Brazil shares borders with Colombia, Peru and Bolivia and has eight thousand kilometers of coastline.
Those borders are porous and the coast is ill-patrolled.
So, even though the authorities manage to do a lot of busts, it’s still a snap to smuggle-in cocaine...
And Brazil is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy it.
Quite naturally, domestic usage has swelled in recent years.
And the violence that accompanies the trade has flared.
Of the fifty most violent cities in the world fourteen are now in Brazil (Twelve in Mexico, Five in Colombia, Forty in Latin America).
The murder rate in Maceio is up one hundred and eighty percent from ten years ago.
And in Bahia, it grew four-hundred-and-thirty percent between 1999 and 2008.
But it’s not just an internal problem.
Brazil is an important conduit for transshipment. Thousands of tons of drugs pass through the country on their way to Europe.
A hundred grams of cut cocaine, bought on the street in Rio de Janeiro for twelve hundred dollars, can be sold in Helsinki for more than thirteen thousand.
With profits like those, thousands of amateurs are being tempted to try their luck, travelling to Europe frequently...
...and being apprehended in ever-increasing numbers.
The Brazilian government recently earmarked the equivalent of six point three billion dollars to secure the country’s borders and an additional two billion to curb the spread of crack.
A necessary measure, perhaps, but also a tremendous waste.
How much better it would have been if the same amount of money could have been spent on better schools, better health care and lifting families out of poverty.
Leighton - Monday