The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Brazil Borrows From American Drug War

Brazil’s economy may be slowing down, but the cocaine business is thriving. Brazil is currently the second-largest market for cocaine in the world. As a result of this fact, Brazil’s government is borrowing a much reviled policy from America’s drug war: building an aggressive presence across the border to nab drug dealers before they enter the country. The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Dilma Rousseff is deploying up to 10,000 soldiers at a time to drug smuggling hot spots. Brazil also agreed to buy 14 Israeli-made drone aircraft to search for traffickers from the sky. The Federal Police are hiring 30% more agents and equipping them with 1,000 new assault rifles, plus river launches and aircraft. Partly as a result, the number of drug defendants jailed in Brazil has doubled since 2006. . . .

[I]n August . . . Brazil teamed with Peru for a three-week joint operation to crack down on surging cocaine production on Peru’s side of the Javari River that separates the nations in the Amazon.

Peruvian police led operations on their side of the border. But there was at least one armed Brazilian federal police among them on each of two missions to destroy cocaine labs in Peru accompanied by a Wall Street Journal reporter in August.

Drug trafficking is a hugely complicated problem, and nobody seems to have found an approach that really works in big, complicated countries like the United States and Brazil. (Smaller, more homogenous countries seem to have an easier time.) From a U.S. based perspective, it’s good to see Brazil wrestling with the problem in some of the same ways we have. Over time, working on common problems will build deeper understanding between the two most populous countries of the hemisphere — even if neither country finds a good answer to the problem of cocaine.

Published on December 3, 2012 7:00 pm