Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, calls for Legalizing Drugs to Fight Crime from Drug Trade

Press Release March 5, 2007
Media Contact

Tony Papa at (646) 420-7290

Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral on Friday called for legalizing drugs as a strategy to fight the ongoing drug-related gang violence that is devastating his state. He expressed hopes that this would reduce the violent crime caused primarily by drug prohibition. Rio de Janeiro has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, due primarily to outbreaks of violence among different gangs, and between gangs and the police in the slums of Brazil’s favelas, where urban drug lords rule.

“The governor is merely saying out loud what so many more think but fear to say,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Rio today is like Chicago under Al Capone — times ten. Reforming drug prohibition won’t be as quick and easy as repealing alcohol Prohibition was, but there’s no hope for breaking the drug-crime nexus unless many more elected officials heed Governor Cabral’s call.”

Governor Cabral’s comments add to a growing list of Latin American leaders who are questioning drug prohibition and calling for new strategies, including legalization, to address the violence created by the illegality of drugs. Former Central and South American presidents, including Mexico’s Vicente Fox and Uruguay’s Jorge Batlle, among others, have called for an international dialog on how best to deal with the disastrous prohibitionist policies that are costly, futile and counter-productive.

Governor Sergio Cabral, who took office two months ago, promised that a priority of his administration would be to combat the crime stemming from these drug gangs. Several months ago, one of the governor’s first acts was to ask the federal government to send a special security force to Rio following the eruption of gang violence that caused civilian and police deaths.

Cabral questions current U.S. drug policy. When he asked, “Is the United States correct in its conservative policy on drugs?” he responded, “In my view–absolutely incorrect.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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