidarity is very important in these dark times. Activists should know that they are not alone but part of a global movement.
Brazilian harm reducers are now asking for the support of the international community – we filmed their call for help at the Harm Reduction 2019 conference in Porto, on May 1. Please help them by sharing this video message widely among your colleagues, friends, and peers!
How can we fight the new populist threat? How should we respond to government repression? How can we convince people to support harm reduction? How can the international community help? We produced an interview with three leading experts – Francisco Netto (FIOCRUZ, Rio), Leon Garcia (Community Addiction Centre, Sao Paolo) and Christiano Marona (Brazilian Drug Policy Platform, Rio) – to find the answers to these questions.
Peter Sarosi and Istvan Gabor Takacs