Why João Doria’s war on drugs is doomed

The São Paulo mayor's approach to fighting addiction ignores history's lessons
Americas Quarterly (US)
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When São Paulo Mayor João Doria set out to fulfil a campaign promise and rid the city of its cracolândia (crackland), an area that was home to a group of homeless people, he did so with an overwhelming and telegenic show of force: 500 police officers armed with guns, tear gas and dogs marshalled to take on this marginalized and disempowered population. In the words of one of the people caught in the mayhem six weeks ago, the police treated their subjects as if they were “nothing” and “like trash.” His raid also destroyed one of Latin America’s most promising health and social initiatives focused on drug users, São Paulo’s De Braços Abertos (With Open Arms) program, which was showing evidence of stabilizing participants’ lives and even reducing their use of crack.