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Globalisation, drugs and criminalisation: final research report on Brazil, China, India and Mexico; 2002
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Final Research Report
on Brazil, China, India and Mexico
Scientific co-ordination: Christian Geffray, Guilhem Fabre and Michel Schiray
Research Team: Roberto Araújo, Luis Astorga, Gabriel Britto, Molly Charles,
A.A. Das, Guilhem Fabre, Christian Geffray, Sandra Goulart, Laurent Laniel,
Lia Osorio Machado, Guaracy Mingardi, K. S. Naïr, Michel Schiray,
Regine Schönenberg, Alba Zaluar, and Deng Zhenlai.
The UNESCO/MOST Secretariat
Executive Secretary of the MOST Programme: Ali Kazancigil
Project Coordinator: Carlos Milani
Assistant Project Coordinator: Chloé Keraghel
Graphic design : Nicolas Bastien - Paul Gilonne/Sparrow //Marseille/France

General Index
Executive Summary
Part 1:
Drug Trafficking and the State
Part 2:
Drug Trafficking, Criminal Organisations
and Money Laundering
Part 3:
Social and Cultural Dimensions
of Drug Trafficking
Part 4:
Methodological, Institutional and Policy
Dimensions of the Research on Drug Trafficking:
Lessons and Contributions from France
and the United States
1 General Index

Executive summary
Executive Summary
About the authors and the project team, 1.
In memory of Christian Geffray, 3.
Presentation of the Project, 4.
by Ali Kazancigil and Carlos Milani
Main Outcomes, 7.
Publications, Conferences,
Seminars and UNESCO Chairs

Main findings, 11.
Abstracts of the articles, 11.
General Introduction, 19.
Research on Drug Trafficking, Economic Crime
and Their Economic and Social Consequences:
preliminary contributions to formulate
recommendations for national
and international public control policies
by Christian Geffray, Michel Schiray and Guilhem Fabre
2 executive Summary

Part 1
Part 1:
Drug Trafficking and the State
Drug Trafficking and the State,
by Christian Geffray, 1.
The Field of Drug Trafficking in Mexico,
by Luis Astorga, 6.
Decentralisation, Corruption and Criminalisation:
China seen from a Comparative Perspective,
by Guilhem Fabre, 23.
Social, Economic and Political Impacts
of Drug Trafficking in the State of Rondônia,
in the Brazilian Amazon,
by Christian Geffray, 33.
History of Two Cities in-between Drug Trafficking:
Guajara Mirim and Costa Marques
by Christian Geffray, 48.
The Drug Trade, the Black Economy and Society
in Western Amazonia in Brazil,
by Roberto Araújo, 65.
Violence Related to Illegal Drugs,
Easy Money and Justice in Brazil: 1980-1995,
by Alba Zaluar, 70.
3 Part 1

Part 2
Part 2:
Drug Trafficking, Criminal
Organisations and Money
Drug Trafficking in Southern Africa:
Drug Trafficking, Criminal Organisations,
the Legacy of War and Apartheid
Money Laundering and Public Policy
by Laurent Laniel, 110.
on Drug Control
by Michel Schiray, 1.
Drug Trafficking
in the Brazilian Amazon
The Bombay Underworld:
by Régine Shönenberg, 125.
a Descriptive Account
and Its Role in Drug Trade

Drug Trafficking and Money
by Molly Charles, K.S Nair,
Laundering in the Amazon Region:
Gabriel Britto and A. A. Das, 7.
Geoeconomic and Geopolitical Effects
by Lia Osorio Machado, 151.
Drug Trafficking and the Informal
Market in Rio de Janeiro
Criminal Prosperities, Financial Crisis
by Alba Zaluar, 51.
and Money Laundering:
the Case of Mexico

Drug Trafficking in an Urban Area:
in a Comparative Perspective
the Case of São Paulo
by Guilhem Fabre, 172.
by Guaracy Mingardi and Sandra Goulart, 65.
Drug Trafficking
and Consumption in China:
Case Studies from Two Cities
in Guangdong Province
by Deng Zhenglaï, 85.
4 Part 2

Part 3
Part 3:
Social and Cultural Dimensions
of Drug Trafficking
Culture and Drugs
by Gabriel Britto and K. S. Naïr, 1.
Culture and the Drug Scene in India
by Molly Charles and Gabriel Britto, 4.
Violence in Rio de Janeiro:
Styles of Leisure, Drug Use and Trafficking
by Alba Zaluar, 31.
The Social Construction
of the Identity of the Trafficker
by Luis Astorga, 39.
5 Part 3

Part 4
Part 4:
Methodological, Institutional and Policy Dimensions
of the Research on Drug Trafficking:
Lessons and Contributions from France and the United States
Certainties and Uncertainties
as Regards Illicit Drug Trafficking:
Research Lessons in the Case of France
by Michel Schiray, 1.
From the Discovery of Drug Trafficking
to the Recognition of Economic and Financial Crime:
the Various Stages of a Decade
of Francophone Studies on the Subject
by Michel Schiray, 8.
The Relationship between Social Science Research
and Drug Control Policy in the United States,
with a Focus on the Drugs-Crime Nexus
by Laurent Laniel, 20.
6 Part 4

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7 Help

Molly Charles, sociologist, has worked as Deputy Director at
the National Addiction Research Centre (NARC), Mumbai (India).
Her major areas of interest are organised crime, socio-economic
costs of drug cultivation and trade, and policy research. She is the
principal author of the book, Drug Culture in India — A Street
Ethnographic Study of Heroin Addiction in Bombay
E-mail address: mollycharles@hotmail.com
A.A. Das is a research fellow at the National Addiction
Research Centre (NARC) in Bombay.
E-mail address: premag@bom5.vsnl.net.in
Guilhem Fabre,Sinologist and socio-economist,Professor at the
Faculty of International Affairs, University of Le Havre and researcher
at the Centre d'Etude sur la Chine Moderne et Contemporaine
(Research Center for China)at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
(EHESS) (School of Advanced Studies on Social Science) in
Luis Astorga is a sociologist. He is a Professor and a re-
Paris. He is one of the scientific coordinators of the MOST-UN-
searcher at the Institute of Social Research of the National
ESCO/UNODCCP Project and author of Criminal Prosperities: Drug
Autonomous University of Mexico (IIS-UNAM). Since 1989 he has
Trafficking, money laundering and financial crisis after the Cold War
been doing research on historical sociology and sociology of cul-
published in French (UNESCO/Ed.de l'Aube, 1999), Chinese (Shekui
ture in the field of drug trafficking in Mexico. Forthcoming:
kexue wenxian chuban she 2001) and forthcoming in English
Organised Crime and the Organisation of Crime, in John Baily and
(Routledge, 2002).
Roy Godson (coordinators), Organised Crime and Democratic
E-mail address: guilhemfabre@noos.fr
Governability: Mexico and the US-Mexican borderlands,
University of Pittsburgh Press; and Editorial Grijalbo in Spanish.
Christian Geffray, anthropologist, worked as a research di-
E-mail address: astorga@servidor.unam.mx
rector at the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Institute
for Research on Development, IRD) and as a member of the
Roberto Araújo, ethnologist, is a researcher at the Goeldi
Centre d’Etudes Africaines at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
Museum in Brazil, where he coordinates the Department of
Sociales in Paris. Since 1995, he had been studying the social, eco-
Human Sciences. His main interest is the sociology of the pioneer
nomic and political effects of cocaine trafficking in the Brazilian
fronts of Brazilian Amazonia. One of his main publications is
Amazon. He was one of the scientific coordinators for the MOST-
Fondation d’un lieu et formes de domination sur un front pionnier in
L’oppression paternaliste au Brésil (1996). Since 1998, he has been
He passed away on 9 March 2001.
working on the cocaine trade in Western Amazonia as part of the
UNESCO/MOST project on drugs.
Sandra Goulart, anthropologist, is a researcher at the United
Email address: raos2@uol.com.br
Nations Latin American Institute for Crime and Delinquency
Prevention (ILANUD), in São Paulo.
Gabriel Britto is the Director of the National Addiction
E-mail address: ilanud@vol.com.br
Research Centre (NARC) in Mumbai (India). He has published on
social action, political mobilisation, health policy and drug abuse
Laurent Laniel, PhD candidate in sociology at the
EHESS/Paris, worked as a researcher at the Geopolitical Drug
E-mail address: premag@bom5.vsnl.net.in
Watch (OGD). His fields of interest are the socio-economic and
1 About the authors

strategic implications of drug production, traffic and consump-
UNESCO’s MOST project on drugs. He recently organised an is-
tion, money laundering and their control. His most recent publi-
sue on Drug trafficking and forms of economic crime of the jour-
cation is The Relationship between Research and Drug Policy in the
nal Mondes en développement.
United States, MOST Discussion Paper N° 44, Paris, September
E-mail address: schiray@msh-paris.fr
E-mail address: ghanaman@free.fr
Regine Schönenberg studied in Bonn, London and Berlin.
She has been researching and working within various projects in
Guaracy Mingardi, PhD in Political Science from the
the Brazilian Amazon for 12 years; she is currently doing her post-
University of São Paulo (USP), is a researcher at ILANUD. At pre-
doctorate project on International Drug Trafficking and Social
sent he coordinates the research on the analysis of criminal in-
Transformations. She is working at Frankfurt University and
formation (SAIC) in the Public Prosecutor’s Office in São Paulo. His
teaching at the Free University in Berlin. She recently edited a vol-
research interest if focused on the police relationship with crime
ume on International Drug Trafficking and Social Transformation
and drug trafficking. His publications include Tiras, gansos e tru-
tas (1992, reissued in 2000) and O Estado e o Crime Organizado
Email address: regschoen@aol.com
(1999). He is presently the head of the municipal police of the city
of Guarulhos (São Paulo).
Alba Zaluar is Full Professor of Anthropology at the Institute
E-mail address: guaracy@netpoint.com.br
of Universidad do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) Social
Medicine in the State University of Rio de Janeiro where she co-
Lia Osorio Machado is Professor of Geography at the
ordinates NUPEVI (Núcleo de pesquisas sobre violência). She is
Geosciences Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
presently Special Adviser on local security policy for the Mayor of
and Senior Researcher at the Conselho Nacional de
Rio de Janeiro.
Desenvolvimento Científico o Tecnológico (CNPq) (National Council
E-mail address: azaluar@openlink.com.br
for Scientific and Technological Research). Her main research in-
terests include the political and economic geography of the
Deng Zhenglaï, sociologist, is the founder of the journal
Amazon region, international boundary issues, and the banking
Chinese Social Sciences Quarterly and former Director of the
system. Her most recent article is Boundaries and frontiers. From
Institute of Chinese Social Sciences. He translated the works of
high diplomacy to illegal circuits (2000).
von Hayek into Chinese.
Email address: liamach@igeo.ufrj.br
Email address: xjzhang@mail.ruc.edu.cn
K.S Nair is a research fellow at the National Addiction
Research Center (NARC) in Mumbai, India.
E-mail address: premag@bom5.vsnl.net.in
Michel Schiray, economist, is a researcher at the Centre
National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) (French National
Research Centre). He is a member of the Centre International de
Recherche sur l'Environnement et Développement
(International Research Centre on Environment and
Development) and of the Research Centre on Contemporary
(CRBC) of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
(EHESS) (School of advanced Studies on Social Sciences), at the
Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris. He is working also in
Rio de Janeiro and he is one of the scientific coordinators for
2 About the authors

theory around the central question of values in his masterful work
Trésors: Anthropologie analytique de la valeur (Treasures:
Anthropological analysis of value, Paris, Arcanes, 2001).
(1954 – 2001)
It was also in the Amazonian region of Brazil that he came to
study the world of traffickers and criminals, which he described
as well as Anthropologist,
in two original and exemplary reports, which also served as a ba-
and scientific coordinator
sis which allowed him to develop new theories about the rela-
of this report
tionship between the State and criminality and which suggested
new questions about the nature of the State (Mondes en
, 160, 2000; International Journal of Social Sciences,
169, 2001). Christian Geffray had also started to carry out research
in Rwanda to try to have an understanding of what led up to the
genocide in that country.
He died suddenly on 9 March 2001 at his home near Paris.
After his training in philosophy, Christian Geffray became a
professional anthropologist. As he was first of all a theoretician
Christian Geffray was Director of Research at the Institut de
and a thinker, his intellectual discipline as regards reality led him
Recherche pour le Développement (Institute for Research on
to a deep commitment to work in the most difficult fields. In
Development, IRD, France) and also held a research position at
Mozambique, he started by submitting a unique contribution, on
the Centre d'Etudes Africaines, Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
a classic theme in anthropology, that of kinship ("Neither father
Sociales (Centre of African Studies at the School of Advanced
nor mother — overview of kinship among the Makhuwa"; Paris,
Studies on Social Sciences, EHESS). He was also a director of the
Le Seuil, 1991). Later he undertook research on the causes of the
Scientific Council of the publication Lusotopie and directed a
"insane" war that was devastating the country. His contribution
seminar at the International College of Philosophy. He was
was important in the international debate on the causes leading
Scientific Co-ordinator for the MOST/UNESCO Project "The
up to the war (La cause des armes au Mozambique: Anthropologie
Economic and Social Transformations Connected with the
d'une guerre civile / Why They Took up Arms in Mozambique:
International Drug Problem ". He is also the co-editor of this re-
Anthropology of a Civil War, Paris, Karthala, 1990).
Afterwards he continued his research and his reflections in the
In addition to being unusually creative on the intellectual
Amazon region of Brazil.In the beginning he accompanied the lo-
level, Christian Geffray took risks that were on the same level as
cal Indians, the "gold seekers" ("garimpeiros") and the other pop-
his discoveries. Even more, he was also a friend who listened to
ulations who lived in this region, in order to analyse the pattern of
everybody who was associated with this project. Thus, it is with
paternalistic domination which was typical of these societies. His
emotion that his colleagues dedicate the results of this project
publication of Chroniques de la servitude en Amazonie brésilienne
that we collaborated on for four years and which owes him so
(Chronicles of Servitude in the Brazilian Amazon Basin, Paris,
Karthala, 1995) is a model of scholarship, and opened new hori-
zons on the subject of political science.His next project was to use
the theories of Freud and Lacan as a conceptual base for a new
analytical anthropology (Le nom du maître : Contribution à l'an-
thropologie analytique
/ In the Name of the Master: Contribution to
analytical Anthropology
, Paris, Arcanes, 1997). He developed his
3 Christian Geffray

The MOST Project:
The 1980s and 1990s were strongly marked by the surge of
activities related to the trafficking of illicit drugs. During this pe-
riod, the processing, export and – to a lesser extent — produc-
tion and distribution of illicit drugs were largely taken over by
major criminal organisations, some of which managed to play a
key role in the development of markets and to control large sec-
tors of the drug trade.These organisations are now present in all
the major regions of the world, both North and South. For the
drug trade today nationalities and borders do not exist. More
Ali Kazancigil
than ever, this trade epitomises the new world disorders of the
and Carlos Milani
post-Cold War era.
The drugs issue is one of the factors in the process of realign-
ment of international relations — together with identity crises
and demographic, cultural and economic transnational flows.
Alongside environmental and human rights issues, it has become
a new area of conflict and negotiation in the international arena
— and hence in the globalisation process.
To analyse the drugs question, the MOST programme has
started a research project, with the support of UNODCCP, on
1. Introduction
"Economic and Social Transformations connected with the
International Drug Problem", covering Latin America and Asia.
Since the end of the bipolar system characteristic of the Cold
In the drugs market, official intervention has a key role to play
War, the world order has been undergoing a series of structural
in regulating the relationship between supply and demand. It
changes defined in terms of "crisis", "transition" or "turbulence".
is especially important to gain a better understanding of these
The disorder prevailing in the relations between the different ac-
mechanisms and their economic and social consequences in
tors on the world scene could be regarded as the result of the
that this area is mainly clandestine and not sufficiently re-
confrontation between the forces of centralisation and decen-
searched. The MOST Scientific Steering Committee approved
tralisation in the international system.This confrontation is char-
this project in 1996. The MOST programme thanks the UNOD-
acterised by the multiple reactions of state actors in response to
CCP Research Section for its financial support, particularly
growing economic and social interests.
Sandeep Chawla and Melissa Tullis.
The world system appears to be affected by some highly
One of the driving factors behind these transformations, ac-
complex trends in which very different processes and levels of
cording to the members of the MOST network, is the explosion
regulation are combined and confronted. In the transforma-
in the production of drugs of all kinds in every region of the
tions taking place today, regulatory and mediator bodies are
world. Let us take the example of coca and poppy growing.
not necessarily adapted to each level of action. One of the prob-
Coca is grown mainly in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, but can
lems raised by the geoeconomics and geopolitics of drugs on
now also be found in Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Panama and
a global scale is closely bound up with the lack of conformity
Guyana. It has also been reported in other major world regions.
between local, national and international regulatory bodies and
Laboratories for the processing of hydrochloride (the finished
the levels — both spatial and temporal — of economic, social
product, made from cocaine base paste) are beginning to pro-
and political activities.
liferate in other countries, such as Argentina and Chile. The
4 The MOST Project

opium poppy is grown on all continents, particularly in South-
2. The objectives of the project
East Asia, Central Asia,Turkey, Egypt, Eastern Europe, Mexico and
other countries of Central America.The most lucrative markets,
The purpose of the project was to:
both for coca and opiates, are still the United States and
1. Produce new knowledge by compiling and processing in-
Western Europe, but consumption is spreading much faster to-
formation — most of it previously unpublished — on the situa-
day, particularly in the new business markets of Eastern Europe
tion in different countries. The specific nature of the theme and
and South-East Asia, and more generally in a large number of
its novelty in many regions have resulted in a scarcity of basic
developing countries. Cannabis and its derivatives are now
knowledge on the subject, with the exception of a few countries
found all over the world.
(in particular, the United States and the Andean countries).
The production and distribution of drugs today constitute a
2. Undertake a comparative analysis between the countries
considerable source of revenue. Revenue from drugs can help to
and regions under study, with a view to identifying more closely
offset budget deficits or enrich individual members of popula-
the various historical, cultural, social, economic, legal and politi-
tion groups, companies and even countries; it has had major
cal dimensions of the spread of drug trafficking and the related
repercussions on recent financial crises. Drugs also involve eco-
social transformations.
nomically marginalised groups, such as peasant-producers or
small-time dealers, as well as criminal organisations and certain
3. Establish a network of research institutions and researchers
integrated sectors of society, in the world of business or state in-
in the various regions of the world: Asia, North and South
stitutions.The recycling of profits has a direct effect on the heart
America, Africa, Central Asia, and Western and Eastern Europe.
of the economy and society (on land, property and financial as-
sets), at the same time directly involving business enterprises and
financial institutions.
3. Design and methodology
The social transformations which stem from the development
The project was based on networking among social science
of the drugs economy attest to the expansion of illegal sectors of
research institutions chosen for their scientific quality and inter-
activity and their interpenetration with the formal sectors of so-
disciplinary approach.
ciety. They call in question the law, standards and elementary
The focus was on research in four geographical areas: Brazil,
rules of economic and social organisation and appear to be rad-
China, India and Mexico. All these regions are economically com-
ically influencing the development of our societies. A detailed
plex and diversified, and are all becoming increasingly involved
study of these transformations is therefore of crucial forward-
in the drug trade.
looking importance for decision-makers and for the definition of
appropriate short, medium and long-term tools for the manage-
ment of public affairs.There are wide variations in consumption,
4. Scientific results
production and distribution, necessitating a large number of case
studies focusing on national and local specificities in order to
. The production of new items of knowledge in these
compare the most deeply affected sectors and groups in differ-
four selected major regions and their comparison with data avail-
ent societies and to discuss new hypotheses, such as those put
able in the traditionally specialised countries surrounding them.
forward by members of the MOST network in this report.
. A better theoretical understanding of the conditions
governing the development of drug trafficking and the related
economic and social transformations.
. The regular production of analyses of the status quo at
global, regional and sub-regional level (through the establish-
ment of two UNESCO Chairs).
5 The MOST Project

5. The expected institutional results
(evaluation of existing policies and
relevance of research for policy for-
The international system for the prohibition of drugs, however
valid it may be for containing the risk of an uncontrolled outbreak
of drug addiction, underestimates the social, economic and polit-
ical repercussions of the creation of a highly globalised and read-
ily accessible illegal market, despite the resources devoted to re-
pression. The project was therefore intended to contribute to a
better understanding and assessment of the social transforma-
tions at the various international, national and local levels, espe-
cially in the major urban centres of population.
These results make it possible to construct a new line of ar-
gument regarding the economic, social and political conse-
quences of national and international drug control measures.
This argument may help to restore the balance to a policy ap-
proach which is, in our view, too exclusively based on considera-
tions of public health and law enforcement, to the detriment of
a preventive approach.
6 The MOST Project

In addition, several preliminary versions of extracts of the con-
tributions presented in the present report and some comple-
mentary pieces of works were published in the MOST Discussion
paper series, which is available on the web site of the MOST/UN-
ESCO progr
amme (www.unesco.org/most).
A book was also published in German, based on research re-
sults of this project:
Regine Schoenenberg (editor) 2000:
Drogenhandel und gesellschaftliche Transformation (International
Drug Trafficking and social transformations), Wiesbaden,
Deutscher Universitaets-Verlag (DUV), 171 p.
Two papers on the subject of the project were presented in
UNESCO magazines, which have a large circulation.
Two pieces were published at the end of related international
1. Publications
conferences in the framework of this project, and three reports
of the Research Project
from annual seminars of the system were distributed, as noted
Three major publications in special editions of magazines and
books were made on the basis of the research of the project.They
Numerous articles, several special editions of magazines
complement, in large part, certain contributions that are pre-
and even special documents were published based on the work
sented in this final report.
of the project in different countries, notably in France, Germany,
Portugal, Belgium, the United States, India, Brazil, Mexico and
Drug trafficking:
Economic and Social Dimensions,
International Social Science Journal, 169, September 2001 (co-or-
dinated by Michel Schiray, Christian Geffray and Guilhem Fabre),
pp. 339-474.
Publications List:
This issue is published in French, Arabic, Russian and Chinese
and will be available in Spanish on the web site of UNESCO.
ASTORGA (Luis), 1999, Drug Trafficking in Mexico: a first
general assessment, MOST Discussion Paper.
Trafic de drogues et criminalités économiques (Drug trafficking
CD-Rom, Lia Osorio Machado and Murilo Cardoso de
and economic crime), Mondes en développement , N° 160; 2000 (co-
Castro,"A Multi-layered Enquiry into Drug Trafficking and Money
ordinated by Michel Schiray, in collaboration with Christian
Laundering Networks in the Amazon Basin and other Regions".
Geffray and Guilhem Fabre), 106 p.
COLOMBIE (Thierry), Impact Economique et Social de la
Culture du Pavot sur la Communauté des Yanaconas au sein
Guilhem Fabre, Les prospérités du crime: Trafic de stupéfiants,
du Massif Colombien, MOST Discussion Paper.
Blanchiment et Crises financières dans l’après Guerre froide
LANIEL (Laurent), 1999, Cannabis in Lesotho: a prelimi-
(Criminal prosperity: drug trafficking, money laundering and fi-
nary survey, MOST Discussion Paper.
nancial crisis after the cold war), La Tour d’Aigues: Editions de
LANIEL (Laurent), 1999, The Relationship between
l’Aube/UNESCO, 1999, 215 p. (forthcoming in English, Routledge,
Research and Drug Policy in the U S, MOST Discussion Paper.
7 Main Outcomes

MILANI (Carlos) and KERAGHEL (Chloé), mars 2002, Les
(UERJ), with the support of the university’s three research centres
transformations économiques et sociales liées aux problèmes
(NUSEG, IMS and NUPEVI) and by the Foundation for the support
internationaux de drogues : le Programme MOST de l'UNESCO,
of Research of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ). In addition to
Revue Toxibase N° 5.
the members of the network, the conference organisers invited
MINGARDI (Guaracy),1999, Geography of illicit drugs in
several specialists from several countries, including Rodrigo
the city of São Paolo,MOST Doscussion Paper.
Uprimmy (Colombia), Iban de Rementeria (Chile), to compare ex-
MOST, 1998, Globalisation and the International Drug
periences from different contexts in Latin America. A day open to
Problem in Central Asia and Pakistan, UNESCO, Tashkent.
the public was dedicated to the presentation and the discussion
MOST Newsletter 9, 1998, Drugs, globalisation and
of the results of work with national and local officials who were
responsible for drug use prevention and the repression of drug
MACHADO (Lia Osorio), 1998, Financial Flows and Drug
Trafficking in the Amazon Basin, MOST Discussion Paper.
A presentation and summary document entitled "Report of
Les drogues en Afrique subsaharienne, Khartala, Paris.
the 2nd Conference on Economic and Social Transformations Linked
Revue TIERS MONDE, 1999, Drogues : un nouvel avan-
to the International Drug Problem at Rio de Janeiro" was prepared
tage comparatif ?,Vol. XL, N°158, April-June 1999, P.U.F., Paris.
by Carlos Milani, MOST/UNESCO, 1998 (av
ailable on www.un-
UNESCO Sources,April 1999,The globalization of the Drug
Trade, N° 111.
ZALUAR (Alba), 1999, Violence Related to Illegal Drugs,
1999: The third annual conference of the network was held
Easy Money and Justice in Brazil: 1980-1995, MOST Discussion
in New Delhi from 1 to 5 November 1999. It was organised at the
Jawaharlal Nehru University, with the support of the Indian
Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), the Indian Council for
2. Annual Conferences of the
Medical Research (ICMR) and by NARC. The conference bene-
Research Network
fited from the presence of outstanding researchers from four-
teen different countries, especially Mr Abul Faizi and Mr
Three conferences were organised to bring together all the
Mohammad Fateh, and Mrs Nualnoi Treerat, as well as the pres-
members of the international research network to discuss goals
ence of numerous outstanding experts from the Jawaharlal
and the progress of the work.
Nehru University and from the presence of officials from 14 dif-
ferent public services concerned with the problem of drug traf-
1997: The first seminar to launch the project Social and eco-
nomic transformations connected with the International Drug
was held at UNESCO in Paris from 4 to 5 April 1997. It
A presentation and summary document entitled "Conference
brought together,for the first time,all the members of the network.
report — Third international conference of UNESCO-MOST pro-
ject on Economic and social transformations connected with inter-
A presentation document entitled "Report on the Seminar to
national drug problem" held in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New
Launch the Project of Social and Economic Transformations
Delhi was prepared and published by Madan C. Paul (MOST/UN-
Linked to Drug Trafficking — UNESCO — Paris" summing up the
ESCO-JNU, December 1999).
seminar was prepared by Carlos Milani, MOST/UNESCO, 1997
(available on www.unesco.org/most).
1998:The second annual conference of the international net-
work was held in Rio de Janeiro from 19 to 22 October 1998. It
was organised by the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro
8 Main Outcomes

3. International Follow-up
4. Creation of UNESCO Chairs
in connection with the Project
in Other Regions
In order to assure the continuity of the Project and the inter-
Two other conferences were organised by the MOST
national network that was built up between 1996 and 2001, UN-
Programme in the framework of the project in order to widen
ESCO decided to support the establishment of Teaching and
the collaboration with other regions — Sub-Saharan Africa, and
Research Chairs and a network between universities on the sub-
Central Asia/Pakistan.
ject of drug trafficking in the associated countries.
The first international conference entitled "Drug trafficking in
A UNESCO Chair was established in Mexico at the Universidad
Sub-Saharan Africa" was organised at UNESCO, in Paris, by the
Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) for the years 2002-2003-
MOST programme and the Observatoire Géopolitique des Drogues
2004.This Chair is co-ordinated by Luis Astorga, in liaison with the
(OGD) in 1997.This conference was attended by many specialists,
teachers and researchers from several other Mexican universities.
officials and researchers from a wide spectrum of countries and
world regions, and especially from Africa. Representatives from
A second UNESCO Chair and a national network on the theme
the main international organisations dealing with the drug prob-
of drug trafficking is being established in Brazil.This Chair will as-
lem, were also present.
sociate a research centre and two universities — Federal
University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ),The State University of Rio de
One of the products of the conference was the publication of
Janeiro (UERJ) and the Museu Goeldi in Belem. It should start
a book by the Observatoire Géopolitique des Drogues and the
functioning at the end of 2002 for a period of three years. The
MOST Programme, entitled "Drug Trafficking in Sub-Saharan
project will be co-ordinated jointly by Alba Zaluar (UERJ), Lia
Africa", Paris, Khartala, 1998; 250 p.
Osorio Machado (UFRJ) and Roberto Araujo (Museu Goeldi),
while associating other institutions as well, notably the USP and
A second international conference entitled "Sub-Regional
ILANUD of the City of São Paulo and researchers such as Guaracy
Workshop on Globalisation and the International Drug
Mingardi who has already participated in the project.
Problem in Central Asia and Pakistan", was organised by the
MOST Programme/UNESCO and the UNDCP in Tashkent, on
14/15 November 1998. This conference brought together nu-
5. Informal Working Group
merous officials and representatives from the universities and
on Drug-Related Social
administrations from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,
Transformations in Paris
Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan, in addition to officials
from international organisations concerned with the drug
Because of the interest and concern generated by the MOST
problem and also members of the MOST network, Guilhem
Project , a working group, baptised the "Cluny Group" was set up
Fabre and Alain Labrousse.
in France. The leaders of this group are Pierre Salama, professor
at the Université Paris XIII (University of Paris XIII), and Jean
At the end of the conference a book was published, edited by
Rivelois and Bernard Castelli, researchers at the Institut de
Carlos Milani and Alisher Ikramov, Globalisation and the
Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) (Institute of Research on
International Drug Problem in Central Asia and Pakistan, Paris/
Development). Recently Jean Cartier-Bresson, professor at the
Tashkent, UNESCO and the National Commission of the Republic
University of Reims joined the leadership. The working group
of Uzbekistan for UNESCO, 1999, 277 p.
welcomes as members university teachers and researchers
working on the subject of drug trafficking. Now membership has
been expended to include criminal economic affairs in general.
Since 1998 this group has organised seminars on a regular basis
9 Main Outcomes

in Paris with the co-operation of several members of the MOST
network and the support of the Institute of Research on
(IRD) and the Institut des Hautes Etudes de
l'Amérique Latine
(IHEAL) (Institute of Higher Studies on Latin
America). From 22-23 November 2001 at the University of
Guadalajara (Mexico), the Working Group organised a Franco-
Mexican conference on the theme "The criminalisation of power
— corruption and drug trafficking" which brought together uni-
versity professors and researchers as well as officials from many
Latin American countries.
10 Main Outcomes

. The trafficking of illegal drugs, with the concomitant activ-
ity of money laundering, is directly connected to a whole mass of
criminal activities (robbery, racketeering, illegal gambling, pros-
titution, arms dealing, smuggling of goods and people, etc.) of
which it is an essential link, given the enormous profits that can
be made. Even in cases where criminals specialise in one activity
or another, in general they are controlled by one and the same
organisation. The general development of criminal activities, in
the last twenty to thirty years, is largely explained by the multi-
plication of opportunities brought about by financial liberalisa-
tion and economic globalisation, in a context of low risk for the
big operators.
This impunity is favoured by the gap between the laws and
The work undertaken in the framework of this project illus-
their application, between the international system of regula-
trates, documents and analyses a great number of different prob-
tions and the real limits of the means of control and repression.
lems connected with the traffic of illegal drugs on the local, re-
These limits cannot be explained away solely by the increase in
gional, national and international levels.These research findings
the ways and means of laundering money both locally and in-
refer mainly to the four important countries under this study
ternationally by using offshore banks, which create a form of le-
(Brazil, China, India and Mexico). Some of the social, political and
gal illegality. This impunity is also due to the strategies of the
economic problems are already publicly recognised, and others
criminal elements, who often manage to neutralise or undermine
less so, but all of these problems are controversial because of the
the forces of order by using systematic corruption, or even, some-
uncertainty of information available on this subject.
times, by infiltrating government forces.
However, all the different research done on the subject of the
. This infiltration of the government of a country takes dif-
traffic of illegal drugs confirms and comments on the serious
ferent forms according to the kind of government.At the local level,
malfunctions internally and serious problems externally pro-
the "profits" made by illegal activities are used in schemes by which
voked by the drug market, especially the extreme violence which
the drug dealers become economic players in the formal economy
occurs in certain large cities, the extraordinary power acquired
by laundering the money and using it to stimulate the economy in
by some drug traffickers in the cities and sometimes beyond the
certain territories, which eventually they end up controlling. In
cities in the surrounding regions. Everywhere, young people, and
democratic countries this system of "legitimate clients" enables cer-
more and more very young people, are the first victims. In a gen-
tain criminal elements to get access to the governmentat the local
eral context of poverty, unemployment and social marginalisa-
regional or even national level, either by financing their own elec-
tion , young people are tempted to get money to buy consumer
tion campaign or by financing the election of politicians who be-
goods by engaging in illegal activities.
come obligated to them. In countries that have been ruled for a
long time by a unique political party,as in Mexico until 2000 and in
But the research has gone beyond the local level, and has en-
China since 1949,the government plays the role of arbitrator in the
abled us to see the consequences of drug traffic at higher levels
legal economy and also plays the role of arbitrator in the illegal
where it is more and more difficult to find out what is going on,
economy, which makes it easier for some government officials at
to understand the impact of drug trafficking on the economy, the
the local, regional or even national level to take a share of the prof-
financial networks, the specialised public institutions and even
its generated by criminal activities, while at the same time main-
on government institutions in general. In this regard, some con-
taining a high degree of repression of criminal activities.If one party
clusions can be listed:
has a monopoly of power,one often sees a kind of a peaceful crim-
11 Main Findings

inalisation.The “clientelism” mentioned above allows top levels of
can be very useful in supplying information that is lacking in the
the criminal population,who run the whole show,to profit from the
media and in the anti-criminal institutions — to better inform
tolerance of the officials who are supposed to control them on the
and elucidate public opinion and to influence the decisions and
one hand, and on the other hand to profit from a sort of social ag-
policies taken by public authorities.
grandisement among a certain fringe of the population who often
considers these criminal bosses as "heroes" who are above the law.
. The political influence of criminal networks, observed
on the local level, as well as regional and national, poses the es-
sential question of the actual capacity of the government to en-
force the law.The gap between the law and its very selective ap-
plication, concentrated on the lower levels of the distribution
networks and on the "small fry" among the criminal element,
who are also the most visible, leaves a space which is favourable
to enterprising criminals, while at the same time making it look
like the laws are unenforceable and that the legitimate political
institutions are worthless.
. If the illegal traffic of drugs represents only a small per-
centage of economic activity in comparison to the formal legal
economy, nevertheless the money laundering of the profits from
the totality of the illegal activities controlled by the criminal net-
works can have an effect on financial crises. The demonstration
has been made for the Mexican financial crisis (1994-1995), as
well as for Thaïland (1997) and Japan (since 1990). And further
studies could prove these links in other countries like Turkey,
Argentina or Nigeria in 2000-2002.
. These important discoveries should push the regulatory
authorities on both national and international levels to take these
findings in all their ramifications into account when they analyse
the situation and plan their action plans and strategies.They must
not ignore the relationship between criminal networks and na-
tional economies, which goes a long way to explain the growing
problem of corruption which has become the focus of study and
action in the major international organisations.
Finally, one of the most important conclusions — both for the
researchers and for society in general — is the confirmation, in
countries that are as complex as Brazil, Mexico, India or China,
that socio-economic research can achieve important results on
the local regional, national and international levels on subjects
which are secretive and often dangerous, and that this research
12 Main Findings

Decentralisation, Corruption and
Criminalisation: China Seen from a
Comparative Perspective, Guilhem Fabre, p 23.
This chapter aims at interpreting the links between decen-
tralisation, corruption (defined as an attack on possessions) and
criminalisation (defined as an attack on people). The Chinese
case is viewed from a comparative angle, incorporating the ex-
amples of Brazil, Mexico and India. The links established be-
tween corruption, decentralisation and criminalisation make it
possible to define a basic typology borrowed from the work de-
veloped by Christian Geffray. Although it is ruled out in the
Chinese case that criminals can become representatives of the
State, as in Brazil, India or Thailand, the structures of power and
the regulatory pressure it exercises with respect to the economy
and society allow, on the other hand, representatives of the State
(including its highest levels) to become criminals. These devel-
opments make it possible to explain the features of the new
campaign against corruption, which is distinguished from the
previous ones in that it touches the highest levels of the State,
is linked to a process of re-centralisation and partly concerns
criminal profits.
Social, Economic and Political
The Field of Drug Trafficking in Mexico,
Impacts of Drug Trafficking in the
Luis Astorga, p 6.
State of Rondônia, in the Brazilian
Amazon, Christian Geffray, p 33.
There are at least three important moments in the history of
the interdisciplinary fields that deal with illicit drug trafficking in
Drug trafficking has deeply affected social, political and eco-
Mexico. In these three moments, the relationship between the
nomic life in the Brazilian states bordering Bolivia. This chapter
political spheres and drug trafficking are very clear: 1914-1947,
analyses and chronicles this "Amazonian cocaine cycle", starting
1947-1985 and 1985-2000. Another moment seems to be emerg-
from the early 1980s, in the federal state of Rondônia. It consid-
ing after 2 July 2000. The first moment is characterised by the
ers how the first major drug trafficking networks were formed;
birth of the drug trafficking field itself, under the political pow-
the Madeira river gold rush and the wider access to cocaine re-
ers. In the second, structural mediations between the political
sulting from the barter of stolen or contraband goods together
power and the traffickers — such as the police corporations and
with the development of a large-scale domestic drug market in
the army — had an important role.The third moment shows the
Brazil; the commercial decline of Brazil's border towns and the
decline of the monopoly of political power by the state party.The
boom enjoyed by inland towns as a result of the drug trade.The
fourth and last moment begins with the PRI's loss of Presidency
author links these historical developments to the rise in power of
and of its absolute majority in the Congress. This period is also
certain drug traffickers within the federal state machinery
marked by the rising importance of the opposition party, the
through their election to public office.
PAN, and the implementation of a drug policy controlled by the
13 Abstracts of the chapters

History of Two Cities in between the
ular to recent growth in the service sector. While violence is,
Drug Trafficking: Guajara Mirim and
comparatively speaking, less necessary as a guarantee of social
Costa Marques, Christian Geffray, p 48.
control in that region, the control exercised by drug barons and
business people over the executive branches of the state
This chapter draws attention to an anthropological insight on
means that political life as a whole is crossed by relationships
two middle-sized towns in the State of Rondônia in the Amazon
forged in the criminal world.
region of Brazil.These two towns are located on the Brazil-Bolivia
border and are right on the main trade routes for the transit of
cocaine over the last twenty years. In many ways the history of
Violence Related to Illegal Drugs,
the towns is similar: in the eighties there was a period of eco-
Easy Money and Justice in Brazil:
nomic growth due to the development of commercial activities
1980-1995, Alba Zaluar, p 70.
which got their start due to the money and the purchase of legal
goods by the Bolivian drug traffickers. Then in the early nineties
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the connections be-
another sort of exchange developed — the exchange of cocaine
tween drug trafficking and poverty, with particular reference to
for stolen goods (cars, trucks, planes) which came from all regions
the various official institutional mechanisms that impact on these
of Brazil. However, there is one important difference between the
connections. It presents the findings of field research done in
two towns. In one of them, due to the impetus of a family who
three districts of the city of Rio de Janeiro between 1998 and
had recently immigrated to the area, the members of the local
2000 and an interpretation of the findings of a survey conducted
elite got involved in drug trafficking — following the example of
on the functioning of the justice system in Campinas and Rio de
the immigrant family — so much so that they were able to con-
Janeiro between 1993 and 1998 in respect of drug-related crime.
stitute the ownership of several real estate holdings and control
The results are provided in the form of statistical data (compiled
over the local economy in general.This economic power was suf-
on the basis of investigations and judicial cases recorded in the
ficient to enable them to also exercise real power in comparison
Livro do Tombo of the various criminal courts), interpretations
to government institutions and officials.
derived from reading 364 case files of trials in 1991 and the re-
sults of interviews given by judges, lawyers, public defenders,
prosecutors and prisoners in the two cities.
The Drug Trade, the Black Economy
and Society in Western Amazonia,
Roberto Araujo, p 65.
This chapter describes some of the main social and political
consequences of the emergence of the cocaine trade in
Brazilian Amazonia, taking as an example the state of Acre. Drug
trafficking, which concerns all sections of society, has (like other
illegal networks) become an alternative to the rubber industry,
The Bombay Underworld:
which has been in crisis since the 1980s. Its implications differ,
a Descriptive Account and Its Role in
however, in the Northern and Southern parts of the state. In the
Drug Trade, by Molly Charles, K.S Nair,
latter, especially in the capital, Acre, the development of a local
Gabriel Britto and A.A. Das, p 7 .
market of urban consumers is closely connected to police cor-
ruption and the illegal use of violence by law enforcement
This chapter presents a descriptive account of the Bombay
agencies. In the former, where machinery for the social redistri-
(now, Mumbai) underworld. As an exploratory study, it provides
bution of illegal income seems to be more effective, the cocaine
only a broad picture of the growth of the Bombay underworld,
trade is contributing to a degree of prosperity, thanks in partic-
referred to, from this point, as Organised Crime Groups or OCG.
14 Abstracts of the chapters

It touches upon the major landmarks that determined its struc-
Drug Trafficking in an Urban Area: the
ture, activities, nexuses at the institutional level that supported
Case of São Paulo, Guaracy Mingardi and
its growth, and operations. It also provides insights into the lives
Sandra Goulart, p 65.
of the gangsters. Primary data were collected through inter-
views with key informants; secondary data were culled from 250
The literature on organised crime usually presents it as a
court judgments under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
trans-national affair: this is what the authors discuss in the case
Substances Act (NDPS Act), newspaper clippings over a period
of the metropolis of São Paulo. No criminal organisation can man-
of 15 years, and magazine articles. This chapter proposes that
age without cooperation of people with influence locally,
the underworld in Bombay emerged as a result of various gov-
whether they are criminals themselves, state official, or employ-
ernment policies, unmet needs of citizens due to various system
ees.This chapter analyses the types of relationships between for-
failures in governance, as well as other socio-economic changes
eign criminal organisations involved in drug trafficking and local
in the city, inside and outside the country.
Brazilian criminal organisations. It also presents an overview of
the organisation of the drug market in the city, deepening the
study of a local "open drug supermarket area" in the inner city,
Drug Trafficking and the Informal
named Crackland.
Market in Rio de Janeiro, Alba Zaluar, p 5 1 .
This chapter is mainly concerned with activities of the in-
Drug Trafficking and Consumption in
formal drug market in Brazil and the social and cultural changes
China: Case Studies from Two Cities
that accompany it at the local level. It leaves outside the inten-
in Guangdong Province, Deng Zhenglaï, p 85.
tions or consequences of the Brazilian government's law en-
forcement policies and techniques.The main question that this
This chapter presents the results of a pioneer research on
chapter deals with is how the effects of poverty and accelerated
drug trafficking and consumption in China that has substan-
urbanisation and immigration are linked to the existing insti-
tially grown in the last years. This research work has been con-
tutional mechanisms and the presence of networks of organ-
ducted at a national level, based on existing and unpublished
ised crime.The effects of poverty and accelerated urbanisation,
documentation and, at a local level, on field surveys accom-
although they are clearly connected with the results and causes
plished in two towns (Guangzhou and Shenzhen) in the
of exclusion, are less responsible for organised crime, unless we
Guangdong Province. It analyses successively the geographi-
consider the relationship with organised legal businesses and
cal, the economic and the sociological dimensions of drug traf-
the institutional support from state agencies.Therefore, the re-
lated issues of violence, criminality and insecurity cannot be
properly understood if removed from the larger political and
economic framework. Assuming that many poor young men
Drug Trafficking in Southern Africa:
have been in a state of vulnerability due to the crisis within fam-
the Legacy of War and Apartheid,
ilies (quarrels between adults and youngsters), the inefficient
Laurent Laniel, p 110.
school system and the lack of professional training added to in-
sufficient employment possibilities, the article presents argu-
This chapter presents the main results of a field assessment
ments that further the idea of "perverse integration".
of the geopolitics of illegal drugs in twelve countries of Southern
Africa carried out in mid-1997. The study focuses on drug pro-
duction, trafficking, consumption, money laundering and state
control measures thereof.The overall objective of this paper is to
explore the seemingly paradoxical question of why Southern
Africa became both a major export and transit hub, and an ex-
15 Abstracts of the chapters

panding market for international flows of illegal drugs after the
Drug Trafficking and Money
end of most regional conflicts and of apartheid and not when it
Laundering in the Amazon Region:
was prey to institutionalised racism and war. The data gathered
Geoeconomic and Geopolitical
in the field is arranged into four sections.The first section focuses
Effects, Lia Osorio Machado, p 151.
on the central role played by the Republic of South Africa on the
regional drug scene; each of the remaining three sections re-
A geographical perspective of illicit drug trafficking and
views a macro-level source of explanation for the mutation of
money laundering activities points to the difference that place
Southern African drug geopolitics.The three factors are "ethnic-
makes in their dynamics. Differences in territorial configura-
political divides"; the "infrastructural legacy of conflicts"; and
tions are evaluated by agents at the operational level as are the
"barter". It is argued that studying the interplay of these macro-
elements of distance, relative position and accessibility of
factors is necessary, although not sufficient, in order to under-
places. The first section presents a brief survey of the evolving
stand the change.The chapter ends on a broad "snapshot" of the
symbiotic relationship between the organisations running the
Southern African drug scene, suggesting that drug activities are
illicit drug trade and the banking and financial system, with fo-
one of the modes in which substantial, historical, political, social,
cus on the Brazilian section of the Amazon River Basin.The sec-
and economic arrangements are expressed and reproduced
ond section draws a parallel between the Brazilian and the
within Southern Africa and between it and the rest of the world.
Western sections of the Amazon Basin in South America in
terms of the organisational modes of international drug traf-
ficking networks and particular geoeconomic traits of territo-
Drug Trafficking in the Brazilian
rial settlement. The third section discusses money laundering
and drug trafficking control measures in Brazil, their geopoliti-
Regine Schönenberg, p 125.
cal implications in the Amazon region and the positive effects
In regions which are being exposed to fast processes of social
it has had on the country’s restructuring of banking and finan-
transformations arise spaces with diminished or no state regula-
cial practices.
tion, interrupted social links and informal economies. In the
Brazilian Amazon during the past 30 years, this has been the case
in regions of traditional occupation as well as in regions of in-
Criminal Prosperities, Financial Crisis
tense migration. The respective local construction or re-con-
and Money Laundering: the Case of
struction of social patterns, of power-relations, of institutions and
Mexico in a Comparative Perspective,
of redistributional networks can provide fertile grounds for new
Guilhem Fabre, p 172.
criminal activities, such as cocaine trafficking. After a short intro-
duction, the national and international contexts of the investi-
The criminal economy differs from corruption in that it is nec-
gated region are outlined in this chapter. The description of the
essarily based on the existence of networks and on the use or
“scene of action” provides the background for the exposition of
threat of violence, when corruption proves ineffective. Its rev-
two Amazonian examples: the case study of the traditional river
enues, derived not only from drug trafficking, but also from other
community, Abaetetuba in Western Pará and the drug trafficking
illegal or legal activities such as human smuggling, prostitution,
case of LDM who created the so-called "Suri-Cartel" with its bases
arms trafficking and gambling, may influence the post-Cold War
in the frontier region of Southern Pará. Concluding, the article
financial crisis, as it is demonstrated in the case of Japan,Thailand
tries to identify corner stones that shape the regional and local
and especially Mexico. To understand the correspondence be-
outcome of processes of fast social transformations regarding
tween exogenous and endogenous factors behind the Mexican
the underlying causes of receptivity for international drug traf-
crisis of 1994-1995, we take into account the repatriation of 3 to
8 billions narco-dollars from the North American market (supe-
rior to the Mexican oil exports), and we demonstrate that money
laundering has stimulated local consumption of US goods and
16 Abstracts of the chapters

local speculative and unproductive investments, from small
poor neighbourhoods. Although one should bear in mind the
businesses to the stock and real estate markets, thus accelerat-
historical background of the economic, social and political
ing the current account deficit.The "tequila effect" is thus linked
changes in which violence and drug traffic thrive, the paper fo-
to a "cocaine effect".
cus on the data obtained in several fieldwork researches, mainly
the last one done from 1997 to 2000.The latter compares data on
crimes and social indicators, interpreting them on the light of the
ethnographical material about the styles of drug use and traf-
ficking in three different districts of Rio de Janeiro: Copacabana,
in the richest zone of the city; Tijuca, in a predominantly middle-
class area; Madureira, in a predominantly poor section. It de-
scribes how young favelados are attracted to the dangers and
virility ethos of a certain style of drug dealing in which many lose
Culture and the Drug Scene in India,
their lives.
Molly Charles and Gabriel Britto, p 4.
Cultural diversity in India has nurtured various associations
The Social Construction of the Identity
with mind-altering substances over centuries, without causing
of the Trafficker, Luis Astorga, p 39.
any great alarm about drug abuse. This chapter, using research
conducted by the authors and other secondary data, attempts to
The objective of this chapter is to analyse the origin, the de-
present socio-cultural-religious, functional patterns of drug use in
velopment and the main characteristics of the symbolic pro-
the country and examines some of the factors responsible for the
duction of drug trafficking and traffickers in Mexico. Legal and
drastic changes that have occurred since the 1980s. Specifically, it
physical confrontations among traffickers and authorities, or
points out that the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
their cooperation, are reconstructed in a particular discourse:
(NDPS) Act, 1985, took away the responsibility of drug abuse con-
drug ballads, for instance. The meaning of drug traffickers rela-
trol from the community norms to the near defunct legal estab-
tionships; the synthesis of the categories and schemes of per-
lishment; that by criminalising socio-religious-cultural-recre-
ception serving these social agents to find their place into the
ational use of opium and cannabis, it has promoted the prolifera-
world; the reason of their existence; the construction and re-
tion of alcohol, heroin and other more harmful pharmaceutical
construction of their identity; all those elements are versified,
drug; that it has given a new lease of life for the organised crime
put into songs and introduced into the market of symbolic cre-
syndicates; and that denial of access to low cost, accessible health
ation (often indirectly and not necessarily in a voluntary way).
care at the hands of traditional healers is one of the unintended
This may represent a competition to the official discourse on
consequences which needs immediate rectification. It makes cer-
drug trafficking and traffickers; thus, it may break the traditional
tain policy recommendations for the UN bodies, member States
monopoly in terms of rhetoric and messages of the govern-
and to policy makers in India in particular.
mental officials on this subject.
Violence in Rio de Janeiro: Styles of
Leisure, Drug Use and Trafficking,
Alba Zaluar, p 31.
The aim of this chapter is to understand the connections be-
tween poverty and drug traffic at retail level, approaching the de-
vices that provoked economic, social and political changes in
17 Abstracts of the chapters

opened up considerably, particularly to all economic and fi-
nancial criminal activities.
The Relationship between Social
Science Research and Drug Control
Policy in the United States, with a
Focus on the Drugs-Crime Nexus,
Certainties and Uncertainties as
Laurent Laniel, p 20.
Regards Illicit Drug Trafficking:
This chapter gives a broad overview of the social science re-
Research Lessons in the Case of
search on drugs carried out in the United States. It attempts to
France, Michel Schiray, p 1.
examine the problems raised by drugs in the United States by
Based on the experience of various research projects on drug
reviewing current issues and their historical sources.
trafficking in France that were started seven years ago, this chap-
Acknowledging that the United States is the largest producer
ter sets out the main obstacles that hinder research and the pro-
of drug research in the world, while it is also the world’s only
duction of sound knowledge in the field of a "criminal" activity
"drug-control superpower", this paper suggests, however, that
that is secret by definition. This activity has its economic, social
the simultaneous leadership in social science and world
and sometimes political importance now recognised at both the
agenda setting is not the result of a symbiotic relationship be-
local and national levels (in most countries of the world), and of
tween American research and policy-making. It is divided into
course at the international level.From an institutional perspective,
two main sections, one on domestic issues related to drug-
the article shows that administrations are reluctant to support re-
abuse and trafficking, and a second section on main interna-
search and to share archives of knowledge under their control as
tional problems currently considered by American social sci-
a result of repressive policies. From the methodological perspec-
ence research on drugs.
tive, it examines the complementarity of direct and indirect ap-
proaches which may make up for the lack of significant and set up
information from official sources. Finally, this chapter presents the
main findings of research carried out through the exploration of
local reality and a later broadening of the scope of analysis to the
national and international levels.
From the Discovery of Drug Trafficking
to the Recognition of Economic
and Financial Crime: the Various
Stages of a Decade of Francophone
Studies on the Subject, Michel Schiray, p 8.
Based on a selection of thirty-six books written in French
(essays, journalists' inquiries, professional testimonies or scien-
tific research), this chapter aims at analysing the recent devel-
opment of knowledge production in the field of drug traffick-
ing at the international level. Indeed, international research has
18 Abstracts of the chapters

General Introduction
as far as the extent of the phenomenon and its implications for
each of the actors concerned. The time has come today to face
up to the fact that we are in an exceptional area of an "informa-
tional circus". The work of repression of drug-traffickers and
seizure of products, which sometimes requires great courage and
high intellectual and technical skills from police authorities in
charge of control and repression, provides the only indicators
that allow us to follow the movement of drugs and to estimate
the amounts. But the work of repression is not always very rigor-
ous. This work can be problematic, often dictated by strategic
motives, sometimes legitimate (for police action) and sometimes
wholly illegitimate, unlawful and even literally criminal.We must
indeed recognise and state, for strictly scientific purposes, that,
in general, and to various degrees — and this applies to every re-
gion of the world — criminal activities are linked to drug-traf-
ficking in particular and are also closely connected at some lev-
Christian Geffray, Michel
els with the authorities in charge of their control. Therefore, can
Schiray and Guilhem Fabre
we depend on the information that they supply to us? Since one
cannot be satisfied with the "routine" data supplied by the offi-
Drugs have been the object of universal study for centuries,
cial institutions, the production of primary data (mainly qualita-
and a large amount of research of a scientific nature has been un-
tive) becomes a complex challenge.
dertaken with a new intensity, in the United States in the first
place beginning in the sixties at least, and in the course of the last
The present work seeks to attempt to go beyond the common
two decades in most European countries as well as in all other
knowledge of drug trafficking presented by the press and spe-
large regions of the world.The emphasis has frequently been put
cialised institutions or general pieces of work, which have been
on the problems arising from the use and abuse of drugs, their
drafted essentially on the basis of secondary data.In the four large
social consequences and health implications, as well as on the
countries where we were able to concentrate our research (India,
policies of prevention and treatment of drug addiction.
China, Brazil and Mexico), a wide range of methods was experi-
Gradually, the need for a deeper understanding of the supply of
mented and developed to attempt to build a solid basis of knowl-
products and the consequences of illegal drug markets became
edge with a view to support interpretations on the large social,
apparent, not only as regards the circumstances of drug con-
economic and political phenomena which surround drug traf-
sumption, but also because of the effects on society and the
ficking and other criminal activities to which it is linked.Obviously,
economy as a whole.This is what this research report has partic-
the research team has not been able to deeply examine all the
ularly focused upon.
questions raised. In this report, the collected information is di-
vided into three main parts.The first one enables us to discuss the
The key problem of research on and the understanding of the
question of the relationship between the State, drug trafficking
questions of drug trafficking and their effects on the economy
and criminals. The second develops a range of questions on the
and society results obviously from the hidden nature of this area
organisation of drug trafficking, its links with other criminal activ-
of activity, which is directly linked to its illegal dimension.The or-
ities and its economic and social consequences. The third part
ganisation of this field of activity is outside the law, and therefore,
completes the work by emphasising more specifically the socio-
outside any system of controlled information.The consequences
cultural dimensions. A fourth part of this research report deals
are serious: when talking about drug trafficking, one can say any-
with methodological, institutional and policy dimensions of the
thing from the point of view of quantitative measures and also
research on drug trafficking.
19 General introduction

This work as a whole encourages a permanent circulation of
The work carried out by this project brings to light many in-
the issues that were raised at different levels, from the local to the
sights for a deeper knowledge in the field of drugs research. It
global with a particular importance given to the national level. It
shows the usefulness of a research effort, to complement infor-
enables one to show the links between the social, political, legal,
mation from police sources, which are necessarily limited and de-
and cultural factors, on the one hand, and the economic and the
fined according to operational objectives of repression. This
financial questions, on the other. It shows the importance of the
knowledge applies not only to the realities of the organisation of
inter-disciplinary effort undertaken in the course of the project
drug trafficking and criminal activities linked to it; but more im-
between anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, political sci-
portantly the research allows a wider reflection on the conse-
entists and economists. It also allows the development of com-
quences of those activities taken as a whole on the economy and
parative approaches, which are essential to a more in-depth un-
society, and provides sufficiently stable and confirmed elements
derstanding of the various forms of development of drug traf-
of understanding in this field. The means that were available in
ficking and of its consequences in different countries and a vari-
the accomplishment of this work remained modest in relation to
ety of local contexts.
the magnitude of the task and the scientific and political chal-
lenges raised by these topics. On the other hand, they show the
Undoubtedly, one of the most important practical goals of
importance of supporting and developing these areas of re-
this project is to show that even within the shadowy areas of
search in order to transfer to the public and the political decision
large-scale economic crime, socio-economic research is possible.
makers information and ideas which are not events-driven or
When carried out under strict deontological rules, with intelli-
sensationalised by the media, and by the over cautious strategies
gence and scientific caution, it is not as dangerous as many of our
of law inforcement institutions and politicians.
academic colleagues would like to claim. It constitutes a vital
stake for social understanding and political decision making, in
Research on drug trafficking confirms the links between all
order to go beyond the "informational circus" which qualifies
criminal activities of an economic nature. These links are mainly
these topics, ever since the appearance of the first detective sto-
shown through human and social ties.They are expressed within
ries which invaded the literature and written publications, even
activities or territories, and finally through the financial circles of
before cinema and television. These media and mass culture
money laundering, at the different geographical, local, regional,
bases have greatly facilitated a certain interpretation of daily
national or world levels. Illegal drug trafficking holds, however, a
events by newspapers and general public magazines. They
particularly interesting position within the whole context of crim-
largely influence the formation of public opinion, whereas infor-
inal economic activities. It is based on products of mass con-
mation coming from public institutions and from scientific re-
sumption which are prohibited by law, at an international level,
search remains for too long extremely discreet and reserved to
at least as far as production and trade are concerned. It is origi-
some academic spheres.
nal and deserves a particular attention on that account. Even
prostitution or trade of human beings or human organs, or arms,
What is really serious and what scientific research can prove,
strategic materials or dangerous waste, subject to strict regula-
is that whereas certain "homes" of these criminal activities, such
tions, are not the object of such an extensive prohibition.The pro-
as poor or disadvantaged districts of large towns, are the object
hibited parts of these activities are merely unlawful "extensions"
of an often incessant repression and social stigmatisation, other
or "appendix" of sectors that claim to be socially controlled or, let
sectors benefit not only from a surprising impunity, but also from
us say, legally accepted. Most criminal activities of an economic
an often shocking tolerance by public control institutions and
nature correspond to corruption, abusive levies (theft and extor-
the public opinion. It is true that big economic crime requires a
tion) or evasion of the law and regulations, in particular in tax
certain amount of discretion with few directly visible nuisances,
matters (smuggling, games, tax fraud). Money laundering circles
when it is not also the object of social recognition, with admira-
of an illegal origin, through increasing the value of these activi-
tion and gratitude felt towards some of its "heroes". These con-
ties, obviously recover the whole of their products and profits. All
trasts are socially and politically dangerous.
the latter activities may be considered as "parasitic" in relation to
20 General introduction

the activities of the official economy. Activities relating to illegal
ethical dilemma, which we consider essential, between prohibi-
drugs constitute completely "autonomous" channels(1) , and pro-
tion/legalisation. Rather, as the implied hypotheses of the project
duction, consumption and distribution systems develop accord-
indicated, the question concerns the capacity of governance and
ing to specific logics, all unlawful and subject to and largely de-
control of an international system of prohibition, at the various
termined by police and judicial repression. Under particular cir-
territorial levels, from the local to the global. What the examples
cumstances, which are linked to the unlawful nature of these ac-
given by the project show is not only the involvement of high
tivities, these activities can be the object of levies of a criminal na-
level political decision-makers in the world of crime, but also the
ture in the shape of extortion and corruption, on the part of crim-
massive involvement of agents on the ground — at various hier-
inal circles as well as some sectors or members of public institu-
archical levels — responsible for repression and control who suc-
tions in charge of repressing them.
ceed in changing the configurations of the drug market in par-
ticular, to such an extent that the scientific researcher can no
One of the main questions of this research project relates to
longer clearly recognise who rules the game and who benefits
challenges posed by drug trafficking, considered as the result of
from it: is it the trafficker or the person who is responsible for its
a global prohibition regime set up on an international level.
control and repression?
Challenges are also put forward for the governance and the ca-
pacity of States, local authorities and international organisations
These observations seem to apply, obviously in different de-
to control not only the development of drug trafficking but, more
grees, in socio-political contexts as varied as Mexico, Brazil, India
importantly, their social, economic, political and institutional con-
or China and at all territorial levels, from the local to the national.
sequences. One of the essential contributions of this work is in-
It would, indeed, appear that the experience acquired in the
deed to show how criminal activities and criminals can, within
course of the last decades, with the intensification and a certain
certain contexts and at certain times, strike alliances with State
clarification of objectives in the fight against economic crime and
representatives through corruption schemes and parallel mar-
drug trafficking in particular, should allow the formation of a
kets. This work also shows how economic crime can lead to the
number of simple but globally important questions on the effi-
access of criminal men to state appointments and public re-
ciency of national public policies and international systems of
sponsibilities. These links and associations create truly serious
control and co-operation.
problems for governance at all territorial levels, from the local to
the global. They must be considered as a key world problem,
Everyone by now has understood that the extraordinary
mainly because they concern the very legitimacy of those who
profits, in volume, coming from strictly criminal activities and
are responsible for making laws and more importantly for im-
trafficking in illegal drugs in particular, are coveted not only by
plementing them.
large and small scale criminals, but also by representatives of
the world of business and commerce as well as by State agents.
At the most operational level, all enquiries carried out in the
Numerous sectors of official economic activities lend them-
four countries confirm the astonishing involvement of a number
selves more readily to a direct participation in criminal activi-
of representatives of those institutions responsible for fighting
ties, starting, among the more exposed, with sectors of trans-
crime in general and drug trafficking in particular with criminal
port and freight, tourism, leisure or the financial sectors, which
activities. This creates a complex problem for the researcher as
offer practical logistics to the development of drug trafficking.
regards information and knowledge. But the problem is still more
As far as public authorities are concerned, all research shows
serious for society, which is submitted to an international regime
that, at the bottom line, there is an easy collusion by the agents
of prohibition, which de facto accepts social, economic and po-
responsible for the control of local illegal markets, who easily
litical ascent and influence of criminal lords, and the involvement
secure for themselves levies on the profits of these activities to
of state agents into economic crimes. This observation is not
supplement their salary. Beyond that, there is also an example
without weight. It contributes to the idea that the main question
in which the control of criminal activities is actually carried out
of the drug problem is probably not so much the fundamental
by persons who are officially responsible for their repression.
21 General introduction

These situations are a reversal of positions within the objectives
at national level, such as tobacco and alcohol, or more generally
of control. They obviously raise the key question of the capac-
in relation to goods subject to control such as some agricultural
ity to implement the existing policies. This capacity is not only
products.The general liberalisation movement has undoubtedly
a question of practical means, in manpower and equipment,
contributed to a new increase in these fields of smuggling activ-
but is primarily related to the moral and professional values
ities. However, one of the characteristic features, at the world
held by the members of the institutions whose task is to fight
level, of the general movement of globalisation and liberalisation
crime, and of the systems of internal and social control. These
of commercial and financial exchanges, is the increased control
situations at operational ground level merely reflect, in all their
and restrictions over movements of people and the workforce.
territorial extent, and often in a caricatured way, the limits of
This has opened a new large field for criminal activities con-
moral and social probity within States, their administration and
nected with the clandestine import of workers and also with
some of their representatives.Without preconception nor a de-
prostitution, as well as other forms of trafficking in human beings.
sire to overemphasise the question, the results of the research
The broadening of these systems of increased restrictions, pro-
carried out in the four countries converge ultimately in giving
tectionism or prohibition has thus opened new areas for the par-
the greatest importance to "complicity" relationships or even
ticularly organised criminal sectors, from a human and social
sometimes actual alliances between public officials, sometimes
point of view, and over which it appears more and more difficult
at the highest level, not only with the criminal world but also
to exercise any form of control.
within criminal economic circles. As a result, the legitimacy of
international systems of repression is definitely not strength-
These observations take us back again to the problem of gov-
ened, in that it is failing to maintain clear boundaries between
ernance and capacities of States and international institutions to
the world of law, that of outlaws and the political and economic
dictate rules and laws — which may well be fundamentally in
officials who are placed above the law.
force — without assessing the full measure of the political and
economic implications of their reinforcement.This disproportion
Several observations throughout the study showed a serious
ultimately opens spaces, which can be vast in some sectors, in
dysfunction of control over legal, economic and political systems
which criminal activities develop and which unfold precisely in
at different territorial levels,from the local to the global.They force
the gaps between the law and the means to enforce it. One can
one to consider seriously the discrepancies between current sys-
currently witness, with the new opportunities generated by the
tems and the socio-economic realities that have been going
globalisation and liberalisation movement, a parallel develop-
through great change in the course of the last decades.This leads
ment of opportunities for crimes of an economic nature and the
us to place at the centre of our analysis the question of an in-depth
impunity concerning them. International institutions and many
revision of the rules of the game at a world level,including the laws
States have, of course, responded to most of these challenges by
and the institutions whose task it is to implement them.
setting up specialised organisations and involving the sectors of
administration dealing with these matters. Nonetheless, the im-
There is no doubt that since the 1980s and particularly in the
portant effort deployed on the legislative and institutional fronts
1990s, the acceleration of globalisation and the liberalisation of
at State level as well as at the international co-ordination level re-
economies and international exchanges, in particular in financial
mains well below what those challenges require. At the national
matters, have also aided the development of criminal economic
level, in particular, gaps between material and financial — but
activities. It has undoubtedly led to changes in the contents of
also of course political — capacities for the effective implemen-
such activities by helping those more directly connected with
tation of these policies are huge. The United States, then the
such developments, such as trafficking in illegal drugs or money
European Union and all the countries of the OECD were the first
laundering in connection with criminal activities.The smuggling
to adopt laws and set up institutional and operational instru-
of legal goods, on the other hand, should have taken a lesser po-
ments to fight against economic crimes. Most "emerging" coun-
sition with the reduction of customs taxation. Yet it has reached
tries attempted, often with an impressive vigour, to adopt similar
an increased level in respect to some goods, subject to high taxes
instruments. But what means can the most "marginalized" coun-
22 General introduction

tries, in Africa in particular, expect to adopt? Yet everyone has un-
ment of national and international capital flows of criminal ori-
derstood, using the experience of financial markets, that the ex-
gin as well as investments into the real official economy to
istence of "tax heavens" and "off-shore markets" makes it ex-
which they give rise.
tremely difficult to control and fight against crime, which now
takes place at the world level.
These trends lead us to emphasise, as regards the evaluation
of public policies and recommendations, the worrying discrep-
At an international level, institutions of the United Nations
ancies between the rigour of international systems of prohibition
specialised in crime and drug trafficking have been set up for
and regulation, the national legal systems relating to criminal ac-
decades.They have played an essential part in the mobilisation
tivities of an economic nature, and the weakness of national and
of States in this matter and the extension of legislative instru-
international capacities in enforcing them. These discrepancies
ments of control throughout the world. However, their opera-
are at the origin of a perversion of the institutions responsible for
tional or support means are extremely limited. The most oper-
control, through collusion and corruption largely stemming from
ational police institutions - Interpol – or customs services, as
their representatives. They also allow for alliances between the
well as legal co-operation systems, which attempt to set them-
worlds of criminals with that of those who govern us, when the
selves up at an international level, are confronted by the limi-
former has not directly penetrated the latter.We think that these
tations of the national intervention capacities of the different
serious findings must be considered to their full extent first, be-
countries.These police institutions encounter particularly intri-
fore we present sustainable recommendations for public policy
cate problems as regards co-operation, exchange and sharing
making. Indeed, we do not feel one can support the all too fre-
of information, and the coordination of their respective proce-
quent opportunist cynicism which consists in acknowledging
dures to respond to the extent necessary at an international
the seriousness of the problems examined and offering a few
level. International financial institutions, such as the
more or less original measures pretending to resolve these prob-
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, publicly en-
lems, without undertaking an in-depth work of reflection associ-
dorsed the importance of these issues much later, whereas fi-
ating researchers with representatives of operational sectors of
nancial circuits were among the first involved in the movement
activities of control and political officials.This is what we wish to
of profits of criminal origin, whether coming from strictly crim-
undertake in the wake of this research report.
inal sectors or from quite official, private or public ones and re-
sulting from tax fraud, corruption or various misappropriations.
The analysis carried out in the course of this project in the case
of Mexico in the last few years even seems to show a possible
The Scientific Coordinators of the Report
direct link between movements of laundering of funds origi-
nating from crime and the financial crises experienced.
However, the methods of intervention of international financial
institutions in these areas still remain insufficiently precise. In
spite of the caution generally displayed in these areas by the
OECD, it was the governments of the G7 countries who took the
initiative to raise the loudest alarm warnings on this world
problem and who supported the setting up of systems of pre-
vention and repression. An increasing number of countries ad-
here to these systems today, through the Financial Action Task
Force on money laundering, the GAFI. Further to more than a
decade of experimentation of these systems, the results
achieved in the various countries are not negligible but remain
far from the goal of controlling and repressing the develop-
23 General introduction

The magnitude of such scandals in many countries and on
all continents has prompted some researchers or commenta-
tors to point to the existence of an ongoing process of "State
criminalisation".This elliptical, evocative expression refers to the
Christian Geffray
illegal character of activities undertaken by some representa-
of the State — activities that can become a cause for con-
cern when they take on a systematic character. Be that as it may,
and whatever the nature of the relations between criminals and
State representatives, between outlaws and representatives of
the law, such ties always suggest a form of corruption. It is this
generic pattern of State delinquency — corruption — that we
wish to underscore here.The chapters presented below demon-
strate that the form of corruption prevailing in a given country
is strictly dependent upon the nature of the State and the bal-
ance of power that holds between State institutions and drug
trafficking networks. In this regard, the case of Mexico, where
the civil service remained for a long time under the de facto
tutelage of a single party, may show a greater similarity to the
case of China than, for example, to that of Brazil or Colombia.
Brazil, Mexico and China, which are the focus of this part, are
known today for their role in the international movement of
drugs (cocaine in Brazil and Mexico, and heroin in China) as well
Autonomous Traffickers
as, in the case of Mexico, in the production of cannabis.These are
very large, economically diversified countries, where, unlike in
It must be borne in mind — however obvious this may seem
producing countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Pakistan,
— that all traffickers are faced with the problem of having to es-
Afghanistan and Burma, the drug trade plays a relatively marginal
cape the severity of the law, either by going into hiding or,
macroeconomic role. However, these illegal activities can have a
when the scope or nature of their activities is such that secrecy
far more significant impact on the political arena than on the na-
may not be guaranteed, by circumventing the representatives
tional economy. Several legal cases have exposed the involve-
of the State whose job it is to enforce the law. Various means of
ment in drug trafficking of some of these countries’ senior civil
neutralizing the law can then be used, as a result of which a
servants. Over the past ten years, these cases have caused a stir
number of officials renounce the exercise of their duties in the
in the international media. Some of them are mentioned by Luis
struggle against drug traffickers while retaining their position
Astorgas in his chapter on Mexico, by Guilhem Fabre in the case
— since their resignation would serve no purpose. These offi-
of China and by the present writer in the context of Brazil. What
cials’ act of renunciation, coupled with their failure to relinquish
exactly, then, do these sensational episodes represent in relation
their office, is at the very core of the corruptive transaction. Such
to the situation of the elective, executive and judicial adminis-
an act entails the repudiation of the ideals of the State that the
trations and authorities in these countries? Beyond the scandals,
corrupt officials have pledged to uphold in principle, and im-
which can as such affect any State at any point in time, the au-
parts from the outset to those practices a moral dimension that
thors have endeavoured to understand the nature of existing re-
cannot be left out of any analysis aimed at understanding and
lations between State institutions and the traffic in narcotics, or,
measuring the effects of such practices. As for the criminals,
more broadly in the case of China, the relations of State institu-
they deal with the institution of the State as a whole in the
tions with criminal activities of which drug trafficking is only one
same manner as with every one of the individual officials they
corrupt: they manage to induce the State to both relinquish the
1 Introduction

exercise of its responsibility against them and remain in place
not confine themselves to circumventing elected officials. They
(politics proper being of no interest to them).
are then in a position to consider capturing elective State offices
and filling those offices themselves. The latter approach differs
On the part of the traffickers, the ordinary corruption proce-
from the ordinary procedures of State neutralization (corrup-
dure thus consists in prompting the representatives of the State
tion, funding of electoral campaigns). In this case, criminals be-
to renege on their commitment by enticing them through the
come, both personally and officially, the servants of the very
promise of some material gain, service or particularly attractive
State whose laws they violate, as some sectors of State adminis-
and providential riches, and then resorting, if necessary, to threats
tration are placed under their legal responsibility. This is one of
of some terrible evil — including the death of the official or of the
the alarming patterns of contemporary criminalization of the ac-
official’s relatives. In the course of our research, we all encoun-
tivities of State representatives. An example of this pattern was
tered police officers, judges and journalists who either had been
notoriously displayed in Colombia during the 1970s. One of the
the victims of such neutralization attempts, or had come across
articles below (see C. Geffray) deals with the lesser-known case
documents similar to the one reproduced below(1):
of the federate State of Rondônia in Brazil, where traffickers won
elections for mayor, state deputy, federal deputy and senator.
"Dear colleague! Henrique.Faithful friend.We had hoped that you
One of them would have been elected governor of the state in
would keep to our arrangement. You know what this is about! No?
1990 had he not been assassinated a few days before the sec-
You know yes Henrique,you are the one who forgot it.Not us.You had
ond ballot.
promised to inform us about any investigation on us. It’s very lucky
for us that you can be bought — for a very cheap price — you’re not
even worth a pack of cigarettes. Do you remember that you helped

Traffickers under Special Protection
us in some difficult situations? Where we earned millions and you
earned pennies? Henrique is such an idiot that he didn’t even realize

There are many other modes of "State criminalisation".What
he was being used. He sold himself for: packs of cigarettes — a few
happens in Colombia, or to a much lesser degree in Brazil, India
(1) This message was sent by drug traffickers to an
beers — some whisky and a few litres of gasoline.To us,you are a zero
or Thailand, where corruption is initiated from outside the State,
officer of the Civil Police named Henrique. It was
(…) because your colleagues’ life is hanging by a thread, thanks to
bears no resemblance to what happens as a result of the same
found in a drawer at the officer’s police station in
you. You’re going to pay for all this very dearly, your days are num-
drug trafficking operations in Mexico or China, for example. Luis
Cacoal during a search carried out by the Federal
Police in 1991 (Abdiel Rabelo File, 1991, archives of
bered because you did not keep to our arrangement."
Astorgas has endeavoured for years to dispel the very notion,
the Regional Superintendence of the Federal Police,
conveyed by the press, public opinion and Mexican public fig-
Porto Velho, Rondônia). It is reproduced below in its
The traffickers’ financial power and the mediocrity of the of-
ures, that drug trafficking developed independently of the State
original typography, including the misspellings:
ficials’ income are well known in Brazil, as well as in most coun-
and gradually corrupted the latter from the outside. "The creation
tries involved in drug trafficking. It is thus easy to measure the
of a State party in 1929, the monopolistic character of political
sabe sim henrrique,você é que esqueceu.Nós não.Você

corrupting influence that the outlaws can potentially exert at ev-
power and the military control of the national territory have ren-
prometeu nos informar sobre qualquer investigação
ery echelon of the government hierarchy before they have re-
dered the autonomous development of significant groups of illegal
ao nosso respeito. a nossa maior sorte é que você tem
course to death threats, as well as the vulnerability of those sec-
drug traffickers virtually impossible. However spontaneous the
um preço = MUITO BAIXO = não chega a valer uma
tors of the State apparatus that are exposed. In many Latin
emergence of some of those groups may have been, the latter found
bagana de cigarro./Lembra quando você nos ajudou
American countries as well as in India, Thailand, etc., the traffick-
themselves faced at some point with a far stronger power structure
a sair de alguma situação difíceis? Onde ganhamos
milhões e você CENTAVOS? Henrrique é tão otário que

ers’financial resources also allow them to act upstream of the es-
that compelled them to forfeit a substantial part of their gains" (see
nem percebeu que estava sendo USADO. Se vendeu
tablishment of the State’s organizational chart, by contributing
below L. Astorgas). In other words, State representatives enjoyed,
por: maços de cigarro —cervejinhas — uísque e litrin-
to the funding of electoral campaigns. In so doing, they secure
for decades, sufficient power and self-confidence to deal directly
hos de gazolina./Tu és vagabundo para NÓS, (…)
the silence and goodwill of some elected representatives. If they
with drug traffickers and spare them from the severity of the law
porque coloca a vida dos seus colegas por um fio de ca-
operate shrewdly, they can even manage to keep the latter gen-
if they agreed to hand over a share of their illegal profits in re-
uinely unaware of the criminal source of those funds… Once

their clientele has become strong enough, some traffickers do
2 Introduction

Alba Zaluar (see below) demonstrates that Mexican-style acts
ference is less a product of the intensity of drug trafficking, the
of public extortion have been documented in Brazil at the level
magnitude of the trafficking population or the volume of illegal
of small-scale redistribution. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, police
wealth circulating in the national economy (which is significantly
officers extort money from consumers, in particular from the
greater in Colombia and Mexico than in Brazil) than of the pat-
"poorest, who do not have the resources to make a "deal". Users
tern of the historical balance of power between State institutions
prefer to (…) become accomplices to the extortion, and they ar-
and traffickers.
gue that it is better to pay, to "hand over the dough" and reach
an agreement than to be exposed to the legal consequences.
Just as the Institutional Revolutionary Party presided de facto
Some are suspicious of police officers, whom they see as "crooks
over the destiny of the Mexican State for more than 70 years, so
in uniforms", and this exposes them to abuse by the police force.
there exists in China a powerful and permanent civil service,which
They draw attention to the figure of the "thuggish" police officer
to this day operates under the tutelage of a single party that has
who arrests, beats, and in some cases kills".Yet, unlike in Mexico,
been exercising its sovereignty over the de jure State since 1949.As
wholesale traffickers do not seem to be involved in such prac-
in the case of Mexico,the recent liberalization and decentralization
tices (in the course of our investigations in Brazil, we once came
process in the Chinese economy seems to have facilitated the cre-
across the case of a Military Police officer from the State of Mato
ation within the State apparatus of internal networks that abuse
Grosso who demanded a bribe of $200,000 to look the other way
their power in order to control and siphon off the proceeds from il-
regarding a substantial delivery of cocaine. He was gunned down
legal activities. Clearly, the public functions that the Chinese
by the traffickers along with his family in Rondonópolis in
Communist administration has fulfilled since 1949 have been vastly
September 1995, and thus never achieved his ends).
different from those exercised by its Mexican nationalist counter-
part. Guilhem Fabre (see below) demonstrates how, "in their new
Unlike in Brazil, the corrupt transactions in Mexico were
managerial role, local authorities, monopolistic central authorities,
hence for a long time initiated by officials or elected representa-
or even some central institutions such as the military,the armed po-
tives from the "State party" (a de facto single party), who, as it
lice forces, the public security forces and the judicial system have
were, set their price for relinquishing the exercise of their duty in
tended to maximize profits from economic activities carried out un-
the fight against Mexican outlaws. Only in the last decade, as the
der their tutelage by limiting all forms of competition".
political monopoly of the Institutional Revolutionary Party on the
Nevertheless,as in Mexico,the implementation of this policy fosters
government of the federate states (and subsequently on the fed-
the creation of coercive administrative networks (in the area of tax-
eral level since July 2000) came to an end, have some groups of
ation,customs,the police,the military,etc.).These networks strive to
traffickers been able to win their independence from the State,
take advantage of their public prerogatives in a way such that they
now represented by members of the opposition party. In the fed-
"act at the same time as regulators,custodians and revenue hunters,
erate states where this institutional and political mutation has
and (that) their grip is exercised as well in the field of the illicit and
had an impact, the phenomenon seems to have coincided with
criminal economy". The seriousness of this situation eventually
a rapid increase in the practices of violent regulation of the ille-
elicited a strong reaction on the part of the central authority in the
gal market and of its relations with the State (assassinations, set-
summer of 1998, and brought about the "prohibition of all eco-
tlings of accounts, intimidations and execution of threats, as hap-
nomic activity among the armed forces, the armed police forces
pened for a long time at the national level in Colombia, for ex-
and the judicial system". In this case as well, the arrest and convic-
ample).There is a clear difference between the powerful Mexican
tion of the Deputy Minister of Public Security in charge of border
State and the "democratic" situation in Colombia and Brazil,
security illustrates the involvement of some of the highest State au-
where traffickers have always enjoyed a broad measure of au-
thorities in criminal activities. Yet drug trafficking is only one of
(2) The author analyses the specific role of drug traf-
tonomy from the State — which they have sought to corrupt
many facets in the illegal Chinese economy, alongside gambling,
ficking in the global illegal economy of China in Les
from the outside. It is easy to see how the discrepancy, though in-
prostitution, moonlighting, smuggling and counterfeiting, whose
prospérités du crime (Chapter 2), Editions de l’Aube,
herited from history, may fade away in the future as a result of the
global development is assessed here by the author in its relations
1999, published with the support of the UNESCO-
MOST Programme.
democratisation process in the Mexican political arena. This dif-
with the decentralization and liberalization of the economy(2).
3 Introduction

Two Procedures of Corruption
ample, seems to have been located at the level of the Federal
and Criminalisation
Division of Security (DFS) and the Public Ministry (Procuradoria
General de la República, PGR), which Luis Astorgas shows were
The balance of power between the State and the outlaws in
the strategic sites for the "mediation" between political power
the corruptive transaction thus differs from one country to the
and traffickers from 1947 to 1985.The members of those sensi-
other. In Brazil, it seems to favour corrupting traffickers, who tar-
tive Mexican administrative bodies were obviously in a better
get the representatives of a rather weak State. In Mexico or
position to impose the price of their connivance on the traf-
China, it tends to benefit the corrupt representatives of States
fickers than the dean of a university or the director of a hospi-
that are substantially more threatening for the outlaws. In both
tal would have been … Conversely, Brazilian, Colombian and
cases, those who dominate the balance of power impose the
Indian police officers and judges also constitute the prime tar-
price of the neutralization of the law. It must be noted that the
get for corruptive traffickers (who are usually quite indifferent
criminalisation process of activities carried out by State repre-
to deans). From this point of view, it is understandable that part
sentatives subsequently follows two opposing paths. In Brazil,
of Mexican and Brazilian public opinion should be reluctant to
some drug traffickers are able to rely on their financial power
entrust their country’s national armies —renowned for their in-
and their social constituencies to seize positions of authority
tegrity — with the mission of fighting drug trafficking, for fear
within the State in a lawful manner (as has happened in
that these institutions be exposed to the subversive appeal of
Colombia, Thailand and India). In Mexico or China, on the other
the wealth generated by the traffickers whom they may be
hand, officials or elected representatives are the abusers of their
called upon to combat.
own legal authority, which they use to place criminal activities
under their protection and share the proceeds from these ac-
tivities with the criminals. Alternatively, they can choose to en-
Preliminary conclusions: the Issue of
gage directly and at a lesser risk in those activities under the
cover of their position (as was the case some time ago at the
highest level under the military governments of Bolivia,
The studies mentioned thus establish a distinction between
Pakistan, Peru, etc.).
two forms of corruption that epitomize roughly two opposing
paths of "State criminalisation", depending on the power of the
This phenomenon is unsurprising, in fact, since it is the very
authority that the officials or elected representatives refrain from
authority of the State that finds itself negotiated and traded in
exercising — such renunciation constituting the very object of
the last resort by the corrupt individuals through the corruptive
the corruptive transaction. Beyond this inevitably sketchy oppo-
transaction, and since that authority is undeniably more feared
sition, it must be noted that all of these studies have in common
in China and in Mexico (or under any dictatorial regime) than in
the fact that they raise the question of the political legitimacy of
Brazil,Thailand or Colombia.The Chinese practice described by
those States that are involved in drug trafficking. Indeed, the drug
Guilhem Fabre, whereby delinquents purchase police uniforms
money does not solely serve to increase the wealth of private in-
(which are sold on the open market) in order to abuse the pre-
dividuals (in which case the issue of the relations between out-
rogatives of the police, is uncommon in Brazil, where usurping
laws and State would be reduced to a simple question of polic-
the same function fails to yield similar advantages … For the
ing). The outflow of that money also causes a shift in the public
same reason, it is scarcely surprising that those institutions
perception of legitimate authority in society for the populations
which are the most exposed to corruption should be, in every
single case, those administrative bodies whose mission it is to
enforce the law and which possess the means to achieve that
The drug money increases the wealth of traffickers and of
end, i.e., the police, the judiciary and in some cases the military.
some of the Mexican State’s representatives, but it can also serve
For a long time, the source of the corruptive interconnection
to replenish the treasury of a Mexican governor’s federate State,
between large-scale trafficking and the Mexican State, for ex-
thereby helping to strengthen the legal legitimacy that such a
4 Introduction

public figure enjoys in the State and facilitate that public figure’s
free-trade ideology and the concomitant demotion of the im-
re-election.The drug money increases the wealth of Brazilian traf-
age of the State (the only historical institution that has ever had
fickers, but it can also benefit small coffee producers when a traf-
the authority ideally to promote the public good vis-à-vis the
ficker buys their crops at prices that are well above the market
expression of private interests) do nothing to curb the greed
price. In that case, the money is no longer simply laundered. It can
and ambition of traffickers.
grant the criminals, who nevertheless remain outlaws, sufficient
legitimacy to win a federal election that will sanction their clien-
telist legitimacy through the additional blessing of the law, while
administrative bodies whose task it is, in principle, to suppress
them are placed under their personal responsibility. The drug
money that is earmarked for the corruption of officials can be al-
located to them without causing them to perceive the transac-
tion as a venal procedure aimed at purchasing their connivance.
It can be transferred to them in such a way that they will interpret
the transaction in fact as the allocation of a benefit that will win
them over to the clientelist ideal embodied by the magnanimous
trafficker — as though the outlaw’s promises turned out to be
more credible and the outlaw’s authority more legitimate than
those of the State they are supposed to serve. Finally, illegal
wealth can enable some members of the Chinese civil service to
preserve the legitimacy of the latter’s internal hierarchy, as well
as the legitimacy of the populations’ subordination to its bu-
reaucratic authority.
The social consequences of the outflow of drug money, and
more generally of the proceeds from crime, are thus not only of
an economic nature. There are eminently political in so far as
the devolution or investment of these resources fosters a spe-
cific form of legitimacy — one whose principle is thoroughly in-
different to the law or to any institutional statute.This clientelist
legitimacy is capable of consolidating, subverting or inducing
the collapse of any institution (and remains in this respect a
challenge for social science). Anywhere it exists, the outflow of
illegal wealth has the potential to create or maintain a-legal
poles of legitimacy that are indifferent to the law, regardless of
its formal orientation (democracy, single party). In all cases,
these clientelist legitimacies impinge on those of the State that
they subvert.The decline, if not the collapse, of the State’s credit
can coincide with the rise of these subterranean clientelist po-
larities, driven by the sole private interest of traffickers and their
strategies of neutralization and instrumentalisation of legal in-
stitutions that remain indifferent to the public interest and le-
gality. It is worth noting that the contemporary triumph of the
5 Introduction

gal drug trafficking in each country could explain, at least par-
tially, why this very essential communication would be difficult
or easy to achieve. It would also explain how the generalizations
and labels that the media apply indiscriminately to all these
countries obstruct rational understanding of the phenomenon
Luis Astorga
and serve to feed the Manichean fantasies of those who think in
terms of battles between heroes and villains.
Politicians currently heading antidrug policies do so by con-
viction or because they have to, or because of a combination of
both.When they came to power, the prohibitionist policy was al-
ready in place and they have rarely been able to change it in any
way other than reinforcing it. Some may criticize the policy in pri-
vate, but ultimately such criticism is not reflected in the general
orientation. It is as if such policies and the institutions imple-
menting them had a life of their own and a paradoxical capacity
to reproduce and reinforce themselves that is in direct propor-
tion to the failure of their explicit national and international ob-
jectives. More than eight decades since this prohibitionist trend
began to prevail worldwide, we should ask ourselves whether
that is not precisely its inherent logic.
There is no doubt that the modern communication media
have been instrumental in spreading drug-related stories from
At the beginning of the 20th century, the social use of certain
all over the world. The aspects that stand out are usually those
drugs —particularly although not exclusively opiates — stopped
that concern governments, which include production, trafficking,
being a matter of concern simply among certain social groups, as
consumption, corruption, crime and money laundering. Less is
had been the case with these and other substances in countless
said about the historical processes that gave rise to prohibition
other periods in history.On this occasion, the new groups had suf-
policies in different countries with different experiences. And
ficient power to impose their own moral codes and raise them to
hardly anything is said about the majority of social agents who
the status of law, applicable to everyone. One country, the United
have made the illicit trade in illegal drugs their way of life and of
States, assumed international leadership in promoting a policy of
survival. The often-fanciful news items about leading traffickers
prohibition, the multiplier effects of which are even today grow-
are exceptions.
ing in intensity. Between its beginnings and now, that policy has
been reinforced, as has the hegemony of the United States in its
The increasingly abundant scientific production concerning
design and modifications. The governments of drug-producing
the illegal drug field and its connections with the political, social,
and transit countries, as well as consumer countries to a lesser ex-
economic and cultural fields rarely finds its place in such media.
tent, have been left with very little autonomy to introduce signif-
It remains an accumulation of knowledge by experts and for ex-
icant changes or negotiate with the United States on a more
perts in the specific academic field and can only with difficulty
equal power basis, when they have expressed such intentions.
— a difficulty that varies in degree according to the country —
Among heads of State, the same principles operate as those guid-
find an echo in political decision-making. It is not easy to estab-
ing the government officers who implement the antidrug policy
lish bridges between scientific reasoning and political reasoning,
in a given country.They are convinced that they are either an im-
and even less so in a field that is as old, sensitive, ideology-prone
portant part of a far-reaching national and global project, or sub-
and polemical as that of drugs. The history of the genesis of ille-
ject to a transnational will.
6 Chapter 1

While this was not exclusive to the last eight decades, the so-
trade.These included the previous existence of raw materials, the
cial use of certain psychoactive substances moved from the pri-
experience of local growers, different attitudes towards illegal
vate domain to become a concern of the State, which controlled
plants as consumer goods or goods to be traded between in-
and forbade such use. Prejudice, stigma and criminalisation —
habitants of producer countries, and different official positions.
quickly replacing the eugenic arguments of the earlier period —
The latter ranged from prohibitionist attitudes in imitation of the
awaited groups that deviated from the newly established norm.
United States — although the institutional mechanisms or will to
The United States ruled on the international scene, with its vision
enforce the law were lacking —, to total indifference to new
and experience in antidrug policy serving as a model and inspi-
trends that were winning adepts in international forums, which
ration for other countries. It placed itself in a position of force so
resulted in laissez-faire and laissez-passer situations. Then there
as to supervise the action of other States and judge the extent of
was another alternative, whereby the birth of the field of illegal
their compliance or non-compliance. It reserved the right to in-
trading in illicit drugs interacted with the field of political power,
tervene in the domestic affairs of these countries in different
outside or inside the latter. This would be reflected in pragma-
ways; interventions ranged from the symbolic, with stigmatising
tism, hypocrisy and institutionalised corruption or in a crusade
discourse, to economic sanctions and direct or indirect military
that, although ruthless, would be no more effective than other
intervention.The United States has the largest number of illegal
drug users in the world, is now a major world producer of mari-
juana — one of the most sought-after drugs on its own market
It is precisely the study of this last point — the birth of a new
—, and is number one in the field of money laundering within its
social field and the moment when it emerges, along with its spe-
frontiers. It is truly odd and perverse, therefore, that this should
cial ways of interacting with other fields in a given society — that
be the country to have granted itself such authority and to use
enables us to understand the major differences between coun-
this unblushingly.
tries. Such differences are at present glossed over as mere illus-
trations of a general model that is in fact non-existent.The model
According to the particular history of its inhabitants’uses and
is implicit in the dominant discourse on illegal drug trafficking,
customs regarding psychoactive drugs, each nation has accu-
and of course in the media that reproduce it daily. This model
mulated experience, which it has sometimes codified into law.
would have no major consequences — or at least these would
For a long time, different cultures succeeded in creating social
be less serious — if only it remained symbolic. However, the prob-
control mechanisms that checked any overly negative effects
lem is that the dominant policies to "tame the beast" are inspired
that might result from use that was excessive or extraneous to
by this very model and aim at universality. It is thought that if in-
traditional rules. Then a mass market was formed for age-old
dividual cases are simply a miniature copy of the overall situation,
plants with psychoactive properties, and for their powerful com-
the same solution can be applied to each and the sum of results
ponents — whether isolated derivatives or chemically produced
should consequently tend towards an overall solution. To date
— in cultures where there were neither social control mecha-
the more or less similar strategies that have been implemented
nisms nor traditional use. And this created the conditions for an
in the United States’ immediate geographic or political sphere of
economic activity that acquired greater impetus because of the
influence have produced different results, created additional in-
prohibitions imposed on such substances.
ternal problems and have had no significant impact towards any-
thing remotely resembling an overall solution. Whoever pre-
Illegal drugs were commercialised in the same way as the le-
scribes and administers the quantity and quality of the medicine
gal goods circulating on the international market, the difference
seems more interested in keeping the patient dependent upon
being that prohibition created additional costs that were re-
the doctor than in curing the illness diagnosed.
flected in prices. Also, the concentration, expansion and perma-
nence of the greatest demand in just a few countries directed
From the moment when commerce in certain drugs was
drug flows to faithful destinations. Different reasons caused some
banned, information on the subject concentrated in law-en-
countries to be more prominent than others in the illegal drug
forcement institutions. Information became virtually a monopoly
7 Chapter 1

of the State. Depending on the country, journalism gave a differ-
monopolized in the hands of the State party, began to show
ent slant to knowledge about the illegal world, although in many
signs of losing control over its own mediating institutions. The
cases it only served to ensure wider publication of what the gov-
latter, like the traffickers’ organizations, were acquiring greater
ernment wanted known. The other source of knowledge lay in
relative independence from the political power. Also, during this
the actual social agents involved in the illegal business, who ob-
phase, stronger pressure was brought to bear by the United
viously had no desire to reveal the secrets of their world.The uni-
States than in former periods.The fourth began with the removal
verse, now legally designated as outside the law, took on mate-
of the PRI from executive power, the loss of its absolute majority
rial form as the police began to interpret the law and to act.This
in the Houses and the opposition’s access to the main positions
in its turn had the effect of expanding the areas criminalized. A
of power. This period is only just beginning to take shape. In all
certain moralizing journalism also made its contribution, singling
these phases, modifications in the State and by the State effected
out and publicly accusing social agents and deviant behaviour in
the reorganization of relations between the political field and
the field of illegal drugs. The principal sources of information
that of illegal drug trafficking. The purpose of this chapter is to
available for studying the history of the field of forbidden drugs
demonstrate in synthesis some of the most relevant aspects of
— or at least of some of the stages and characteristics of its trans-
the three major periods mentioned above, and of a fourth that is
formations — are the official and press archives.These reflect the
currently forming.
dominant morality, the interests of factions and political calcula-
tion, as well as the descriptive objectivity of people who were
convinced that they were acting in accordance with the law in a
Period 1914-1947
democratic nation. Direct, exclusive testimonials by criminals are
far from constituting a primary source, because of their inacces-
The field of trafficking in illicit drugs first emerged in the
sibility. Information available on these subjects is over-used by
United States as another variety of criminal activity with the pro-
the media. Even nowadays, interviews with the principal social
hibition of opium in 1914. The same period in Mexican history
agents in this field by academic researchers or journalists at-
was characterized by political and social convulsions, the de-
tempting to obtain an idea of their world from the inside are rare,
struction of a former regime and struggles for power.With its bi-
not to say non-existent.Within the field, one reason for this is the
lateral functioning, the field was building up to a cross-border re-
law of silence; such silence is a question of honour, or else recog-
ality until the Mexican government, under the new State just
nition that a higher power has the capacity to punish in the case
emerging from the revolution, decided to legislate against mar-
of compromising revelations. Outside the field, there is fear and
ijuana in 1920, and the opium poppy in 1926. In the years be-
the more or less well-founded perception that knowing more
tween the measures taken by the United States and those taken
than one should can be dangerous for the health.
by Mexico, what was penalized in one country was considered in
the other to be just another legitimate commercial activity, de-
There are at least three major periods in the history of the il-
spite certain earlier, unsuccessful attempts at legal control. The
legal drug trafficking field in Mexico that enable us to observe
field was born as a reaction to foreign measures, which Mexico
more clearly its relations with the political field and its transfor-
adopted as its own. However, before the field emerged in Mexico
mations. These are 1914-1947, 1947-1985 and 1985-2000.
it began to acquire characteristics connected with the political
Another period appears to have begun on 2 July 2000. The first
field at that time in regions known for their smuggling activities,
was characterized by the birth of the field itself, in subordination
and these characteristics would persist during prohibitions un-
to the political power, and in particular to the figure heading the
der the revolutionaries and the creation of the new state.
political hierarchy in each of the drug-producing or trafficking
northern states. During the second, structural mediations repre-
Traffickers of forbidden drugs form a social category that was
sented by police forces and the army were created between the
created by criminalizing a commercial activity that had formerly
political power and traffickers. During the third, the political sys-
been legal. The Mexican opium trader of the early 20th century
tem that had emerged from the revolution, with political power
mainly took his merchandise, produced in Asia or in Northwest
8 Chapter 1

Mexico, across the Californian frontier via the cities of Ensenada,
but not with politics, a forbidden area to them. Smuggling illegal
Mexicali and Tijuana. Although he was a criminal in the eyes of
psychoactive substances became an additional subordinate
the United States law, he had no distinctive qualities to differen-
component in the field as it emerged as one more illegal busi-
tiate him from other traders. Nevertheless, his activity was already
ness made possible by the political power. In this issue at least,
sufficiently profitable to attract those at the top of the political
the history of crime and that of political power cannot be sepa-
power hierarchy.The latter had no scruples about taking advan-
rated. It is for this reason that recent concerns regarding orga-
tage of their rank and of the political and military control in their
nized crime must necessarily seek explanations through a his-
hands to charge these traders for the right to operate, demand-
torical analysis of the organization of crime(2).
ing monthly quotas for the right to stay in the trade. They even
intervened directly to control the new cross-frontier commercial
Another of the characteristics observed at the root of the
activity. During the overthrow and hastened demise of the old
above example was the role of the United States government
regime of Porfirio Diaz, military and political power was concen-
and its specialized agencies for investigating and monitoring il-
trated in the person of Colonel Esteban Cantú, governor of the
legal drug issues worldwide. United States vigilance, which be-
territory of Baja California and de facto highest authority, who
gan with the Harrison law in 1914, can clearly be seen in the de-
imposed his own law. For the government and the laws of the
tailed reports prepared that its Treasury and the Department of
United States, the opium traders and the governor himself were
State officers prepared on anyone who, according to its law, fell
traffickers(1). In Mexico, the old State had still not totally disap-
into the category of drug trafficker. Reports stated the types of
peared, and the new State was in the process of construction. In
drugs, their origin and how their trafficking developed. Names
addition, relations between the governor and the dominant rev-
were given, along with the responsibilities of those investigated.
olutionary forces were not particularly cordial. In the opium
Information accumulated in this way is still one of the major
trade, the governor acted pragmatically and exploited all his
weapons used by the United States government when accusing
comparative advantages. He took money where he could for his
foreign governments or their leaders publicly of inadequate co-
government expenses and to pay his troops — and also to in-
operation in antidrug efforts. One historical constant is the high-
crease his personal fortune. He was not breaking any opium laws
lighting of relations between the political world and drug traf-
at first, because they did not exist in the early years. Later, he re-
ficking.The theme of corrupt authorities is permanent, although
morselessly violated the very prohibition that he had decreed. He
explanations vary according to the country concerned or the pe-
was abusing his power, although he did not see it in this way; he
riod. Sometimes it is asserted that the problem is of the "rotten
considered it to be just another of his prerogatives.
apple" variety, and at others that the governments themselves
are at cause.
The business was watched over, administered or controlled
by the political power, forming a special field in the illegal econ-
When the Mexican government banned marijuana and the
omy whose most profitable aspects were subject to the goodwill
opium poppy in the nineteen-twenties, the trafficker as a figure
of the governing class. That first historical experience at the be-
came into legal existence nationally.Thus the new laws did away
(1) See General Records of the Department of State,
ginning of opium smuggling to the United States marks one of
with the double identity of traders in such plants; until then they
Record Group 59, 812.114 Narcotics/12-22, United
the characteristics of the original relationship between the po-
had been criminals for some and legal traders for others.
States National Archives II, College Park, Maryland;
litical field and the field of illegal drug trading. This was the sub-
Criminalisation created the field, defined its characteristics, deter-
Joseph Richard Werene,Esteban Cantú y la soberanía
mexicana en Baja California
, in Historia Mexicana,
ordination of the latter to the former, the confining of traffickers
mined what was at stake and imposed the rules to deter anyone
N° 117, vol. XXX, July-September 1980 (1), pp.1-32.
to their own activity, and the tacit ban on their intervention in the
wishing to play at flouting them.Meanwhile,the lawbreakers were
(2) A more detailed analysis of the subject is found in:
political arena. From the outset, the social division of labour was
marking a budding transnational field, where the legal risks were
Luis Astorga, "Organized Crime and the Organization
clear. Politicians in the governing class took care of politics and
doubling, with their personal stamp. The quasi non-existence of
of Crime", in John Baily and Roy Godson (editors),
could take advantage of their position to do business — even il-
an attractive local market for their illicit goods turned them into
"Organized Crime and Democratic Governability:
legal business. Exporters of forbidden drugs could only involve
export specialists. They were operating a business that they did
Mexico and the U.S-Mexican Borderlands",University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2000, pp. 58-82.
themselves with the different economic stages of the business,
not entirely control in either of its stages — at home or abroad.
9 Chapter 1

They were links in a chain and born under the protection of polit-
tle differences between political factions of the same party. In
ical power.Their success was not dependent on lawbreaking, but
one case the President himself had to calm things down. As
on the quality and duration of their relations with their "godfa-
there was no political opposition party and the legislative and
thers", and on their agreement to submit and to hand over a share
judicial authorities were at the service of the executive, the po-
of their earnings in exchange for protection. He who paid did not
litical elite was sure of impunity, since it was judging itself.
command, despite the usual understanding of the expression. He
who commanded extorted and decided when, how, where and
The health authorities were given the responsibility of su-
for how long the illegal business could operate. He had the back-
pervising compliance with antidrug legislation.This was not sur-
ing that came from his dominant position in the field of power,
prising in a country where the reasons for prohibition at the out-
and from the authority granted him to exercise the monopoly of
set were eugenic. In the nineteen-twenties the health authorities
legitimate violence.
were concerned about the health and improvement of the "race"
and the effect that forbidden substances could have on these. In
In various states in the north of the country there were cases
the nineteen-thirties, there were high-ranking civil servants in the
where official investigations and newspaper articles pointed out
department of health who thought that addicts were not crimi-
the close links between known traffickers and local governors.The
nal but sick, and that they needed appropriate treatment in spe-
example mentioned earlier of the Governor of Baja California was
cialized clinics financed and administered by the State. In addi-
no exception; on the contrary, it was the first of a type of relation
tion, they proposed that the distribution of illegal drugs should
that seems to have been reproduced in different places with sim-
be a State monopoly, so as to control quality and prices and re-
ilar characteristics. In some cases the central authorities demon-
move traffickers from the market(4). At the same time, the number
strated concern about the suspicion of such links.Local authorities
of so-called anti-narcotics officers in the department of health
did not necessarily share this attitude,nor did the past and present
was — given the size of the country — symbolic. For example, in
illegal activities of people for whom they acted as godfather sur-
1944 there were only two officers in the Anti-narcotics Police —
prise them(3). Naturally they did not bother with investigations,
which came under on the Department of Public Health — to
since laws were not for friends.
cover the whole country. They had to ask for help from local po-
lice and the army when destroying illegal crops.The policing ori-
The same decade of marijuana and opium poppy prohibi-
entation of the prohibitionist policy was gaining ground, and
tions in Mexico (1920 and 1926) saw the creation of the State
from then on the reforming attempts of a few public health offi-
party (PNR, 1929). The intention behind its foundation was to
cers were overruled and forgotten. The influence of the United
contain the breakaway tendencies of the different political and
States government through Harry Anslinger, the head of its
military factions that had taken part in the revolution, channel
newly created and increasingly powerful Federal Bureau of
their differences, negotiate such differences peacefully and cre-
Narcotics (FBN), was instrumental in this change of direction. And
(3) For example, Nazario Ortiz Garza, governor of
ate new institutions that would give shape to the post-revolu-
the public health institution had its own problems. Its director,
Coahuila in the nineteen-thirties,was godfather to the
tionary State.The acute patrimonialism of former years had not
who was a doctor and a general, said that one problem was his
principal opium trader in the region (cf. Confidential
disappeared with the revolution; it had simply acquired other
officers’ salaries, which were so low that he often paid them with
memorandum, Department of Public Health, Mexico
methods. The most enterprising members of the new political
the very drugs that they were confiscating and which, of course,
City, 16 June 1931, in Archives of Department of Health
class took advantage of their positions of authority to accumu-
they in turn sold to add to their income. He also pointed out that
(ASS), Fondo Salubridad Pública (FSP), Sección Servicio
Jurídico (SSJ),box 28,file 6).

late fortunes and invest in numerous businesses. Objectively,
Mexican traffickers in Ciudad Juárez were beginning to imitate
(4) The most important personality to defend these
the only barriers against such activity were the authority and
United States gangsters by using armed violence against rival
measures was Doctor Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra,
will of the President, a lack of business acumen or a personal
Director of the Department of Drug Addictions in
ethical disposition that drew the line at taking advantage of the
the Department of Public Health in the thirties
world of possibilities available. Suspicion of governors’ involve-
World War II as an event was without doubt the most impor-
(Cf.Luis Astorga,El siglo de las drogas,Mexico,Espasa-
ment in illegal drug trading and accusations against them
tant factor in the increased demand for illegal drugs.These drugs
Calpe, pp. 84-85).
(5) Ibid., p.39.
never went beyond public scandal and use of the press to set-
were needed in enormous quantities and were medically irre-
10 Chapter 1

placeable, both for treating the wounded and responding to
Chihuahua, as protector of his brother José, Municipal President
other needs inherent to the tensions of war. Production of raw
of Ciudad Juárez. One of the candidates to the post of state gov-
materials was seen to increase in places where it existed already,
ernor had accused the latter of being involved in the opium trade,
and began in others. And, as with other wars, the solders kept
since he had removed (with bullets) Enrique Fernández Puerta.
their user habits when they returned to civilian life in their coun-
The latter had formerly controlled the business, and had in his
tries.The market had grown and continued to demand new sup-
time been protected by Governor Luis León (1929-1930) — who
pliers. The business became more attractive and profitable and
had him released from the Islas Marias prison — and Roberto
the number of people wanting to enter it grew.The field was ex-
Fierro (1931-1932). However, such information achieved nothing
panding and needed more participants. Those who had senior-
like the national scandal created by the Macías Valenzuela case.
ity and longevity, and therefore experience, had an advantage
over the new arrivals.They knew how to stay in the right place in
General Pablo Macías Valenzuela(9) was Minister of War and of
their relation with the political power under whose protection
the Navy from 1940 to 1942, and governor of Sinaloa from 1945
they had grown. At the same time the illegal drug business was
to 1950. During the key year of 1947 various newspapers in the
becoming a subject of major interest and fascination in the po-
federal capital published articles accusing him of protecting traf-
litical field.There was even speculation about a supposed treaty
fickers and being head of the opium trade. They even said that
between the governments of the United States and Mexico — a
he used his own light aeroplanes. Harry Anslinger had asserted
document that has never been seen or shown — with a view to
months earlier that Mexico was the main producer of the opium
increasing opium poppy crops in Mexico and providing the
used in the United States and that certain high-level authorities
United States with the raw material, opium. Harry Anslinger’s ver-
in producing states were involved in the trafficking. Macías’
sion was that Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a member of the "Lucky"
friends maintained that his political enemies were behind the ac-
Luciano family, and his mistress Virginia Hill had made an agree-
cusations in the national press, and more particularly members
ment with Mexican politicians for the funding of opium poppy
of the Lázaro Cárdenas group. The latter were also accusing the
crops in the Northwest of the country(6). The mutual favours ex-
governor of being intellectually responsible for the assassination
changed between the United States government and the
in 1944 of his predecessor Colonel Rodolfo T. Loaiza, a member of
Luciano family during the Second World War with a view to the
their group. For the first time since the prohibitions of the twen-
landing of allied troops in Sicily are widely known. The coexis-
ties, the issue of opium trafficking was being used politically by
tence of raisons d’état and the interests of Cosa Nostra in pro-
members of the governing elite themselves to discredit their en-
moting opium poppy crops in Mexico at that time, the autonomy
emies within the same "revolutionary family". The press articles
with which organized crime operated in Mexico and its use as a
continued at the same pitch during a week of fierce attacks.Then
screen by the United States government remain, to this day, mere
President Miguel Alemán made a trip to Chihahua and Sinaloa
(6) Ibid., pp. 82-83.
working hypotheses.
and had a private talk with governor Macías, and the situation
(7) See letter from Dr Rafael Silva, Chief of the Public
Health Department,to Carlos Trejo y Lerdo de Tejada,
gradually returned to normal.The matter was resolved politically,
Governor of the Northern District of Baja California,
rather than through police investigations or the presentation of
Mexico City, 13 July 1931, in ASS.FSP,SSJ, box 28, file
8; and also the report by Dr Bernardo Bátiz B., Public
Period 1947-1985
evidence. The governor finished his term of office and was later
nominated to other important posts, including head of Military
Health representative in Baja California, to Dr
As a result of investigations carried out by antidrug officers
Region 1 and of Military Camp N°1. It was never known whether
Demetrio López, Head of the Chemical and
Pharmaceutics Department in the Department of
and Health Department staff, the Mexican government knew that
the accusations were founded. The only certainty was that
Public Health, Mexicali, B.C., 19 August 1931, in ASS,
Nazario Ortiz Garza, governor of Coahuila, was "godfather" to the
Sinaloa had become the centre of the nation’s opium trade and
FSP, SSJ, box, 28, file. 8.
most important opium trafficker in the region in the thirties.
the place of origin and headquarters of the main traffickers,
(8) See El Universal Gráfico (evening ed.), 16/12/1937;
During the same decade it had information on Carlos Trejo y
known as gomeros.
La Prensa,9/5/1936; El Universal Gráfico (evening ed.),
Lerdo de Tejada, governor of Baja California, as protector of the
9, 17, 23/11/1937; 14, 16, 27/12/1937; 13, 26/1/1938.
(9) For more details on the case, see Luis Astorga, op.
drug trade(7). Then during those same years there were newspa-
cit., pp.68-83.
per articles singling out General Rodrigo Quevado(8), Governor of
11 Chapter 1

Since the Second World War, the United States government
The quality of the relationship between the political field and
had placed the drug issue high on the list of its political agenda
the field of drug trafficking, which until then had involved the
with the West. It was concerned with levels of use among its own
governors directly and their inner circle, now changed. In its
population. It supposed, and rightly so, that producers were not
place, institutional mediations were created between the two
going to give up a business that was apparently as profitable as
fields.Their functions were to contain, repress and control grow-
ever. Its approach from the prohibitionist angle was to try and
ers and traffickers, and very probably to administer the business.
control the supply, thus shifting its domestic problem to the pro-
The latter now had more partners and earnings needed to be
ducing countries. It warned the governments of such countries
shared differently — downwards and horizontally. If the spell was
that they had to act against illegal crops and traffickers. In 1947,
not to be broken, and the machine kept running, a solid network
during the first civilian government after the revolution, Mexico
of accomplices was needed along with the law of silence. There
responded by moving responsibility for antidrug policy from the
were still no institutional counterweights or independent bod-
health authorities to the Office of the Attorney General of the
ies to ensure accountability. The State party governed without
Republic (PGR). In the same year, while the CIA was being cre-
any real worries. The new institutional mediations shifted suspi-
ated in the United States and as counterpart to this, the Federal
cion of governors and accusations against them to members of
Security Department was created (DFS), which was a kind of po-
the coercive bodies. The governors had rid themselves of latent
litical police under the President which also had powers to in-
political pressure, but they obviously did not abandon their eth-
tervene in antidrug policy. And then, amidst a great show of
ical inclinations or the advantage that their position gave them
publicity, it was announced that the army would be involved in
to use and abuse power.
campaigns to destroy illegal crops.This had been going on since
the thirties, if not longer, but without such a fuss in the media. In
For all the above decades we have a long list of Mexican traf-
the new arrangement, the Attorney General’s office was theo-
fickers at all levels, whose notoriety varied according to the sto-
retically the highest antidrug authority and the army only acted
ries told about them by the authorities and in the press. In the
upon its request and under its orders. In practice, the DFS had
United States during the forties, significant traffickers included
greater influence.
Harold Meltzer, whose contact for opium trafficking was the
Mexican Consul in Washington, Salvatore Duhart and his associ-
The United States Embassy in Mexico sent a report(10) to the
ate Max Cossman, alias Max Weber, to whom the murder in 1944
Department of State in Washington upon the creation of the DFS.
of Enrique Diarte was attributed. Enrique Diarte had been an-
It pointed out that the Senator for Mexico City, Colonel Carlos
other heavyweight trafficker operating in Mexicale and Tijuana.
(10) See General Records of the Department of State,
Serrano — a close friend of President Miguel Alemán, leader of
Also, of course, there were "Bugsy" Siegel and his mistress
"Report of the Assistant Military Attaché on the
the House of Representatives, the originator of the DFS and its
Virginia Hill of the Luciano-Lansky group, mentioned earlier(11).
National Security Police of Mexico" (confidential,
real chief, although unofficially so — was linked with the drug
In none of these cases can the power of the traffickers and their
n°4543), Embassy of the United States of America,
Mexico, DF, 4 de septiembre de 1947, Record Group
trade. It added that the recently nominated official leaders were
organizations be presumed greater than that of the political au-
59,812.105/9-447,United Sattes National Archives II,
similarly linked. The United States authorities were concerned
thorities. They bribed minor civil servants in exchange for
college Park, Maryland.
that subjects with such antecedents should be at the head of an
greater freedom of movement, but the higher they went in their
(11) See Alfred W. McCoy, The politics of heroin. CIA
institution with extraordinary powers similar, in their own words,
dealings with State representatives, the more clearly appeared
complicity in the global drug trade,Chicago,Lawrence
to those of the Gestapo. Other members of the embassy were
their subordination. Here they did not bribe; a kind of tax was
Hill Books, 1991; Novedades, 14/5/1962; Harry J.
Anslinger,William F.Tompkins,The traffic in narcotics,
more optimistic and were hoping that DFS officers trained by the
demanded of them.The power to impose the rules of the game
New York, Arno Press, 1981, pp. 152-153; El Diario de
FBI in Virginia would follow its example.The cold war pattern fo-
and remove them from it at any given moment was not on the
Culiacán, 1/4/1949; La Voz de Sinaloa, 23/11/1951; El
cused mainly on persecuting communists, thereby limiting sus-
traffickers’ side.They were dominant in their own field, but dom-
Universal, 18/3/1958. For a more detailed history of
picions about the illegal business of DFS employees and con-
inated in the broader field of power.The creation of institutional
the relationship between Siegel and Virginia Hill and
centrating mainly on their efficiency to contain the political op-
mediations made it appear as if the political barons had lost in-
the role of these two in drug trafficking in Mexico,
terest in the business. In reality, their involvement became more
see: Ed Reid, La Bella y la Mafia, Mexico, Editorial
Diana, 1973.
opaque and difficult to prove, since investigations reached a halt
12 Chapter 1

once culprits were found at the lower and middle levels of the
Iran and Yugoslavia should be legitimate producers if Mexico
mediating institutions. In fact, violent confrontations between
was not(13). The great difference, of course, was that these coun-
traffickers and State representatives were for many years re-
tries did not have a frontier with the United States, which was
stricted to precisely these levels, as if there was an unwritten
the principal consumer market for legal and illegal opiates at
pact to limit the scope of aggression.
that time.
Traffickers from the country, as most originally were, started
In the seventies another war, the Viet Nam war, and the ef-
to settle on the outskirts of cities such as Culiacán, the capital
fects of the counter-culture in the United States caused a sharp
of Sinaloa. Armed clashes between traffickers in such places
increase in the demand for illicit psychoactive substances. At
were becoming increasingly frequent. Journalists in the nine-
that time, marijuana ranked highest among preferences, al-
teen-fifties immediately associated this kind of violence with
though there was still a demand for opiates. A diversifying and
the violence in Chicago during Capone’s reign. The traffickers
broadening market opened countless opportunities for rapid
were gangsters and Culiacán a Chicago with huarache gang-
accumulation of wealth. The Mexican traffickers — and espe-
sters (gangsters in sandals)(12). Contemporary categories and
cially the Sinaloans, who were the leaders in the field — ex-
patterns of perception for alcohol prohibition in the United
ploited their comparative advantages to the utmost. The
States were applied to designate social agents who would
prospects of rapid enrichment had had never been so promis-
eventually impose their own classification for some time. The
ing, and they were whetting the appetite of an increasing num-
name they called themselves was gomeros — literally "rubber
ber of people. The market had again grown, but also the num-
planters". This came from the work that they did, which was to
ber of individuals who wanted to take part in the bonanza. The
extract the "rubber" (or juice) from the opium poppy and to
Mexican economy, and particularly agriculture, could not ab-
market this.The traffickers’ violence was very local and was not
sorb the existing, constantly increasing labour force. Cultivation
indiscriminate. The district where most of them lived was seen
of illicit plants kept the peasants in their places of origin and in
as the natural territory for crime connected with illegal drugs.
addition enabled them to earn a living, increase their income
The drug trade had concentrated in the state of Sinaloa. People
and improve their standard of living in the short term. Groups
from different social and professional backgrounds joined that
of traffickers that had already managed to accumulate a great
field of illegal commerce for just long enough to set themselves
deal of capital with opium trafficking now multiplied their in-
up financially so as to invest in legitimate activities; then they
come. And as on other occasions, their deep-rooted custom of
moved on. Meanwhile others, who had been born in the busi-
settling differences with guns increased in direct proportion to
ness and whose family livelihood had for generations been il-
the number of players in the field. Unlike the old hands in the
legal crops, were the true professionals of the trade. The vio-
business, who were accustomed to a certain type of relation
lence did not go beyond the boundaries of its own ghettos and
with the political power and coercive bodies, those who had
was not used against people outside the field of trafficking. In
just arrived, the social climbers and heirs of the longest estab-
addition, the business was relatively open to non-professionals
lished, began to show signs of a break — perhaps unconscious
who wished and had the courage to try their luck. As a result,
— with the traditional relations. It was as if the changes in the
conventional society’s attitude towards the business and its
market and the characteristics of new generations of traffickers
operators was — although evidently not indifferent — more
called for new rules of the game. A politician who knew all the
tolerant than in other parts of the country that had not experi-
tricks of the State party system and had sufficient influence,
enced a long history of daily coexistence with these singular
both locally and nationally, such as Leopoldo Sánchez Celis,
characters. So the publication in a Culiacán newspaper of a pro-
Governor of Sinaloa in the sixties, showed the drug traffickers
(12) See Luis Astorga, op.cit., p.89.
posal to the Mexican government to legalize the cultivation of
whose side authority lay on. His enemies said that he protected
(13) See Luis Astorga, op.cit., p.90-92.
the opium poppy, with a view to creating jobs and wealth, is not
the traffickers and allowed them to do business in the state as
(14) See Manuel Lazcano Ochoa, Una vida en la vida
surprising. It was also asked that the proposal be submitted to
long as they killed each other outside the state(14).
sinaloense, Los Mochis, Mexico, Talleres Gráficos,
Universidad de Occidente, p.226.
the United Nations since there was no reason why India,Turkey,
13 Chapter 1

Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo(15), who headed the most power-
While they did not entirely cease operations in their place of ori-
ful traffickers’ organization in the country from at least the mid-
gin, they moved their headquarters to Jalisco, and in particular to
seventies, began his career as a police officer and bodyguard to
its capital, Guadalajara, which is one of the three most important
the family of Governor Sánchez Celis. It has always been sus-
state capitals in economic and demographic terms.Viewed from
pected that the governor was the political godfather of the traf-
the angle of crops destroyed, the military operation was a suc-
ficker, as well as having been best man at his wedding. When
cess. From the social viewpoint, however, the result of the military
Mexico became a major transit country for South American co-
measures was to transplant the problem to other places where
caine, Félix Gallardo’s organization was the favoured intermedi-
the infrastructure offered greater economic and financial advan-
ary(16). As in other decades, the top Sinaloan trafficker was a very
tages. It was this situation combined with the beginning of the
well known person who did not live in hiding. On the contrary, he
rise in the demand for cocaine in the United States market that
acted just like any other entrepreneur, since he also had legiti-
fuelled the capacities and ambitions of the trafficking organiza-
mate businesses and was even a shareholder in a bank headed
by an acquaintance — a politician and financier who later be-
came Minister of the Interior.
In Jalisco, the traffickers did nothing that they had not al-
ready done in Sinaloa in terms of violence, corrupting politicians
The governors who followed Sánchez Célis did not have his
and police, money laundering and strategies to make sure they
ability to impose authority with the necessary force.The violence
were noticed.The latter included their particular lifestyle, which
in the drug trafficking field escalated and increasingly invaded
was reflected in lavish consumer habits, the music they liked,
the rest of Sinaloan society, and the State authorities’reaction did
their way of dressing and their relations with people in local
not satisfy citizens’ expectations. In such an atmosphere, with a
high society. A major mistake finally changed the lives of several
growing and diversifying business on the one hand, and a seem-
of the major traffickers at that time, along with the structure of
ingly uncontrollable increase in a particular type of violence on
the business itself. The mistake that finally cost them their free-
the other, the federal government launched the most spectacu-
dom was the kidnap and murder in 1985 of an agent of the
lar military antidrug campaign since the beginning of prohibi-
United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Enrique
tion. Under Operation Condor(17), ten thousand soldiers were sent
Camarena, and his Mexican pilot Alfredo Zavala(18).The prime sus-
into the mountainous triangle formed by the states of Sinaloa,
pect was Rafael Caro Quintero, head of one of the groups con-
Chihuahua and Durango to destroy illegal crops and capture
trolled by Félix Gallardo. Various versions circulated as to the
those responsible.The military operation caused increased com-
trafficker’s possible reasons for doing such a thing. One of these
plaints from human rights upholders who denounced cases of
stated that the United States officer had discovered a large mar-
torture among prisoners detained by the army.There was an ex-
ijuana plantation in Chihuahua belonging to Caro, and that he
odus from the mountains to the cities. The prisons filled with
had informed the Mexican authorities, which had destroyed the
(15) For more information on his career, see Luis
Astorga, op. cit., pp.151-166.
country people. Production slowed for a while. None of the im-
property. Caro, without measuring the consequences, murdered
(16) See Luis Astorga,"Cocaine in Mexico: a prelude to
portant traffickers were arrested. Most of them moved to the
the culprits in revenge for having lost him his property and his
‘los narcos", in Paul Gootenberg (editor), Cocaine.
state of Jalisco — a move that would later increase their strength.
business. Another version claimed that both Caro and agent
Global histories, London, Routledge, 1999,
Camarena were in competition for the favours of a young girl in
pp. 183-191.
During the eighties, the field of trafficking in forbidden drugs
Guadalajara’s high society. She was the niece of an important PRI
(17) For further details on this military operation,see
was already a structure with oligopolistic tendencies. It was dom-
politician who was at that time leader of the PRI in Mexico City
Richard Craig, "Operation Condor. Mexico’s Antidrug
Campaign Enters a New Era"
, in Journal of
inated, both quantitatively and qualitatively, by organizations
and later governor of Jalisco. The plantation-and-revenge ver-
Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, vol. 22,
headed by Sinaloan traffickers operating in different parts of the
sion became the official one.
n° 3, August 1980, pp.345-363.
nation. Félix Gallardo’s organization was the most powerful
(18) The DEA’s information on the case is to be found
within that structure. At the beginning and for several decades,
in Elaine Shannon, "Desperados. Latin Drug Lords,
Sinaloa had been the trafficking power centre. After Operation
U.S.A. lawmen and the war America can’t win", New
York, Viking, 1988.
Condor in the seventies, the major traffickers moved to Jalisco.
14 Chapter 1

Period 1985-2000
house belonging to the chief of public security of Ameca, Jalisco.
Four years later, Félix Gallardo was caught in Guadalajara and
With the death of its agent in Mexico, the DEA recovered the
sent to prison, also in connection with the murder. The main
star role that Anslinger’s FBN had once had as the founding in-
members of the most important trafficking organization in the
stitution and source of ideological inspiration in the United
country were now in prison. The immediate result was the de-
States antidrug administration. According to the DEA version, af-
tachment of various groups that had formed part of the main or-
ter Operation Condor drug certain DFS chiefs had been super-
ganization to form independent and rival units, which were con-
vising trafficking in Mexico; they had organized the traffickers
stantly fighting over routes and dominance in the field of illegal
who had moved from Sinaloa and helped them to operate with
drug trafficking.The organizations that developed at the time of
greater efficiency and force from their new base in Jalisco. During
Félix Gallardo’s downfall quickly became as or more powerful
investigations following the murder of the United States agent,
than the original organization, but they were all headed by
names of DFS and Federal Judicial Police (PJF) chiefs would arise
in connection with Caro Quintero’s organization. The DEA pro-
vided the media with information about links between traffick-
The exception to the rule was the rapid rise during one pres-
ers, police forces and governing party politicians. The names of
idential term of office of a trafficker from Tamaulipas, Juan García
the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Defence were
Abrego, and of his organization.The powerful PJF chief, Guillermo
mentioned. For the first time since the beginning of prohibition,
González Calderoni(19), played a significant role in both the down-
an agency of the United States government was pointing openly
fall of Félix Gallardo and the success of García Abrego, since he
to the involvement of members of the highest circle of power in
organized the capture of the former and promoted the latter.
Mexico. Diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United
García Abrego was his countryman and they were on intimate
States grew very tense as a result of this issue.The Mexican gov-
terms. The same chief was at the head of operations to remove
ernment decided to do away with the DFS as a result of the
from circulation the Herrera de Durango family — who were
Camarena case and political pressure from the United States.
heroin traffickers — and also Pablo Acosta — who controlled the
Nevertheless, most of its officers were accused of nothing; they
main crossing-point for cocaine into the United States at Ojinaga
simply moved on.They became part of the Federal Judicial Police
— in favour of Amado Carillo, another Sinaloan. His importance
(PFJ) or some other judicial or state police force.The institutional
as middleman between the political authorities and the drug
brokerage system lost its main structure, but still had its operat-
trade did not end there. He also acted, at the request of Raúl
ing agents and its functioning rationale. For reasons that certainly
Salinas, brother of the then president Carlos Salinas, as a political
had something to do with the local implications of the explana-
spy against the PAN in Nuevo León. When the Mexican authori-
tions given by the DEA and with diplomatic negotiations, the an-
ties tried to capture González Galderoni because of his connec-
tidrug agency modified its initial version of the way in which the
tions with García Abrego, he fled to the United States and talked
drug trade was supposed to have been reorganized. It replaced
about certain compromising tasks that he had carried out for the
it with a theory to the effect that traffickers had penetrated
PRI, and in particular for the President’s brother. He threatened to
power structures by bribing civil servants. Suddenly, in this ver-
remember more details if the Mexican government insisted on
sion, traffickers acquired an independence from the political
asking for his extradition. The Mexican authorities did not push
power that they had never — from the very beginnings of illegal
the matter and González became part of the United States gov-
drug trafficking in Mexico — ever had.
ernment’s protected witness programme.
The death of agent Camarena gave rise to an international
In earlier periods, organizations originating from the state of
hunt for the main suspect, who was finally captured in Costa Rica
Tamaulipas had not loomed so large in the field of drug traffick-
with his lover, the niece of the PRI leader in Mexico City. Shortly
ing as organizations headed by Sinaloans. It seemed as if the
(19) See Luis Astorga, "Drug Trafficking in Mexico: A
afterwards his uncle, Ernesto Fonseca, another major trafficker
strategy to reorganize the field was intended to lighten the rela-
First General Assessment",UNESCO-MOST,Discussion
Paper N° 36, 1998, pp.21-25.
connected with the crime, was arrested in Puerto Vallarte, in a
tive weight of the Sinaloan oligopoly and move the leadership to
15 Chapter 1

a group from the Northeast.This did not mean, however, the dis-
this field and the field of drug trafficking. One of these changes
appearance of traffickers from the Northwest, who were longer
was the dismantling of the DFS and another the gradual rise of
established, had greater experience and were relatively disci-
the political opposition to government posts. In 1989 the PAN
plined in the face of the new rules of the game. At the end of
won its first governorship, specifically in Baja California, the op-
Salinas’ six-year term of office, the weakening of his personal
erational base of the Arellano Brothers’ organization. And for the
power and of that of his group was also reflected in the decline
first time, in 1997, the PRI lost its majority in the House of
of García Abrego. The latter was extradited, or deported — de-
Representatives and the post-revolutionary State entered into a
pending on the version — to the United States in the second year
transitional process. This has involved a gradual dilution of the
of President Zedillo’s government in 1996. Since that time, the
powers concentrated in the federal executive, and in all proba-
Sinaloan oligopoly has never again had to face such major com-
bility a lessening of autonomous action on the part of both op-
position governments and institutions mediating between the
federal power and traffickers, and on the part of traffickers them-
It is striking that various major traffickers in the country have
selves, of course. Mediations that used to operate at State level,
been arrested and imprisoned, rather than being murdered by
under the control of PRI governments and in conjunction with
their opponents or dying in clashes with the authorities. In such
coercive federal bodies, have been transformed in some measure
cases, it is not known whether they have broken the law of si-
by the new State authorities of the political opposition. This has
lence and given details on their links with the political, police or
started to reduce the efficiency of the machinery that has
military fields. Neither was a wave of specific violence unleashed
worked for several decades. Local authorities are in a weak posi-
against the representatives of the law when the most well known
tion, since have no access to the brokerage system that depends
traffickers were captured.What did happen, however, was a fierce
on the federal authorities. This creates conditions in which the
dispute for the control of routes and territories and carnage
former rules of the game may be broken by major heavyweights
among traffickers, during which various members of the police
or by players in positions of strategic force. Such players include
who were in some way connected with them were killed. In the
the federal coercive bodies (the PGR and the army), the local po-
latest cases, it is the Arellano brothers’ organization that has
lice, who are midway between the old allegiances and the new,
seemed the most inclined to use violence against the police.This
and the traffickers themselves.The immediate result, observed in
may have been because officers were playing a double game, or
Baja California and in all the other drug-producing or trafficking
were connected with investigations that might have harmed the
states where the political opposition has taken office, has been
traffickers’ interests(20). Even in these examples there seems to
an increase in violence connected with drug issues. The PRI al-
have been a limit to the position in the hierarchy of the officials
leged that the opposition was incompetent to govern.While not
murdered, who were chiefs, representatives or under-represen-
denying the opposition’s lack of experience in this field, it must
tatives of the State, assistant attorneys or federal attorneys.To go
be stressed that a totally new situation had arisen, which implied
beyond this limit would certainly imply a different scale in the
the potential destructuring of one of the local mechanisms for
use of violence — both the legitimate violence of the State and
mediating between the PRI’s political power and the drug trade.
the unlawful violence of the traffickers.There have certainly been
When the PRI won back the governorship of Chihuahua, for ex-
more deaths in terms of numbers and these have been more fre-
ample, the violence associated with drug trafficking did not
quent. However, the violence is still contained within certain lim-
lessen, but concentrated even more in Ciudad Juárez, a city gov-
(20) In April 2000 the lifeless bodies of three FEADs
its, although there is a tendency for these limits to be exceeded
erned by the PAN.
officers were found on the Rumorosa highway, near
Tijuana. Officers were investigating the activities of
as the old mediating and controlling mechanisms lose their effi-
the Arellanos (cf. Jorge Alberto Cornejo and José
There is no doubt that the Mexican government has a serious
Galán, Asesinados cerca de Tijuana, tres agentes anti-
problem with its main institution responsible for antidrug policy,
narcóticos de la PGR, La Jornada, 13/4/2000; Carlos
The field of political power in Mexico has undergone impor-
the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR), and in
Avilés Allende y Miguel Angel Ortega, Focos rojos en
tant changes in recent years that have had repercussions on the
particular with the Federal Judicial Police (PJF). On various occa-
la FEADS; Hallan muerto a Patiño ("Red lights in the
FEADS;Patiño found dead"),El Financiero,13/4/2000.
efficiency of the traditional mechanisms for mediating between
sions, Jorge Madrazo, Head of that institution under President
16 Chapter 1

Zedillo, has indicated that "the enemy was at home" and that he
As at the beginning of the 20th century in the north of the
did not trust his own police. This has for many years been the
country (Baja California), at the end of the century in the south
opinion of the United States government and is the reason why it
another governor, Quintana Roo, was accused of protecting traf-
has supported the militarization of the antidrug policy in Mexico,
fickers, in this case the Amado Carillo group. The group was ap-
as it has in South America.The army as an institution is thought to
parently the favourite of the police, politicians and the military.
be more sound and reliable and less corrupt than the PGR.In 1995
Information on other groups revealed support from the police
there was a closer rapprochement between the United States and
and certain military men; they were not as important or as polit-
Mexican armies for cooperation in training Mexican soldiers in
ical, however, as Carillo’s friends. During his mandate, Mario
anti-insurgent and antidrug combat techniques(21). In the same
Villanueva, governor of Quintana Roo, was cited several times in
year a pilot project was launched to militarize the antidrug com-
the press as being implicated in drug issues(25). In the final days of
bat in Chihuahua and later members of the military were nomi-
his term of office he fled to an unknown destination and the au-
nated to the main operational posts created in the national terri-
thorities have been searching for him for more than two years. In
tory.The strategy soon revealed its weaknesses. A few weeks after
a supposedly secret interview(26), Villanueva said that his col-
his nomination to the head of the National Antidrug Institute
leagues in the PRI elite had betrayed him and that his persecu-
(INCD) at the beginning of 1997, General Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo
tion had nothing to do with drug trafficking, but with political re-
was arrested and accused of protecting Amado Carillo’s organi-
venge. He pointed out that the governor was the most powerful
zation(22). In response, the General pointed out that the head of
person in the state, that he could do a great deal of legal business
National Defence knew that he was doing intelligence work, for
and therefore had no need of illegal business. However, precisely
which he had informers among the traffickers, and added that
because he was the most powerful personality in the region, and
President Zedillo’s father-in-law had relations with traffickers, and
given the historical relations between PRI political power and
especially with the Amezcua brothers(23). We are left with unan-
drug trafficking, there appear to be no reasons why he should not
swered questions. Do the other organizations need protection at
have taken advantage of his privileged position to do illegal busi-
the same level if they are to operate efficiently? If this is the case,
ness — given his ethical inclinations. He is known in the political
who might be the other high-level army officers or politicians in-
world as "El Chueco" (crooked), partly because he is disfigured by
(22) See Luis Astorga, "Drug trafficking …," op.cit.,
volved? And if this is not the case, how is it that the largest orga-
facial paralysis, but also because of his taste for murky business
nization needed this type of protection while other smaller ones
deals and his authoritarian and despotic style in politics.
(23) See Marta Anaya,"¿ Por qué tanta saña… Por qué
me odia tanto?… Preguntaba Gutiérrez Rebollo"
did not? Might there perhaps be at least two types of organiza-
Villanueva never said that drug trafficking had penetrated state
Excélsior, 1/3/97; Andrés Oppenheimer, "Jailed gen-
tions: the completely autonomous ones that can look after them-
structures. For him it was clear that the only authority above his
eral: Mexican elite tied to drug trade", Miami Herald,
selves and others that need official protection? The Gutiérrez
own was that of the President. If the federal authorities had "dis-
8/7/97; Andrés Oppenheimer, "Is Mexican a con man
Rebollo case has often been cited by the Mexican and United
covered" the drug affair in his state at the end of his mandate, it
or ‘political prisoner’?", Miami Herald, 13/7/97;
States governments as an example of corruption used by traf-
was due either to the PGR’s incompetence or to a high-level po-
Gustavo Castillo, Compareció Gutiérrez Rebollo;
descalifica la justicia military sus declaraciones, La
fickers to infiltrate State structures. But how can a structure from
litical decision, because he had fallen from presidential favour. He
Jornada, 19/9/97; Alvaro Delgado y María Scherer,
which the drug trafficking field actually emerged be penetrated,
said he had done a fair amount to bring money into the coffers
Versión de la hija del general preso: Una discussion con
when drug trafficking is a politically subordinate part of this same
of the PRI, but did not say where the money came from.
el secretario de la Defensa llevó a Gutiérrez Rebollo a
power structure? Norberto Corello, PAN Senator for Baja California
Almoloya , Proceso, n° 1083, 3/8/97.
and Secretary of the Senate National Defence Committee, once
During the PRI’s primary campaign to nominate its candidate
(24) See El Universal, 22/4/2000.
(25) See Luis Astorga, "Mexico: recent trends in drug
said that the "worst mafia" that operated in Baja California was not
for the presidency in the year 2000, Francisco Labastida Ochoa,
trafficking", Report prepared for the Third Annual
the Arellano brothers’organization,but the PGR,since it controlled
Minister of the Interior and one of the candidates, asserted that
Conference of MOST/UNDCP project "Economic and
trafficking in drugs,illegal immigrants and weapons(24).Just like the
another candidate, Roberto Madrazo, governor of Tabasco, had
Social Transformations connected with the
official theories, the theory of the then opposition raises other
among his backers Carlos Hank González and his son Jorge Hank
International Drug Problem", Jawaharlal Nehru
questions. If the PGR is what it is said to be, then who controls the
Rhon. The latter was also coordinator of Madrazo’s campaign in
University,New Delhi,1-5 November 1999,pp.20-21.
institution, what is its role in the field of political power relations,
Baja California. Labastida won the internal election. The day be-
(26) See Isabel Arvide, Una noche en el aviario con
Mario,in Milenio (weekly),n°127,14/2/2000,pp.42-46.
and what is its degree of autonomy in the same field?
fore he took the oath as PRI candidate to the Presidency of the
17 Chapter 1

Republic, he publicly rejected the support that Jorge Hank had
had been mentioned by United States police and intelligence
offered him(27). Almost three weeks later in Toluca, which is in the
authorities as connected with drug trafficking and money laun-
State of Mexico and Hank clan territory, he declared that he had
dering. However, according to articles in the United States
not accepted Jorge’s offer because he was involved in the bet-
press(33), CIA reports had supposedly accused Labastida himself
ting business. But he did not distance himself from the father,
of connections with traffickers when he was governor of
Carlos Hank(28). Some days earlier, the Ministry of the Interior
Sinaloa. And neither in his case nor in that of the Hank family
(Segob) had sent a summons to one of Jorge Hank’s betting firms
did the United States government support the information
to check whether it had the necessary licences to operate three
from its agencies. Nor is any other governor known to have
betting establishments in Moneterrey. A few days later the mu-
been attacked in the way that Labastida says he was. And it is
nicipal authorities closed these establishments(29). Sergio Orozco
even less heard of for traffickers’ organizations to aim their vio-
was government director of Segob and part of Labastida’s team
lence at the political class, whether State party or opposition.
since the latter had been governor of Sinaloa. He had declared
And if the Arellanos’ threats had been real, we would have
that both Segob and the Secodam (Ministry of Inspection and
found ourselves in the presence of a very curious phenomenon
Administrative Development) were investigating all the betting
— the existence of traffickers with long weapons and short
establishments in Mexico with a view to identifying associates
memories for revenge. Indeed, if was true that they had already
and the origin of the money and preventing money launder-
tried it at least once, nothing would stop them from continuing.
ing(30). So although the government deputy-minister of Segob,
After all, these were individuals whom Amado Carillo himself,
Jesús Murillo Karam, stressed that investigations targeted no one
according to his lawyer Sergio Aguilar Hernández, called "peo-
in particular, the political message was clear.
ple who are already mentally damaged.They kill without mercy
and for fun"(34). The Arellanos never responded to Labastida’s
(27) See Daniel Moreno, Desprecia Labastida apoyo
When he was still Minister of the Interior and not yet in the
claims with their version, as they did in the case of Cardinal
de Hank Rhon, Reforma, 8/11/99.
(28) See Ernesto Núñez, Se deslinda Labastida de
running for the PRI candidature to the presidency, Labastida had
Posadas’ assassination, for which they have been accused and
Hank, Reforma, 8/12/99.
stated that the Arellano Félix brothers had put a price on his
pursued since 1993.They said that this had been a "political as-
(29) See David Carrizales, Clausuran tres casas de
head in 1993. Jorge Carpizo, who was head of Segob at that time
apuestas de Jorge Hank Rhon en Nuevo León,
and had warned him, had suggested that he leave the country.
La Jornada, 15/12/99.
He went as Ambassador to Portugal. He also stated that during
During Amado Carillo’s leadership and after his death there
(30) See Hugo Martínez McNaught, Investigan
en casinos, Reforma, 8/12/99.
his term of office as governor of Sinaloa, the Arellano brothers
was talk of his organization’s links with the police, with members
(31) See Arturo Zárate Vite,Pusieron los narcos precio
had made death threats against him(31). On another occasion he
of the army and with politicians. This also applied to García
a mi cabeza,en 1993: Labastida,El Universal,21/2/98;
said that during the same period his car had been shot at twice,
Abrego, and especially to his political connections with Raúl
Mary Beth Sheridan,PRI Candidate’s Drug Stance Stirs
once when his family was with him. He gave no names, however.
Salinas, brother of the then president. The Arellanos have been
Doubts, Los Angeles Times, 30/4/2000.
Without giving the context, he added that criminals had killed
linked with the Hank family.The first two organizations weakened
(32) See Antonio Garzo Morales,No quiero llegar a la
presidencia para que todo siga igual: FLO
, Excélsior;
his chief attorney, his chief adjutant and the head of Sinaloa’s ju-
and lost their influence when their leaders died or were captured.
dicial police(32). The chief attorney was no longer in office when
There was strong pressure from the United States government
(33) See Luis Astorga, "Mexico: recent…"
he was murdered in Mexico City. The chief adjutant died in a
and their political backers had already weakened. As for the
op.cit., pp. 16-18.
shoot-out with the "Güero" Palma gang on the outskirts of
Arellanos, despite various police and military operations to cap-
(34) See Daniel Lizárraga, Con los Arellano ne se ne-
Culiacán; he had learned, apparently by accident, that the traf-
ture them, they always managed to escape.The constant factor is
gocia, Reforma, 17/4/2000.
(35) See Jesús Aranda and Ricardo Alemán,Descarta
ficker was moving around the city with his escort. Legally, it was
the permanent nature of the Hanks’ political strength. However,
el funcionario tintes políticos en el asesinato de
not his place to give chase to a delinquent whose offences came
there are new factors, and these include the United States Federal
Posadad ("Civil servant discounts political colouring
under federal law.
Reserve(36) investigations into the strategies that the Hanks used
in assassination of Posadas")
to buy the Laredo National Bank. There is also a report by the
La Jornada, 14/9/95.
In addition to his general promises to combat crime and en-
National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), created in 1993 under
(36) See Dolia Estévez, De los ochenta, la relación
force the rule of law, Labastida indicated the names of individ-
the Department of Justice, which stresses that the Hanks are a
Citibank-Hank ("The eighties and the Citibank-Hank
relationship"), El Financiero, 11/4/2000.
uals that he considered to be enemies or undesirable, and who
"threat" to the United States government because of their rela-
18 Chapter 1

tions with the Arellano(37). Such investigations could in the not too
Brigade to the ranks of the PFP(45). PRD and PAN legislators im-
distant future lessen their power and, as a result, shorten the
mediately criticized this step.They accused the federal executive
longevity and impunity of the Arellanos.
of having cheated Congress, since there was no question in the
bill of army participation(46).The PFP Regulations were published
In November 1998, President Zedillo tabled a bill to create the
on 26 April 2000(47). One of its functions is to carry out intelligence
Federal Preventive Police (PFP). This project envisaged the dis-
work to prevent drug trafficking. Apparently the military person-
mantling of the highway police, the police under the Federal
nel will not be relieved until 2015, according to estimations by
Attorney General and the migration police. A new force would be
the head of the PFP.(48)
created and would number ten thousand within two years. Jesús
Murillo Karam, deputy minister for public security in Segob,
If the candidate Labastida were to win the presidential elec-
stated that the new police force, under the authority of Segob, i.e.
tions, keep his promises to fight crime and did not crossed off his
of its Minister Francisco Labastida, did not intend to remove the
list the enemies and undesirables that he had already named,
Federal Judicial Police (PFJ) from the Office of the Attorney
then there would possibly be a scenario similar to that of pre-
General of the Republic (PGR). He said that the PFP would have
ceding PRI presidencies. Powerful traffickers and politicians or
(37) See Dolia Estévez, La familia Hank, bajo la lupa
preventive tasks at federal level and the PFJ would be responsi-
their close relatives would be imprisoned in order to gain legiti-
del FBI y la DEA ("The Hank family under the scrutiny
ble for carrying out investigations(38).The Senate approved the ini-
macy, reinforce the new president’s authority, revive hopes of jus-
of the FBI and the DEA"), El Financiero, 31/5/99.
(38) See El Universal, 18/11/98.
tiative in December of the same year with the support of the PRI
tice and comply with requests from the United States. If Fox, the
(39) See Alejandro Torres Rogelio,Aprueba el Senado
and the PAN.The PRD voted against it because it considered that
opposition candidate, were to win, there could be a repetition on
integrar la Policía Federal Preventiva; en contra,el PRD,
it could lead to a totalitarian and repressive state(39). The law was
the national scale of what had been observed in PAN-governed
El Universal, 12/12/98.
passed at the beginning of 1999(40). The PRD representative
states. This might involve the gradual disintegration of media-
(40) Diario Oficial, 4/1/99.
Victorio Montalvo Rojas, President of the Public Safety
tions between the political power and drug trafficking, which
(41) See José Reveles, Una superpolicía esta na-
, El Financiero, 17/1/99.
Commission of the House of Representatives, said that the PFP
would result in greater autonomy for the police, the army and
(42) See Alonso Urrutia, Agentes del Cisen se inte-
was more dangerous than the DFS because the new police force
traffickers in respect to the new political power.
grarán a la Policía Federal Preventiva, La Jornada,
was the first created by Congress as a "political super-force" with
intelligence and political information activities. It would be a kind
(43) See Excélsior, 5/7/99.
of Mexican-style FBI. Deputy Minister Murillo denied that this was
(44) See Alberto Rocha, Excélsior, 6/7/99.
The year 2000
(45) See Jesús Aranda,La Sedena apoyará a la Policia
the purpose. For Rafael Ruiz Harrel, an expert on crime and pub-
Federal Preventiva, La Jornada, 8/7/99; Reforma,
lic safety, this was the creation of a kind of National Police Force,
On 2 July 2000,Vicente Fox, the PAN candidate, won the pres-
based on the French and Colombian models. The problem, he
idential election.The oldest State party in the world was removed
(46) See Wilbert Torre, Exige la oposición policía sin
said, was that the project would be difficult to carry out in Mexico
by vote. Described below are some of the first measures pro-
militares, Reforma, 10/7/99.
because, with its federal system, states and towns were au-
posed in the area of security and justice by the new president
(47) Diario Oficial, 26/4/2000.
(48) See Hugo Martínez McNaught,"Quedará lista la
tonomous and penal codes differed(41). Shortly afterwards the
and his transition team. Drug trafficking was not to be considered
PFP in 15 years.-Robledo", Reforma, 19/11/99.
Segob authorities announced that members of the National
a national security issue, but a public security issue.The antidrug
(49) See Jorge Alejandro Medellín,El narco es solo un
Security Investigations Centre (Cisen) had joined the PFP(42). Rear
combat would be withdrawn from the army. The PGR would be
problema policiaco, El Universal, 25 July 2000; Daniel
Admiral Wilfrido Robledo Madrid, formerly head of Technical and
dismantled and in its place the Fiscalia General de la Nacion
Lizárraga, Buscan unificar policía y limpiarla de cor-
Protection Services and with experience in intelligence and op-
(Attorney General of the Nation) and Secretaría de Seguridad y
ruptos, Reforma, 25 July 2000; Pablo César Carillo,
erations, was first appointed assistant commissioner of the PFP;
Servicios a la Justice (Ministry of Safety and Services to Justice)
Detallan propuesta foxista en seguridad, Reforma, 31
July 2000; Reuters, "Fox to Pull Mexican Military Out
three months later he became head of the new police force(43).
would be created. Police forces and intelligence institutions
of Drug Fight",31 July 2000;The Associated Press,"Fox
And Jorge Tello Peón, formerly Director of Cisen, was appointed
would be concentrated in this ministry and the Ministry of the
Wants to Overhaul Mexico’s Cops", 31 July 2000;
to the deputy minister’s office for security in Segob(44).
Interior would be relieved of the police institutions under its au-
Mayra Nidia Aguirre,Planea Fox un FBI y dismilitarizar
Immediately afterwards, the Ministry of National Defence
thority(49). It should be recalled that to consider drug trafficking as
policía,El Universal,1 August 2000;Jesús Aranda,Fox,
(Sedena) and the Segob signed an agreement to transfer, for an
a threat to national security was an official order. The National
por desmilitarizar lo cuerpos policiacos, dicen Reyes y
Molina, La Jornada, 1 August 2000.
unspecified period, 4,899 members of the Military Police’s Third
Security Decision Directive signed by President Reagan in 1986
19 Chapter 1

authorized the Defence Department to involve itself in a broad
tions, which is similar to the pattern that the United States has
range of antidrug activities, especially on the Mexico-United
backed in other Latin American countries, won the day.
States border. President de la Madrid was the first to adopt
Reagan’s argument as his own.
President Fox later appointed a military man, General Macedo
de la Concha, ex-attorney general of military justice, at the head
The discourse of the transition team made a break with the
of the PGR. Upon taking office the general declared(54) that he was
arguments defended by the United States and the three gov-
not going to militarize the PGR, that he would only have military
ernments preceding that of President Elect Vicente Fox. The lat-
staff who would support his work, and that the most important
ter was also opposed to the annual unilateral certification pro-
posts would go to civilians and lawyers. Two months later, there
gramme. He also intended to transform and reorganize the se-
were already 14 generals(55) attached to the PGR. Among these,
curity institutions; these had historically been faithful to the
General Carlos Fernando was appointed head of CENDRO and
President, to the State party and to their own internal power
General Carlos Demetrio Gaytán, coordinator of FEADS opera-
groups, but not to the country.They had been more party-dom-
tions. In addition, lieutenant colonels, colonels, captains and ad-
inated and mafialike than institutional.The aims were to improve
mirals were appointed to other posts. Through its spokesper-
the quality of existing institutions for security and justice, ensure
son(56), the president’s office denied that the PGR was being mili-
their independence from the ruling executive, ensure the insti-
tarized. It pointed out that there had only been replacements of
tutionalism of their staff, prevent centrifugal forces and the feu-
those who had already been there under the former administra-
dalization of power. Another aim was to obtain that the United
tion, "and the majority in operational areas". What is certain is
States government respect Mexico’s sovereignty in defining its
that the militarization of the antidrug campaign and the security
own view of antidrug policy.
apparatus is continuing and accelerating(57).
The position concerning the withdrawal of the army from the
antidrug battle as announced by the representatives of the tran-
Concluding remarks
sition team of Vicente Fox, President Elect, changed during a pri-
vate meeting(50) with Barry McCaffrey at the United States
There are inherent difficulties in analysing a field that involves
(50) Abel Barajas, Piden continuidad en próximos go-
Embassy in Mexico on 8 August 2000. This was during a journey
unlawful, criminal and clandestine activities.It is nevertheless pos-
biernos, Reforma, 8 August 2000.
(51) Georgina Saldierna, Carolina Gómez and Ciro
that the antidrug "Tsar" had made to attend a meeting of the
sible to find meaningful traces in a society — sometimes deeply
Pérez,McCaffrey apoya el pedido del presidente electo,
High-Level Contact Group (GCAN) created by the governments
imprinted and sometimes hardly noticeable — that enable us to
La Jornada, 8 August 2000.
of both countries in 1996.When he arrived in Mexico he said that
identify the main social agents intervening in the field and their
(52) Carlos Benavides, Claroscuros en la cooperación
the withdrawal of the army was for the Mexicans to decide(51).The
privileged relations with agents in other fields. Contrary to imme-
antinarcóticos, El Financiero, 20 August 2000.
transition team later assured him that the military would not be
diate, common sense perceptions, this is how historical research
(53) Daniel Lizárraga, Duda McCaffrey de algunas re-
, Reforma, 8 August 2000.
withdrawn in the short term from the antidrug battle(52). McCaffry
reveals that several external and domestic factors were instru-
(54) Esperanza Barajas and Abel Barajas, Descarta
had pointed out the necessity for the Mexican armed forces in
mental in forming the field of illegal drug trafficking in Mexico.The
Macedo militarizar a la PGR, Reforma, 10 December
the antidrug battle. McCaffrey also declared that the changes in
United States government must be mentioned among these fac-
justice and security suggested by Fox and his team would take
tors, with its prohibitionist policies and its domestic demand.
(55) Abel Barajas, Militariza la PGR Fiscalía antinarco.
about 15 years to produce concrete results, according to experi-
Other factors include the prohibition laws in Mexico, Mexico’s abil-
Controlan officiales radares, retenes y aeronaves,
Reforma, 7 February 2001; Abel Barajas, Llegan más
ence in the United States(53). Months before, the head of the
ity to supply its neighbour’s needs and the particular characteris-
militares a PGR. Suman 14 generals los adscritos a la
Federal Preventive Police (PFP), Rear Admiral Wilfrido Robledo,
tics of Mexico’s political field that enabled the drug trade to de-
dependencia, Reforma, 8 February 2001.
had asserted that military presence in the institution would con-
velop under its protection and domination. This last aspect con-
(56) Mayolo López, Niega presidencia militarización
tinue for at least 15 years. The change in the position of the rep-
stitutes the fundamental difference with other national situations,
en PGR ("Presidency denies militarization in PGR"),
resentatives of the new president demonstrated in just a few
with which mechanical comparisons have been attempted under
Reforma, 7 February 2001.
(57) Luis Alegre and Abel Barajas, Monopolizan mil-
days the limits of the Mexican government’s antidrug policy.The
the influence of police, political and press labelling.
itares el combate antinarco, Reforma, 18 March 2001.
policy to militarize antidrug action and the main security institu-
20 Chapter 1

The post-revolutionary Mexican State was characterized by
complexity, it had first to ensure the social credibility of its explicit
an executive power that dominated legislative and judicial au-
function, which required the political containment of traffickers
thorities, a political power monopolized by the State party, a na-
and their continued acceptance of subordination. On this de-
tional territory controlled by the army and the acute patrimoni-
pended a degree of freedom of action in exchange for the punc-
alism of the political elite.These created the initial opportunities
tual payment of quotas demanded. It was during this period that
that prevented the drug trafficking field from emerging outside
the system of direct brokerage through the governor came to a
the power structures. On the contrary, the field came into being
dramatic end, when was publicly exposed for the first time by
as a subordinate part of that same structure. It became yet an-
members of the same governing elite, intent on settling political
other of the businesses available to people in the privileged po-
differences. The President of the Republic himself had to inter-
sitions of political authority accessible to the "revolutionary fam-
vene to resolve the conflict of interests and the use of the drug
ily". As a result — unlike gangsters in the United States — the
issue as a political weapon between factions of the same State
principal individuals mentioned in connection with drug traf-
ficking in its early stages in Mexico were not from the criminal
classes. They were governors and therefore social agents of the
For decades the United States government followed an os-
political field — not of the traditionally criminal field. And when
trich-like policy. It preferred to ignore publicly — although not
the names of Mexican traffickers who were considered important
in official documents — the levels of corruption and collusion
appeared, neither they nor their organizations had a weight that
between the political field and the drug field in Mexico and the
could in any way compare with the weight of political power.
mediation of coercive bodies involved in the antidrug combat.
It did this in exchange for efficient cooperation from the coer-
The country was developing, the economy had diversified
cive bodies against political organizations with communist or
and new institutions were being created to deal with an increas-
leftwing sympathies. All this came to an end when one of their
ingly complex public administration.The United States had reor-
antidrug agents was brutally murdered by Mexican trafficking
ganized its policy towards the West, and demand for forbidden
organizations, in collusion with police and presumably high-
drugs in the country was constant and rising.The make-up of the
level politicians.This was the beginning of the end of the Federal
political elite governing Mexico was changing, and there had
Security Department, which was one of the pillars of institu-
been qualitative changes both domestically and in relations with
tional mediation between the drug trafficking and political
other countries.The above provided the background to the struc-
fields.The President’s decision to dismantle this body did not do
tural changes between the field of drug trafficking and that of
away with intervention system; it merely amputated one of its
politics. The form of relationship under which governors and
most important parts, leaving its limbs free to continue their ac-
their innermost circle had protected and controlled traffickers
tivities in other key institutions of the system.The immediate ef-
changed in its most visible aspects. Institutional mediations were
fect of this self-induced blow was a severe breakdown of the
created in its place, which would take care of such tasks in ex-
general mediation mechanism and a dislocation of tasks that
change for a share in the business, loyalty and the law of silence.
were also connected with political intelligence. The system was
There is no evidence that ethical inclinations differed from those
not immediately replaced with one that was different, better, or
revealed in earlier decades; the political elite and State party
at least equally effective. Meanwhile, the political opposition be-
were more powerful; there was no real opposition party and the
gan to win key positions that brought them into power in vari-
drug business was more profitable than in earlier times. There is
ous states of the federation, and battles inside the State party
no reason to believe, therefore, that the mediations were created
became so fierce that there were actual political assassinations
to destroy an increasingly productive gold mine. Nor is there any
of prominent members. Changes in leadership, the loss of key
reason to believe that the political elite — in a sudden rush of
positions and a diminished capacity for efficient political control
philanthropy — decided to leave the business entirely in the
created opportunities for greater autonomy on the part of both
hands of subordinates, asking nothing in exchange. Before the
coercive mediating bodies and traffickers’ organizations. One of
brokerage system began to operate in its full dimension and
the most visible results was the more frequent use of violence
21 Chapter 1

inside these fields and between them. Some used violence so as
serve. In any case, an upward spiral of violence is guaranteed,
to simultaneously maintain their legitimate mediating institu-
since the very logic of the repressive antidrug policy inspired by
tional position and comply with the law, and others to shake off
the United States implies endless war, and is in itself a dead-end
the historical subordination and do business without interme-
In recent years, the transformations and increasingly violent
upheavals in the old, PRI-dominated Mexican power structure
have been exposing some of the mechanisms for brokerage
and control that have operated since the beginning of the re-
lation between the fields of drug trafficking and politics. It is as
if the roof of the structure were wearing away and allowing us
to look inside. As we observe a major part of the support sys-
tem that has enabled it to function so efficiently, the secrets of
its construction are revealed. Although this is nothing new; we
have known about the collusion between police and traffickers
for many years. And, as in the early decades of the trade, news
of governors being accused of protecting traffickers is increas-
ingly frequent. Even families of ex-presidents have been impli-
cated. If we look at this as an isolated present-day phe-
nomenon, it does appear that the traffickers have "infiltrated"
the political world. If we look at it from the historical perspec-
tive, however, we can see the end of a regime and of a histori-
cal, structurally subordinating relationship, and an increased
probability that the drug trafficking field will achieve relative
independence from the political field.
Now that the ex-opposition party is in office, its new govern-
ment team will have to take this situation on board and ensure
the institutionalism of the armed forces and of the new military-
dominated police structure. This will be all the more essential
since the demand for drugs is not on the decline, and the United
States government does not appear to wish to discard its milita-
rization strategy for combating drugs in the short term.Tensions
between the new government and the United States over drugs
will surely continue, since the Mexican army does not have a
magic wand to control demand in the other country.The armed
forces obviously run the risk of having increasing levels of cor-
ruption among their ranks and, if worst comes to worst, of serv-
ing as the hub for the joining of powerful interests connected
with drug trafficking.This would shift the centre of gravity of such
interests from the field of the old political structure to the armed
forces and to other security institutions in which the military
22 Chapter 1

Chapter 2
As Francis Bacon remarked "Truth emerges more easily from
mistakes than from confusion"(3). The problem with corruption is
its complexity, since it is related to social reality, societal images
and political usage, and has led to a good many conflicting in-
terpretations and assessments, tending to distort rather than
clarify the issue. Let us first simplify by defining corruption as the
abuse of public office for personal gain in ways that violate for-
mal rules(4).The criminal economy differs from corruption in that
it is necessarily based on the existence of networks and on the
Guilhem Fabre
use of the threat of violence. Both are, of course, intertwined be-
cause the criminal economy can only develop in a context of sys-
temic corruption and the exercise or threat of violence tends to
be the last resort, whenever corruption does not work. The sec-
ond marked interaction between corruption and crime occurs in
the economic sphere: money laundering. It is virtually impossi-
ble to determine the proceeds from tax evasion, corruption and
organised or non-organised crime, because the money launder-
ing techniques for each are similar. Nonetheless money launder-
ing exerts a significant influence in industrialised countries, but
the issue has been mostly neglected by economists on the
grounds that it cannot be accurately measured.
(1) Cf. Susan Shirk, "Playing to the provinces: Deng
Xiaoping’s political strategy of economic reform"
According to most analyses, the decentralisation process has
Studies in comparative communism, vol.23, 1990. On
The 1990s: New opportunities
been used to form a base for both political and economic power
decentralization from a comparative perspective,cf.
for corruption against a background
since the era of reforms began in China. Deng Xiaoping played to
James Manor, The political economics of decentral-
of impunity
ization, World Bank, 1999.
the provinces to build political support for his economic reforms
(2) These views are developed by Sachs, J. and Woo,
opposed by powerful sections of the central bureaucracy(1).
The enduring nature of corruption and its spread in the 1990s
W.T. "Structural factors in the economic reforms of
may be linked to the two main factors of its development, de-
China, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union",
The institutional transition which entails both the progressive
fined by us as opportunity and impunity. On one hand, it is clear
Economic Policy (18), 1994 p.102-145; Minxin Pei,
withdrawal of central planning and the decentralisation of the al-
that the dynamics of a transition to the market economy, com-
"Micro foundations of state-socialism and patterns of
economic transformation"
, Communist and post-com-
location of resources for state monopolies at local, regional or
bined with regionalisation and globalisation processes, offered
munist studies, vol.29, n° 2, p.131-145; Jean Oi and
sectoral level has now been accepted as the main factor of
far more opportunities for corruption than were seen in the
Andrew Walder,Zouping in transition:the process of re-
China’s economic dynamism. Flexibility, both locally and region-
1980s. Foreign trade has quadrupled and annual foreign invest-
form in rural north China, Harvard Contemporary
ally in China, has certainly been influenced not only by the coun-
ment has increased tenfold on average since the 1980s, while
China Series,1999;Yves Citoleux,"La longue marche de
try’s inheritance of a very incomplete urbanisation and a state-
"many investors have been operating in a legal grey zone"(5). The
la transition chinoise", Revue d'études comparatives Est-
, 1999, vol.30, n° 2-3, p.303-323.
socialist economy, but also by the prevailing local state corpo-
adoption of a "socialist market economy" stimulated the rise of
(3) Quoted in Thomas Khun, La structure des révolu-
ratism, combining state intervention with market-oriented
the private sector, the gradual commercialization of the public
tions scientifiques, Paris, Champs Flammarion, p.40.
growth(2). However, alongside these positive, dynamic aspects of
health and education sectors, and the transformation of local and
(4) Cf. For this definition and a bibliography of arti-
decentralisation there are increased inequalities, corruption,
sectoral bureaucracies into managements, all with state encour-
cles on corruption in China, see Melanie Manion,
crime and insecurity at local level, all of them tendencies seri-
agement. With the implementation of privatisation policies in a
"Issues in corruption control in post-Mao China",Issues
ously affecting everyday life and the perceptions of both rural
monopolistic environment, the whole transition process may be
and Studies 34, n° 9, Sept.98, p.2-4.
(5) Cf. Business Week, 6/12/1999, p.22.
and urban Chinese.
viewed as it was described in the former Soviet Union by Yuri
23 Chapter 2

Affanassiev, namely as the gradual transformation of the nomen-
Nor is this problem limited to the state sector. 520,000 rural
klatura’s corporatist interests into capital, and as a conversion of
collective enterprises, one third of the total, have been sold, taken
that nomenklatura’s decision-making power into a power of ap-
over, declared bankrupt or transformed into shareholding coop-
propriating and swelling state assets(6).
erative companies. But the Vice-Minister of Agriculture, Mr Qi
Jingfa, has claimed that collective enterprises have been sold to
In other words, the scale of corruption tends not to be limited
individuals at prices far lower than their real values. "While that is
to flows (of goods, funds, foreign currency reserves, etc), as it was
not wholly true,this has become the current trend", according to the
in the 1980s, but has been extended to stocks (not just industrial
highly official China Daily(10). In the same vein, the land and real es-
assets, as is often stated, but also to land and real estate assets,
tate markets are also the object of underhand deals generating
worth much more because they are influenced by comparison
a hidden income of 20 billion Yuan in 1992, which must have
with international prices).While the liberalisation of prices has re-
grown with the increased value of real estate assets and the huge
stricted de facto the dual pricing system applied to plan and mar-
number of new projects in the 1990s. In 1992, only 10 per cent of
ket, the transfer of funds into the banking system has been a
the land supply was ceded openly against money, while the rest
common practice, as has been pointed out by Wang Anpei. The
was allocated freely by administrative means, and the central
differential between interest rates applied to formal banking
government raised only 1 per cent of the amount that it should
loans and informal loans for the profitable activities of the non-
have received for the cession of public land(11). The Chen Xitong
state sector, especially in the "bubble economy", was so great
affair is the best example of this uncontrolled situation that has
that the state banks began to run a parallel banking business,
increased the overall cost of construction by almost 40 per cent
lending people’s deposits and pocketing the interest payments.
since the beginning of the 1990s(12).The freezing of the real estate
Between 1993 and 1996, this misappropriation concerned 8-10
bubble, following the Asia crisis and the slowdown in growth and
per cent of all banking loans and generated profits of between
domestic demand, has revealed the extent of the speculation,
240.3 and 347.3 billion Yuan (US$28.9 to 41.8 billion)(7).This prac-
partly expressed in the bad loans of the banking sector. Back in
tice certainly seems to have continued into 1999, as China’s
1996, about a million flats and offices remained unsold, because
(6) Cf.Yuri Affanassiev quoted in Guilhem Fabre, "La
Auditor has revealed accounting abuses in the banking system
they were overpriced(13).
nouvelle nouvelle classe : réflexions sur la transition en
involving the equivalent of US$400 billion. Two of the four state
Chine", Transitions, Université Libre de Bruxelles,
banks overstated their assets by 200 billion Yuan and cooked the
The stock markets are another example of the fragility of the
vol.35, n°2, 1994.
(7) Cf.Wang Anpei, Jingji yanjiu, 1998 n°7, p.63.
books to the tune of another US$200 billion(8).The overstatement
bubble economy and its links with the underground economy.
(8) Cf. Financial Times, 17/12/1999.
of their assets could be put down to interventions in the over-
Non-existent at the beginning of the 1990s, stock market capi-
(9) Cf. Ricky Tung, "The depletion of state assets in
valued stock market while the misappropriation is linked to the
talization now accounts for US$338 billion, over a third of GDP,
mainland China", Issues and Studies, vol. 32, n°1, p.3-4
management of the parallel banking business.
with 40 million investors. But this spectacular growth, founded
(10) Cf. 15/06/1998, p.1.
on a mechanical application of the American model without the
(11) Cf.Wang Anpei, Jingji yanjiu, n° 2, 1995.
The existence of such huge misappropriation of funds is, in
corresponding regulatory framework, remains very fragile and is
(12) Cf. Ting Gong, "Forms and characteristics of
China’s corruption in the 1990s: change with continu-

other words, closely linked with the bubble economy, for most of
tainted with opacity. In 1995 a study published by the China
ity", Communist and post-communist studies, 1997,
these high interest loans were attracted by the high profit mar-
Financial Times revealed that 87 per cent of the companies
vol. 30, n° 3, p.280.
gins of the real estate and stock market businesses, at least until
quoted in Shanghai and Shenzhen suffered negative returns on
(13) Cf. Fan Gang, Tendances de l’économie chinoise,
1996.This is a clear illustration of spontaneous privatisation poli-
investments(14). Three economists — Xiao Zuoji, Liu Hongru and
n° 1, 1997.
cies, which may be extended to the industrial sector, since the
Wu Jinglian — have warned that many local governments have
(14) Cf.Jean-François Huchet and Yan Xiangjun,"Les
entreprises d’Etat chinoises à la croisée des chemins"
yearly depletion of state assets is estimated at around 2 per cent
floated poorly performing companies onto the stock market for
Tiers-Monde, Paris, n° 147, juillet-septembre 1996,
of their total value since 1993(9). In this sense, the growing losses
the sole purpose of recapitalisation and, according to some esti-
of the state sector, subsidized to the tune of 10 per cent of GDP,
mates concerning the 100 or so companies listed in China, almost
(15) Cf. Xinhua, 6/03/1998 in SWB BBC Asia Pacific,
are not only due to overstaffing, irresponsible management and
all are ailing state enterprises(15). One financial analyst has said,
11/03/1998; Business Week, 8/11/1999, p.42.
hefty social security contributions but also to growing corrup-
"Market regulators have contradictory functions.One is to supervise
(16) Cf.Fang Quan,deputy editor of Securities Market
, quoted in Business Week, 8/11/1999.
but the other is to raise money for the government"(16).
24 Chapter 2

According to David Wall "Uncompetitive advantages usually
of a bubble economy and social and spatial inequalities are more
determine who wins and who loses in China’s futures markets (since)
easily accepted. But as soon as high growth disappears and the
around three quarters of the participants are consistent losers and
pie becomes smaller, newcomers are discouraged by the net-
the remaining quarter are consistent winners"(17). China’s stock mar-
works of bureaucratic capitalism which tend to enrich, as they do
ket is in fact characterised by the strong intervention of large
in India, the "wardens" at the expense of both consumers and
sums of illegal "hot" money from state units, which may repre-
sent half of the free-float, or some US$35 billion, according to lo-
cal brokers in Shanghai and Shenzhen. This "twilight capital", to
As a result, the problem of punishment is related to the social
use the expression of one foreign observer, from state enter-
perception of and reaction towards corruption, regardless of the
prises, pension funds, insurance premiums and state bank loans
equally complex regulations issue. Some analysts take a highly
to securities firms, is gathered for an "off-the-book punt in the
regulatory view: property rights should be strictly defined prior
stock market"(18). Even though most gamblers lose money, their
to the liberalisation process, or otherwise economic players in
losses may be offset by state tax breaks. The markets can be
China run the risk of "becoming dependant on a private mafia, as
viewed as a perverse form of taxation or a transfer of state assets
they have in the former Soviet Union"(23).This view tends to under-
into private profits(19). Some analysts claims that if the govern-
estimate both the technical and political difficulties inherent in
ment proposed to do away with these off-the-book transactions,
the construction of a rule of law in China. From a technical point
which foster insider trading and lead to the overvaluation of the
of view, we must stress that it is a very recent process, still to be
stock markets, given that Chinese shares are trading at an aver-
developed on a scale comparable with Europe’s, and up against
age price that is 45 times their income, there could be a devalu-
comparable reluctance. After all, despite a solid legal tradition,
ation wiping out half of the current capitalisation(20).
the European example shows that a plethora of laws and rules
may be as inefficient as a process of over-centralisation. One
If the opportunities for corruption have grown considerably
judge ironically asked recently if Brussels really had to lay down
in the 1990s, what about impunity? From a general point of view,
the rules for woodpigeon shooting by French farmers in the
the question of impunity is related to the systemic dimension of
Basque country, whereas far more important matters such as le-
corruption. As we have seen previously, transition may be viewed
gal cooperation, especially over money laundering, were still re-
as a passage from the public to the private, not only in the eco-
garded as taboo because they affected what remained of na-
(17) Cf.David Wall,"Special economic zones in China",
nomic sphere but also in the collective ethos, with the upgrad-
tional sovereignty(24).
quoted in Hilton Root,"Corruption in China: has it be-
ing of individual enrichment as opposed to purely political
come systemic?" Asian Survey,vol.XXXVI,n° 8,August
power and the ideal of individual sacrifice for the sake of the col-
On the technical level, it is particularly laborious to identify
1996, p. 746.
lective that was promoted in the Maoist period. It is no longer a
and track down the important corruption cases since most of
(18) Cf. Joe Studwell, "China’s A-bomb", China
time for heroes mobilized in a life-and-death struggle, who "nei-
them were the product of financial manipulation by powerful,
Economic Quarterly, 1999.
ther need nor possess the capacity to master reality in rational
imaginative people before the existing laws were passed. This
(19) Cf. Hilton Root, op.cit., p.747.
(20) Cf. Joe Studwell, op.cit. p.43.
terms", in the words of Max Weber(21), but an age dominated by
delinquency of over-adaptation, as opposed to the delinquency
(21) Cf. Sociologie des religions, Gallimard, 1996,
the sphere of utility, favouring entrepreneurs but also crooks with
of adaptation of organised (or non-organised crime) and to the
a marked political background.
delinquency of under-adaptation of social drop-outs(25), is "cre-
(22) I have borrowed this definition with regard to
ative" in the sense that its protagonists play with the national and
India from Hilton Root, op. cit. p.749.
These considerations by no means rule out the problem of
international laws and regulations, such that most offences, if
(23) Cf. idem, p.750.
(24) Cf. Jean de Maillard, "L’appel de Genève trois ans
punishment but they at least put it into perspective. First of all,
they are discovered, are not punished. For example in Europe, or
après",in Cahiers des hautes études pour la sécurité in-
when we consider the sphere of utility, it is clear that the prob-
in its dependencies, there are a good many tax havens. Some of
térieure, IHESI, n° 36, Paris, deuxième trimestre 1999.
lem of corruption is a question of degree. As long as it does not
them, such as the microstate of Liechtenstein, between Austria
(25) I have borrowed this useful categorization from
affect growth, the generator of opportunities for newcomers to
and Switzerland, launder money for international crime syndi-
Jean de Maillard, Crimes et lois, op.cit, p.29.
join the lucrative markets, its consequences in terms of budget
cates; it recycles the profits made by the Colombian and Mexican
(26) Cf.The special report by the German secret ser-
vice printed in Le Monde, 26/02/2000.
deficits, the commercialisation of public services, the formation
drug cartels and the Russian mafia(26).
25 Chapter 2

In China, despite the media attention given to some cases to
potential denunciations by their subordinates or their clientele.
show how determined the authorities are to fight corruption, ex-
A genuine fight against corruption would threaten economic
emption from prosecution averages about 5 per cent for ordinary
growth based on informality, or on "the overlap between public
citizens and 43 per cent for cases involving state officials. Nor
and private, politics and economics, legal and illegal, legitimate and
does prosecution necessarily mean punishment. These double
illegitimate". The way corruption is perceived by the common
standards in criminal justice, described by Melanie Manion, exert
people or by the judicial system does not depend on the gravity
a major limit on corruption control(27). But, aside from these tech-
of the deeds, but on the consequences of those acts on the liv-
nical and social considerations, the problem of corruption re-
ing standards of the population or on political stability. Some
mains clearly political. In all societies throughout history, no state
kinds of behaviour may be "objectively illegal but morally legiti-
or power has managed to survive by exercising the monopoly of
mate".Thus nepotism may be opposed to the Maoist ideal of sac-
violence and taxation without believing or at least pretending
rificing the family to the public interest and clientelism as an up-
that it incorporated the ideal of public well-being(28). Corruption
to-date version of the older practice of political patronage. The
is precisely the negation of that ideal, as it opens the way to a cri-
fight against corruption is itself viewed in an instrumental man-
sis of legitimacy, a moral crisis that must be addressed at the risk
ner, as the central authorities try to channel popular discontent
of losing power, or put another way the monopoly of violence.
with corruption into ways of eliminating rivals, as was the case of
But in a monopolistic regime such as the current one in China,
Chen Xitong.
General Secretary Jiang Zemin is confronted with a dilemma that
is neatly summed up by a joke circulating in Peking: "fight cor-
In keeping with this vision, corruption is virtually analysed as
ruption to save the country, or not to fight it to save the party"(29).
a means of regulating the transition process, where power is sup-
posed to "instrumentalise" corruption by "corrupting" everybody
from the top to the bottom of the economic sphere of utility and
Interpretation of corruption
to "instrumentalise" the fight against it, in order to settle scores
(27) Cf. Melanie Manion, op.cit.
and its political instrumentalisation
between the leading factions. This functionalist and culturalist
(28) Cf. The paper delivered by the anthropologist
point of view is undoubtedly useful for an understanding of the
Christian Geffray (IRD) at the UNESCO/Most/Drug
Corruption may therefore be preserved as a component of
acceptability of corruption. But it has to be considered along with
Seminar on Corruption and Crime, Paris, IHEAL,
stabilisation in response to the desire for profiteering in the state-
the economic issues if the dynamics of the phenomenon are to
February 2000.
(29) Cf. Jorge Svartzman, AFP, 10/09/1997. There is
party apparatus, but it must be fought as a component of the
be understood. That is not the case in this interpretation, which
another joke in the same vein: "If all the members of
destabilization of political legitimacy threatening the survival of
may be of heuristic value in terms of micro — and "mezzo" —
the Communist Party were executed for corruption,in-
the regime. Put another way, despite the current political rhetoric,
economic development, especially in the case of criminalised
nocent people would be killed, but if only one in two
the fight against corruption cannot but be limited and exemplary
sectors or localities, but certainly not at the macro-economic
were executed, some guilty people would escape jus-
or the result could be collective suicide(30). Other analysts, com-
level, where it is not the fight against corruption but corruption
tice", AFP, 12/09/1997.
(30) For an interesting presentation of this point of
bining the two main contributions to post-War American sociol-
itself that can affect economic growth.
view, cf. He Wei,Wang Wanzhu, "Zhuanxin qi xun zu-
ogy, functionalism and culturalism, try to interpret the accept-
jing fubai de lilun shuping" (Presentation of the the-
ability and even the legitimacy of corruption and crime at the lo-
Even if a certain degree of redistribution is vital for legit-
ories of corruption and profiteering during the tran-
cal level.This vision, defended by Jean-Louis Rocca(31), recognises
imising informal or downright illegal practices, it should not be
sition period),Zhongguo shehui kexue jikan,(Chinese
the systemic nature of corruption in China, but underlines its
forgotten that the benefits of corruption comply with the hier-
Social Sciences Quarterly),1999,Xiaji hao,n° 26,p.149.
(31) Cf. "La corruption en Chine : une production du
functional character in order to overcome a segmented market
archical pyramid, in other words that they are highly concen-
politique", Mondes en développement, Paris, 1998,
and its redistributive function at the local, work-unit level, or
trated, as is shown by the concentration of private savings, while
Tome 26. Cf. also "Corruption and its shadow: an an-
through the traditional networks of relationships. It has become
its costs are diluted throughout the whole of society. If we limit
thropological view of corruption in China", China
de facto a mode of legitimisation: "For officials corruption is the
ourselves to the sphere of utility, it is clear that public opinion
Quarterly, 1992, p.403-416.
price they have to pay to gain respect for their power and to main-
does not react as long as this dilution of costs seems slight in re-
(32) Cf. Yves Mény, in La corruption internationale,
Colloque du Nouvel Observateur, Paris, Ed.
tain neo-traditional relations". It is apparently essential for cadres
lation to the benefits of economic growth(32). Corruption is thus
Maisonneuve et Larose, 1999, p.73.
to redistribute all or some of the gains of corruption to eliminate
seen as the inevitable price to pay for the economic dynamism
26 Chapter 2

found in the transition process. But once the costs of corruption
tense political rivalry), whereas in Russia corruption has become
exceed the benefits, we may expect strong reactions. In a sense,
one of the main issues of political rivalry by "transforming a po-
the functionalist point of view, provided it is well articulated
tentially destabilising situation into a source of political legitimacy"
with a sound economic analysis, allows us to understand the ac-
and even by justifying the military intervention in Chechnya by
ceptability of corruption: between "white" corruption, relating
the "emblematic construction of an enemy within, namely the
to the informal economy and universally accepted, and "black"
Chechen bandits or mafiosi"(34). Here, as has been demonstrated by
corruption, involving the direct exchange of power for money
Gilles Favarel-Guarrigues, the political exploitation of a real prob-
(quanqian jiaoyi), universally condemned(33), there is a whole area
lem relating to the inevitable lack of precision of standards for
of "grey" corruption involving the indirect exchange of power
defining the borderline between licit and illicit economic activi-
for money, favouring the bubble economy with the active par-
ties during the transition process has clearly opened the way to
ticipation of private households with no political power. The
a very popular mafia conspiracy theory, not dissimilar to other
stock market is the main vehicle of this phenomenon, and if
imaginary references such as the Masonic or Jewish lobbies.This
ever it plummets the constant winners of this great game will
rhetoric allows all the potential excesses of recentralisation or an
be brutally revealed.
authoritarian regime to be justified.
The functionalist dimension is often inextricably linked to cul-
The political instrumentalisation and exploitation of the cor-
turalist interpretations of corruption that tend to confine China
ruption issue, however backward-looking and reactionary it
to the local dimension, seen as the most practical level of reality
might be, demonstrates precisely how central and symbolic an
in the country. Although the transition process has allowed for a
issue it is in terms of legitimacy and that power cannot avoid ad-
restructuring of new forms of traditional domination, taking
dressing it. In doing so, it necessarily challenges a good many of
shape in the work unit and at local level, through old-boy net-
the vested interests created by decentralisation in the name of
works and clientelism, we cannot reduce the Chinese tradition to
the greater national interest.To understand this point of view, we
this dimension alone, or otherwise there would be no party-state.
must offer a practical or rather a far-reaching definition of de-
Like all societies in history, China has founded the monopoly of
centralisation: it is a devolution of economic powers not only to
violence and taxation on the collective belief, or a pretension to
geographical areas (provinces, prefectures, municipalities and
incarnate the ideal of the public good which, in the Confucian
counties) but also to sectoral monopolies (such as import and ex-
tradition, takes the figure of the upright official or the virtuous
port corporations), and also to some central institutions such as
emperor embodying the public interest (gong), as opposed to
the army, the police, the military police and the judicial system.
private interests (si). Like every great tradition, the Chinese one is
This situation prevailed throughout the 1990s until the summer
conflictual, opposing official and unofficial or, more accurately for
of 1998, when the economic activities of the central state insti-
(33) Cf. Yang Jisheng, "Quanqian jiaoyi zhe zenmo
the subject concerning us, local and central. It is precisely this
tutions were finally banned.
yang hua gong wei si", (How people exchanging
power for money transform the public interest into
conflictual nature that has enabled it to survive for centuries,
a private one), Jingji cankao bao, 15/04/1997, p.1.
avoiding the pitfalls of fossilising centralisation or localist dis-
According to the analysis of Jacques Andrieux, who offers
(34) Cf. Gilles Favarel-Garrigues, "Le problème crim-
memberment.The reformist version of this dynamic is neatly re-
numerous examples of the corruption and crime process(35), the
inel en Russie", Mouvements, n°6, novembre-décem-
flected in the expression "yi fang jiu luan, yi shou jiu si" (meaning,
progressive communitarisation of the economy at the local,
bre 1999; Cf. By the same author, "Eléments pour une
liberalization opens the way to disorder and recentralization to
sectoral and institutional levels is responsible for the spread of
compréhension de l’évolution des délinquances
the phenomenon. As identities and belonging to groups are the
économiques et financières en Russie", Les Cahiers de
la sécurité intérieure
, IHESI, n° 36, 2ème trimestre 1999 ;
only criteria regulating social relations, just as family, religious,
"Privatisation et changement politique en Russie so-
This dialectic, which also reveals the everlasting conflict be-
regionalist or clientelist networks define the borders between
viétique et post-soviétique", in Béatrice Hibou, La pri-
tween ideal and reality, does not mean that the fight against cor-
the social sphere of proximity and the anonymous and abstract
vatisation des Etats, Editions Karthala, 1999.
ruption is not intrumentalised by leading factions in order to set-
sphere of citizenship, the "public good" is merely a disembod-
(35) Cf.Jacques Andrieux,"Chine : une économie com-
tle scores. But this instrumentalisation is necessarily more limited
ied, depersonalised object, "an asset to be usurped by anybody,
munautarisée, un Etat décomposé", Revue Tiers-
, Tome 37, n° 147, juillet-septembre 1996.
by the Leninist atavism of the party-state (except in periods of in-
since it cannot be attributed to any discernable individual or legal
27 Chapter 2

entity". New codes of proximity and reciprocity abolish the dis-
From corruption to crime:
tinction between the public and private spheres, making up the
the patterns of drift resulting from de-
modern state, and thus contribute to its deliquescence. China
is renewing its ties with its imperial history, from a time when
the problem facing the state "was not one of extending its
During 1992 the Pingyuan district of south-west Yunnan
sovereignty over individuals, but of submitting organically linked
was attacked and controlled by mainly Muslim drug producers,
communities to its power and making them coexist in one entity,
drug traffickers and arms counterfeiters. But a 2000-strong
China — which has become a nation only within the last century".
armed police force was sent in to restore law and order, an op-
In other words, the problem of the communist oligarchy is not
eration ending in the surrender of the local godfather and the
to build a truly modern state but to maintain its capacity to reg-
seizure of 896 kg of heroin and sizeable arms caches(36). Ethnic,
ulate the process of corruption and crime led by the decen-
religious or clan solidarity at local level is a sine qua non for the
tralised communities provided it is economically positive, with
development of mafia groups. Central power generally sees it
neither excessive laxness towards predation nor bureaucratic
as being in its own interest to delegate authority to a local elite
rigidity that might kill the golden goose.
that implements a traditional form of domination.This elite de-
rives its economic power from the monopoly of licit and illicit
This vision has the advantage that it clarifies the rationale be-
profiteering and its social legitimacy from the services and in-
hind the process of corruption and crime at the decentralised
come that it returns to the community or group that it belongs
level while introducing a dynamic of regulation (and not neces-
to. In Sicily, for instance, the mafia was a means of social pro-
sarily of instrumentalisation) at the central level. By insisting on
motion and an arbiter of disputes, maintaining law and order,
the strength of solidarity at the family, clan, work-unit or local lev-
by ruling on crimes in the territories under its control(37).
els, without stressing the automatic redistribution of the most of
the clandestine profits, which is certainly not the case, it allows
The dialectic between central and local authorities is thus de-
us to understand the legitimacy of corruption and even crime at
cisive in the structuring of "criminal legitimacy", insofar as cen-
local level, since the solidarity of proximity carried far more
tral power unofficially devolves some of its sovereignty to tradi-
weight than the abstract notion of "citizenship", seen as a con-
tional and generally clientelist elites which perform, alongside
crete subjection.
the official authorities, the tasks of keeping law and order. This
pattern is often relevant in democratic societies, such as Brazil, in
This model is however quite static at the central level. The
the case of the cocaine traffic in Amazonia(38), but it may reach sys-
communist oligarchy seems to be analysed as a monolithic en-
temic dimensions in some societies in South East Asia that are in
tity, unable to adapt to new situations, while flexibility is re-
the throes of democratisation. Carl A. Trocki demonstrated that
served for the local level. In reality, the situation is far more
the individuals who dominate or have dominated politics at lo-
blurred and conflictual. On the one hand, the process of the ap-
cal level in Burma,Thailand and the Philippines are all men of vi-
propriation and even looting of public assets opens the way to
olence, murderers or hired killers, "gangsters of a special kind in-
fierce competition between different institutions and profi-
volved in drugs, prostitution, gambling or extortion"(39). In this
teers, and the problem of corruption, as we have seen in the
state of affairs, as demonstrated by Christian Geffray, criminals
(36) Cf.Guilhem Fabre,Les prospérités du crime : trafic
Russian case, may be instrumentalised to an unprecedented
may become statesmen. Corruption does not buy officials, who
de stupéfiants, blanchiment et crises financières dans
level in the political competition between the various leading
in the strict sense would become the slaves of criminal networks,
l’après-guerre froide, UNESCO/Ed de l’Aube, 1999,
factions. On the other hand, the central state apparatus cannot
but it buys a special favour: "They agree not to perform their duties
(37) Cf.Jean de Maillard,Crimes et lois,op.cit.,p.24-26.
be completely corrupt and criminalised, or else the monopoly
while in office".
(38) Cf. Field reports by Christian Geffray (IRD), UN-
of violence based on the belief in or pretence of incarnating the
ESCO/Most/Drug research project, 1998.
public good would be directly challenged by the local author-
China seems a long way off a situation where criminals rise to
(39) Cf. Carl A. Trocki, Editor, Gangsters, Democracy
ities linked with organised crime.
power, but it seems nearer the opposite situation where power,
and the State in South East Asia, Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York, 1998, p.10.
especially that of coercion, gives access to the profits of crime. In
28 Chapter 2

other words, criminals could not become representatives of the
"dictatorship apparatus" are clearly in a win-or-win position. In
state, but representatives of the state could become criminals,
terms of opportunities, according to the classification of under-
just as they have in Mexico(40). In this case, as described by Geffray,
ground profits made by He Qinglian,namely corruption profits and
criminal networks do not pay for officials not to carry out their
criminal profits,the main sources of criminal profits are smuggling
duties, but representatives of the state have the means to impose
including human smuggling (toudu), drug trafficking, prostitution
on criminal networks the price of their doing so. Here we touch
(mai ying) and human trafficking (goumai renkou), gambling, and
upon the delicate relationship between systemic corruption and
counterfeiting including counterfeit money and documents(42).To
crime, which must be put in its institutional context.
the traditional trilogy of criminal profits found elsewhere, for ex-
ample in Japan and Thailand, namely prostitution, gambling and
Against the general background of the ideological conversion
drug trafficking, China adds smuggling, human trafficking and
of bureaucracy into nationalism, and its economic conversion into
counterfeiting. Although it is by definition difficult to assess the
the appropriation and enhancement of public assets, decentrali-
value of these underground profits,it seems clear that the criminal
sation has not done away with monopolies but increased their
economy grew at an unprecedented scale in the 1990s, to the
numbers. Dressed as managers, the local authorities, the central
point of representing a significant part of the hidden economy.
authorities with a monopoly or even certain central institutions
like the army, military police, state security services and judiciary
The State Security Service estimates the turnover of China’s
aim to maximize those economic activities under their tutelage
domestic drug trafficking at 30 billion Yuan (or US$3.6 billion)(43),
while limiting all forms of rivalry. The best illustration of the for-
but international traffic undoubtedly generates the same
mation of the fragmented bureaucratic market that results from
amount in profits. It is managed industrially by organized crime
this dynamic, in the licit sphere, is the competition between the
networks, to judge by the growing seizures, which amount on av-
Shanghai-made Volkswagen Santana and the Wuhan-made
erage to 600 kg of heroin and 4.3 tonnes of marijuana per deal(44).
Citroën-Fukang. In an open domestic market, this would take the
Over the past few years 80 per cent of the major drug trafficking
form of competition in price, quality and after-sale services. But in
cases have been linked to organized crime (hei shehui)(45). The
China it takes the form of taxation: bringing non locally-made ve-
same goes for prostitution: in 1996 the Chinese police arrested
(40) On Mexico, cf. Jean Rivelois, Drogue et pouvoirs:
hicles into the municipality incurs a licence fee of 80,000 Yuan
420,000 prostitutes and their clients, one tenth of the true total
du Mexique aux paradis, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999;
(over US$9,000) while Hubei residents with the bad idea of buy-
according to police estimates(46), and they are very well placed to
Andres Oppenheimer,Bordering on chaos: guerrillas,
stockbrokers,politicians and Mexico’s road to prosper-

ing a Santana must pay not only a set of fees already abolished by
have a view on the subject since, in Guangdong in 1994, all state
ity, Boston, Little Brown, 1996; Guilhem Fabre, Les
the central authorities but also 70,000 Yuan (over US$8.000) to the
security bodies, be they armed police corps or their subordinate
prospérités du crime, op.cit. Chapter 5.
"fund aimed at extricating enterprises in dire straits from their
units, were ordered to "stop operating or possessing shares in var-
(41) Cf. Huang Tianxiang, Zhongguo gaige bao,
ious categories of recreational establishments, including saunas,
(China’s Reform Journal), Beijing, 23/02/1999 in
massage parlours, and barbers’ shops"(47). The disciplinary inspec-
SWB/BBC/Asia Pacific, 8/01/2000.
(42) Cf. He Qinglian,op.cit. p.323.
In other words, the Chinese transition process has so far bor-
torate of the Ministry of State Security took the same step at na-
(43) Cf. Renmin gong’an bao, 24/05/1997, in China
rowed from the market economy the notion of profit but little
tional level, since in some regions "certain entertainment clubs
News Analysis, 15/09/1997.
else, especially the complementary notion of competition. The
and casinos had prospered through their ties with local police", and
(44) Cf. Guilhem Fabre, op.cit, p.43 and Xinhua,
fact that it actively limits competition suggests that there is a co-
their "umbrellas" for or back-door ties with certain convicts were
16/09/98 in SWB BBC Asia Pacific, 18/09/98; China
ercive administrative network (tax inspectors, customs officers,
hampering the anti-crime campaign(48).
Daily, 18/01/99, p.1.
(45) Cf.Di wu ci gaofeng : dengdaï Zhongguo de fanzui
police, etc) that is willing to implement this policy to its own ad-
wenti (The fifth wave: contemporary China’s crime
vantage. It simultaneously acts as regulator, warden and profiteer.
This overall climate is extremely favourable to "collusion be-
problem), Beijing, Jingri Zhongguo chuban she,
tween policemen and bandits", or "cops and robbers" as is found
1997, p.35.
This pattern may also apply to the illicit or criminal economy.If
on a large scale in Mexico where the bodyguards of big drug traf-
(46) Cf. Xinhua, 15/09/1999.
we apply it to the profits of crime,following the same determining
fickers may sometimes be members of the police. In China, where
(47) Cf. Da gong bao, 26/07/94 in SWB/BBC/Asia
Pacific, 29/07/94.
factors of its development as we did for corruption — namely, op-
police equipment and uniforms are on open sale, this takes the
(48) Cf. China Daily, 18/10/94.
portunity and impunity — the networks of coercion or the old
form of "fake policemen" ripping off ordinary citizens, as is re-
29 Chapter 2

peatedly denounced by the media. Surveys by Dalian City’s state
fices in various provinces and cities across the country; they
security departments have shown that one in every three peo-
agreed that the General Bureau against Embezzlement and
ple wearing the uniform of a police-officer was posing(49). This
Bribery and the Bailiff Unit under the Supreme People’s
constant confusion between genuine and fake policemen can
Prosecutor should provide their officials with bullet-proof vests(56).
even raise doubts about mass murders, such as the one perpe-
This reveals the nexus of the relationship between corruption
trated in 1993 at Qiandao Lake, a tourist spot in Zhejiang, where
and crime. The criminal economy provides private citizens with
twenty-four Taiwanese holiday-makers and their eight Chinese
various illegal services. It needs corruption to evade punishment
crew were robbed, murdered and set on fire. China produced
and create its legitimacy but, at the same time, it needs violence
three freelance brigands who were supposedly solely responsi-
or the threat of violence to reduce rivalry in the illicit market that
ble for the atrocity, but Taiwanese intelligence officials claimed
it controls or to suppress the threat of punishment. In this way
that the party had been robbed by a rogue army unit armed with
corruption, or the redistribution of criminal profits, the "promise
of a material reward" in Christian Geffray’s words, is the alterna-
tive to violence or the "threat of harm" as the indispensable
This situation could be explained by the perverse effects of
means both of its development and its local "legitimacy".
decentralization in the management of law and order; since
1995 municipalities and autonomous regions directly under
provincial jurisdiction have been responsible for 70 to 85 per
Can peaceful crime be the next stage?
cent of local state security and armed militia funding, but there
is also the matter of recruitment(51). Following an investigation,
When the structure of criminal profits is strictly regulated by
the Guangdong State Security department found that over 20
the representatives of the State at all levels enjoying the
per cent of new recruits had been previously involved in gang
monopoly of violence, the problem of the use of violence to sup-
warfare, theft or acts of hooliganism, and that a majority of for-
press rivalry in the criminal markets is already settled, as we have
merly unemployed young people had joined the force without
seen in the legal sphere, and the degree of crime may even
going through the normal examination process(52). In response,
progress against a background of peaceful social relations pro-
since 1997 the "policing of police" to reduce the problem of
vided, that is, that economic stability is not threatened. In China
lawlessness and to improve the police’s reputation has been im-
this is not at all the case in the traditional trilogy of criminal ac-
plemented by the Ministry(53) and even led to the resignation of
tivities — drug trafficking, gambling and the sex industry in a
the State Security Minister, Mr Tao Siju. But it has failed to halt
broad sense — but clearly is the case of smuggling and, by ex-
the tendencies repeatedly denounced by the Chinese press.
tension, counterfeiting.
According to Nanfang Ribao, for instance, "certain brothels where
women are forced into prostitution are located only a short dis-

Smuggling, after all, is by no means limited to China, but
(49) Cf. Da gong bao, 4/02/96.
(50) Cf. Far Eastern Economic Review,
tance from police stations. A busy fake medicine market operating
China did develop it to a considerable extent in the 1990s.
9/06/1994, p.23.
without a trading licence lies just across the street from the offices
Internationally, smuggling may be viewed as the result of the ten-
(51) Cf. Directive of the Political Bureau "On adjust-
of local industry and commerce department. A factory using mod-
sion between the growing opportunities of trade profits and the
ing, expanding and reinforcing state security and the
ern equipment to manufacture fake cigarettes stands next to a
limitations of national regulations. Smuggling is not a criminal
armed militia", Zhengming, March 1995, p. 18-19.
municipal government building. Rampant smuggling and sales of
activity in the sense that it does not harm individuals, but it may
(52) Cf. Zhengming, 1/01/94 p. 26-27 in SWB/ BBC/
Asia Pacific
, 2/02/94.
contraband goods take place openly right in front of law enforce-
be linked to criminal networks when human beings, drugs, arms
(53) Cf. Xinhua, 10/7/1997 in SWB/BBC/Asia Pacific,
ment bureaus. Similar examples can be found everywhere"(54).
or counterfeit goods are involved.These criminal networks tend
to rely on the threat or exercise of violence whenever corruption
(54) Cf.15/11/1998 in SWB/BBC/Asia Pacific,18/11/1998.
As China’s State Security Director has put it bluntly: "Too many
proves ineffective. In this sense, smuggling lies both in the grey
(55) Cf. Renmin gong’an banyue kan, 25/01/1999 p.1
criminal cases are embarrassing. Moreover, it is too risky to create
area of the underground economy, when fake documents are
in SWB/BBC/Asia Pacific, 2/04/1999.
(56) Cf.Zhongguo xinwen she 23/02/96 in SWB/ BBC/
truthful files of criminal cases"(55). These risks are not to be taken
used or when customs officials are involved, and in the criminal
Asia Pacific, 28/02/1996.
lightly according to the representatives of public prosecutors’of-
economy, when human beings or illicit goods are smuggled.
30 Chapter 2

It is precisely this dual character that allowed it to burgeon in
figures exceed those obtained from the mainland by a stagger-
the 1990 and to involve, directly or indirectly, multinationals. In
ing $441 billion.The gap was as high as $85 billion per annum in
Canada, for instance, cigarette smuggling became a business
the period 1994-1997. During those four years, Hong Kong ex-
with a value estimated at US$3.5 billion per annum, after the
ports exceeded China’s imports by 700 per cent. Aside from very
country’s authorities doubled tobacco taxes in 1991 in an effort
low levels of imports involving processing, which is hardly plau-
to discourage smoking. The Canadian Government estimates
sible, or the large scale under-invoicing of both imports and ex-
that 40 per cent of all tobacco products sold in Canada were
ports by foreign enterprises in China, this discrepancy is due to
smuggled back from the United States in 1993, after being offi-
"widespread smuggling from Hong Kong to evade taxes. The re-
cially exported there. So far the RJ Reynolds group has been the
quired foreign exchange may be obtained through exports that are
only tobacco group formally accused, but others, like Philip
unrecorded by Beijing but that do appear in the Hong Kong statis-
Morris, have been under investigation. Widespread smuggling
and the resulting losses of tax revenues eventually forced Ottawa
to lower tobacco taxes in early 1994, halving the price in central
These links show that the practice of smuggling is inextrica-
Canada(57).With regard to indirect forms of involvement by multi-
bly linked to FDI (foreign direct investment) operations in China.
national corporations, we may quote the example of Albania. Out
Apart from FDI, as shown by Ting Gong(62), the decentralisation
of a total of 500,000 cars on the roads, 60 per cent are Mercedes,
process, which has forced local companies to become self-suffi-
and about nine in every ten have been stolen in Western Europe,
cient, reduce costs and raise profits, has sometimes led strug-
a fact acknowledged by the head of the State Statistical Office.
gling companies to resort to the smuggling of consumer and
Mercedes Benz opened a showroom in Tirana, the Albanian cap-
producer goods. Since China has been using tariff rebates to
ital, but only 30 new (as opposed to stolen) models have been
stimulate exports, and the certificates for tariff rebates give ex-
sold. "If I turned away stolen vehicles", said the dealer, "I would be
porters access to duty and tax-free imports, it is a common strat-
turning away 90 per cent of my business"(58).
egy for them to fake the certificates. In some coastal areas this
practice may affect up to a quarter of all documents. The indus-
To come back to the Chinese case, customs there estimate
trialisation of smuggling has created the famous "grey channels"
their annual losses due to smuggling at US$15 billion, or over 10
of distribution that distort competition to their benefit. It is very
per cent of imports(59). According to a more recent report by the
difficult for foreign or local operators in China to ignore them
Central Disciplinary Commission to the Political Bureau, between
and to stand aside, since their competitors are only paying 5 per
1991 and 1998 there were 4,200 cases of smuggling amounting
cent duty while they are charged 30 per cent(63).
(57) Cf. Financial Times, 6/01/2000.
to US$130 billion, around the same as the previous annual esti-
(58) Cf. Harry Maurer, "The Benz is hot in a bandit
mate. Chinese diplomatic and trade missions abroad are appar-
Before the Asia crisis, these channels, funded mostly by the
economy", Business Week, 25/10/1999, p. 4.
ently responsible for 1,300 cases, worth US$60 billion. Smuggling
under-invoicing of exports, used to reinvest their capital outflows
(59) Cf."Guanyu chengzhen jumin geren shouru chaju
concerns not only cars, but also oil products, machinery, chemi-
in China in the shape of "fake foreign investments", so as to ben-
de fenxi he jianyi", (Analysis and advice on the indi-
vidual income differentiation among urban resi-
cals, steel and electricals. In the five years from 1994 to 1998, the
efit from the tax exemptions and lower customs duties normally
dents), Jingji yanjiu, 1997, n°8, p.7.
Foreign Ministry apparently imported 75,300 vehicles tax-free,
reserved for joint-ventures. But since 1997 the grey channels
(60) Cf. Zhengming, January 2000, p.15-16.
equivalent to customs duties worth 19 billion Yuan (US$2.3 bil-
have been increasingly used for smuggling South-East Asian,
(61) Cf. Nirmal K . Chandra, "FDI and the domestic
lion).The main cases of smuggling concern the localities of Beihai
Korean and Japanese goods into China, the competitiveness of
economy: neo-liberalism in China", The Economic and
in Guangxi, Shantou and Zhanjiang in Guangdong, Qingdao in
which has been boosted by the devaluation of those countries’
Political Weekly, New Delhi, November 6-12, 1999,
p.3205; IMF Directorate of Trade Statistics Yearbook,
Shandong and Xiamen in Fujian(60).
currencies. According to official sources, in 1997 more than
1998, p.159 and 162.
100,000 automobiles and motorbikes were smuggled into China,
(62) Cf. Ting Gong, "Forms and characteristics of
These data refer to only to those cases that have been dis-
or around a quarter of the total sales of the foreign joint-ventures
China’s corruption in the 90s : change with continuity",
covered but do not reflect the overall trends. As Nirmal K.
car industry. The extent of smuggling affected entire sectors of
Communist and Post Communist Economies, vol. 30,
Chandra has said, there is a huge discrepancy between Chinese
the economy such as the car industry — whose prices fell by 20
1997, n°3, p.283-284.
(63) Cf. Far Eastern Economic Review, 5/12/96, p.63.
and Hong Kong sources on the trade between them. Hong Kong
per cent, the electronics industry and the oil industry. Smuggling
31 Chapter 2

exacerbated the deflationist tendencies because of a lack of de-
mand and growing inequalities, and gave certain foreign com-
panies using grey channels a competitive edge.
This macro-economic impact of the smuggling networks,
based on new opportunities and lasting impunity, gives us some
insight into the reasons for the crackdown on business activities
among the armed forces, the armed police and the judiciary
launched in the summer of 1998, followed by the arrest of
China’s Vice-Minister of State Security, Li Jingzhou, who had
been in charge of border security, and by the setting up of a
6,000-strong anti-smuggling task-force, dependant on the cen-
tral government(64). Widespread smuggling and the on-going
campaign against it, involving people at the highest level, is the
best illustration of the links between decentralisation, corrup-
tion and crime. While the functionalist and culturalist interpre-
tations of the phenomenon are certainly useful for an under-
standing of its import and acceptability there is no doubt that
they fail to address its political and ethical dimensions, which are
also part and parcel of Chinese culture and tradition.
These dimensions may account for the current recentralisa-
tion process, essentially devolving economic powers to the cen-
tral state apparatus as represented by the army, the state secu-
rity service, customs and the judiciary. Indeed, this new on-
slaught against corruption and crime differs from the previous
ones in that it entails a recentralisation, an assertion of cen-
tralised state sovereignty over the key bodies supposed to rep-
resent its authority in conjunction with the state-party system.
Since China’s current system offers no opportunities for crimi-
nals to become state representatives, in the way that the system
does in Brazil, Thailand and India(65), for example, but offers in-
stead opportunities for state representatives to become crimi-
nals, as they do in Mexico, it is not surprising that this campaign
targets people at the highest level. It does not mean that it will
be conducted entirely for the reasons of stability and state sur-
vival as we have noted.Whatever the issues behind this dubious
fight, the question of corruption and crime, whether or not it is
(64) Cf.Guilhem Fabre,"China in the East Asian crisis",
politically instrumentalised, will remain central to Chinese soci-
Economic and Political Weekly, New Delhi, 6/11/99.
ety and political debate. That may even be true in a scenario of
(65) Cf. N.K Singh,
political transition to a new presidential democratic regime such
The politics of crime and corruption: a former Central
as the one in Taiwan or Mexico, where these eternal problems
Bureau of Investigation official speaks, New Delhi,
Harpers Collins India, 1999, 286 p.
have become key political issues.
32 Chapter 2

Chapter 3
It was only from the 1980s on that income from cocaine traf-
ficking began to play a key role in the way regional society de-
veloped. The first Brazilians to get significantly involved in inter-
national trafficking did so at the end of the 1970s, after the
Bolivian trafficker Roberto Suarez had set up his laboratories in
Beni, the Amazonian Bolivian State that borders on Rondônia, un-
der General Hugo Banzer's administration. The Bolivians then
naturally turned to their Brazilian neighbours for supplies of the
chemical products that their laboratories needed to make co-
The Brazilian press long treated drug trafficking in a rather un-
caine (ether, acetone, kerosene, etc.). All the leading "historic"
Christian Geffray
balanced way. It focused almost exclusively on small retail drug
Brazilian traffickers in the region began their activities at that
distribution (particularly in Rio de Janeiro), while only rarely ex-
time by fraudulently exporting those chemicals to Bolivia, which
amining the question of the Brazilian organisation of the whole-
were paid for in cocaine that the Brazilians then re-exported for
sale trade in drugs before they reach small city dealers. This si-
their own benefit. The Amazonian north of Brazil and the Mato
lence and inconsistency on the part of the media and politicians
Grosso in the south, bordering on Paraguay, through which some
as regards the problem persisted from the beginning of major
of Bolivia's cocaine output travelled, thus became transit routes
trafficking in Brazil in the 1980s until the setting up of a new par-
for Brazilian and Bolivian traffickers, as well as for Colombians
liamentary commission of inquiry into drug trafficking in 1998.
who were seeking to diversify their routes.
That attitude was fairly understandable in States like Rondônia,
where certain leading newspapers may have been under the in-
Local and national cocaine use remained marginal at that
fluence of local traffickers, and where the drug trade provided a
time.The cocaine that was available in Rondônia was chiefly des-
living, directly or indirectly, for a great many people. It was more
tined for export, and the effects of the trafficking were limited
puzzling at Federal level, where the media were roused out of
to specific border regions, in Guajara Mirim and Costa Marquès,
their indifference, and then only intermittently, by a few sensa-
in the capital Porto Velho, and along the border rivers Guaporé,
tional court cases, which were not seriously followed up by the
Mamoré and Madeira, whose banks had gradually been aban-
newspapers and had no political repercussions. My sociological
doned by the population. Some rubber tappers were left to their
investigations were the first to be carried out on the subject in
own devices by their former employers, who had gone over to
the region of the border with Bolivia, more than 15 years after the
drug trafficking, while others received gifts from the traffickers
beginning of the "cocaine cycle" in Brazilian Amazonia(1).
in return for their silence and complicity.They soon left the river
to try their luck in towns or, in their turn, as traffickers. Of all the
Up until the 1960s, the dense forests of Rondônia were in-
Brazilians who introduced drug trafficking into the region and
habited by a few Amerindian groups and caboclos, who lived
paved the way for later generations, two men played a particu-
alongside rivers, and whose employers (rubber merchants) lived
larly important role: Nereu Machado de Lima in Guajara Mirim
in towns in the north and west of the State, which could be
(who was tried and sentenced) and Marcilon Braga de Carvalho
(1) Research was initially carried out within the
reached by river or by air. First Porto Velho, the capital, then
in Porto Velho (who was tried and acquitted).
framework of an IRD-CNPq agreement with the
Guajara Mirim were opened up in the 1970s by the construction
Museu P.E Goeldi de Belém,which was supported by
of a highway, the BR 364, which attracted hundreds of thousands
Machado de Lima, who came from a very poor family of mi-
the MOST-UNESCO programme from 1997 on. I car-
ried out investigations in the Mato Grosso in
of colonists into the area; the region then became the scene of a
grants, managed within a few years to become the patron of a
October and November 1995,and in Rondônia from
classic American population settlement, which, despite its rival-
large and very ostentatious populist movement in Guajara Mirim.
April to August 1996 and in July 1997. The investi-
ries and land disputes, gave the most resourceful and coura-
He fell foul of the discreet strategies — which were secret but dis-
gations were supported at Federal level by the
geous colonists, as well as less scrupulous adventurers who had
tinctly more effective and durable than his own — of traffickers
Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (Procuradoria
come to try their luck on the "frontier", an opportunity for ex-
who were the heirs of the local old merchant oligarchy. His local
Geral da República), the Federal Police and the
Federal Narcotics Council.
traordinary social and financial advancement.
little "empire" often hit the regional and Federal headlines, but
33 Chapter 3

disintegrated after his death in 1986. Marcilon Braga left a much
Garimpo (gold-seeking), the growth
more lasting criminal heritage in the State. Himself a pilot, and
of the Brazilian domestic market,
owner of a flying taxi company in Porto Velho, he could draw on
and barter.
a fleet of aircraft and on business contacts from one end to the
other of the secret trading network, from suppliers of chemicals
Garimpo reached its peak on the Rio Mamoré towards the
in Sao Paulo (Shell, Rhôdia-Rhône Poulenc) to Bolivian producers
middle of the decade and ended officially in 1991, following a
in San Ramon, Magdalena, Riberalta, Trinidad and Santa Ana (in-
Federal decision which had to be enforced with the help of river
cluding Roberto Suarez) and Colombians in Leticia and Medellin
police.When it was at its height, there were believed to be 6,000
(including Pablo Emilio Escobar), who supplied the cocaine Braga
balsas (rafts equipped with pumps to suck up the alluvial de-
exported for his own benefit to the United States via Venezuela
posits on the bed of the river and process them on the surface)
and the Caribbean.
spaced out along some 400km of river between Vila Murteira,
near Guajara Mirim, and Porto Velho. For six years, between
Unlike Machado de Lima, Braga was on the best of terms with
10,000 and 20,000 people camped on river banks, which were
many high-ranking members of the State administration and of
otherwise generally uninhabitated; 5,000 - 6,000 of them
Porto Velho's town council: his main trafficking partner was the
worked on the Rio Mamoré, a few hundred metres from the op-
Governor's pilot; a Federal deputy (Isaac Newton, who was tried
posite bank of he river, where Bolivian cocaine-refining labora-
and sentenced) helped him to prospect the precursor market in
tories were located. In other words, thousands of often penniless
Sao Paulo and the user market in Europe, to invest his capital and
Brazilian gold prospectors, isolated in the forest and abandoned
to organise the transit of his drugs through Central America, etc.
by society, and hundreds of Bolivian cocaine producers and
His relations with the elites were so excellent that, when he was
dealers faced each other on either side of the river.
charged in 1985 (following a Federal police operation, Operaçao
), members of the State assembly signed a pronuncia-
It was notorious that the divers using their pumps on the river
mento protesting publicly against police violence and collectively
bed were subjected to very severe physical and mental con-
vouched for the trafficker's honourable character. Braga's trial
straints, and that they used to smoke the base paste (with to-
ended with his being acquitted in 1987. He further stepped up
bacco or maconha) as a way of relieving the tension of working
his activities until his accidental death in 1989. In all, he did more
under water for several hours under totally inadequate safety
than anyone else to make trafficking a fact of life in Rondônia. He
conditions ("On some days, I would see up to three dead bodies
pioneered the routes and networks of national and international
float past Porto Velho on the current," said a garimpeiro trade
secret contacts that the following generation exploited and di-
union official). The garimpeiro population used a lot of cocaine,
and had a very simple way of getting hold of it: they would cross
the river, since Bolivian distributors had fitted out "bocas de fuma"
Braga refrained from seeking political office in the State, but,
on the river bank, with access at night via canals that were some-
as we shall see, some of those who succeeded him in his line of
times marked out with beacons. But the market was also organ-
business were more forthcoming. Some major traffickers set out
ised on the spot, on placers, with cocaine supplied by many small
to get elected at the end of the 1980s, and that new strategy co-
dealers from the region or, in some cases, garimpeiros themselves,
incided with an abrupt change in cocaine trading in the region
who got their supplies from Guajara Mirim, Ribeiralta and various
and in Brazil as a whole. The present chapter covers events that
other Bolivian towns on the left bank of the Rio Mamoré.
occurred in the wake of three simultaneous processes towards
the mid-1980s: a) the gold rush of Rio Madeira; b) the appearance
That marked the beginning of the mass use of cocaine base
of a commercial outlet for Bolivian base paste and cocaine in
paste in the State.The garimpeiros accounted for several thousand
Brazil itself — in other words, the emergence of a national mar-
users, both regular and occasional, many of whom continued
ket; c) the demonetarisation of access to cocaine from Bolivian
smoking once they had decided to leave the garimpo and settle
in Porto Velho or some other town. They then played a far from
34 Chapter 3

negligible role in the setting up of the first networks that supplied
that kind were easy to establish among garimpeiros, a profes-
the urban population of the region. Cocaine use began to inter-
sion noted for its solidarity.These "true garimpeiros" were prob-
est the poorer strata of the population, and some of the most de-
ably reluctant to take on the competition of big local traffickers
prived inhabitants of working-class areas quickly saw that small-
on their own ground, the international market, but there was
scale urban dealing was a way they could make money.The figure
free access to the domestic Brazilian market. So they focused
of the urban trafficker began to take shape in Porto Velho at that
on that market, and helped it to take shape and to expand. One
time. Other former garimpeiros managed to invest their earnings
may assume that the garimpo had become one of the centres of
and also to go over into legal and respectable professions that
the growth of cocaine trafficking at local and national level, be-
played a strategic role in the operation of this new local market.
fore it even disappeared. It was certainly not the cause of that
Many of them became taxi drivers, for example: with the vehicle
growth, but it contributed to it by speeding up the formation
they used for their work, they could traffic on their own behalf or
and diversification of the networks supplying local and national
on behalf of someone else; but they could also be content merely
cocaine users. Soon, every stratum of the population was in-
to provide a kind of covert public relations service.Taxi drivers of-
volved in both trafficking and use.
ten managed to make themselves indispensable in the tricky pro-
cess of establishing contact between illegal sellers and buyers. In
Lastly, it is worth noting that, in addition to drug use and traf-
this way they supported small and medium-sized local trafficking
ficking, the garimpo fulfilled yet another role in the structure of
by pointing local buyers in the right direction, but they could
the cocaine trade at State level. Most traffickers of any impor-
equally well guide buyers from other States in Brazil. And lastly
tance would buy a balsa (or several), which they did not bother
they could sell their services as transporters(2).
to put into serious use. They would buy balsas near their pro-
duction plant from "true garimpeiros" at a higher price than that
But in between the fledgling local market in the towns of
practised by traders or buyers duly licensed by the State. This
Rondônia and the international market that was still inaccessible
suited the "true garimpeiros", while the traffickers would quite
to most garimpeiros, there was also a third market: the national
legally sell the gold they had just bought with their narcocapital,
market. Some garimpeiros had not waited for gold prospecting to
declaring it to be the product of their own balsas. Such practices
be banned before realising that the cocaine trade was much more
were very common, and in the cases with which I am familiar all
lucrative,and physically less dangerous,than the extraction of gold
major traffickers at that time owned at least one balsa, which
specks from the river bed.A new population of small and medium-
they used to legalise part of their illegal income.
sized traffickers from those areas helped at that time to set up a
multitude of small networks conveying cocaine throughout the
Bolivian sellers managed to adapt themselves to this change
country and supplying the domestic market that was in the pro-
in the structure of the Brazilian market. They may even have an-
cess of formation.
ticipated and encouraged it.They took gold from the garimpeiros
in exchange for their cocaine, but they would also agree to barter
In addition to these phenomena, it is important to take into
any kind of stolen goods as long as they could sell them at a
account the amount of Brazilian-extracted gold that was smug-
profit on the Bolivian market. Yayo Rodriguez, for example, one
gled out of the country by "true garimpeiros" (as they liked to
of the client-cum-suppliers of Braga de Carvalho in San Ramon,
call themselves). While it was profitable to sell one's gold to
became a leading receiver of stolen goods at that time. It was
(2) Teams of taxi drivers,in radio communication with
each other, and often organised by former gold
Brazilian traffickers, it was, quite logically, even more profitable
said that "his fazenda looked increasingly like a huge car park"; he
prospectors, used to ply the road between Guajara
to exchange directly one's gold for the cocaine on offer on the
put vehicles there that had been stolen in Brazil and passed on
Mirim and Porto Velho from the end of the 1980s on.
other bank of the river, as long as one knew of a "canal".
to him in exchange for drugs. Thefts of cars and lorries began to
They provided a major road link for cocaine between
Entering, and even setting up, such a "canal" was hardly a prob-
become increasingly common on the BR 364 and in all the towns.
the Bolivian border and the State capital. One of the
lem, since the garimpeiros maintained their contact with
But, as we shall see later on, there were also thefts of aircraft and
teams was based in Guajara Mirim, but others came
Brazilian traffickers who bought their gold and with Bolivian
cattle; and cassiterite, rice and coffee, among other things, were
from Porto Velho. A Guajara Mirim town councillor
was involved in one such case (as owner of the drugs).
sellers on the other side of the river. And in any case contacts of
smuggled out of the country.
35 Chapter 3

The generation of major traffickers who came on the scene
and Cacoal are well known in the State for being factories that reg-
towards the middle of the decade were sustained by the emer-
ularise (esquentar) the papers of stolen vehicles", a Federal police-
gence of a mass market within Brazil, and they too adjusted with-
man wrote in 1991(5).
out too many scruples to changes in the conditions of access to
cocaine. Several of them, among the more powerful, maintained
links with teams of thieves and receivers, as a way of acquiring
The economic and social effects
the goods they needed to exchange in Bolivia (in some cases,
of money laundering
they directly recruited the thieves so they could control them). In
Cacoal, for example, the Rabelo brothers were among the first
The cocaine market centred on a number of illegal activities
people to plan and organise the theft of vehicles destined to be
to which it offered a profitable outlet through the exchange of
exchanged in Bolivia. As far back as 1987, Abdiel Rabelo organ-
stolen goods (vehicles, aircraft, farm machinery, electronic
ised thefts on the BR 364 and throughout the region(3), and called
equipment, cattle etc.) or goods illegally smuggled out of the
upon the services of various representatives of the regional ve-
country, whether farmed (rice, cereals, coffee) or mined (gold,
hicle market and garages owners, who took charge of stolen ve-
cassiterite). The garimpeiros's legal but untaxed output (gold),
hicles, changed their registration plates, restored them, removed
and the illegal output of certain logging companies (ma-
the serial numbers on their engines and on vehicles etc. Cars, lor-
hogany) could also be sold profitably in this way. In the latter
ries, vans and caretas (the tractor units of trailer trucks) were then
case, traffickers who took over a legally registered madeireira
sent on to a warehouse in Rolim de Moura, where they waited to
company (or madeireiros who became traffickers) used part of
be delivered to Bolivia via Costa Marquès.
their income from drugs to buy precious wood illegally ex-
tracted by their colleagues, known as "picapau", who felled, cut
But the Rabelos were not the only people operating in the
up and secretly transported the timber at night into no-go
State. At that time, groups of thieves were reported in all the
Indian Areas.They then sold the timber through their company,
towns along the BR 364, from Ji Parana and Vilhena to Jarù and
thus carrying out a money laundering operation similar, in prin-
Ariquemès. The dynamics of the simultaneous increase in thefts
ciple, to that resulting from the purchase of balsas on the
in all the towns soon resulted in each of these groups threaten-
ing drivers in neighbouring towns, rather than those in the town
where they had their base and their networks of known and re-
All these practices enabled drug money to be laundered by
spected receivers/disguisers(4). Rabelo's thieves plagued Vilhena,
boosting income from a wide range of illegal activities, from
Ji Parana and Ariquemès, for example, rather than Cacoal, while
theft and tax evasion to smuggling and the plundering of
those based in Ji Parana came and cleaned up in Cacoal. These
Federal coffers. Some such practices made it possible to regu-
practices took on such proportions in the towns on the BR 364
larise simultaneously the sources of cocaine trafficking income
that accomplices needed to be found in the administration, and
and that arising from other illegal activities.The connection be-
in particular in the Ciretrans, municipal departments in charge of
tween the cocaine trade and other criminal activities was a
regularising vehicles (registration, issuing of legal papers, tax
strong one. It greatly stimulated all the sectors of illegal activ-
discs). It was not merely a question of buying the neutrality and
ity which it enhanced, but its effect on the legal economy re-
silence of officials. Staff needed to be active accomplices of the
mained limited when dirty money was not directly invested in
traffickers/thieves and put the Ciretrans into operational service
it. On the other hand, when traffickers moved into the legal
so they could legally forge the identity of the stolen vehicles (ve-
economy the effects could be far-reaching, since their excep-
(3) See above-mentioned report on groups of
hicles with legal papers, even if they were forged, could be
tional financial clout enabled them to undermine the competi-
thieves in Mato Grosso.
bartered at a much higher price in Bolivia than the rest). During
tion and conquer otherwise inaccessible markets. They could
(4) Interview with the civilian police in Cacoal,
the second half of the 1980s and afterwards, control of munici-
force competitors who could not keep pace with prices that
August 1996.).
pal Ciretrans seems to have become an important strategic chal-
were artificially bolstered by drug money to withdraw from the
(5) The Ciretran in Rolim de Moura is also often men-
tioned (interview, Porto Velho).
lenge for traffickers: "The Ciretrans of Ji Parana, Presidente Medici
market, or else maintain their position by entering the illegal
36 Chapter 3

economy in turn or joining the clientele of rival traffickers. It
This business operation was hardly profitable, and probably
should be noted that businesses might find themselves in dif-
made a loss during the first few years. But Jabes Rabelo had the
ficulty irrespective of the injection of illegal capital into their
financial resources to support that loss, and it was probably not
sector of activity, and resort to the services of traffickers to in-
difficult for him, in the circumstances, to conquer the market and
vest their money in one or several purchases of cocaine, merely
oust his competitors within a few years. In any case, by 1991
in order to earn interest from their advance (which could be al-
Machina Rio Doce had become the main cerealista company in
most 100%) once the transaction was over, without getting di-
Cacoal. Some independent traders still complained about unfair
rectly involved at any time. They could thus put their cash flow
competition from Jabes Rabelo(7). But others had already been ru-
back on a sound footing and, once again artificially, sustain their
ined, or bought up by him in the name of a third party. Many
market position. Such virtually risk-free practices were common
seemed simply to sell to Rabelo himself the coffee they bought
in all the towns along the BR 364. They also involved members
from settlement areas for a good price (imposed by competition
of the middle classes in Porto Velho, who saw them as a way of
from Rabelo), with the result that increasing amounts of coffee
getting out of temporary financial difficulties, or of making
produced in the State of Rondônia were gradually bought up by
some easy money. It was not unknown for these practices to
Rabelo, directly or indirectly.
modify the structure of the population making up the financial
elite and to give more power to businessmen with access to
It was "from Cacoal that the great majority of tax declarations
drug money. They could also undermine and even marginalise
concerning the buying and selling of coffee in the State now em-
and gradually eliminate company bosses who abided by the
anate"(8).The municipality was not a big producer of coffee com-
law in their sector, by ruining them or causing them to with-
pared with other neighbouring municipalities, which produced
draw from the market — or else to get involved directly or in-
more. There are several complementary explanations for this
directly in trafficking. There is evidence of this phenomenon in
phenomenon: a) the increase in the trading area of companies
several very localised sectors of activity (I have described its ef-
belonging to Jabes Rabelo himself, or of those in Cacoal which
fects elsewhere, in civil engineering and the pottery trade in
he had bought up through front companies; b) the increase in
Guajara Mirim (note. Activity Report N° 5). But here I shall exam-
the trading area of independent Cacoal cerealistas, who stepped
ine one much more important and sensitive case at State level:
up their activities on the market in the wake of Machina Rio
coffee production in Rondônia.
Doce, thanks to their access to the illegal cocaine market (and the
possible buying up of cerealista companies through a front com-
In 1983, the Rabelo brothers' Machina Rio Doce was still only
pany; c) the selling on to Cacoal cerealistas, and to the largest of
a modest coffee warehouse. Jabes Rabelo travelled throughout
them in particular, Jabes Rabelo, of coffee harvests bought by
the parts of the region that had been settled and bought up cof-
traders in other municipalities in their own trading areas. These
fee harvests. He had known the colonists' milieu well for many
might be companies taken over by Rabelo outside Cacoal,
(6) Porto Velho Federal Police archives, trial of A.
years (he had been an INCRA official), and he set about using part
through local front companies, but they might also be indepen-
Rabelo.Testimony taken down by the Federal Police
commissioner in charge of investigations following
of his dirty money to buy harvests for a higher price than that usu-
dent cerealistas who bought coffee for a good price in their area,
the arrest of Abdiel in 1991.
ally practised by his competitors. What made life even more diffi-
thanks to profit margins made possible by the repurchase price
(7) The above testimony was taken down at that
cult for them was the fact that he could afford to sell his coffee
offered by Rabelo in Cacoal, who then re-exported the coffee to
time.It is possible that in order to meet competition
for less than the normal price in other States, as can be seen from
other States.
from the trafficker some cerealistas themselves got
a remark made in confidence by an independent cerealista in
involved in trafficking so as to build up a slush fund
like his,independently or not of the Rabelos's illegal
Cacoal: "Cerealistas use coffee to launder drug money," the trader
On the one hand, Rabelo's companies, his front companies
system. The involvement in trafficking of several
said. "And it's easy to prove that from the firm's accounts and the
and other cerealista traffickers in Cacoal extended their area of
Cacoal cerealistas was in any case attested to by my
market prices: the companies owned by a Federal deputy, Jabes
operations both within and outside the municipality in which
interviews in Cacoal, as well as by police archives.
Rabelo, have been buying coffee at above the normal rate since
they were etablished. On the other, cerealistas in other towns
(8) Interview with an official from SEPLAN (Secretaria
1984, and selling it to companies outside the State at less than the
along the BR 364, well beyond the region of Cacoal, such as Ji
de Estado do Planejamento e Coordenaçao Geral),
Porto Velho, 1995.
market price, thus discouraging all competition"(6).
Parana, Jarù etc., could survive the prices imposed on the mar-
37 Chapter 3

ket by the Rabelos only by selling back coffee to them, or to
the cost of transporting the coffee to coastal ports).The intervie-
their official or unofficial representatives in Cacoal or in their
wee reckoned that Rondônia's small production could not have
towns: the Rabelos now stepped between them and the na-
been competitive, in theory, compared with the large plantations
tional market. In any case, the process was inevitable: if Jabes
of Espirito Santo unless the settlers of Rondônia were very poorly
Rabelo was already the biggest cerealista in his town in 1991,
paid for their work(11).
four years later Cacoal had also become the municipality buy-
ing and exporting the largest amount of coffee in this federate

The trouble is — and this time it was a manager with Conab
State(9). The elites in Cacoal felt it would be appropriate to be-
in Porto Velho who expressed surprise — that "Rondônia coffee
stow an official honour on the man who had become "the
producers are not underpaid". "We cannot tell you anything about
biggest buyer in a town that had become the biggest buyer of
the coffee of Rondônia", he said initially, "as we don't have any data
coffee". Jabes Rabelo was accordingly elevated to the title of
that can be used for your research. Our organisation's job is to in-
Citizen of Honour of Cacoal(10): the municipal council could, it is
tervene on behalf of the State in regions where producers are not ad-
true, be proud of the fact that one of its citizens was the State's
equately paid by traders. Now it so happens that we have never had
biggest buyer and exporter of coffee.
to intervene on the coffee market; prices are always satisfactory, and
the colonists haven't complained. We have no data on coffee"
During their interviews with me, the two officials from Seplan
Questions about the "coffee miracle"
and Conab drew no compromising conclusion from their obser-
vations.They expressed their "surprise" and hinted at something
Rondônia's civil servants, engineers and specialised techni-
which neither of them agreed to say openly, and which was sub-
cians could not in theory have been unaware of the economic
sequently confirmed throughout my investigations: the success
phenomenon whose driving force until today has been Cacoal
of coffee production in Rondônia results from the fact that the trader
and Jabes Rabelo in Cacoal.The more perspicacious people ques-
who dominates the whole market in the State, Jabes Rabelo, sup-
tioned during my investigations speculated about the nature of
ports the purchase price obtained by producers, and that this sub-
the "coffee miracle" in Rondônia, which the Rondônian authori-
sidy is itself funded by dirty money from cocaine trafficking.
ties liked to promote in the rest of Brazil (proudly and probably
in good faith, in the case of many of them).
Coffee production in Rondônia (in other words "the Rondônia
miracle") was and remains today subsidised by cocaine money.
An experienced official with SEPLAN had noted certain
By investing his dirty money in rural trade (the legal activity with
anomalies. He observed for example that Rondônia produced the
which he was most familiar), Rabelo embarked on a process that
same type of coffee (robusta) as was grown under much more
irresistibly encouraged him to take control of a market which this
(9) Interview with an official from SEPLAN (Secretaria
profitable conditions on the big plantations of Esperito Santo. He
time involved hundreds of companies and, beyond that, tens of
de Estado do Planejamento e Coordenaçao Geral),
noted that the latter plantations were located only a few kilo-
thousands of small producers. He took his intervention to its log-
Porto Velho, 1995.
(10) Rabelo was informed he was about to receive
metres from large export ports, and had direct and rapid access
ical conclusion, and completely changed the structure of the
this honour shortly before I visited Cacoal,four years
to the cities of southern Central Brazil. Now the lorries which
market itself at State level by concentrating it in his own hands
after the Federal Legislative Assembly had quashed
bought Rondônia's coffee output had to drive along tens of
(directly or through third parties). That process had the effect of
his mandate.The deputy's mandate was quashed not
thousands of kilometres of colonists' tracks in very poor condi-
seriously harming the interests of his competitors, who were in
because of his involvement in drug trafficking, but
tion (none of them was asphalted), while wasting a considerable
danger of disappearing or of losing their commercial indepen-
because he had supplied his chauffeur with a fraud-
ulent official pass to the Federal Congress, and be-
amount of time in different places loading up the few sacks that
dence, with the result that Rabelo was probably forced, in order
cause his employee may have used it to evade police
each of the thousands of small settlers had managed to fill.
to safeguard his position, to take preventive action against pos-
sible political or legal reactions on the part of trading circles. He
(11) Interview with an official from SEPLAN, Porto
According to the same official, the costs of transport and fuel
had to build up a network of alliances in order to establish, pre-
Velho, 1995.
entailed by buying coffee in Rondônia should alone have ac-
serve or consolidate the balance of power in which he was en-
(12) Interview with an official from Conab, Porto
Velho, 1995.
counted for "50% of the product's export price" (not to speak of
gaged within the elites.
38 Chapter 3

It was already becoming clear why electoral mandates and
The trafficking organisation:
honorary titles were valuable and indeed indispensable to the
legal fiction and clientelist fact
Rabelo brothers (whereas they were of no interest to others, and
could even get in the way of their strategies, as was the case with
The Federal Police commissioner who led investigations into
the Braga de Carvalhos for example, when the use of their illegal
Jabes Rabelo's entourage, following his brother's arrest, noted
earnings did not cause strong economic and social tensions).This
the determination of all those he questioned to conceal the
"need for political commitment" was probably a burden to all
names of company shareholders. In this respect, he noticed a
traffickers whose legal activity became a focus for the investment
strange atmosphere(13):
of their dirty money, when the legal sector in which they oper-
ated was affected by it, and when tensions emerged within the
"The position of some people in the Rabelos's companies is cu-
elites (another case in point is that of Ernandes Amorim, a major
rious: at Maxbram, Olivar Barbosa is listed as owner, but he does not
trafficker in Ariquemès, a garimpo magnate, a prefect of his town,
run it. Instead of him and Nascimento, it's Rosemar who is manager,
and now a senator).
although he is not registered anywhere, not even as an ordinary
employee. Conversely, Rosemar is registered as joint owner of

In any case, it may be supposed that the political conversion
Transpress Ltda, but the man who runs Transpress is "Tiao", who is
of Rabelo's power was made all the easier because the form his
a loader at Maxbram and a manager of Transpress.When Tiao was
investment took on the coffee market — higher and guaranteed
told he was going to have to give evidence to the police, he went off
prices for producers — enabled him to build up simultaneously
to lunch and never returned."
very broad and solid grassroots support which could easily be
mobilised and used when an election was in the offing. "Rabelo
The commissioner's sarcasm was evident once it had been re-
is greatly liked by the settlers". Thanks to coffee, Jabes Rabelo be-
vealed that there was a clear discrepancy between the legal farce
came the de facto benefactor of thousands of people in rural ar-
of company statutes and business names on the one hand, and
eas. And they were right, from their point of view, to believe
the actual hierarchy on the other, which made it possible for
what Rabelo said when he prided himself on their support in his
criminal activity to take place. I cannot dwell on the musical
public speeches, and when he affirmed his determination to
chairs that took place among the shareholders and employees of
protect coffee producers, or to warn them against the rapa-
all these companies during the years 1984-1991 (among whom
ciousness of his competitors among the elites. Rabelo had little
there was at least one member of the Rabelo family). But I can, on
difficulty in completing the constitution of his "electoral herd"
the other hand, analyse more precisely the significance and ef-
(corral eleitoral) by using traditional populist techniques: he was
fects of this functional discrepancy.
certain of a triumphant victory when he began, every year at
Christmas and at Easter, to send out lorries full of toys, chocolate
At a legal level, there existed a set of declared contracts and
eggs and various other gifts and sweetmeats which were
statutes involving persons and companies that made it possi-
handed out to the children of the poor, and when he provided
ble to allay the suspicion not only of representatives of the law
drinks for charity fêtes free of charge. The political rise of Jabes
and the State, but of anyone active outside the sphere of illegal
Rabelo was jeopardised by the arrest of his brother in São Paulo
trafficking who might want to use their services in accordance
in 1991 in possession of 540 kilos of cocaine that was about to
with the company's legal name or to contact them for some
be exported. But his following among the population and his fi-
reason or other. It was that first level of activity, one usually
nancial power were in no way affected.
known as that of the "fronts", that the commissioner first had to
deal with at the beginning of his investigations. He then noted
that the contractual and hierarchical links that had been offi-
cially put down on paper were meaningless: his interlocutors,
who were caught unawares by the arrest of their boss, were ill
(13) Porto Velho Federal Police archives, trial of A.
prepared to don suits and describe the roles that had been al-
39 Chapter 3

lotted to them by virtue of their legal posts, always supposing
ment which could increase in value on the legal market, such as
that they could still remember them — indeed, the most mod-
apartments in São Paulo, on the coast or elsewhere, as well as ve-
est of them had never been told what their role was.
hicles, jewels and luxury furniture, etc. The money laundering con-
sisted in this case simply of acquiring with illegal funds a legal deed

The general terms "front" or "laundering" are however inade-
of ownership capable of rising in value on the market.These were
quate to describe the Rabelos's illicit organisation.The Castanhal
straightforward investments and did not make it possible to
fazenda and Machina Rio Doce, for example, fulfilled very differ-
launder dirty money on a continuous basis, unlike the following
ent functions within the system set up by the Rabelos, even if
both of them could be described by police and journalists as
"front" or "laundering" companies.
c. Front investments possessing a continuous money laun-
dering function, but without any legal profitability or operational
What they probably had in common was their ability to con-
function: This was the case for example with the balsas on the
ceal illegal operations behind a legal mask and to convert ille-
garimpo,which could result in an outright loss on the legal market
gally acquired wealth into wealth that was legal and declarable
if no gold was extracted on the balsa. On the other hand, such in-
to the State. But one can differentiate more precisely between
vestments enabled dirty money to be laundered continuously, ac-
the actual functions of these various companies, according to
cording to the system described above. Some logging companies
their operational influence, or not, on actual trafficking, and the
bought by traffickers from outside the profession could perform a
nature of the money laundering operations they permitted.
similar function by unofficially buying illegally extracted precious
There is therefore a distinction to be made between:
timber and declaring its sale as part of the buyer's own production,
as we have just seen(14).
a. Front investments without any legal profitability or
money laundering function, but possessing operational functions:
d. Front investments possessing a continuous money laun-
It was the case with the Alta Floresta d'Oeste fazenda, for exam-
dering function, and possibly legal profitability, but without any op-
ple, which served solely as an air stopover and warehouse for
erational function: These investments combined the two previ-
strictly trafficking operations. There was no cultivation or grow-
ous types of dirty money investments. It was the case with the
ing of any kind. The money invested in it served solely to main-
Estoril Palace Hotel and the Ramadas Hotel, for example, which
tain the airstrip, build makeshift huts and pay the peoes guards.
in themselves constituted a dirty money investment capable of
A comparable status was typical of the transport companies that
generating clean money, such as property that could be sold at a
had no staff or fleet of lorries: they simply served to receive
profit on the market, but also as companies that were remuner-
freight from third parties and, using lorries and drivers also hired
ated for their services (unlike villas or luxury vehicles). In this re-
from third parties, to transport and camouflage cocaine consign-
spect, hotels had the advantage of making possible the continu-
ments. The possibility of legally declaring the income that arose
ous laundering of extra dirty money, by declaring for example a
from such operations was only a marginal, if not fortuitous, con-
certain percentage of rooms occupied in a tax year which had in
sideration within the whole system. Such companies were
fact never been occupied(15).
obliged to keep an extremely low profile: it was out of the ques-
tion for Transpress, for example, to advertise itself. Its legal prof-
e. Front investments possibly possessing legal profitability, a con-
(14) It is true that such investments were also of an
itability on the market was probably of no interest to Rabelo,
tinuous money laundering function and an operational function:
operational nature,by enabling cocaine to be hidden
among timber and transported. The balsas, when
whose first reaction, when the Federal Police swooped, was to get
Such investments combined all the advantages of all the previous
purchased by traffickers from Guajara Mirim or Porto
the company logo removed from the front of the building.
types mentioned.This was naturally the case with funds invested
Velho,could also be used as transit warehouses when
in the purchase of coffee in settlers' areas and in the running of the
cocaine was being transported by river.
b. Front investments possessing an occasional money
Rabelos's cerealista companies: after the first few years, when
(15) Abdiel Rabelo's wife was in charge of running
laundering function and possibly legal profitability, but without any
prices were slashed, competitors eliminated and the market cap-
Estoril,but I do not know if she in fact falsified the ac-
operational function: This was the case with all property invest-
tured, funds invested in coffee purchases, staff salaries and mar-
40 Chapter 3

keting infrastructure began to become profitable on the legal mar-
tion with the allocation of responsibilities in the legal, but per-
ket (albeit with a lower-than-average profit margin), while at the
fectly fanciful, organisation chart of his little "empire".
same time making it possible to invest and launder dirty money
(through companies' tax declarations, including cof-
fee bought by others without any declaration and sold on to the
In the political domain
Rabelos, who then declared it as coffee they had bought them-
selves). Such investments were simultaneously of a direct opera-
When traffickers decide to make a bid for electoral office in
tional nature, by enabling the transport of cocaine camouflaged in
the apparatus of State, they may have met other traffickers on the
coffee consignments exported out of the State.
political scene who had embarked on rival clientelist manoeu-
vres locally or regionally.They then competed with each other at
This functional classification of investments of illegal funds in
the polls, though their sparring could not be interpreted as be-
the Rabelos's system is of purely informational value(16). Let us
ing a political expression or extension of rivalries connected with
keep in mind simply that investments of the last kind, which com-
their common illegal activities: there existed no traffickers' "Party"
bined all the functions of legal profitability, continuous money laun-
as such, even though, as we shall see, a large proportion of them
dering and trafficking operationality were also those which guar-
rallied for a time to the PTB in Rondônia. Conversely, no political
anteed both the greatest amount of power and the best protected
party could guarantee that it did not have traffickers in its ranks, ei-
company name. This was true of the Rabelos's cerealistas, as in-
ther as members of its support committees or as electoral fund
deed it was of the Braga de Carvalhos' airlines, the garimpo of
Erandes Amorim and the madeireiro companies of many traf-
fickers on the BR 364, etc.
A straightforward but implacable process had taken hold of
the State's electoral activity many years earlier, comparable in its
That is why the names of the shareholders in any of the com-
principle with the process described in the economic field: so-
panies did not mean much, except that they had agreed to lend
called "millionaire" campaigns financed by traffickers disrupted
or sell their name, in return for a remuneration that did not nec-
the candidates' election budgets to the benefit of those who en-
essarily consist of dividends on the profits of the company con-
joyed largesse from the traffickers, or who were themselves traf-
cerned, always supposing it was able to make any. They tended
fickers. Drug money invested in certain campaigns thus had the
rather to be given gifts, cars or cash in return for their name and
effect of artificially increasing the amount of finance that every-
their silence, and did not themselves describe such transactions
one needed for their election campaign, with the result that those
in business terms. They preferred the standard rhetoric of clien-
who did not want to withdraw from the political battle were
telism: they were "friends", and it was because they were friends
forced, at best, to turn a blind eye to the origin of certain funds
and supportive of each other that one of them might offer his
made available to support their own campaigns.
name and be lent a car in return. No written contract was worth
anything compared with one's word and a commitment of loy-
The history of links between drug trafficking and politics in
alty, which was the only tangible law, unwritten but binding, since
Rondônia culminated spectacularly in October 1990 with the
its transgression could carry a risk of being killed.
murder of Olavo Pires, a senator and trafficker. His murder marked
regional political history, and it is worth lingering on because it
(16) Other subclassifications could be made, involv-
The police commissioner could feign surprise at the fact that
reflects a strategic divergence and a distinct geographical op-
ing other combinations, as in the case of the
Castanhal fazenda and its herd of cattle (a source of
the man legally in charge of a Rabelo company seemed subordi-
position between two clientelist networks in which traffickers
continuous money laundering thanks to the cattle,
nate to a man who on paper was registered as his employee, and
were involved, between the northwest and the southeast of the
and operational as a cocaine transit warehouse), or
that the same man who "gave orders" in the company was a sub-
in the case of aircraft (a source of occasional money
ordinate in another company where on paper he seemed to be
laundering for Rabelo, but of continuous money
registered as the owner: the commissioner simply noted that the
The northwest region corresponds to the historical axis of
laundering for the Bragas,for whom the aircraft were
a legal work tool, and operational in both cases), etc.
actual clientelist hierarchy in the Rabelo group had no connec-
drug trafficking, which runs from the Bolivian laboratories of
41 Chapter 3

Beni to the capital, Porto Velho, via Guajara Mirim and the
portant of them could probably pride themselves on directly or
garimpo route. Transit is easy and converges on the capital,
indirectly enjoying local power in the municipalities and having
which is the seat of the State administration and the scene of
direct or indirect access to legislative representation at State or
major capital flows and investments. It so happens that geo-
Federal level, but the central apparatus of the Federal State of
graphical features made it possible for traffickers already estab-
Rondônia, which was centred in the capital, was for a long time
lished in the region, between Guajara Mirim and Porto Velho, to
beyond their control. It was this strategic imbalance, according to
enjoy direct access to institutions and senior officials in the State
a senior officer in the military police, which caused networks
administration in Porto Velho, while carrying out their activities
based in the southeast to start their drive to "conquer the capital"
along the most important and accessible route of illegal cocaine
at the beginning of the 1980s, and which eventually resulted in
trafficking. Also to be mentioned are the towns closest to Porto
the assassination of the senator.
Velho on the BR 364, from Ariquémes to Ji Parana, although traf-
fickers operating in those last-mentioned towns could depend
When he was elected senator in 1987, Pires still belonged to
for their supplies on the region of Costa Marquès as much as on
the PMDB, the former party that opposed the military dictator-
Guajara Mirim (Ji Parana marks the southernmost limit of that
ship. In that party, he rubbed shoulders with governor Geronimo
zone). The focal point of the region was the capital, its infras-
Santana and forced him to appoint a trafficker friend of his to the
tructure and its international airport, with the result that those
post of Secretary of State for the Interior and Justice(18).The strate-
who controlled it long enjoyed a dominant strategic position in
gic decision taken by Pires at the time was to leave the PMDB and
the State, from both an infrastructure and a political point of
"switch parties in order to bid for the State government" by bring-
(17) Francisco Pereira Torres,known as "Chico Torres"
ing together the main traffickers among his political clientele
or "Odorico de Amazonia", was a former garimpeiro
into a single political party, the PTB. His decision to bring in traf-
who owned rubber buying firms in Rondônia and
The leading historical traffickers of Porto Velho were known
fickers who had personally mobilised in favour of the senator
Acre, and hotels and much other property in Porto
Velho and Guajara Mirim. The same was true of
to everybody(17), but they were all careful not to bring the politi-
gave them a public conspicuousness to which the other great
Irandê de Castro, owner of the Aquarius Selva Hotel
cal community into disrepute. Such influential figures as Marcilon
State traffickers had hitherto rarely exposed themselves, and at
(long a favourite meeting place of traffickers in the
Braga de Carvalho never showed any desire to expose them-
the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s the "bancada"
capital) and of a great many buildings in Porto Velho.
selves on the front line of politics. The low profile kept by such
of the PTB in Congress quickly acquired a disastrous reputation
Antonio da Silva, known as "Toninho da Silvacar",
traffickers, who had good connections with the social, political
that embarrassed all representatives of the State of Rondônia af-
came from Ceara in 1978-1979. A former taxi driver,
he owned in 1988 the largest private fleet of cars,
and financial elites in the State capital, and the relative distance
filiated to other parties, whatever the nature of the links some of
much property and the car hire firm Silvacar.
they kept from the trials and tribulations of public life were very
them may have had with trafficking.
(18) It is true that other unscrupulous figures also
different from the behaviour of their colleagues operating in the
entered the Santana government, such as Olimpio
vast forest and settlement zones of the southeast of the State
My information on Pires's specific trafficking activity is
Miranda,another PMDB Federal deputy and a police
(such as Jabes Rabelo).
patchy, as the senator rarely brushed with the law, apart from the
commissioner, who became Secretary of State for
seizure of 42 kilos of cocaine in the 1980s that were in the pos-
Security in 1987.Witness O.2.Miranda was promoted
to the government through the intervention of José
The southeast region was the stronghold of Jabes Rabelo and
session of one of the pilots working in his department.The sen-
Vianna (and not Pires),a Federal deputy,whose son-
his political mentor, the senator and trafficker Olavo Pires, who
ator was cleared in this case (and he got his plane back), as he
in-law was shortly afterwards arrested in possession
had a political enclave in the south of the region, on the drug traf-
was at a later date, when police identified traces of cocaine in
of 15 kilos of cocaine, and was opportunely bailed
ficking route that led from the Bolivian laboratories on the tribu-
the boot of his car. Operating as he did between Cacoal and
out thanks to the direct intervention of the Secretary
taries of the Guaporé to Cacoal and Vilhena via Costa Marquès
Vilhena, Pires knew Audemir Braga de Carvalho well at the be-
of State for Security, who prevented the Civil Police
in Ji Parana from taking any initiative ("It would be the
and Pimenteiras. This region, which is remote from the capital,
ginning of the 1980s, and probably also knew the network of
worst possible disaster for Rondônia"). Witness 0.1.
consists of vast tracts of forest and recent settlements; it has no
Colombians led by Camillo R. Gonzales, who had established
During his three years' service at the head of the
major administrative or trading centre (except for the towns along
themselves near Vilhena (they all gravitated around Braga de
Ciretran in Ji Parana, Miranda is thought to have
the BR 364 themselves), and transit is not easy. The traffickers of
Carvalho in Porto Velho, with whom it seems that Pires did not
fraudulently legalised the papers of 300 vehicles,
Vilhena, Cacoal, Pimenta Bueno etc. were in a marginal situation
get on at all well). Pires, who was a Federal deputy at the time,
which were then made available to his party for the
election campaign.
compared with their colleagues in the northwest. The most im-
probably already knew the Rabelo family, since they also saw a
42 Chapter 3

lot of the Braga de Carvalhos during their early years as drug
much as his friend, and it was with his brother that in June 1988
traffickers. Later, the senator's name was mentioned in connec-
they prepared a joint initiative to persuade the Justice Ministry
tion with the misappropriation of precious wood, which sug-
and the Presidency of the Republic in Brasilia simply to withdraw
gests he used the widespread practice of exchanging precious
the Regional Secretariat of the Federal Police from Rondônia (at
wood illegally extracted by picapau for cocaine, and may have
a time when M.C.'s involvement in Pires's trafficking activities
used consignments of timber to ferry drugs out of the State.
had been established by the Federal Police)(19).
Pires redistributed part of his income throughout the State,
Another Federal deputy and ally of Pires had one of the largest
through a charity bearing his name, and with the sole aim of es-
fortunes in Rondônia. His family also owned a newspaper. He be-
tablishing, consolidating or extending his electoral support, in
came a senator in the second half of the 1990s despite the fact
other words for directly political reasons designed to earn him
that his links with cocaine trafficking had often been the subject
a mandate at State level. The Olavo Pires Foundation was prob-
of a sensational rumour: it was claimed that he ensured "the sup-
ably used for money laundering (since illegal funds were used
plies of Congress members in Brasilia" who liked cocaine, at a rate
for its operation and legalised in its capacity as a charity), but
of "about 15 kilos a month, which were sold the day after deputies
money laundering was probably not in itself the company's
and senators were paid"(20). A third Federal deputy and ally of Pires
main objective.The senator also misappropriated medical prod-
was a doctor, N.M., who owned a chain of motels in Porto Velho.
ucts issued by the Union as part of its health service and redis-
But his mandate was later quashed for reasons that had nothing
tributed them free of charge at his Foundation's counters and in
to do with trafficking (in 1995 he is believed to have arranged the
his own name: the legalisation of dirty money was of secondary
murder of someone who was threatening to denounce his labo-
importance compared with the requirements of clientelism.
ratories; his brother, C.M., also became a Federal deputy. Lastly OS,
who later became a senator alongside C.C. and Ernandes Amorim
Among the public figures who worked alongside Pires, in ad-
(both of them traffickers or ex-traffickers), owned fazendas, much
dition to Rabelo, who became a Federal deputy, and a number
property and a communications group based in Cacoal and
of other men from the southeast, there were also representa-
Pimenta Bueno. O.S., a very influential and much feared man, was
tives of trafficking families in Porto Velho, who have even today
not always credited by people I spoke to with any direct involve-
continued to enjoy considerable wealth and political and social
ment in cocaine trafficking, but no one was in any doubt as to his
(19) The move — or the mere fact of having planned
to carry it out — reveals an astonishing belief on the
influence. M.C., for example, sold carpets, records and religious
eminent status as a "godfather" of the traffickers in the region
part of these outlaw nouveaux riches that their ac-
images when he arrived in the capital, but by 1990 he had al-
("apadrinha eles"). Etc.
tivity was subject to impunity, if not actually "legiti-
ready become the owner of the State's biggest daily newspaper
mate" in their eyes. It shows how extremely com-
(with a circulation of about 20,000 copies) and of technical fa-
Senator Pires was able then to exert a direct influence on the
monplace drug trafficking had become in the high-
cilities (for printing and type-setting) that were "worthy of the
southeast region of Rondônia (the quadrilateral formed by Costa
est echelons of social life and the State of Rondônia.
These men repeatedly indicated their intention to
First World". M.C. allowed Pires to express himself in the columns
Marquès,Pimenteiras,Vilhena and Cacoal),with strategic ramifica-
take advantage of their political status in the State
of the State's most influential paper, as well as on the waves of
tions in the capital which gave him control of powerful communi-
to neutralise the Federal Police. Pires also pledged
his radio station.This gave him access to the elites of the capital
cations facilities at State level,and a considerable lever of influence
that if he became governor he would "deactivate
that was all the more productive because the latter themselves
at the very heart of the Porto Velho elites. Lastly, he could rely on
the CONTREC" in Rondônia.
had an interest in maintaining good relations with M.C.'s paper.
dozens of local elected representatives who backed him and his
(20) This rumour, along with others, was made pub-
lic by the Brazilian edition of the magazine Playboy,
His brother had been arrested once in Brasilia in possession of a
programme — whether or not they knew what they were doing
which in 1991, just after the arrest of Abdiel Rabelo,
few kilos of cocaine, and owned a plane (Baron) which at the
— in all the towns along the BR 364 and the pioneers' routes be-
published one of the few in-depth reports on large-
time operated continuously on routes linking Costa Marquès,
tween Cacoal and Vilhena, Cerejeira, Colorado d'Oeste, Costa
scale drug trafficking in Rondônia at the time
Pimenteiras and Cerejeiras with Corumba, Presidente Prudente
Marquès, Pimenteiras, etc. Pires's network would have won the
(Playboy, October 1991, p. 150). I do not know
and São Paulo — in other words the very drug trafficking routes
election of 1990 if the senator, who was well placed after the first
whether the rumour was false or partly true. The
along the "southeast" axis making up Pires's and Rabelo's clien-
round, had not been machine-gunned a few days before the sec-
quantity of cocaine mentioned seems very exag-
telist and electoral enclave. M.C. was also Pires's "compadre" as
ond round,leaving his place to the new governor,Oswaldo Pianna.
43 Chapter 3

All the magistrates and police who investigated the murder
bring together figures whose area of activity and populist elec-
(they were not, it is true, given the time they needed to complete
toral grassroots were located in a rather out-of-the-way, relatively
their inquiry) suspected that friends of the newly elected gover-
marginalised part of the State: for them,the State was a prize worth
nor had ordered Pires's assassination. As for what concerns us
bidding for. But in the eyes of the middle classes and of the legal,
here, it should above all be remembered that Pianna's entourage
financial and administrative elites, they were stuck with an out-
may have included just as many traffickers, and among the most
law image that offended a large proportion of the people they
powerful, as Pires's, and that their murderous, politically moti-
came into contact with, who may have suffered from or felt
vated behaviour at the 1991 elections cannot be interpreted as
threatened by the circulation of dirty money to which they did
an attempt by a group backing a traditional oligarchic project
not have access, or been sincerely shocked and frightened at the
(officially illegal, but accepted as customary) to block a rival pro-
idea of seeing prominent traffickers elected to the highest office
ject inspired by the illegal interests of trafficking. The political
in their State. In this respect, Pianna and his entourage were seen
plan of Pianna's supporters was not executed on behalf of the le-
as a more presentable alternative. And in any case their plan was
gal elites so as to prevent the State from being taken over by il-
not to conquer the State but to maintain control of it. Their the-
legal elites, since both of them associated with traffickers. And in
atre of operations and electoral grassroots tended to be located
any case, if the confrontation directly or indirectly involved two
in the northwest region around the capital, where most of them,
distinct groups of traffickers, there is nothing to suggest that
even if they had not originated in the apparatus of State, main-
their divergences arose from rivalries within the illegal activity it-
tained close and long-standing links with its members. And all
self. The antagonistic stance of some traffickers on the political
they asked for was to return to the administration or perpetuate
stage did not prevent them from working together on occasion
their valuable links there. Traffickers among their supporters
within the strict framework of their illegal business activities.
acted discreetly, and while they expected the new governor and
Their political antagonism did not necessarily allow them to flout
his entourage to be loyal to their interests, they did not plan to
the basic rules of their outlaw community, or to infringe the cen-
expose themselves personally on the political stage like Pires or
sorship that banned any public mention or revelation of illegal
Rabelo, let alone band together ostentatiously within a single po-
activity by any of them, even if they were opponents. The argu-
litical party so as to turn it into a power-winning instrument. In
ment that there existed a criminal complicity with drug traffick-
short, Pires was not a respectable man, and it was common
ing was absent from the election campaign, since wealthy traf-
knowledge that he was a crook (his election might have
fickers formed part of the organisation chart of each of the two
prompted a reaction on the part of the Federal authorities),
groups of political supporters.Their antagonism seems rather to
whereas everyone could pretend to be unaware of the fact that
have arisen from two differing conceptions of the strategy that
Pianna's entourage also included some leading traffickers, always
needed to be followed as regards their relationship, as traffickers,
supposing that he was not one himself(21). The rivalry between
with legal society and more particularly with the political com-
Pires and Pianna's entourage was not between one group of sup-
munity. On this issue, it would seem that the viewpoints held re-
porters that respected the law and another that was criminal, but
spectively by the traffickers of the southeast axis and by those in
two sets of supporters that included outlaws and pursued con-
(21) The magistrate who demanded the resources
the northwest and in the capital were contradictory.
tradictory strategies when it came to combining illegal activity
he needed to complete his investigations into Pires's
with public life.
murder was told by one of Pires's colleagues in the
Pires was a notorious trafficker whose behaviour was often
senate:"We did all we could do for Senator Olavo Pires:
ostentatious, brutal and inappropriate, and many of his support-
Pires's murder, Abdiel Rabelo's arrest and the quashing of
we held a mass for him". Many people felt relieved
when he was murdered.
ers behaved like him: they embodied the fraction of the pio-
Jabes Rabelo's term of office forced the other major traffickers in
(22) Jabes Rabelo continued to move in local high
neering elite that had suddenly emerged in the State at the be-
the southeast to keep a low profile and to wait for a time in the
society circles during the 1990s (when he became
ginning of the 1980s thanks to cocaine trading: nouveaux riches
political wings(22). But for several years now, the successors of the
president of the Country Club,among other things),
"barons" of the "cocaine cycle", they were disconcertingly un-
murdered senator's supporters, traffickers on the Pimenteiras-
while continuing his business as a coffee merchant
couth and naive in their behaviour. Their daring strategy was to
Cerejeira-Colorado d'Oeste-Vilhena axis, have seized back the ini-
(which resulted in his being elected Honorary
Citizen of the town of Cacoal).
rely on powerful political, financial and media networks, and to
tiative. The D. brothers, fazendeiros who live in the region of
44 Chapter 3

Colorado d'Oeste and have a secret route running through their
notorious "coffee miracle" in Rondônia) in areas where the injec-
land, recently set out to win over politicians in a manner remi-
tion of illegal capital into the legal economy has had its most
niscent of that used by the late trafficker. They organised a free
massive impact.
health service (in particular dental care) for the poorest sections
of the population, with similar results: they gained massive supp-
But the majority of businessmen in Rondônia are of course
port.When I was carrying out my investigations (in 1997), one of
not traffickers, even if, in some sectors of economic life, they all
the brothers was preparing to get himself elected to the prefec-
have to accept that traffickers exist and operate on their mar-
ture of Vilhena, outside the electoral enclave of his family in
kets. Similarly, not all elected representatives are either traffick-
Colorado, but at the transit point of cocaine travelling from
ers or men of straw. On the other hand, it would seem undeni-
Pimenteiras(23). Another brother was preparing his election as
able that no public figure can hope to get elected in Rondônia
Federal deputy, while a third was elected State deputy on a list
against the interests and without the explicit or implicit consent of
affiliated to the governor's political alliance. The governor re-
traffickers: the minimum condition, in the outlaws' eyes, is that
vealed the scale of his ambitions at the Porto Velho Legislative
the candidate for any office must provide some implicit guar-
Assembly and the resources on which he could draw in order to
antee of his or her determination not to mobilise the authorities
satisfy them: he managed to get himself elected President of the
against their activities. It is in fact the whole population that
State Legislative Assembly by his colleagues after having bought
finds itself, consciously or unconsciously, subject to that censor-
the votes of more than a dozen deputies, a move that cost him
ship, or self-censorship. I shall conclude this study with a discus-
something in the region of $2m in all (expressed in reals)(24). The
sion of that mechanism.
D. brothers, sometimes referred to as the "Kings of the Southern
Cone", were understandably seen as heading one of the main
If one takes the inhabitants of Cacoal, for example, one re-
"up-and-coming" drug trafficking networks in the State.They had
alises that dozens of them knew something precise about the
in fact "come up" from the southeast, after a period when the
criminal activities of their Federal deputy, without ever knowing
successors of Pires's supporters had had to stay more or less out
quite the whole story. These people were neither blind nor
of politics.
stupid: each of them possessed fragments of reliable and direct
information about the Rabelos's trafficking branch of activity
with which they came into contact through personal experience.
Conclusion: a society ruled by drug
And they also possessed a vaguer type of information, conveyed
by rumour, about the rest of the group's illegal activities. Lastly,
each of these people had a family, friends and contacts to whom
I do not have information that would make it possible to mea-
they would reveal parts or all of their knowledge, and who were
sure the economic effects of illegal trading in the federal state of
likely to pass it on to their own circle. In other words, there were
Rondônia. However, the information at my disposal does, it seems
thousands of people who possessed a few disparate but rather
to me, amply demonstrate that no investigations into Rondônia's
precise pieces of information, as well as other information which
economic activity can reflect the truth of the situation over the past
reached them after being distorted by rumour, and which would
15 years unless it recognises the scale of illegal capital generated by
confirm or complete their speculation in the course of private
cocaine and the ways in which it accumulates and circulates.
conversations — without them always being able themselves to
Unfortunately, the studies on which national and international
distinguish between fact and fiction when their sources were too
institutions and organisations have based their intervention in
(23)The former vice-prefect of Vilhena owned a trans-
Rondônia since the beginning of the "cocaine cycle" complied
port company and a cement works.He too was cred-
fully with the local rules of censorship that forbid its mere exis-
In other words, none of the inhabitants of Cacoal in fact had
ited with trafficking activities (Witness O.2).
tence to be mentioned. Under these circumstances, it is under-
the slightest doubt as to the existence of illegal activities organ-
(24) There was talk in Porte Velho of 13-15 deputies
standable that civil servants and researchers have been forced to
ised by Jabes Rabelo. They could speculate about the scale and
having agreed to sell their vote for 100,000-140,000
reals each (Witness O.1., Witness 2., Document O.1.).
note the existence of incomprehensible "miracles" (such as the
precise nature of the illegal operations and about the actual
45 Chapter 3

amounts of money involved. And as there were several groups of
strictly private sphere. In other words, just as long as they might
traffickers in Cacoal, as in other towns, they could also speculate
wonder whether the person they were talking to had himself
about the degree of independence the groups enjoyed vis-à-vis
agreed to the self-censorship which they had imposed on them-
each other, about the names of the "testa de ferro" and those of
selves, and which meant that information could not be released
the actual owners (this was a particularly popular guessing game
into the public domain.
in people's conversations), the reasons for the latest murder and
the identity of the people behind it, etc. Such information was the
Some found the consequences of this situation rather com-
subject of public conjecture for a time (almost everything gets
ical, and claimed that "the police were the last to know" (as I
out in the end). But irrespective of the unconnected details of the
was often told when people discovered what the subject of my
latest example of criminal activity, no one doubted or disputed
investigations was).This widespread and provocative assertion
the simplest hard facts that Jabes and Abdiel Rabelo were co-
was an exaggeration, but it reflected the same phenomenon:
caine traffickers (they got cars stolen in their region and had
one could not tell a policeman or magistrate anything in their
them sent to Bolivia), or that they had political ambitions (they
capacity as a policeman or magistrate. Most civil police, local
were capable of killing or arranging the murder of those who be-
people well integrated into local life, were certainly no less
trayed or threatened them). Abandoned corpses and people who
aware of the situation than their neighbours, friends or family,
disappeared mysteriously periodically reminded the incautious
but if they knew something they owed their knowledge to the
or the thoughtless of what they could and could not do.
fact that they may have been told about it in private, on the un-
derstanding that they would make no use of it in their capacity as

The Rabelos's illegal activities were perceived by some as all
officers of the law, in other words on the understanding that
the more powerful and worrying because they were implicitly
they would apply the same rules of self-censorship to them-
denied, and because public opinion itself encouraged that de-
selves as all their fellow citizens did, and that the policeman as
nial. All information connected with trafficking was passed on
a private individual would not go and say anything to the pub-
only within the framework of private relations, to trustworthy
lic servant he theoretically became the moment he put on his
people and sometimes under the seal of secrecy. There was in
fact no real secret at all, since the same information sometimes
spread like wildfire throughout the network of private relations,
Magistrates, local policemen, elected representatives and
while always being described as "secret" information... But every-
journalists might well discover all the facts at the same time as
one knew the absolute limit beyond which it was impossible to go,
everyone else, in this respect, provided their informers were cer-
that of public life.
tain that the people they had spoken to would not use such se-
crets in their judicial, police, political or media capacity. That did
Some people might indeed be in the dark about the latest ex-
not at all mean that such officials were therefore involved in an
ample of criminal activity in Cacoal, as they themselves preferred
open case of corruption: all they were doing was applying to
not to know about it: they would discourage conversations about
themselves the requirements of self-censorship that applied to
it or change the subject, perhaps assuming in a confused way
everyone, without even sometimes fully realising the strange
that they would be protected by their ignorance (unless of
phenomenon of mental dissociation that then affected their dis-
course it was simply that such knowledge worried them). But
course: a case in point is the universally respected desembar-
other people would revel in talking about the shady activities of
gador who had deserved well of the magistracy of Guajara Mirim
their deputy, or wax indignant about them, in private conversa-
and Porto Velho, and whose main concern was to persuade me
tions where the aim was to seem to be better informed than any-
that Guajara Mirim was "a good town" even though he knew
one else. But those same people knew when to keep their mouth
more or less exactly how serious the crimes were that were com-
shut, or when to dodge the issue in front of strangers: they would
mitted in his border town. Another civil servant who had worked
say nothing, or say that they knew nothing, just as long as they
for years with local branches of the World Bank was clearly con-
remained unconvinced that their knowledge would remain in a
cerned that his State should preserve its honorable image: for ten
46 Chapter 3

years he had witnessed Rondônia's "coffee miracle" without be-
ing able to come up with a satisfactory explanation for it, since
he had forbidden himself, unconsciously and in perfectly good
faith, to entertain the possibility that the "miracle" concerned
might have been the result of cocaine money investment.
Individual knowledge of major drug trafficking in the region and
in the State was,then,both fragmented and extensive.But it did not
prevent anyone from going along with a public denial that is today
just as radical and vigorous as it ever was:officially,when I carried out
investigations from 1995 to 1997,major drug trafficking still did not ex-
ist in the State of Rondônia
.In this sense, it becomes clear that while
there was definitely widespread connivance it cannot for all that be
interpreted as a manifestation of complicity or even of collective
spinelessness: people were genuinely afraid (even though barely
consciously), because transgression of censorship — public de-
nunciation — undoubtedly carried with it, after "warnings" and a
procedure that differed from case to case,a risk of being murdered.
It is understandable that local people reacted strongly to allega-
tions in southern newspapers which collectively branded them as
"accomplices".The self-censorship that those people collectively
imposed on themselves, well beyond the circle of traffickers and
those directly or indirectly in hock to them, cannot be regarded as
"complicity".Nor did it fundamentally arise from secondary advan-
tages that some of them derived from the existence of an illegal ac-
tivity.In the last account,it was part of an open or internalised logic
of terror. In that sense, the people of Rondônia lived in a society
ruled by drug trafficking.
47 Chapter 3

Chapter 4
But independently of these powerful groups, and before the
highway had even been completed, trafficking had an immedi-
ate impact on the local economy and social life: by the first half
of the 1980s, it had caused the riverside settlers and the original
river economy to dwindle or disappear gradually.The traffickers,
who had installed laboratories and airstrips a few kilometres
from the left bank (the Bolivian side) of the river, bought the si-
lence or complicity of people living by the river by offering them
Christian Geffray
the staple commodities they needed (sugar, oil, coffee, tobacco,
gunpowder, ammunition for hunting, etc.).The seringalista bosses
or marreteiros who usually exchanged such goods for the output
of their clients/dependents could not compete with the traffick-
ers' "gifts". It may be assumed, moreover, that a certain number
of people living by the river, who were in regular contact with
Before the opening of the BR 429
Bolivian traffickers, were able to participate directly in the traf-
ficking, which was far more lucrative than tapping rubber or
gathering Brazil nuts. As the seringalista traders' profit margins
In the 1970s and up to the beginning of the 1980s, Costa
had already been squeezed, the river trade soon collapsed and
Marques was a modest river port that could be reached by boat
the rubber tappers gradually abandoned their colocaçoes.
or by plane. Cocaine trading boomed there towards the mid-
Between Guajara Mirim and Costa Marquès, the river banks are
1980s with the opening of the BR 429 highway, which encour-
today virtually deserted. Most sites which were once inhabited
aged a tide of migrants to pour into Costa Marquès.The highway
have now been abandoned. All that is left are clearings and a few
was not asphalted, but it did connect Costa Marques with the BR
ramshackle huts on top of the barrancos(1). In addition, a certain
364 (asphalted), which in turn connected Rondônia to the rest of
proportion of the trading elites or local seringalistas, possibly
Brazil's road network. The BR 429 highway facilitated the distri-
hard hit by unfair "competition" from the traffickers (in the dis-
bution via Brazil of cocaine refined in laboratories set up oppo-
tribution of staple commomdities to the riverside population),
site Costa Marquès, on the left (Bolivian) bank of the Guaporé
went over into trafficking at that time.
river, or on the banks of the Machupo river in Bolivia (San Ramon,
San Joaquim, Magdalena).
It is well known that several old trading families or "traditional"
seringalistas (they were often one and the same thing) had partly
The cocaine trade was however already well established in
gone over into illegal trading and today own a considerable em-
the region by the beginning of the 1980s. Bolivian laboratories
pire of property and business enterprises — in many cases in
had been set up on the banks of rivers in the Beni basin, some of
Guajara Mirim, rather than in Costa Marques.Guajara Mirim, which
which feed the Brazilian Mamoré and Madeira rivers, into which
is located downstream, was historically responsible for the found-
the Guaporé flows. At that time, in similar fashion to the phe-
ing of Costa Marquès, and there are close economic and family
nomenon I observed in Mato Grosso (ref.), trafficking chiefly in-
ties between the two border towns.
volved groups of people who secretly exported the ether, ace-
(1) An elevation of the river bank forming a mound
tone, sulphuric acid and potassium permanganate that were
that could be up to 8m in height. The departure of
needed for cocaine refinement in Bolivia.The smuggling of these
The opening of the BR 429 highway
the seringueiros was speeded up on the right bank,
precursors, which were often paid for with cocaine, was respon-
in Brazil, by the creation of Indian Areas.The official
sible in both Rondônia and Mato Grosso for the formation of the
As a result of the opening of the BR 429 highway, which pro-
territorialisation of the Indians resulted in the ex-
most powerful, spectacular and long-lasting trafficking networks
vided access for migrants and above all a direct link to the labo-
pulsion of people living by the river, most of whom
settled in towns.
in the State.
ratories on the opposite side of the river in Bolivia, cocaine trad-
48 Chapter 4

ing took on considerable proportions and the local economy was
goods: 20 cases, 30 cases...The store was constantly full, right up
thoroughly disrupted. Bolivian army officers posted at Orquilla,
to the ceiling, and that wasn't even enough to satisfy the demand
on the Machupo riuver, took their cut on consignments of co-
for goods.That meant there were a lot of people who came from
caine travelling from San Ramon or San Joaquim, before the
San Ramon and San Joaquim (Bolivian river towns). There were
boats entered the Guaporé river, opposite the Brazilian army base
not many people from Magdalena, most of them came from San
at Forte Principe da Beira(2). The authorities in charge of legal re-
Ramon and San Joaquim. You should have seen them... It was
pression seemed powerless to do anything at that time — when
hard managing to keep enough stock to meet demand.
they were not themselves involved in trafficking:
- Did the demand come from Bolivia?
- That's right.
- Trafficking had a huge impact on Costa Marques, given that
- But weren't there Brazilians here too, in Costa Marquès, who
police commissioners were themselves involved in it... A com-
sold cocaine to other Brazilians who had come from elsewhere?
missioner there, I think he already died...he was arrested and
- No. It happened this way: the Bolivians brought the product
thrown out of the police force. He had set up a system of cocaine
[cocaine], and those who were interested looked out for them.
receiving in Costa Marques, and he made everything easy for ev-
- Were the vendors Bolivians?
eryone. Everyone... Anyone who wanted to set himself up as a
- That's it, until now.
trafficker at the beginning of the 1980s and up until 1986-1987
- So it was above all Bolivians, too, who paid for goods here in
could do so without any problems. There was no repression. (...)
That's the way it was: the trafficker would come from Bolivia with
- They bought stuff from our stores, precisely because they
cocaine which he sold for cash in Costa Marques. The money
didn't want to go home with their pockets stuffed with dollars.
came from buyers who had come from other Brazilian States
They bought goods, and they themselves generally had a store
along the BR 364.They were the mules of the big traffickers, and
or something like that back home. They bought oil, sugar and
they came with money to buy cocaine in Costa Marques. The
wheat, that's what sold best.
Bolivians who brought their cocaine and sold it spent all their
- And they took all that back to Bolivia...
money on goods here in Costa Marques. They spent the whole
- They took it to sell back home.That's how we people began
lot here.They laundered their money and went back to Bolivia.
to enjoy a certain prosperity...
A woman storekeeper in Costa Marques gives evidence:
A civil policeman added:
- (...) We didn't even have time to unload our goods in the har-
- So the retailer who sold his goods, he made money, didn't
bour... It was incredible. I experienced that. (...) In fact, people
he? But the source of all that money was cocaine. Big retailers set
came from Brazil to buy the product [cocaine] and brought dol-
up in business here intending to launder that money. Because
lars with them, because at the time the Bolivians insisted on it be-
the retailer himself knew very well that the money he got from
(2) At that time there were reports of a middleman
ing paid for in dollars. It had to be dollars.Those who wanted [co-
selling his goods came from cocaine, didn't he? He knew, but of
operating between a certain "Pelé", a reserve offi-
caine] and who only had cruzeiros tried to buy dollars here, so
course he said to himself: "I've got nothing to do with that, I sell
cer at Forte Principe de Beira,and a Bolivian supplier.
they could then buy the product. By the way, there's a detail I
my goods and I want the money", didn't he? But nowadays the
I do not know if the officer was the same as the one
should mention: when you saw someone desperate to get hold
people who set up and worked in that line of business at the
in Guajara Mirim whose remarkable wealth I shall
of dollars, you knew that was why. And even as regards (legal)
time, in the 1980s, are no longer making a go of it...
mention later on. Also worth noting is the case of a
leading Costa Marquès retailer, who was suspected
trading, dollars were eventually accepted as a normal currency
of concealing cocaine among goods transported to
here... People accepted dollars, people bought dollars, and ev-
They are indeed no longer making a go of it, because there
his company by lorry:he is believed to have been in-
eryone must have known the exchange rate at any given time
is no more money in circulation in Costa Marques. Two of the
volved in smuggling four tractors that were bartered
because lots of payments were made in that way: in dollars.Well,
three banks of the golden age have now closed down. All that is
for cocaine in Bolivia, an operation covered and fa-
what with all that, to give you some idea, there were days when
left is the BERON, the state-owned bank. There are no more big
cilitated at the border by the Costa Marquès civil po-
lice's commissioner.
we had to make five or six trips to the harbour, to fetch a lot of
stores, big companies or gleaming store signs: the "Copacabana
49 Chapter 4

of Rondônia" has had its day. The town is now inhabitated by
Ramon or San Joaquim. And it is likely that in return it was still be-
civil servants, and a few small basic stores have survived that
ing used for the transport of cocaine consignments. This ambi-
cater for the poor and ordinary people you find in border towns
guity encouraged a probably unfounded rumour that from the
in Amazonia, whose numbers have been swollen by Bolivian im-
start the road was built to facilitate cocaine trafficking itself and
migrants since 1993.The influence of the cocaine market on the
the disposal of stolen vehicles (hence the name often given to
economy of Costa Marquès has changed in nature since the big
the road: "transcoca"). The retailers of Costa Marques who were
Bolivian merchants pulled out, but it has not disappeared for all
behind the project were in good faith when they angrily de-
that. At the end of the 1980s, retailers were already reacting, try-
nounced this interpretation.
ing to convince the Bolivians to come back and spend money in
their stores. Under pressure from retailers, the prefect himself
- Some people supported the project in the hope of facilitat-
stepped into the fray.
ing the transport of cocaine and stolen vehicles to Bolivia. But
others supported it with good intentions, to bring more money
- When money began to disappear from Costa Marques, no
here. But it didn't work at all, with the result that everyone has
one could understand why... The banks left because there was
closed down their stores now. Those who still have a store in
no moremoney. Only the BERON stayed. In a desperate move,
Costa Marquès are now very few in number, and not many of
the prefect built a road leading from Forte Principe da Beira to
them are honest...
San Ramon. A road was opened up, and a lot of people sup-
ported the project, which created an outlet for Costa Marques
goods: the idea was to make it easier for cars to come from San
Testimony and analysis of a retailer
Ramon, so people would come back and make more purchases
in Costa Marques... So Bolivians who wanted to buy things, for
The decline in the retail trade at the end of the 1980s was
example, would no longer have any travel problems when the
abrupt, and caused many stores to go under. Maria H., the store-
river [Machupo] was low and it was difficult to get here and all
keeper whose testimony I have already referred to, ran a pros-
that... So we built a road so the Bolivians could drive their cars to
perous business in Costa Marquès until about 1989, when things
the point opposite the Fort, make their purchases, cross back
began to go downhill and her company was ruined, like many
over the river, put the stuff they had bought in Costa Marques in
others, in the 1990s. Perhaps she belonged to the town's elites
their cars and drive back to San Ramon. But it was a desperate
who in good faith encouraged the building of the "transcoca" in
attempt to bring back the Bolivians...
order to re-establish a trade outlet.
The plan was ambiguous, because in the end it meant en-
- I was a retailer here. I arrived in about 1988 — at the time my
couraging people to bring their narco-dollars to Costa Marquès,
father had a large store here. He came when business here was at
and therefore to launder their cocaine money, so as to help local
its most feverish, when lots of people came through here and ev-
stores to thrive. The national press mentioned the plan in July
erything sold like hot cakes.It was when they built that road there,
1991. It was a failure: the road was driven through a marshy area,
the BR 429 highway (from Costa Marquès to the BR 364) . When
it was flooded and impassable during the rainy season, and the
the road opened, people began to arrive and settle here, and at
Bolivians did not go back and do their shopping in Costa
the same time the stuff from over there (cocaine)(3) began to arrive
Marquès. On the other hand, as that period coincided with an in-
too. At the time there was already some around, as people talked
crease in the number of stolen vehicles bartered, it is possible
about there being big laboratories here on the river banks.
(3) Throughout the interview, Maria H. avoided us-
that the road was used for that purpose during the dry season.
(...) I know that before we came here there was very intensive
ing the word "cocaine" or "drug". She preferred to
Originally built to allow an "honest laundering" of dirty Bolivian
buying and selling of cattle, lots of people came here from the BR
talk about "the product" or used periphrases.
money, the road was used much more, in the end, for the transit
364(4) to buy Bolivian cattle. But when one thinks about it today,
(4) The towns located on or near the federal road:
of cars, lorries, motorcycles and tractors stolen in Brazil and taken
one realises that Bolivian cattle was no good at all compared with
Cacoal, Ji Parana, Pimenta Bueno, Rolim de Moura,
Alvorado d'Oeste etc.
to Costa Marques before being exchanged for cocaine in San
ours, here in Brazil, which were already selected, disinfected and
50 Chapter 4

put out to grass. They were nothing but "pé dura". But there was
unhusked rice there, in San Joaquim. So I told the Bolivians that
a scramble to buy those cattle. And afterwards, much later, I dis-
it couldn't work — their buildings were made of mud bricks, you
covered that all the cows had been stuffed with OB. (...) It's an ab-
know, and it was very damp and cold in there.When I saw all that
sorbent that women put in their private parts. (...) So all the cows
rice stored there, I said to them: "Do you realise you won't even be
came with an OB, according to what I was told, with cocaine in-
able to preserve this rice?" And I pointed out a thousand problems
to them, by showing them that their rice was going to go off if
they did that kind of business, and all that. I said they had been
The cows, once their load had been removed, were taken
misled, and that they should go and exchange their cocaine for
back to Bolivia, where they picked up a new consignment.That is
whatever they wanted, but not for rice! I guaranteed to supply
at least what someone suggested to me a few weeks later in Ji
them if they stopped doing their business with rice. But while I
Parana, one of the destinations of Bolivian cattle. Maria H. re-
was talking, there was one of them looking to the left and an-
members the prosperity and decline of big local retailers:
other to the right... No, it's true, I showed them that the rice was
really going to go off there, there was rice which had been there
- (...) By the time my father died in 1990, trade had already
for three months and was beginning to rot. It was their storage
dried up. I found it difficult to sell as there was no longer anyone
method, their way of keeping everything locked up in a confined
to sell to. Take rice. I used to sell about three, four, five and even
space, you know, with all that dampness — because the build-
six tonnes. It was husked rice, as we had a rice machine here. And
ings out there are very damp. But even after our conversation,
then there came a time — I had already begun to treat the rice
they no longer bought my rice, they didn't want any more of it. It
and had 200, 300 or 500 sacks in storage — when it suddenly be-
was at that time that (cocaine) was increasingly bartered for mo-
came impossible to sell it.There were no Bolivians to buy it. One
torbikes, cars, motors, tractors, jewelry, cattle...
day during that period, there was a fête at San Joaquim for the
- But this time the cattle went in the other direction...
patron saint of the town, on about July 21...They had invited the
- Yes, this time they did.They went from here to there.
Chamber of Commerce from here, the trade association. So I went
- To be exchanged for drugs...
along. I arrived there and started talking with various people.
- That's right.
Then I suddenly realised what was going on. I realised why I was-
- It was at that time that stores began to close, wasn't it?
n't selling any rice: they were exchanging untreated rice for co-
- That's right, when cocaine could only be obtained through
caine. I remember that because, at that time, I too drank a little,
barter, or exchanged for lorries and cars... Even today, a car turns
you know... I kicked up a bit of a fuss there... I challenged the most
up here one night, and by next morning it's gone. Sometimes you
important people in the town, and I asked them what they had
don't even see it at all.
in their brains. Why were they exchanging their product [co-
caine], which, according to what everyone says, is the best in the
world, the purest and all that, for rice, when they know nothing
River traffic: secret landing-stages
about rice... They knew nothing about rice, and I told them they
and bartered vehicles
were being misled... But I was defending my livelihood, sir!
Because obviously if they no longer exchanged their cocaine for
So the economic life of Costa Marques had been no more
rice, I would have been able to sell them my rice!
than ticking over since the end of the 1980s. True, many traffick-
- But who was going to sell them rice?
ers may have come through or resided in the town, but retailers
- The people on the BR 364. They came from Bom Principe,
could no longer get their hands on their narco-dollars. Several
Sao Miguel, Alvorada. People came from all along the BR 364 to
large fazendas in the neighbourhood had airstrips that were
exchange rice.
used for the export of precursors or the import of cocaine, but
- Did they go directly to San Joaquim?
this was simply a case of pure transit connected with major ex-
- They started here in Costa Marquès.They would come in lor-
port trafficking, which never had any notable effect on the eco-
ries and go off with the rice. I saw four or five warehouses full of
nomic life of the town. The moment when things were thrown
51 Chapter 4

into disarray for the retail trade coincided, according to what all
by using instead the criss-cross network of settlers' tracks. Some
the people I interviewed said, with the change in the conditions
of the landing-stages are located right opposite the tributary of
under which cocaine was obtained — in other words, when peo-
the Machupo, barely 100m from Forte Principe da Beira, where a
ple stopped buying it for cash and exchanged it instead for
Brazilian army detachment is stationed.The soldiers observe the
stolen goods (vehicles, etc.) or smuggled-out goods (rice har-
traffickers' movements without intervening, because, according
vests)(5). During that period, the local police concentrated most of
to army rules, control of river traffic is the exclusive responsibility
their activities, when they had the resources and the will to take
of the police.
action, on river traffic. It involved intercepting stolen vehicles (or
precursors), which were illegally brought into the region before
Some of these landing-stages can be spotted from the river. It
being sent across the river to Bolivia.
is possible to make out on tree trunks traces of the ropes that al-
low a vehicle to be sent across, while being kept under control, on
Between Guajara Mirim and Costa Marques (about 220km of
a "chata"."Chatas" are simple wooden barges as wide as a lorry, on
navigable water), several rivers flow from Bolivia into the
the gunwhales of which horizontal planks are fastened that cor-
Mamoré and Guaporé rivers from the left, from which it took
respond to the average distance between vehicles' wheels,and ca-
three or four hours by motorboat to reach the sites where co-
pable of bearing a lorry's weight.The car, van or tractor is let down
caine was refined: on the Mamoré towards Trinidade, and on the
the embankment, guided and held back by ropes, before being
Machupo and Baures towards San Ramon and San Joaquim.
put on to the planks of the barge. The barge is sometimes driven
Some laboratories once used to be very close to the banks of the
by a simple outboard motor at the stern (with a long horizontal
Guaporé: opposite the mouth of the Cautario river, for example,
axle that can be raised).The operation takes only a few minutes if
or on "René"'s fazenda, only four kilometres downstream from
all goes well.The chata crosses the river and enters the Machupa,
Forte Principe da Beira, and a few hundred metres from the river
up which it travels as far as San Ramon or San Joaquim.
bank. That fazenda had airstrips and, it is believed, a small "pri-
vate army" of bodyguards who kept the estate under surveil-
During the dry season, when navigation on the river is prob-
lance thanks to the presence of watchtowers (which could not
lematic, but when the "transcoca" on the other hand becomes
be seen from the river). Those sites have now in theory been
practicable, vehicles might be landed on the other side of the
abandoned following increased Bolivian repression over the
Machupo a few kilometres downstream, before being driven by
(5) Smuggled goods that were exchanged for co-
past three years.
road to the same Bolivian towns. Other landing-stages are barely
caine also included,as we shall see in subsequent re-
identifiable when seen from the river: they are too narrow, the
ports, coffee, gold and cassiterite.
On the right bank of the river, on the Brazilian side, the secret
undergrowth is too thick and the slope of the embankment too
(6) After putting in at the river bank, I met a few
"harbours" or landing-stages via which vehicles stolen in Brazil
steep for lorries or even cars to be loaded: they are used for mo-
peoes who were clearing a hectare of forest not far
are sent on their way to be bartered in Bolivia are currently in op-
torbikes and 200 litre cans of precursors(6).
away.They were working for a Guajara Mirim retailer
who was notorious for being involved in trafficking,
eration. There are several of them near Guajara Mirim (on the
but my guides were unaware of the fact that he had
banks of the Mamoré and Pacass Novo rivers), but most of them
bought this piece of land in the area,which required
are to be found in the vicinity of Costa Marquès: a little down-
a two-day journey by voadeira from his residence in
Bolivian immigration
stream from Forte Principe da Beira, and, further upstream, in a
Guajara Mirim.There was little doubt in their minds
continuous succession until a point only a few hundred metres
Several hundred Bolivians immigrated into the region of
that the retailer was planning to build a landing-
from the town's official harbour. Those landing-stages are con-
Costa Marques when repression was stepped up in Bolivia and
stage for loading stolen vehicles.
(7) The UMOPARs are part of the Bolivian armed
centrated along a 20km stretch of river bank, both upstream and
the UMOPARs began to destroy secret airstrips, discover labora-
forces.They specialise in the repression of drug traf-
downstream from Costa Marquès. They are near settlers' roads,
tories and control the main river towns from about 1992-93 on.
ficking and are trained and advised by officials be-
tracks and paths opened up in the district when the BR 429 high-
The UMOPARs(7) were well equipped with, among other things,
longing to the US Drug Enforcement Agency. They
way was built and a wave of colonists poured in. Most of the land-
powerful motorboats which they used to patrol the rivers (the
are known as "leopardos" in Brazil because of their
ing-stages can be reached from the BR 429 highway without it
Brazilian police feared them, and their relations with the Brazilian
camouflage dress (and because the word sounds
nice), and sometimes as "piranhas".
being necessary to go through the centre of Costa Marquès, and
authorities were often conflictual). According to the police, it is
52 Chapter 4

these immigrant Bolivians who are responsible for most of the
- And then they travel down to Costa Marques...
present transit of cocaine through Costa Marquès:
- Or else they come down the Guaporé to take the Cautàrio
river... Because by entering the Cautàrio they can go up as far as
- (...) When we were working in Costa Marques in 1988 and
the BR 429: there's a by-road [a settlers' road] which joins the
1989, there weren't yet any Bolivians who had settled here. At the
33km point on the BR 429, and from there they can continue by
time, they were mules who came through to go and make their
car towards Cacoal, Alvorada... What makes things much easier
purchases in Bolivia. Now, after there had been a serious crack-
for them is the fact that on this road which goes towards Ji
down in Bolivia, the Bolivians withdrew to the Costa Marquès
Parana, there are lots of by-roads they know well, and they move
area, as they knew there was no repression here.
from one district to another without taking the official BR.
- So they arrived not so long ago?
- Are there no checkpoints?
- Not long ago. Some of them settled here less than two years
- No checkpoints.
- And didn't you say that these Bolivians buy lots of apart-
- Did they come from San Ramon?
ment blocks and land here?
- San Ramon. They had already been arrested, and many of
- Yes. They really are buying, they're in the process of taking
them were wanted by the Bolivian police. The people who have
control of Costa Marquès: they're buying everything round here,
settled in Costa Marquès are fugitives from Bolivia. They have
buildings, fazendas, houses. They're taking the lot. In fact they
made Costa Marquès, on the Brazilian side, their base because
want something: they want to set up a base here so they can stay
there is a law that prevents them from being deported: they take
for good. For example, Pula (...) already has his villa, completely
advantage of that and use the municipality as a drug trafficking
surrounded by walls there, as you have seen. All that's missing are
base. They've hardly been here for two years, but all the traffick-
sentry boxes and watchtowers. Now a guy who has invested like
ers know each other. They may be working for various networks,
that in Costa Marques hasn't done so for no reason: it means he
but as they have settled here in Costa Marques they help each
really wants to settle permanently.
other and avoid clashing with each other. If a friend goes to see
- But apart from the houses?
Pula and says, for example: "Tell me, I need 20 kilos, or 30 kilos,"
- They buy fazendas complete with cattle and tractors.They
and Pula doesn't have them, then he will go to someone else and
buy everything.When the money dried up, the Brazilians all felt
find enough to sell. Because it is merchandise, they borrow, give
obliged to do something else, to set up a different way of life.
back and pay, "sell me that"...That's how they are organised here
So people have been selling their land, so they can start again
to make money: they can't clash with each other within the mu-
with another way of life. They are forced to do that. But not the
nicipality, otherwise they would attract attention. They want to
Bolivians. They buy everything, when everyone knows they
keep the lowest possible profile here.
have no activity, no work, in Costa Marquès. No store or any-
- But now that it is no longer easy to go via Orquilla, on the
thing. But they know what they're doing. If they remained here
Machupo, what do the traffickers do?
as humble and poor people, one day or other they would be
- When they take a voadeira, towards San Ramon or San
bound to be kicked out of here. But now, when you've got rich
Joaquim, or when they come back to Costa Marquès with co-
people who have already settled down, it's hard to get at them.
caine, they have to go via Orquilla, in front of the naval base of the
It's harder to get at a person like that, even if he is living round
Bolivian police there, of the "piranhas". So 500-600 metres before
here illegally, if he has money... That's already a more difficult
the landing-stage — the river twists and turns a lot — they moor
their boat.Two or three of them go ashore with the cocaine and
take a land route. Then the voadeira passes the base, they get
The role of Costa Marques and its history in cocaine trading
checked by the "piranhas", the leopards, and as there is nothing
seems to be rather straightforward:
in the boat, they continue on their journey. A little farther on, they
pick up the others, who have come by a land route with the co-
1. From the start, geographically located between
Bolivian sellers and buyers from the rest of Brazil and abroad, the
53 Chapter 4

town initially benefited from the fact that Bolivian sellers came
region, who came from the BR 364 and other States in Brazil, nev-
to spend their narco-revenues in the stores of Costa Marques
ertheless continued operating. They were able to use secret
airstrips on fazendas like Campo Verde, a few hundred metres up-
stream from Costa Marques, Ilha das Flores, on the edge of the
2. But most of the capital was not invested in Costa
municipality of Alta Floresta, guarded by well-armed capangas,
Marques, and when Bolivian sellers began to exchange their co-
Vale du Rio Mequens, Monte Cristo and others again near the San
caine for vehicles and other valuables stolen in Brazil, or for
Francisco river, etc.They all had airstrips and belonged to impor-
goods illegally exported, the town's retail and financial activity
tant figures (rumour had it that they were big businessmen and
was abruptly ruined.
sometimes public figures) who used their estates for the transit
or storage of cocaine imported from Bolivia. One assumes that
3.The "transcoca" changed nothing: Costa Marques once
they are currently following the general trend in the region,
again became a simple transit point where buyers from the inte-
which is to import base paste and refine it on their own ground.
rior of Brazil had a chance to meet representatives of their Bolivian
However that may be, these big traffickers operate without nec-
suppliers, who had in many cases themselves come from Bolivia
essarily maintaining any significant links with the inhabitants of
(1990-1994). The retailers and more generally all those who had
Costa Marques.
benefited from the manna of Bolivian narco-dollars had to think
about either moving into a different kind of activity or leaving.
Guajara Mirim
4.Then there came the UMOPARs' crackdown in Bolivia,
which triggered a wave of Bolivian immigration (several hundred
The effects of cocaine trading on the economy of Guajara
people moved into the small town), a significant proportion of
Mirim have a number of points in common with what hap-
whom were involved in cocaine trafficking (1994-1996).
pened in Costa Marques. Here too, over the same period, there
was a flurry of business activity resulting from the fact that
At the time of my investigations, however, the use that the im-
neighbouring Bolivian traffickers and their clienteles spent
migrant Bolivians made of their income injected hardly any new
their illegal income in Brazilian stores.That peak of activity was
life into the formerly big wholesale business: the biggest traffick-
followed by a slump of similar proportions when cash transac-
ers bought property from Brazilians who had abandoned the idea
tions were superseded by barter... But the history of Guajara
of moving into a new type of activity on the spot,and they tended
Mirim also presents important characteristics of its own.
to invest the rest of their capital in Bolivia. Most buyers still came
Guajara Mirim(8) is larger and has a more powerful elite than
from towns along the BR, and re-exported their cocaine to the
Costa Marques (indeed, Costa Marquès's elite was often made
south, the coast or the international market. The capital of these
up of local representatives of leading Guajara Mirim retailers),
big buyers was partly invested in their own towns along the BR
and investments of narco-dollars, particularly in property, were
364, Ji Parana, Cacoal, Ariquemès and Vilhena, or elsewhere in the
much larger — even though, as in Costa Marques, the logic of
urban centres of the south, but in any case not in Costa Marquès...
trafficking tended to reduce the town to its simple function as
As for Brazilian traffickers living in Costa Marquès, they operated
a transit corridor.The veritable "explosion" of cocaine money at
more modestly, since they worked only on the commercial seg-
regional level took place farther down, on the BR 364, and in
ment linking the border with towns along the BR 364. They had
particular, as regards Guajara Mirim, in Porte Velho. Unlike Costa
(8) Guajara Mirim,which is located on the right bank
hardly any direct access to the lucrative markets of the coast and
Marquès, and right from the beginning of the growth in illegal
of the Guaporé river in Brazil, stands opposite its
southern Brazil: their powerful clients on the BR stood between
trading during the first half of the 1980s, Guajara Mirim saw the
Bolivian twin town, Guayaramerim, on the left bank
them and Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, etc.
rise of a family of traffickers who, while not controlling all the
on the other side of the border. It takes only a few
town's cocaine supplies, nevertheless deeply influenced the
minutes to cross the river by voadeira, and there has
Not far from Costa Marques, representatives of the big net-
structure of local legal and illegal economic activity, by build-
always been a flourishing trade between the two
works that had been set up more than ten years previously in the
ing up a clientele in every social class (trade, industry and de-
54 Chapter 4

prived milieux). Guajara Mirim was the first case I came across
the 1980s. She had difficulty in driving and hired a chauffeur af-
since starting my investigations in Mato Grosso of a blatant
ter her first accident. But I have not counted the number of
power strategy based on a clientelist redistribution of revenues
cars... All this property was bought through third parties, usu-
from illegal trading, and on the implementation of brutal and
ally members of the family: it was one of Nereu's uncles who
autocratic forms of social control. I am referring to Nereu
bought the petrol station from the prefect, Isaac Benesby; his
Machado de Lima and his closest relatives.
sister bought the Do Mali supermarket, etc. This list of riches,
which has been summarily put together here on the basis of
various pieces of evidence (interviews and judicial and police
1980-1986: Nereu Machado de Lima
documents), is not exhaustive: on top of capital possibly in-
vested on the financial market, mention would also have to be
The Machado de Lima family arrived in Guajara Mirim in the
made of the mass of wealth — which is difficult to quantify —
1970s. Dom Gérard Verdier, bishop of Guajara Mirim, remem-
offered in the form of various gifts aimed at maintaining or en-
bers coming across them when they arrived in southern
larging the Machado de Limas' clientele. For example, they gave
Rondônia as poverty-stricken migrants from Parana on a boat
a car to a military policeman. They also offered to donate
that put ashore on one of the banks of the Guaporé, upstream
money to the diocese so the cathedral's stained-glass windows
from Costa Marques.The family, who were very Catholic, settled
could be restored (the offer was firmly turned down by Dom
in the port of Guajara Mirim, where they lived modestly until
Gérard Verdier). On top of classic clientelist strategies designed
the end of the 1970s. Nereu, the most important of the three
to win over the public — or moral — authorities and thus coopt
Machado sons that were to become traffickers, worked in the
or neutralise them, mention should lastly be made of the char-
harbour of Guajara Mirim, where he helped to manoeuvre the
ity received by the poorest sections of the population: at that
barge that ferried people across the river.
time, it was said that everyone knew that if they visited Nereu's
father at his office in Guajara Mirim harbour they would be lis-
Five or six years later, the family owned not only the barge it-
tened to attentively and possibly receive help to find a job or
self, but a local navigation company (the voadeiras that served to
get out of a financial, family or professional difficulty. "Nereu al-
transport passengers to Guayaramerim, in Bolivia, a sand-dredg-
ways helps those in need," a taxi-driver told a journalist(9), "he
ing company (Mineraçào Paranaense), which enjoyed a local
gives jobs — and good jobs at that — to those who are looking
monopoly in civil construction, a shipbuilding company (Estaletro
for work." Money was paid into charities, and at least one school
Guaycurus), a river navigation company (Navegaçào Colombo Ind.
in Guajara Mirim even today still bears the name of the charita-
Com. Ltda) which carried freight between Porto Velho and
ble trafficker.
Manaus, a supermarket in Guajara Mirim, fazendas in the district
complete with cattle and airstrips, about 2,000 hectares of build-
The image left by Machado de Lima in Guajara Mirim is full
ing land in the town, several fazendas around Guajara Mirim, but
of contrasts, combining as is usual in such circumstances a kind
also at Vilhena and abroad (one in Colombia, the other in
of fascination tinged with fear of a man who, as everyone knew,
Paraguay, each with an airstrip), a large villa in Guajara Mirim and
was quick to murder, or to arrange the murder of, those who got
another even more luxurious villa in Manaus, a petrol station, var-
in the way of his projects. When he died in 1986, his family con-
ious properties in the region and in Manaus, four aircraft, includ-
tacted the bishop by radio while he was on a tour of the river.
ing a twin-engined plane, and even a mid-river island ("Nereu
The bishop put his foot down and refused to allow the cathedral
Island") halfway between Brazil and Bolivia, between Guajara
to be used for his funeral: "Nereu did nothing during his life to
Mirim and Guayaramerim, where Nereu Machado de Lima
deserve a cathedral funeral," he said. A huge crowd nevertheless
brought in some guards and a few head of cattle, etc.
attended his funeral, as "he had given a lot of money to a lot of
People still remember how Nereu's mother, who had once
(9) Fatos, December 2, 1985.
been destitute, drove around in a luxury car at the beginning of
55 Chapter 4

The formation of Nereu's network
channel. When he had raised enough capital to launch his busi-
ness, he went ahead. After having been a prisoner, he went to
Civil police in Guajara Mirim tell the story:
Bolivia where he already had contacts, and he trafficked quite
- At the time when trafficking got under way in Guajara Mirim,
- But did he work on a large scale?
at the beginning of the 1980s, when Nereu started to be talked
- He had his fazendas, which had airstrips on which planes
about, there were even federal police who were accomplices of
could land. And planes came down to the region of Guajara,
the traffickers.
where there were several fazenda airstrips that belonged to him.
- Were they small traffickers?
At Iata, over there behind us, there was one at about kilometre
- There were mules, people who carry... But as for the people
14. There was an airstrip there. And right opposite Mr Brito's
involved in heavy trafficking (pesada) as such, it was Nereu who
house there was also an airstrip.
created the system. And he left behind a kind of "octopus" with
- (another policeman) At Lucindo's seringal too, there was an
a lot of "tentacles". And when he died, other people who had
airstrip, near the Pacass Nova.That seringal had an airstrip which
worked with him created other octopuses and hired other peo-
helped the trafficking... Later on, during the period when Nereu
ple to work with them...
was a wanted man in Brazil, he spent a long time hidden there.
- But Nereu was originally from a poor background, wasn't he?
And he had his own men, an armed group.
- Nereu was a poor guy. He worked on the barge that ferried
- The armed group was to protect...
cars to Bolivia, and he was a navvy (atractador) on the barge. He
- To protect the airstrips. No one could get anywhere near
had nothing.
those things. For example, at that time, the federal police knew
- (another policeman) But after that he ended up buying the
about them.When they saw a plane land there, near the fazenda
barge. (...) I know he spent some time in jail at the beginning, but
of kilometre 14, they could see it very well. But no one went out
then he escaped. Indeed, he even killed the guy who escaped
there, it was guarded by men on patrol and sentries. And it would
with him. They escaped on a small boat (Santo Antonio is an is-
all happen very quickly, because they didn't hang around: the
land on the Madeira river, upstream from Porto Velho), and he
plane arrived, they unloaded and loaded what was needed and
killed the guy.They say that the boat was unsafe for two people,
off it went. What could we do?
as it could capsize, and that that's why Nereu knocked out the
guy, who fell into the water. The fellow who escaped with him
There is no lack of information on how the Machado de Lima
was found dead.
family built up their clientelist system in Brazil. On the other hand,
- And did Nereu go to Bolivia?
it was much harder, in Guajara Mirim and elsewhere, to obtain re-
- No, he went to Porto Velho. People there helped him to hide,
liable and corroborative information about what happened at an
to find a place where he wouldn't have any problems, until a
earlier stage of the selling process, in Bolivia. A Bolivian newspa-
means could be found to enable him to escape.
per, El Deber (September 22, 1991) gives some information about
- Did he then flee to Bolivia?
the initial formation of Nereu Machado de Lima's network, and
- Yes he did.That's when he went to Bolivia. He then began to
emphasises the decisive role played by Bolivian army officers in
work with "avises" (mules). He was in charge of heavy trafficking,
the setting up of what the journalist calls the "Mamoré Cartel":
and other people worked with him...
- (another policeman) Nereu began those activities when he
" (...) Lieutenant Galdos was part of the group, and bought an
was working on the barge. Major trafficking has its support net-
estate in the neighbourhood of Puerto Villaruel, officially to ex-
works, you know.Today in Guajara, there are people who use the
tract timber from it. In fact, he recovered a large proportion of the
official airport, and those who use voadeiras, the pilots of voad-
drugs and later sold it to the Chaves family in Trinidad, with the
eiras, and there are also those who use the barge. As Nereu
capital of Oswaldo Justiniano and Alberto Letelier.Those officers
worked on the barge at the time, he already knew some net-
had a quarrel with the men who were buying the drugs for the
works, and I think that from that moment on he already had a
56 Chapter 4

At that time, officers Letelier and Justiniano contacted Nereu
base paste from "Roberto Suarez's son".The diversity and mobil-
Machicado (sic) de Lima (a Brazilian pistoleiro)(...).With the money
ity of these networks of major local trafficking could corroborate
from those transactions, Machicado (sic) de Lima began to expand
the claim, frequently heard locally, that on occasion Nereu nego-
his activities and became a direct buyer. Together with Alcides
tiated directly with the most conspicuous, if not the biggest, of
Guardia, he bought drugs from officers who took it in military
the Bolivian capos, Roberto Suarez (the man who publicly sug-
tankers to Letelier's estate, or to the estates of Humberto Riveira,
gested to Ronald Reagan that he (Suarez) should pay off Bolivia's
David Callau and others (...).
foreign debt).
The "Mamoré Cartel" had mixed fortunes (rumo). Most of its
members pulled out of the business, often because of disputes
Populist traffickers
between civilians and army officers. Soon, the only people re-
and respectable traffickers
maining were Justiniano, the officer ostensibly in charge of the
group, who worked with Nereu's brother, Sanclair Machado de
Nereu Machado de Lima was far from being the only
Lima, after Nereu's death. Sanclair, under the cover of several
Brazilian trafficker in Guajara Mirim to have had business deal-
companies in Brazil, remained in direct contact with Justiniano,
ings with the above-mentioned persons. The innovation he
officially about the building of boats for the army (probably on
made lay rather in the fact that, with the help of his access to ma-
behalf of the Estaleira Guycurus shipyards, which were owned by
jor illegal trading (via wholesale suppliers and buyers), he intro-
the Machado de Lima family in Guajara Mirim).
duced new practices into the local cocaine economy. At the be-
ginning of the 1980s, in addition to mules and occasional small
Many other Bolivian army officers were mentioned in the ar-
traffickers, the big traffickers of Guajara Mirim carried out their
ticle. The main point is simply that Nereu seems to have indeed
transactions discreetly. As everywhere else, many of them had
been the henchman of Bolivian traffickers at the beginning of his
originally gone into the business through the illegal export of
exile. He was probably an impressive bodyguard, as he was soon
precursors, ether and acetone (which was not the case with
contacted by trafficking army officers who wanted to set up a
Nereu); some of them restricted themselves to that area of ac-
new network through which they could sell their cocaine abroad,
tivity, which was highly profitable in itself, without exposing
and thus break free from the constraints imposed by the Chaves
themselves to the risk of importing cocaine. Others, such as Isaac
family. When judicial investigation documents (Federal Police in
Newton, a former deputy of Rondônia State and a member of a
Porto Velho) are cross-checked with interviews, it seems likely
local elite trading family, brought back cocaine (Newton's job
that Nereu Machado de Lima then worked in close association
was to buy chemical products in the industrial regions of central
with Alcides Guardia, a Bolivian trafficker in Guayaramerim, who
and southern Brazil on behalf of Marcilon Braga de Carvalho, but
owned not only six aircraft (including a DC3), but refining labo-
he also got caught with 140 kilos of cocaine when he was mak-
ratories near the towns of Montelivano and Apolo in Bolivia, and
ing a delivery in São Paulo). And yet the increasing wealth of lo-
who was in close contact with a Colombian, Carlos Medrazza, a
cal traffickers, when they came from local trading elites, took
resident of Montecristo, in the Brazilian State of Amazonas, where
place in a rather unobtrusive and respectable atmosphere, and
a fazenda was used as a transit point for the export of cocaine to
did not involve any unseemly local investment or ostentatious
Colombia (he also used the fazenda of the Brazilian Paulo
populist hand-outs. Nereu, who came from a poorer back-
Matarazzo, in São Paulo, as a transit point for international export
ground, disrupted the peaceful machinery of local illegal
via southern Brazil, as well as a Brazilian fazenda near Vilhena, for
his exports to Rio de Janeiro; the pilot Rubens, a close friend of
Nereu, did much of the transporting himself and on occasion
- Under his control (or under the control of members of his
flew back with ether and acetone that had been loaded at
family who had stayed in Guajara Mirim), he opened up the
Cutaba etc.). In 1987, one of Alcides Guardia's planes went miss-
wholesale drug market to a large number of people who had
ing in the forest when it was about to pick up a consignment of
previously had little access to it.
57 Chapter 4

- Within a few years he had built up a traditional clientelist
they might denounce him, and that he had other far more lucra-
system, not only by neutralising the authorities through a mix-
tive business in Santa Ana, San Joaquim, Magdalena and Santa
ture of charm, corruption, cooptation and intimidation(10), but by
Cruz "where the money came from" (written evidence).
investing some of his drug money in spectacular local property
investments and making lavish paternalistic hand-outs with no
The dispute between Aristeu Batista dos Santos and the
strings attached, which guaranteed that the more deprived sec-
Machado de Lima family was probably motivated by the desire
tions of the population would listen to and support him.
of a well-established trafficker to remind Nereu of "the rule" of
discretion practised by respectable traffickers. The public ex-
A prominent retailer, who may himself have been a trafficker,
change between the two traffickers is worth quoting here:
confided anonymously in the journalist from Fatos:
"Nereu made a blunder when he bought up everything that
- (Nereu's father) "It's Aristeu Batista dos Santos, owner of the
he could lay his hands on, as it drew attention to him. If he had
Guarajus supermarket and of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida ship-
acted like the others, by investing the money elsewhere, he could
ping company, who has been firing insults at my family. He came
be making more money than he's now making."
here at the same time as we did.He went into shipping at the same
time as we did. I think he can't bear to see our family expand so
A taxi driver confirmed this:
much.That's why he thought up this story of cocaine. But cocaine
has nothing to do with it. I don't even know what all this cocaine
"Nereu? He didn't know how to play like a man (fazer a jogada
business is about. It's (dor de cotovelo mesmo).
dos homens). The big, powerful guys always did everything they
could not to draw attention to the town.That's why they weren't
- (Aristeu) "I'm not jealous of the Machado de Limas. I pity
interested in bringing progress here. Guajara Mirim has no night
them. One son in jail and the other on the run... How could I be
life and it's not (à toa), nor even a (meretricio) area. Don't draw at-
jealous of people like that? We had a dispute with them some
tention to the place: that was the rule. Nereu broke the rule. He
time ago, but it wasn't because I invented anything about their
brought progress, opened stores, and boosted the river trade
life, as I don't need to invent.The authorities know very well what
with Guayaramerim with his shipping company. He became a re-
goes on here in Guajara Mirim"(11).
ally big guy."
Able as he was to rely on unlimited quantities of illegal goods,
The Machado de Lima family's meteoric rise did not fail to
and to have guaranteed and diversified outlets in Brazil as well as
raise eyebrows among the elites who had to face unfair compe-
on the international market, Nereu Machado de Lima encour-
tition from the Machados not only on the legal market, but also
aged a large number of people who had up to then been ex-
within the local community of traffickers. The two circles in fact
cluded from the illegal market to enter it by employing them as
(10) Sanclair Hachado de Lima was arrested by the
federal police of Porto Velho in November 1985.
partly overlapped each other, and it may be wondered what
well-paid middlemen or transporters.The Machado de Lima fam-
"Shortly after his arrest", the property developer
prompted a retailer like Aristeu Batista dos Santos to get involved
ily then formed a social, financial and, de facto, political force in
Vitachi told the newspaper Fatos (December 2,1985),
in a violent public dispute with Nereu's father in 1985: Batista
Guajara Mirim that was extremely embarrassing not only for the
"when Sanclair was being held at the federal police sta-
owned a supermarket and a shipping company in Guajara Mirim,
elites and the legal authorities, who rejected or feared it, but also
tion here in Guajara Mirim, Peres became infuriated
so he was a direct competitor of the Machado de Lima family —
for the community of ordinary traffickers, who had a different
and telephoned the federal police commissioner de-
manding his brother's release.That same day, several

but over a period of 15 years the same Batista had also been un-
project. A Bolivian officer gave his view on this to the journalist
capangas could be seen loitering in the vicinity of the
able to shake off a strong and persistent rumour that accused
on Fatos (idem):
federal police station,all of them very well armed.It got
him of being a big drug trafficker himself. It was none other than
to the point where the commissioner had to ask for help
Batista, at exactly the same time (December 10, 1985), who paid
"Here the axiom that "every cocaineiro is a retailer" — which
from the military police, as their lives were in danger."
off his seringueiros in the upper Guaporé in dollars. He was ac-
doesn't mean that every retailer is a cocaineiro — is true.You can
(11) Fatos, December 2, 1985.The journalist seemed
companied by Carlos Batista dos Santos, who said that he was
be certain that all the powerful people here (in Guayaramerim in
unaware,or at least he does not mention the fact,that
Aristeu Batista dos Santos was himself a trafficker.
going to expel his seringueiros from Guajara Mirim for fear that
Bolivia) are part of the mafia. Nereu is just a laranja, a guy who is
58 Chapter 4

used as a bait, or a guinea pig. The big guys in Guajara (Guajara
that in the end it was just money laundering, you see. The mo-
Mirim in Brazil) are afraid he might be a second Tomaso Buscetta.
ment drug trafficking stopped, everything stopped, and every-
They're afraid that if he's caught by the police he might spill the
one was ruined.
beans and shop everyone. That's why they want to get him be-
fore the police and the law courts do."
- (another policeman) In Nereu's time, these people bought
fazendas, they bought all sorts of things in all sorts of places. After
The present mayor of Guajara Mirim, a very powerful man
his death, they sold all those fazendas to pay their bills.
whose family has not, as far as I know, been suspected of any sig-
- With Nereu, for example, they had money. It poured in all the
nificant involvement in illegal trading, explains how he strove to
time from drug trafficking, it kept on pouring in without stop-
resist the Machado de Limas' clientelist charm offensive:
ping.They bought all sorts of things.When he died and drug traf-
ficking stopped for them, they had to start selling. They sold off
- (15) Nereu's family had a monopoly in sand. All the sand that
their heritage.They sold the fazendas...and I don't know what...
was extracted for building was theirs, and it's still theirs. So when
- (another policeman) Houses, cars, planes — the Machado de
you needed to buy some sand, for example, they would offer you
Lima family had four aircraft.
terms of payment. It's true they were the only company that
- In the end, the Machado de Limas have remained here with
dredged up sand from the river — I'm just giving you an exam-
the shipping company, the sand-dredging business for building,
ple, of course — so we had to offer to... No, I tried to pay for it in
they can manage with that. Otherwise, the rest has all been sold
cash. I made a principle of not getting into debt or being hock to
by them. But there's the supermarket too...
people like that: I would buy and pay straight away, on the nail.
That said, I was unhappy about those facilities... because we knew
Meanwhile, as was mentioned by the policemen, the other
they were in that line of business, of course (in cocaine traffick-
members of the family, who had never been more than the priv-
ing). What a fortune they had. You should have seen the lorries
ileged "first customers" of the Nereu system and owners of an in-
they had. But you were in hock. It was no good saying you weren't
heritance made out in their name (nothing was in the name of
going to buy from this or that person, otherwise you ended up
Nereu himself ), sold everything they could and today, as honor-
getting involved anyway, because they had a monopoly.
able citizens of Guajara Mirim, they are comfortably well off (as
well as enjoying income from the companies they still run). The
But the power of the Machado de Limas was mostly invested
rest of the "secondary" clientele was abandoned. Many employ-
in the person of Nereu Machado de Lima, who was determined to
ees lost their jobs in the many firms, stores and fazendas that had
mastermind and control the market in which he had got so many
been mere front companies, or whose acquisition had been dic-
people involved, from Guajara Mirim and elsewhere.He prevented
tated by the particular requirements of trafficking (fazendas with
people from getting a foothold in the market by imposing him-
airstrips, transit bases and so on). Many of those in hock to the
self as the sole supplier of his own trafficking clientele, and he also
Machado de Limas, who had managed to set up a small business
blocked the other end of the market by maintaining exclusive
with money the latter had lent them, and whose firm remained
control of his international outlets. When Nereu died, the whole
shaky and dependent on an illegal source of wealth, were ruined
clientelist system he had built up in Guajara Mirim began to fall
or had to sell up. Lastly, of course, the whole population of mid-
apart, excepting his close relatives. Policemen remember:
dlemen who had become integrated into trafficking itself be-
came "disorientated", as the police put it: they had lost the man
- When Nereu died, many people were disorientated. They
who pointed them in the right direction, the only man who had
began to clash with each other, to separate from each other...
the resources and the credit to do so. One would probably also
There were those people in Guajara who ran the shipyards, for
need to include, among the "disorientated", the representatives
example. Today, they're still in Guajara but destitute (lascado da
of the legal authorities and elites, who compromised themselves
vida), they've got nothing left.Those people worked with Nereu
with Nereu's clientele, those who had banked on the stability, vi-
at the time, and it's easy to see from what happened afterwards
ability and durability of his project.
59 Chapter 4

Cocaine sources became less reliable for Nereu's middlemen.
- Simple smugglers of precursors, ether, acetone etc., who
The structure of the rank and file of traffickers began to falter, and
were remunerated in dollars, without importing or exporting co-
internal disputes broke out within that population because of ri-
valries that had emerged when attempts were made to rebuild
- Big retailers who restricted themselves to exchanging their
networks and to operate them for the benefit of some but not
legal goods for the revenues of Bolivian drug traffickers, accord-
others. Some traffickers disbanded, while others, either out of in-
ing to the model described in connection with Costa Marquès.
experience or because they had been denounced by colleagues,
Naturally the latter did not regard themselves, nor were they re-
were arrested by the police. It may also be supposed that clien-
garded by anyone, as law-breakers.
telist pressure (charm offensives or death threats) eased up on
institutions at that time. Nereu's clientelist edifice collapsed like
Among those in the first category, in addition to Aristeu
a house of cards after his death. But the fact remains that at that
Batista dos Santos, who owned a supermarket and a shipping
time Nereu durably opened up the illegal market for "a whole
company in 1985, mention could be made of Messias, a former
generation" of new traffickers, some of whom subsequently man-
army corporal posted at Forte Principe da Beira, then at Costa
aged, after breaking free from the Machado de Limas, to reor-
Marquès, who began to amass his fortune at the same time.
ganise and exploit for themselves, profitably and discreetly, the
segment of illegal networks into which Nereu Machado de Lima
- He was an army corporal, but had got rich as an owner of
had originally introduced them.
property. He had an incredible number of buildings in Guajara.
When he separated from his first wife, he gave her a pile (monte)
of buildings. He had to share them with his wife, and now he still
The low-profile big traffickers
owns a pile of buildings. He had a furniture and electrical goods
store.He bought and paid in cash, he didn't owe anyone anything,
Whereas Nereu, a big-hearted but violent and, on occasion,
he had no obligations, nothing.
murderous trafficker, regularly hit the regional and national head-
- Is he the man you said owned 30% of the buildings in the
lines,but at the same time remained extremely popular with a sec-
centre of Guajara Mirim?
tion of the destitute local population, the respectable trafficking
- That right, it was him. As far as one can tell, he is now thought
elite continued discreetly to thrive.It may be assumed that their re-
to have given up trafficking. He earned a lot of money at the time
action to his death was one of relief. Unfortunately, and inevitably,
when cocaine was a seven-headed Hydra (bicha de sete cabeças).
there is much less information about the other great fortunes that
No one knew what it was, we just knew it came from trafficking.
were amassed at that time in cocaine trading.The press mentioned
So at that time he went into trafficking, then he pulled out of it.
the cocaine trade virtually only in its crime reporting pages,in con-
- (nother policeman) The army people carried out an investi-
nection with petty urban trafficking, the arrest of mules or bloody
gation and said to him: "Look, your wealth isn't compatible with
shootouts between rival groups, but it almost never referred to
what you earn.Take your wages and leave, or else we'll throw you
large-scale regional trafficking. And with good reason, since the
out." So he resigned and left the barracks, under pressure from
people involved were often influential figures who had support in
the army itself. Of course from his point of view, he didn't care a
the regional media (when they did not own them themselves).
shit about his job. He had the money.
Considerable fortunes were built up at the time of Nereu
According to a Porte Velho public prosecutor (uromotor) who
Machado de Lima thanks to the existence of cocaine trading, but
used to work in Guajara Mirim, ex-corporal Messias now owns 83
here again, as in the case of Costa Marquès, it is important to dis-
buildings in the centre of town (office blocks and houses), in-
tinguish between the different ways wealth was accumulated.
cluding the Jamaica Hotel, the finest hotel in town, buildings
There were:
housing several big banks, an import company and property in-
- Retailers/drug traffickers proper, whatever the scale of their
vestments carried out in Aracajù, his native town in Sergipe.
60 Chapter 4

People I spoke to in Guajara Mirim were prepared to be very
180 apartment blocks, buildings and villas in Guajara Mirim are
forthcoming about the Machado de Limas. They also felt no em-
probably owned by traffickers or former traffickers. Guajara Mirim
barrassment about talking about Messias, about the owner of the
is not a large town, and its centre, which consists of permanent
Casa dos Redes,once a humble hammock vendor and now owner
structures and is the centre of trading activities, is not very ex-
of a luxurious 15-room "palace" in Guajara Mirim, about Oscar
tensive. As these buildings are among the most presentable in
Milao, who used to sell onions and now eats off gold crockery, or
the town, it is understandable that civil servants who get posted
about Maximiliano,who refines his cocaine in Brazil and is currently
there find it hard to rent accommodation other than that be-
preparing to buy fazendas in the region for cash as well as plan-
longing to a trafficker. According to the public prosecutor (pro-
ning to build a luxury hotel in Guajara Mirim...People were not em-
motor) in Porto Velho, who gave me these figures, this is often the
barrassed to broach such subjects because the rise of such traf-
case with magistrates and prosecutors who are posted there
fickers, who are very active today, was all the more blatant and os-
tentatious because they had started out with nothing(12). But no
one talks with the same freedom about the fortunes of the old
families, those who were already in a position of power when the
illegal market got going,and who earned considerable fortunes by
investing discreetly in it, fortunes which they invested elsewhere
Illegal activity is not restricted to cocaine trafficking. Most of
without seeming to turn their backs on their previous behaviour
the major traffickers started out in the business by exporting
in a way that might have shocked people locally. People are natu-
chemical precursors such as ether, acetone, ammoniac, potas-
rally all the more reluctant to talk about such fortunes because
sium permanganate, etc.Their networks regularly combined the
many of their owners have remained influential in every sphere of
import of cocaine with the supply of precursors. But precursors
local social, financial and institutional life.
bought in Brazil were smuggled into Bolivia and sold to Bolivian
manufacturers at well above the market price: the police reckon
The Nagibs are one such family.They arrived in Guajara Mirim
that capital invested in the purchase of such products had in-
in the 1930s. Nagib personally owns a timber company, another
creased fivefold by the time they were sold on. That already
company that sells building equipment, as well as a large button-
amounted to a considerable revenue in itself, which explains
manufacturing factory in São Paulo, and some 60 buildings in
why the market was able to constitute on its own an area of ac-
Guajara Mirim (unlike Messias, Nagib had the reputation of be-
tivity and capital accumulation independent from the import of
(12) These names were freely mentioned in all the
ing a very slow payer). Rumour has it that he built a 10-storey
the finished product, and sometimes even unconnected with
interviews,with both civilians and representatives of
block in Beirut, Lebanon, where he had kept in contact with his
the cocaine networks proper. Certain inhabitants of border
judicial and police institutions. They also feature in
family of origin... Nagib (like the other big families doing business
towns like Guajara Mirim did not look the other way when such
many legal documents.Oscar Milao and Maximiliano,
on the river, such as the Badres and the Benesbys) had a sales rep-
lucrative opportunities turned up. There were cocaine produc-
who arrived on the market at a later date,are currently
helping to train this "new generation" of traffickers,
resentative in Costa Marquès at the time when Messias was traf-
tion ingredients which were not classified among the banned
which clearly includes many young men of good fam-
ficking. The Meléms are not recent settlers either. Owners of the
precursors, which were available on the Brazilian market and
ily, whose "names they have blackened". A Guajara
import company, Tunari, they also operate in Bolivia and own
more difficult to come by in Bolivia, and which, perfectly legally,
Mirim policeman admitted: "The oldest families in
some 40 buildings in Guajara Mirim. No one doubts the origin of
made certain retailers in Guajara Mirim very happy: one exam-
Guajara do not get involved. It is true that some of
the finance that enabled them to build up such a considerable
ple is the toilet paper that was used as a filter during the manu-
them now have children who have become traffick-
ers, but this new generation already has a different
local property portfolio.
facture of the powder. It was said jokingly that during the peak
attitude.They go and get involved, and blacken the
years, from 1985-1990, Guajara Mirim sold enough toilet paper
names of the traditional families. Some of them are
It is worth noting that if one takes into consideration only
to meet Bolivia's entire demand... The Bolivians would come in
drug addicts, other traffickers, but they're in there,
these three individuals, Messias, Melém and Nagib, without tak-
voadeiras to the harbour, and set off back towards Beni or
and even traditional families have been blackened
ing into account local properties owned by other traffickers (the
Mamoré with cubic metres of toilet paper that had been sold to
because of that."
Machado de Limas, Aristeu Batista dos Santos and many other
them at the highest possible price. The retailers, whether they
(13) When doing my investigations in Guajara Mirim,
I myself stayed at a hotel owned by a trafficker.
names mentioned in the course of the investigations), more than
ran small general stores or owned supermarkets, had of course
61 Chapter 4

no reason to turn their noses up at this legal little windfall. Paulo
lorry arrives at a checkpoint, for example, but we can't check any-
Gudim, a local storekeeper, apparently distinguished himself in
thing as we don't know what it is. We check the tax docket, and
this activity.
they are cigarettes... But people sometimes say that there's ether,
acetone and acid, in consignments of cigarettes.
Legal retailers or users of chemical products, that is to say,
concretely, pharmacists, garages selling batteries and all retailers
- It is said that the smuggling of such products increases their
where it was legal to stock sulphuric acid or ether, were subjected
value fivefold. You just drive out of São Paulo and on to Bolivia,
to the same temptation. In Guajara Mirim, people mention Paulo
and you've earned five times what you put in. So there logically
de Baterias, who, as his nickname suggests, ran a battery store
must be some form of connivance with the Federal Tax office that
and secretly sold sulphuric acid to Bolivian traffickers.
carries out the check, with the people who inspect the consign-
Pharmacists who knew their wholesalers well had little difficulty
ment and affix the seals. And no one sees anything...
in buying more than they were allowed to, and in secretly storing
- (another policeman) A lorry turns up for example, one of
their surplus until such time as they sold it to representatives of
those lorries that carry cigarettes for export.The cigarettes leave
Bolivian laboratories.The most spectacular case (there were oth-
Brazil to go to Bolivia. The lorries arrive at a roadblock, and you
ers that never came to light) concerned the Fialho family in 1991,
can see that the lorry's axis is very low. It's very close to the
who had long been established in the town. "But in this case it is
ground.You can see from the weight that it cannot be carrying a
the children, not the parents, who say it's nothing to do with them;
consignment of cigarettes. But you only have a suspicion, there's
it's the children, already another generation, who blacken their el-
nothing to warrant taking the Federal Tax Office seals off.
ders' name", a policeman said.
- So you can't under any circumstances open the lorry. If you
do, you're committing a crime. If you open it up and find some-
However that may be, it should be remembered that the
thing nice, you're covered (amparado), but if you do that without
smuggling of precursors could itself constitute an area of capital
being tipped off or without a good solid reason to open it up,
accumulation independent of the cocaine trade proper. Groups
then you're in trouble (ferrado).
were able to buy produce in the industrial urban centres of
- That means there must be accomplices...
southern and central Brazil and sell them directly on to the
- As far as we can analyse it...When the staff at the Federal Tax
Bolivians, as long as they had contacts on the other side of the
Office seal a vehicle like that, they must know what's inside it.
border (which was particularly easy for the inhabitants of Guajara
They look at the lorry...
Mirim). Others supplied precursors to border middlemen, who in
- Do they inspect it?
turn sold them on to Bolivians without asking to be paid for their
- That's their job, their duty. If they don't, they're guilty of neg-
services in cocaine. A policemen insisted on this point, and men-
ligence.They must check and inspect before putting on seals.
tioned his suspicions that officials in the Federal Tax Office prob-
- And the seals are affixed there, in Sao Paulo?
ably acted as accomplices when large quantities of chemical
- Yes, in São Paulo (...).
products were transported by road:
- For example, they transport ether and acetone in a goods
The rise and fall of a trade
vehicle coming from São Paulo or other major centres in Brazil on
its way to Bolivia. Now the lorries are sealed by Federal Tax offi-
All the illegal forms of capital accumulation mentioned so far
cials, and no one can open them up unless they have very strong
— from Nereu Machado de Lima's misplaced clientelism to the
suspicions.The lorries travel with seals on them and go to Bolivia
smuggling of precursors and the discreet accumulation of re-
with consignments of rice, cigarettes, export products... But no
spectable traffickers, whether or not they belonged to old local
one here, not even our inspector, can touch a Tax Office seal.The
elites — were features of the 1980s. Such practices naturally fa-
lorries can only be opened over there in Bolivia. It has happened
cilitated the injection of illegal cash into the local economy, but
very often here in Guajara, and it still happens today: a sealed
they were not alone in affecting the situation in Guajara Mirim.
62 Chapter 4

Trade in the town thrived extraordinarily at the time, as it then
ing marketing structure, they closed down and left. Because at
did in Costa Marquès, as we have seen. The shrewder major traf-
that time a lot of people came here to open stores solely intend-
fickers in Guajara perhaps avoided investing too ostentatiously
ing to sell to the Bolivians.
in the town. But Bolivian traffickers from Guayaramerim,
Ribeiralta etc. came en masse to spend their narco-dollars in
What with the narco-revenues of Guajara Mirim's Brazilian
Guajara Mirim, just as those from San Ramon and San Joaquim
traffickers and those of neighbouring Bolivians who came to
did in Costa Marquès, 200km upstream. Isaac Benesby, the pre-
spend huge amounts of money in the stores of the same town,
sent mayor of Guajara Mirim, remembers:
which were in a position to sell at high prices, Guajara Mirim must
have been awash with a quite extraordinary volume of wealth in
- The prosperous period lasted until 1990, I think. The
the 1980s, compared with the money supply required by the
Bolivians bought whatever they could find in Guajara Mirim.They
small town's legal economic activity alone.The Brazilian retailers'
bought beans, rice, television sets, everyone that came from the
room for manoeuvre in selling goods at high prices to Bolivian
south or was produced here. Retailers sold huge amounts of
traffickers did not result purely from the fact that the latter were
goods to the Bolivians.
exceptionally affluent. The Brazilians retailers' advantage also
- Were there a lot of dollars here?
resided in the fact that their colleagues in Guayaramerim, in
- A lot.
Bolivia, were commercially isolated. The sale of manufactured
- Where did the dollars come from?
goods by Brazilian storekeepers to Bolivians at a high price was
- No one knew where they came from... The Bolivians came
a practice almost as old as the foundation of the two twin towns
here, and they brought money with them; it wasn't the Brazilians
— and existed well before cocaine trading appeared.The strate-
who were the gangsters in this particular case. The origin of the
gic advantage that Brazilian retailers enjoyed over their Bolivian
money, the laboratories, they were all over there in Bolivia. Look,
counterparts disappeared when Guayaramerim was in turn
during that period, which ran from 1980 and earlier till about
linked up to its own national road network via a practicable road
1990, the wealth that circulated in Guajara Mirim came here pre-
at the end of the 1980s. Guayaramerim broke free from its com-
cisely because there was that freedom in Bolivia; ...They sent the
mercial dependence on Guajara Mirim at a time when barter was
(cocaine) through here, or elsewhere, directly to Colombia, and
beginning to replace cash transactions on the cocaine market.
they had a lot of money.They had money to buy up stocks, enor-
The commercial decline of cocaine may have been accentuated
mous quantities of sugar, wheat flour, oil, everything, in Guajara.
by that phenomenon.
Including manufactured products, as they say — refrigerators,
furniture, all that was sold in huge quantities in Bolivia, whole
But before the decline, unusual commercial practices ap-
lorry loads of oil, toilet paper, barbed wire. Why? Because the
peared on the Guajara Mirim market. As we have just seen, the
wealth [narco-revenues] was on the other side (...). (...) Then came
town contained a mixture of Bolivian and Brazilian traffickers, set-
the phase when vehicles came through here, when Brazilian
tlers and descendants of traditional families, some of whom had
mules arrived, who carried the base paste.They would go and ne-
millions of dollars to spend.These people faced retailers who, one
gotiate in Bolivia, but they didn't take money there, they took
imagines, must have been delighted to be able to sell, on a daily
stolen vehicles. That's what is still going on even today, a large
basis and at a very good price, tonnes of rice and beans, hundreds
number of stolen vehicles come through Guajara Mirim — but
of electric household appliances, tonnes of materials and ma-
it's still at a reasonable level, there are lots of places where they
chines for the building industry, dozens of cars and so on. But, as
can cross the border. So trade began to decline, both in Guajara
we have also seen, there were in addition a number of traffickers
Mirim and in Costa Marquès. There was a slump, because the
who themselves bought up businesses, so as to throw people off
Bolivians no longer bought anything, in about 1990, there was al-
the scent and legitimise the source of their exceptional income,
most nothing left. As for the few retailers there were here, and
without worrying about carefully running their new activity or
who had come with the intention of selling, of opening their
even about making money. Such operators, as long as they did
stores to sell to the Bolivians, but who hadn't got a long-stand-
not sell rubbish, could sell at any price they wished and thus un-
63 Chapter 4

dercut the markets in sectors in which they had chosen to le-
within the framework of a federal initiative that would guarantee
galise their drug earnings... One also has to take into considera-
them the concerted support of the Federal Police, the public
tion the hyperinflation that was then raging in both Brazil and
prosecutor's office and the financial institutions concerned(14).
Bolivia, speculation and trafficking on the dollar exchange rate,
the corruption of some local State representatives, and lastly the
gold rush that peaked between 1986 and 1990 near Guajara
Mirim. Under the effects of the drug economy, commercial and
financial procedures were subject to spectacular distortions at
the time.
Opposite the harbour of Guajara Mirim stands the imposing
Federal Tax building, as it did throughout the period under con-
sideration. Today its officials supervise the disembarkation of
voadeiras bringing passengers from Bolivia and check the quo-
tas of goods bought by sacoleiros and other Brazilian buyers who
have come to take advantage of the free zone recently created in
Guajara Mirim.What surprises the outside observer is that, at the
centre of one of the main zones of cocaine transit between
Bolivia and Brazil, in the heart of a town where most property is
probably owned by operational traffickers, former traffickers or
their heirs (not to speak of business capital and companies con-
nected with public building works), the only manifest activity of
the Federal Tax Office, despite the fact that everyone seems to
know who is who, apparently concentrates on checking those
who have gone shopping in the duty-free area and telling them
they have bought one electric toy, doll or camera film more than
the official purchase quota allows.
It looks very much as though even the most notorious traf-
fickers, after investing considerable sums in the economy of
Guajara Mirim, and before passing on their wealth to their de-
scendants, had never been bothered by the Federal Tax Office. I
was not able to investigate this facet of the problem directly.
Always supposing that certain officials cared about assuming
their local responsibilities, one can only imagine the level of pres-
sure, offers of bribes and explicit or implicit threats that must
(14) There have been established cases of corruption.
have weighed down on any of them who wanted to impose the
Worth mentioning is the implication of a Federal Tax
law.The pressure would certainly be commensurate with the ex-
official in the murder of a lorry-driver:the stolen lorry,
traordinary scandal that any rigorous financial investigations
which should have taken the barge from Guajara,was
would have been bound to cause. Many magistrates are aware of
going to be exchanged for cocaine in Bolivia. Such
the gravity of the problem and feel that Federal Tax officials are
cases do not make it possible to pass judgment on the
circumstances under which the Federal Tax Office, or
not in a position to assume their local responsibilities without
indeed any other institution,intervenes in such cases.
putting their career or life at risk, unless they are able to act
64 Chapter 4

Chapter 5
One businessman has become the virtual master of a town of
some twenty thousand inhabitants on the banks of the Tarauacá
in just over ten years. He owns an air taxi company (three aircraft),
a drinks distribution business, a river transport company (barges),
a coffee roasting factory, a network of filling stations, cattle farms,
the main warehouses in the town and, besides being already the
owner of a bar, he has just acquired further plots of land in the
town, the better to launch himself in the catering business.
Roberto Araújo
As in the neighbouring state of Rondônia, trade in Acre has
benefited from income from the cocaine trade — initially, in the
towns near the border with Bolivia, like Brasiléia and Plácido de
Castro, which were the first to benefit from the largesse of
Bolivians prepared to waste the gains obtained across the bor-
der through illegal exports. Many Brazilian businesspeople, how-
ever, took a further step by becoming involved in illegal opera-
Stretching from the sources of the River Javari in the north-
tions themselves.
west to the banks of the Abunã in the south-east, the federate
state of Acre (whose capital is Rio Branco) is situated in the west-
Smuggling of precursors was not the initial stage in local busi-
ernmost part of Brazil between Bolivia and Peru. Following a mas-
nesspeople’s gradual involvement in illegality, as it was in
sive flight from the land since the 1970s, the population has been
Rondônia. Distribution problems resulting from territorial isola-
distributed among the urban centres along these routes with a
tion probably explain the lack of laboratories in Acre. But those
massive concentration in the southern regions of the state, near
difficulties also make the state attractive for transporting freebase
Rio Branco.The effects of urban growth resulting from rural exo-
from Peru to Colombian laboratories (four years ago, Peru was still
dus are manifest everywhere(1), but two major regional concen-
the largest producer of freebase, but it has never been renowned
trations can be identified in the state: a densely populated area
for its production of cocaine chlorohydrate). From the early 1980s
in the south, served by recent road links and so better integrated
onwards, pump attendants in small airports subject to little con-
with the national economy, like the Acre valley; and a less densely
trol by the authorities were given orders from their bosses to fill
populated area in the north which, because of its relative isola-
up planes whose passengers would pay cash, in dollars, and not
tion, is more dependent on the old river routes used for the rub-
to ask too many questions. With the complicity of their owners,
ber trade.
private landing strips on old rubber plantations soon became so
many staging-posts for illegal journeys. By the end of the decade,
These population movements, consisting mainly of former
the cocaine trade was even attracting people with cash who,
seringueiros, are a result of the decline in rubber extraction and,
while not directly involved, became associated with it to finance
more generally, of an agricultural sector that has not been re-
possible illegal operations organized by acquaintances: members
placed by any industrial growth. At the same time, since the
of the professions, senior civil servants, etc.
1980s the service sector has prospered to a degree that would
be difficult to ascribe to the relative growth of that sector alone.
In widely varying forms according to investors’ degree of in-
(1) IBGE estimates (1996) a total population of
While some employers have been unable to maintain their for-
volvement and the source of the capital invested, revenue from
483,593, 47.3% of whom live in Rio Branco alone.
est estates and businesses in the towns, others have shown a re-
cocaine became an alternative source of income in Acre, given
11.7% (56,705 inhabitants) of the population of Acre
markable capacity for investment.They have diversified their ac-
the crisis in the rubber industry. The development of the illegal
live in the second largest town, Cruzeiro do Sul, fol-
tivities and found themselves at the head of large groups of com-
economy seems to have accompanied general population move-
lowed by Tarauacá with 4.8% (23,715) and Sena
Madureira with 4.8% (23,330).
panies which enable them to control the major supply networks.
ments, as the effects of the trade (accumulation of capital, rev-
65 Chapter 5

enue going into consumption or investment on the spot) now
who have been murdered or have disappeared seems to prove the
extend far more widely in the cities where people who have left
existence of a ‘death squad’ in the capital’s police stations, with the
border regions are concentrated.
implicit or even open support of various police officers. Our sources
in the police say there is a "black list" of names of criminals con-

Acre has not, however, experienced the growth associated
demned to die, referred to as so-and-so or so-and-so, etc., a total of
with recent colonisation which initially led to a general strength-
more than thirty probable victims of the extermination groups (sic).
ening of the position of small farms and agriculture-related pro-
… Despite emphatic denials by the Secretary for Security and the
duction in Rondônia and eastern Amazonia.The purchase of cof-
Chief Superintendent, the increasing number of complaints of tor-
fee harvests in Rondônia may be partly financed by illegal rev-
ture and summary executions shows that negotiations are under
enue (laundering) and thus be a social redistribution mechanism
way behind the scenes among the police, who have taken it upon
for the profits of the cocaine trade, as C. Geffray shows elsewhere
themselves to tackle the root of the evil". (A Gazeta do Acre,
in this issue. These redistributive effects are not felt to the same
extent in Acre, especially in the southern regions of the state,
where direct involvement in petty dealing in towns is, in the eyes
The executioners do not make any real attempt to protect
of a large section of the population, the only way of improving
themselves through anonymity.Their strategy is not to eliminate
their living conditions. As the local consumption of freebase
offenders, trying to conceal the existence of their police "exter-
gradually increases (mela smoked with tobacco), clashes be-
mination group". On the contrary: until recently they were quite
tween dealers bent on taking over and maintaining sales outlets
open about what they were doing, enjoying the protection of
is resulting in an exceptional increase in the number of murders
people highly placed in the judicial and police apparatus. The
in the capital.
"key man" of the "death squads" in Acre is Hildebrando Pascoal,
who was for a long time commander of the Military Police and
who then became a deputy, first in the State Assembly, then in
Local Cocaine Market
the National Congress (Federal). He comes from a modest family,
and Violence of Para-Police Groups
but one with strong roots in the Acre valley and, like most of his
brothers, made a career in the police. He is reputed to have a vi-
A reputation as a killer may be seen in some life histories as a
olent temperament and has been in trouble with the law since
means of helping street dealers to establish themselves, since it
1983, when he narrowly escaped being found guilty of murder.
demonstrates one’s aptitude for defending one’s territory against
In a judgement handed down in October of that year, the judge,
(2) In the late 1960s,the responsibility for state police
rivals and is a guarantee of reliability as a receiver of the goods
while not prepared to find H. Pascoal guilty "without further evi-
forces was taken over by the military regime.The mil-
to be sold. But this is never established simply as a result of con-
dence", made a point of mentioning the particularly difficult cir-
itary dictatorship mobilised them against certain
flict among petty dealers over the sharing-out of the market. In
cumstances of the police investigation:
radical leftist organisations in a crackdown which
soon made every political opponent a potential vic-
fact, the role of police in the urban distribution of drugs is a strik-
tim.Special commandos,known to use torture,phys-
ing aspect of the social and political implications of the cocaine
"The judicial investigation had enormous difficulties conducting
ically eliminated prisoners with complete impunity.
trade in the state.
the police investigations, firstly because of lack of resources, but also
This was widely denounced and was the subject of
because of the great influence wielded locally by the families of the
a number of studies of the dictatorships in Brazil and
The action of "uniformed death squads"(2) is symptomatic of
accused… Every effort was made to conceal the truth from us.
Latin America.It had serious implications which were
this. It has resulted in a succession of murders in petty criminal
Witnesses were produced who had no knowledge of the facts and
already visible at the time of the "democratic transi-
tion",but whose extent was probably as yet barely re-
circles in the suburbs of Rio Branco, attributed to the police. In
lied shamelessly in their statements because they had been in-
alised. No longer having the task of combating the
1987, a daily newspaper in the capital mentioned the elimina-
structed not to tell the truth. Others chose to say nothing for fear of
regime’s opponents,which no longer served any pur-
tion of four crooks, identified only by their nicknames, who,
pose, some sections of the military police immedi-
since the previous day, had:
ately embarked upon a "war against crime",using the
"been added to the list of people executed by the police or killed
The "great social influence" of the accused is based on family
same extra-legal methods regarded as essential for
the accomplishment of their mission.
on the orders of one or other police officer.The succession of bandits
networks deeply rooted in the police force. From trial to trial, one
66 Chapter 5

notes these sorts of "exchanges of friendly services" among
that were compromising for him. His networks include several
prominent people, such as when a Secretary for Security came in
Civil Police Commissioners who seize competitors’ drugs and
person to request the surrender of H. Pascoal during a private
drag out investigations into murders committed by the group.
visit to the suspect’s family, without concerning himself about
This enables them to appropriate (wholly or in part, and with ab-
the political consequences of the gesture. Such exchanges reveal
solute impunity) revenues from illegal activities and to impose
the cronyism in the law enforcement sphere which guarantees
conditions for the conduct of those activities for their own con-
the impunity of certain individuals.
"Those people, said one witness, all went to school together.
The family’s financial prosperity is obvious: it is said that H.
They’ve known one another since they were tiny. … So one day the
Pascoal always runs off with the best lots at cattle auctions. His
judge comes to see a certain Military Police officer to complain that
wealth enables him to finance his political pretensions. Within
his house has been burgled. The next day — surprise, surprise! —
the police itself, he lends money at exorbitant rates of interest
the burglar is found dead and the stolen goods are returned (to the
which he deducts directly from police officers’ salaries. He uses
owner).That’s how it works."
the debts to apply pressure to obtain his subordinates’ political
support. He is also alleged to have distributed money to some of
The police perform other services,such as intimidating debtors,
the hordes of electors who crowd around candidates in the run-
for the authorities and prominent people, who are all the more in-
up to elections — one person with a medical prescription, an-
clined to ignore the "excesses" of their personal militia. In such a
other with three months of unpaid invoices — in the hope of bal-
context, where the forces of law and order are to a great extent in
ancing a meagre family budget. It is said that during his second
thrall to the interests of certain individuals, the connections be-
election, outlets for the free distribution of sachets of freebase
tween urban crime, drug dealing and police exactions have be-
were set up for the town’s drug addicts in order to secure their
come a constant in the life of Rio Branco.Giving evidence before a
Parliamentary Committee on Drug Trafficking, a former employee
of H. Pascoal said he had heard the deputy order the execution of
None of this is enough to explain Pascoal’s resounding elec-
a street dealer who had invaded the territory of one of his pro-
toral successes: he is the deputy with the biggest electoral ma-
tégés. Furthermore:
jority in both the State Assembly and the National Congress.
Rather than attributing his success simply to his scattering
"(According to the witness) several people involved in drug traf-
largesse from his illegal activities during elections, the reasons
ficking frequented Hildebrando’s house.Two of the deputy’s trusted
are to be sought in his legitimacy in local society. He himself has
dealers kept a check on the sales outlets, using a motorbike belong-
never doubted the legitimacy of his practices, established se-
ing to him.… Corporal Paulino and Sergeant Alex seized drugs from
cretly and without the knowledge of the law. Accused by the
dealers who invaded the areas controlled by Hildebrando who (ac-
President of the Court of being responsible for the crimes com-
cording to the witness) sold the drugs and used the proceeds to fi-
mitted by the death squads, he claimed to be a victim of perse-
nance his family’s political campaigns" (O Estado de São Paulo, 30
cution by individuals who wanted to harm him because of his
June 1999).
role as protector of honest people from outlaws.
Through its criminal contacts and informers, the group of po-
More than a year after his arrest and that of dozens of his ac-
lice organized around H. Pascoal is thus able to control the co-
complices, huge sections of public opinion in Rio Branco seem to
caine market in the town. The deputy is also well-known for his
agree with him. It is true that murders of criminals have declined
influence in prisons: one word from him to the prison authorities
since the downfall of the "death squads", but burglaries and
is enough to speed up the release of a prisoner or change the
hold-ups have increased significantly. The recrudescence of of-
conditions of his sentence. He boasts of the indulgence of his sis-
fences against property affects not only the middle classes and
ter-in-law, a public prosecutor, with respect to certain law-suits
local businesspeople terrified by the new impunity of petty
67 Chapter 5

thugs, but is also, even especially, affecting poor people, who
In such a context, large traders have considerable advantages.
now, for example, have to pay a toll (pedagios) at some street cor-
Traditionally in charge of organising the transport of hevea and
ners. It is chorused that "this never happened in Hildebrando’s
river freight, they not only possess the means of transport
(barges, etc.), but also the commercial and even personal con-
tacts which, on a larger scale, may prove useful for organising il-
legal transport. Cocaine routes are not, however, superimposed
Illegal Networks and Social Control
on rubber marketing networks, since there have been other
in Northern Acre
changes which have resulted in the diversification of the trade
and its agents. Petrol and timber networks, for example, are par-
The tendency of the press to talk about drug dealing and the
ticularly representative of the metamorphoses that have oc-
cruelty of the "death squads" as if they were one and the same
curred, since the market price of these products is higher than
masks a very important fact that needs to be remembered:violence
that of rubber. When they are exploited illegally (embezzlement
seems to have been stamped out in northern Acre, where the in-
of subsidies for transporting petrol by illegal sale at the place of
vestment of illegal capital and mechanisms for distributing illegal
purchase; timber felling in protected areas, etc.), their attractive-
revenue are greater.The medium-sized towns with populations of
ness as sources of income increases still further. In the latter case,
twenty to fifty thousand in the Juruá and Tarauacá valleys are still
networks may benefit from various practices (such as the cor-
the fiefs of old seringalista bosses who have exploited new oppor-
ruption of civil servants, vetting of staff and procedures, etc.) that
tunities to enrich themselves.Many of today’s large traders ran rub-
are also employed in the drug trade.
ber plantations in the 1980s.Whatever the circumstances of their
initial contacts with cocaine exporters,the importance of old forest
Links between some strategic networks (that vary from re-
paths for the transport of drugs is undeniable.Some routes — from
gion to region) and the drug trade are, from this point of view, far
(3) H. Pascoal’s involvement in the drug trade is not
confined to extortion. His properties are used for
Peru to Cruzeiro do Sul via Paraná dos Mouras or across the border
from fortuitous. The most striking example in Cruzeiro do Sul is
loading and unloading drugs.His brother’s name ap-
hills towards the sources of the Javari — are regularly used thanks
probably Orly Cantarelli, former mayor of the town and close to
pears in a 1996 Federal Police investigation. Sete
to the cooperation of the local people, who act as guides or tem-
Senator Olavo Pires before this major Rondônia trafficker was
Bandeira Pascoal was mentioned as travelling to
porary receivers of the goods.
killed. Cantarelli had his first brush with the law in the mid-1980s
Colombia in the company of Peruvian drug barons.
when he was accused of keeping workers on his estate in the
A landing-strip belonging to him was sometimes
used by pilots working for these people. Supplying
Networks based on family connections, cronyism or previous
Upper Juruá in semi-slavery, and illegally felling timber in in-
logistical support and providing cover for illegal op-
contacts with small commercial suppliers in towns make it easy
digenous reserves. Ten years later, when Cantarelli had become
erations, Pascoal was probably also able to provide
to smuggle small quantities of freebase to Cruzeiro do Sul.
governor of the state, his personal secretary denounced the use
local supplies at certain periods.The Drug Trafficking
Sometimes this is done by Peruvian workers or peasants, who
of his river transport company for carrying cocaine in oil cans.The
CPI also brought out his association with inter-state
come on to the Brazilian side of the border to sell a few hundred
ex officio governor’s purchase in the United States of a Boeing
criminal networks, in the same capacity as eminent
persons in the Nordeste region, including a brother
grams received, it would seem, by way of a salary or remunera-
727-200, illegally flown into Brazil with a cargo of undeclared
of PC Farias, treasurer of ex-President Collor de Melo
tion. Having buried the goods in the neighbourhood, they are
electronic equipment on board through a sham company in Rio
in the state of Alagoas.Be that as it may,Pascoal does
given lodging by a local person for the time it takes the local boss
de Janeiro, also intensified suspicion about the nature of his re-
not seem to be a player on the national or interna-
to do a deal with a buyer in town.
lations with certain people in the entourage of a pilot and noto-
tional trafficking scenes.
rious trafficker arrested in 1994 for bringing 7.2 tons of cocaine
(4) This strategy seems to have been successful
since, at a time when many political personalities
The recruitment of local people (as guides, boatmen, to build
into the state of Tocantins. Finally, the governor was in the re-
and businesspeople in the state were put in the hot
landing-strips, etc.) may also provide logistical back-up to larger-
gional news for embezzling public funds and for the nepotism
seat about their illegal revenues by a Parliamentary
scale operations involving caravans of porters protected by
characteristic of his management. The Cantarelli family’s busi-
Committee charged with investigating the drug
armed guards carrying the drugs on foot for part of the journey,
nesses have experienced unprecedented prosperity.They obtain
trade at federal level, his name was removed from
before they are taken by boat or air to Colombian laboratories.
large contracts to transport diesel for generators in the main
the Committee’s report. In the ranks of the opposi-
Scouts in the traffickers’ pay inform them of the movements of
towns of Purus and Tarauacá and to build roads.
tion itself, this omission is attributed to the fact that
he lent his support to the present governor.
the Federal Police assigned to border control.
68 Chapter 5

The contracts are worth millions of dollars, and the question
icant confrontations and alliances criss-cross institutions, but are
arises of the traffickers’ being able to access state funds and use
devised for the purposes of cronyist realignments in illegal net-
them as they wish. This would be a different matter from the
works. The action of para-police groups is a more spectacular
mere corruption of civil servants and, as in the case of H. Pascoal,
facet of the illegal economies in western Amazonia than the
of making some dealers and petty thieves pay a ransom for their
domination of the major employers, but it is only an indication of
impunity and dealing ruthlessly with those who were reluctant
a fragile social contract which, when it is broken, is immediately
to do so. It would entail adding the embezzled sums to the for-
replaced by violent, illegal forms of social control.
tune of illegal revenue(3).
The major traffickers are primarily businesspeople and their
companies provide work for hundreds of employees.The smooth
running of their businesses results in the creation of indirect em-
ployment and provides a living for a host of subcontractors in the
building industry and in the hotel and restaurant trades. As they
hold government posts, they can also facilitate the recruitment
of civil servants. In these isolated towns less affected by demo-
graphic pressures than the capital, relative social peace thus
seems to reign.The control exercised over the population renders
violent, sustained repression unnecessary as the population is
subjugated in other ways. On the whole, the inhabitants who buy
goods in their employers’ shops and on whom they also depend
for their pay, are a captive political clientele shared among a
handful of influential people.
In this context, recourse to murder is quite exceptional.
Rivalries between bosses may take the form of the anodyne ap-
pearance of competition around an invitation to tender; for ex-
ample, one rich businessman put in a bid to transport diesel for
public generators, but was deprived of the fortune by the
Cantarelli family’s company. The same man lent his support to a
candidate for the state government from the leftist opposition,
who was ultimately victorious. His aim was not to improve his
chances in future invitations to tender, now conducted within the
regulations (even though in this case the candidate’s reputation
for honesty was not in question), but rather an opposition victory
that would further weaken his rival Cantarelli, at the time already
weighed down by various criminal charges, by taking the oppor-
tunity to strengthen his own network of associates and extend
their influence to key posts in the administration(4).
It is not a case here of "undercover deals" that take place as
secondary events on the margins of a political system set up to
administer the community. On the contrary, the politically signif-
69 Chapter 5

Chapter 6
As elsewhere in Brazil, the astonishing pace with which vio-
lent crime has increased in the last years and the youngsters’par-
ticipation in it (Paixão, 1982; Campos, 1988; Caldeira, 1992; Adorno
et al. 1995) are among the most intriguing features of violence in
Brazil since the beginning of the eighties. In the present chapter,
I start by claiming that one cannot understand the tremendous
increase in the rates of violent crimes, especially homicide, with-
out linking it to drug trafficking. This assertion is supported by
Alba Zaluar
fieldwork research that I undertook during the eighties in a poor
housing zone in Rio de Janeiro, as well as statistical data from
other studies in Brazil (Soares, 1994; Adorno, op.cit.) and other
South American countries (Daza and Moreno, 1995; Zaluar,
The first part of this chapter presents the theoretical frame-
work within which I work.The second part concerns the historical
background of the economic, social and political changes that
This chapter discusses the present view on crime and vio-
compound the scenario in which violence and drug traffic thrive.
lence in several Brazilian cities, and more specifically in Rio de
In the third part of the chapter I present data from the ethno-
Janeiro which is considered by the national and international
graphical fieldwork done in the housing zone, as well as the most
press as the most violent city in the country. This perception is
recent data from on-going research in three different districts of
primarily due to Brazil’s important role in transnational drug traf-
Rio de Janeiro. In the fourth part I discuss the findings one can
fic, and to the apparent mounting poverty and inequality in some
gather from statistical data concerning violent deaths and homi-
urban areas. There is a widespread argument in the press and in
cides. The fifth part presents data from research just completed
academic literature that drug trafficking flourishes in shanty-
on the Justice system that shows new evidence concerning the
towns because of poverty and exclusion. But the argument,
relationship between poverty and crime.
which points to different mechanisms, does not articulate them
in a convincing way.This chapter will discuss the common sense
ideas putting them in an interactional perspective. The aim is,
Theoretical framework
therefore, to understand the connection between poverty and
drug traffic, specifying the different economic, social and institu-
Violent criminality in Brazilian cities from the eighties on-
tional devices and changes that have an effect on it. It is based
wards cannot be reduced to the question of poverty, a problem
on primary data from several fieldwork research projects as well
that has always been present in Brazilian society over the cen-
as data obtained from official sources (the Ministry of Health, the
turies. Neither can the great rural-urban migration flow that
Police and the Judiciary).The latter data was obtained after a re-
marked the country in previous decades be presented as the
cent three-year research which compared the flux of lawsuits
cause, for it occurred before the sudden growth of violent crimes.
concerning drug-related crimes in the system of Justice in two
Brazilian cities: Rio de Janeiro and Campinas. Data from another
In contemporary sociology one is not searching for explana-
on-going research project compares styles of drug use and traf-
tions either of the sequence of cause-effect links or of structural
ficking in three different districts (Copacabana, Madureira and
characteristics that make people mere puppets of economic or
Tijuca) of Rio de Janeiro, one in the richest zone of the city, an-
social facts. There is another paradigm, which we could call the
other in a predominantly middle-class area and the last one in a
interactional model, in which a set of actions unleashes a chain
predominantly poor section.
of crosscutting effects that form "configurations" (Elias, 1993) or
70 Chapter 6

"constellations" (T. Adorno, 1973). Their internal tensions and dis-
those who focus on exclusion. The question yet to be properly
(1) Mafiosi contracts damage third parties and, al-
though they may avoid conflicts,are based on the par-
parities remain present so that the final arrangement is not an in-
discussed is how the effects of poverty and accelerated urban-
ticipants instrumental interests (Habermas,1991).The
ternally harmonious system.These constantly renewed arrange-
isation or immigration are linked with institutional mechanisms
relationships of personal loyalty and reciprocity are
ments are more akin to a nexus of meanings which make up so-
and the presence of networks(2) and fluxes of a more or less or-
neither the outcome of a personal free act, but are
cial phenomena, that is, complex and intertwined processes of
ganised crime(3) (Schiray, 1994). Although poverty and acceler-
forced upon mainly by the threat or use of physical vi-
facts and senses; things and representations that are thought,
ated urbanisation are clearly connected results and causes of
olence or even by terror (Caillé,1996).Demonstrations
of the chief’s generosity and magnanimity exist, but
created and lived by agents. The interactional model considers
exclusion, organized crime crosses all social classes, has bonds
are dependent on the whims and caprices of his per-
social practices and behaviours in interconnection so that causal-
with organised legal business and does not survive without in-
sonal power, leaving little space for the subject of ar-
ity flows between them and one can speak of complexity. This
stitutional support from state agencies delegated to defend the
gumentation and demand to appear.The mixture of
concept is nowadays increasingly part of the idiom of those who
law. The related themes of violence, criminality and insecurity
fear,respect and affection that surround him does not
think the new global processes of cultural diffusion, be it of new
will not be properly understood if not connected with such di-
nullify the despotic trait of his power.
consumer styles, or of behaviour patterns, including the mani-
(2) The concept of the network is used in two main
ways in studies concerning drug traffic nowadays.
festation of violence in cities in which the effects of globalisation
Firstly, it is anchored in the concepts of territoriality
are present.
Today, the scene of violence in the world cannot exclude the
and hierarchy with which Geography has envisaged
local impact of transnational organised crime or, if one may say
international, national and regional metropolises as
There have been intense debates over the character of post-
so, globalised crime that has sui generis economical, political and
well as other cities in order to study the flux of infor-
war society — be it called post modern, post industrial, high
cultural characteristics. In it, those who are in strategic positions
mation and products that pass from one to the others
through knots and strategic points of interconnec-
modernity, etc. — that went beyond the mere discussion about
in the large network of transnational connections may profit
tions from which some of them hierarchically exert
the proper terms used to denote it. However, there has been also
quickly and easily as a result of a combination of no or few insti-
over the others. Secondly, closer to the anthropologi-
a certain agreement that this society has been subjected to an ac-
tutional limits, using violent ways of conflict adjustments(4). This
cal conception of a social network, it is used to study
celerated process of social, economic, political and cultural trans-
may be considered as the illegal sector of the production and dis-
and understand the illegal activities that have the
formations, the central points of which would be social fragmen-
tribution of goods and services that is part of what is called "mass
character of a continuous business that flows by in-
terpersonal relationships based on secrecy and trust
tation and the increasing importance granted to leisure and con-
consumption of style"(5).
always under proof,in other words,on knowledge and
sumption activities as means of ascertaining and defining new so-
vigilance people have of each other as well as taken
cial identities. On the plane of social control, such transformations
Among the illegal drugs, cocaine is today associated every-
for granted arrangements and rules between them.In
mean that conventional moral restraint, which up to a certain
where with a style that puts great value in money, power, vio-
this second meaning, it applies notably to the lower
point exists without the Law, has weakened and has not been re-
lence and consumption of "trademark goods". Because of the
levels of the drug traffic that have an intricate and de-
centralised web hardly controlled, contrary to what
placed by new post-conventional ethics based on personal free-
very high prices of the drug, which is more expensive than gold
happens with the wholesalers and financiers of the
dom as well as mutuality, respect for the rights of others, or the
in several places(6), its trade has become a source of enormous
traffic,who tend to create centralisation and hierarchy
use of dialogue to arrive at an understanding (Habermas, 1991).
and rapid profits, as well as greater violence. In this case, the prof-
in Cartels e Mafia (UNDCP, 1997).
This ethics surpasses the one existing in civil law or in the con-
its are not engendered by productivity or greater exploration of
(3) The concept of organised crime is entangled with
ception of interpersonal contracts that bind private domains and
labour, but by the illegality of the enterprise itself (Salama, 1993).
the concept of Mafia and has been the object of an
unfinished debate which started during the last cen-
exists also to a certain extent in organised crime(1).The new ideas
The demand that guarantees high profits, is created by changes
tury: the former referring to its organised or disor-
on the compromises each one must make with others in public
in lifestyle associated with individual consumption, which is char-
ganised character, and the latter pointing to its con-
space (Ricœur, 1990) have not been absorbed in social practices.
acterised by style consumption (including the use of illegal
dition of crime, work or enterprise. In any case, there
As a result, gambling, drug use and pleasure-seeking are the main
drugs) and which is more expensive than post-war family con-
is no doubt that one is dealing with a set of activi-
objectives of life for many sectors of the population, especially the
sumption due to the secure and comfortable domestic patterns
ties spread in networks that have components of
economic endeavour, that is, it needs repetitive ac-
younger ones.This makes the businesses that exploit their illegal
of middle class families. Such changes in consumer habits have
tivities,(though without the discipline,regularity and
consumption highly profitable.
been accompanied by new conceptions of work and suffering.
rights of regular work), a goal of which is profit (eas-
Furthermore, these changes, which have been credited as one of
ier and higher the better seen at the wholesalers and
Since inequality remains at the social, economic and insti-
the effects of the globalisation process, are said to have favoured
intermediaries network),using variable methods and
tutional level, these new globalising forms of economic activi-
or gone with the impressive verified increase in certain crimes
currencies for exchanges typical of secret or under-
ground relationships.
ties configure a perverse social and economic integration for
"against property" — thefts and mugging — as well as "against
71 Chapter 6

life" — aggressions and homicides (UNDCP, 1997). However, the
During the eighties, the country had progressively recov-
local and micro mechanism by which this has come about is yet
ered democratic practices. This followed a period of economic
to be properly studied.
development during the military regime (1964-1984), when in-
creased wealth had never been distributed. Instead of eco-
nomic growth, there had been a scenario of economic, moral
Historical background
and political crisis supported by rapid inflation. Brazil had a var-
ied and modern economy, but its political and juridical tradi-
At the beginning of this century,during the first republican pe-
tions and institutions had not evolved. Not only did it have one
riod,there had been a noticeable spur of criminality.The most com-
of the worst income distributions in the world, but there were
mon offences and crimes were disorders, vagrancy, thefts, rob-
also great inequalities in terms of access to Justice or distribu-
beries. "Crimes of blood" — private vengeance committed be-
tive justice. The latter manifests itself when people are system-
tween people known to each other — were much less frequent.
atically excluded from services, benefits and guarantees which
Similar patterns existed in European countries (Fatela, 1989). After
are considered as social rights of citizenship ensured by the
a period of relative tranquillity following the Second World War,
State. It is seen when people do not have human or civil rights,
there was an enormous increase in violent crimes, especially kid-
that is, those rights that are contained in national constitutions
napping, robbery and homicide. In many European countries, this
or in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also appears
started during the sixties (Lagrange, 1995), but in Brazil, it started
when people do not or can not criticize the laws or the work-
at the beginning of the eighties, with violations multiplied several
ings of Justice.
times in several cities, mainly Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Recife.
This rapid growth in homicides particularly affected young men
During the eighties, there was a new rise of criminality rates
15-29 years old and shifted from crimes of blood to crimes in pub-
in most Brazilian states and big cities, mainly in the metropolitan
(4) All over the world, the existence of laws that pro-
hibit and the strong moral censorship that is im-
lic places between people who were neither intimate, nor even
regions such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife, Porto
posed on such activities, compels practices and or-
known to each other.This is exactly the same pattern found in dis-
Alegre, and Brasilia.
ganisation forms that are both underground and vi-
putes over the division and defence of territories and the payoff of
olent in their means of negotiation (threats, intimi-
traffickers and robbers. This is the same crime pattern as the one
Political violence — even though not altogether absent from
dation, blackmail, extortion) or in the conflict reso-
that developed during the violent competition between gangs in
the recent and less recent past when it assumed forms of col-
lution (aggressions, murders, terrorism) to react ac-
cordingly in either their commercial or private dis-
the ghettos of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York which started
lective violence — cannot explain the recent spur of interper-
at the beginning of the 20th century.
sonal and private violence. In spite of the oscillation between
(5) Style is a concept used for substituting culture
centralisation and decentralisation and several disruptions of
and subculture which have theoretical conse-
From the fifties onwards, big metropolitan regions and many
the Rule of law, parliamentary power had been institutionalised
quences and presuppositions which are inapplicable
middle-sized cities appeared as a result of the speedy urbanisation
in Brazil since the Empire. Even though there had been setbacks,
in such times of very rapid changes and uses of social
identities and practices.Used first to designate what
of older towns, notably in the Southeast Region, the most popu-
Brazilian parliamentary liberal tradition, established through the
was called "youth culture", style then became the
lated and richest Brazilian region,where are located the two biggest
strength that local oligarchies have always had in the country,
most suitable term to characterise the swift and tran-
metropolises of the country:Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.However,
revealed itself stronger than expected with help from support-
sitory novelties in fashion of music, clothing, art, lan-
starting in the eighties, the migratory movements changed direc-
ers of authoritarianism and the military regime. The locus of vi-
guage andother juvenile behaviour that could no
tion.Prior to that time,migrations took place from the Northeast to-
olence has been the subject of a lively debate concerning the
longer be exclusively interpreted on the holistic per-
spective of religion or of class culture, although not
wards the Southeast, or, within the Southeast, from small towns to
ideas about the "Brazilian Cordial Man"(7).There are no records of
entirely disconnected with them.
cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.The main migratory flow
glorious revolutions similar to the French or the American ones,
(6) In New York the same pattern is found in the traf-
in the eighties has been from the South, originating especially in
nor of civil wars between Catholics and Protestants, Christians
fic of heroine in that, from the sixties onwards, trafick-
the federate state of Paraná,towards the Centre-West and North of
and Jews, Muslims and Jews. Although it is true that slavery led
ing was established in the black and Puerto Rican
the country (Martine, 1994). During the nineties, São Paulo and Rio
to centuries of deep interpersonal violence, the explosive
neighbourhoods, and the pattern continues in the
more recent traffic of cocaine and crack (Sullivan,1992).
de Janeiro have grown very little,whereas some middle-sized cities
episodes of racial, religious and political hatred were either tran-
(7) Sergio Buarque de Holanda, Raízes do Brasil.
have continued to display noticeable population growth.
sitory or localised and never divided the country. Nevertheless,
72 Chapter 6

it is also a fact that violence was given a real, though limited,
Even when inflation was controlled by the Plano Real, which
place in the collective imagination of Brazilian society, as hap-
stabilised the currency in the country, the magical and volatile
pened in Portugal (Fatela, 1989).
new financial international arrangements still existed, including
the transnational systems of money laundering for governmen-
Thus, there has never existed in Brazil anything similar to the
tal corruption and organized crime linked to the drug traffic.
phenomenon "la violencia" which devastated the Colombian po-
Financial crimes, including those related to trafficking and money
litical parties during the fifties. Nor has there been the enduring
laundering inside the country, are still little-known and uncon-
urban and rural guerrillas that formed the peculiar pattern of vi-
trolled. This is one of the main reasons why one cannot explain
olence in Colombia. Unlike what happened in other countries,
the present wave of violence as being simply an effect of the ge-
the Congress of Brazil did not close down during the military pe-
ological layers of customary violence in Brazil — which, in fact,
riod. The government continued to use corruption along with
has diminished since the Second World War.
clientelism as strategies to control the politicians who still had
some power of decision.This later resulted in some strongly anti-
A certain category of these crimes was committed primarily
clientele and anti-State attitudes amongst members of social
by poor youngsters. In order to understand this, one should first
movements attached to opposition parties. It facilitated the
analyse how poverty affects the young. Research has shown in
emergence of networks and circuits of money laundering for or-
many countries that, nowadays, a greater proportion of the poor
ganized crime, even during the period of re-democratisation.
belong to the "female" and "child" categories. Data from the
Finally, since there have been no or few reforms within the jus-
Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics — IBGE — indi-
tice system, and especially no changes in police practices with
cates that, in 1989, 50.5% of Brazilian children and adolescents
regard to the poor, one might say that the effects of the military
belonged to families with per capita income of less than half the
regime are still present in the functioning of these institutions.
minimum wages (around US$50) and 27.4 % belonged to fami-
lies with less than a quarter of the minimum wage. Of the latter,
Inflation, which ravished the country until 1994, is not an ex-
56% belonged to families headed by women. More than 40% of
clusively economic phenomenon; psychological and moral fac-
the families headed by women were below the poverty line,
tors are also involved. It has therefore had perverse effects on the
whereas approximately 30% of nuclear families were in the same
attitudes and values of the population, especially in the wages
situation (Ribeiro e Saboia, 1993). The growth in the proportion
and salaries sector where people gained nothing from it. High in-
of families headed by women with children under 10 years in the
flation erodes mutual trust without which there is no stable so-
poorest layers of the population is pointed out by numerous
cial relationship between economic agents. Furthermore, infla-
studies (Ribeiro da Silva, 1987; Henriques and Valle e Silva, 1989;
tion had been considered a form of "stealing" the salaried, and
Rizzini, 1993; Barros e Mendonça, 1993). According to the 1991
had depreciated governmental credibility, fostering an authority
census, families headed by women with children corresponded
and governance crisis in the country. Psychologically, it had also
to 16% of the total number of families in the country, but, within
been used as a justification — "everybody is stealing" — for
the lowest income group, the same type of family represented
thefts, robberies and muggings and all the instrumental games
30% of the total.Whereas below-poverty-line families headed by
that people increasingly engaged in. Finally, high inflation had
women accounted for 26.27% of the total number of families,
facilitated the work of networks and circuits of organized crime
amongst the 1% richest such families represented only 3.4% of
inside the country in so far as it had helped create the mirages of
the total.
"easy money". Those who had started practising increasingly
more daring economic crimes were helped by the growing diffi-
It is also a fact that, in order to compensate for the wage
culties in records and social control over public budgets and bills.
losses provoked by inflation as well as to respond to the new con-
This background has, therefore, facilitated corruption and money
sumption demands for domestic equipment and clothing, poor
laundering, activities that are very important for establishing
families have put children and adolescents on the work market
criminal connections.
in order to bring in more income. Several studies also point to the
73 Chapter 6

increase in this category of work in urban areas during the eight-
background. Most discourses, including the social policy dis-
ies and to a bigger rate of unemployment amongst youths.
course, have linked deprivation predominantly to material lack
Nevertheless, the majority of these youngsters and children —
(as if inequality was simply a matter of food) without analysing
many of whom work informally in the streets — never join crim-
the absence of a coherent idea of citizenship, which implies in-
inal groups, despite their vulnerable position. Only a small num-
tegrated social, political and civil rights. Inequality, therefore, has
ber become involved with gangs of traffickers or robbers. Basic
been interpreted only in terms of material differences, without
needs or the wish to help their families are not sufficient reasons
linkages to juridical and political differences.This is a double sim-
to explain why some join these gangs and others do not, though
plification: confusing poverty or social inequality with absolute
the need to earn money remains a factor. In reality, few poor peo-
deprivation in its most concrete and evident symptom — hunger
ple opt for a criminal career. In one fieldwork research done in a
—; and reducing citizenship to social rights. In the former, the
poor neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, I estimated that around
simplification ignores deep changes in the consumption pat-
1% of the total population (380 people out of a population of ap-
terns of workers' families, that explain the relative deprivation vis-
poximately 120 000) belonged to trafficker gangs, and approxi-
à-vis other social groups and categories, as well as the intra-fam-
mately 1200 people were involved in thefts and muggings
ily and inter-generation conflicts in a consumer society.
(Zaluar, 1994).
Although urban society in Brazil today is highly individualis-
Finally, the existence of a new form of informal/illegal market
tic, a romantic conception of the community is still central to the
is another element that helps explain what is going on in Brazilian
political culture that constitutes the ideological setting for most
cities. Informal markets have always existed in Brazilian cities, and
attempts to tackle the problems of poor youth. Emergency pro-
have been an important source of income for the poor with little
grammes that provided insufficient training for work and gave
qualification for work or little schooling. These informal markets
jobs to unqualified youngsters in a complex work market only re-
have developed personal networks and complicated rules for the
produced the problems that led those children and adolescents
occupation of the main streets in the major urban centres of the
to the streets. At the same time, the changing social image and
country.Yet, for the past decades, they have been joined by street
definition of the street due to organized crime and increasing vi-
vendors who goods which have been stolen from trucks, resi-
olent crimes has augmented the pressure for "keeping the chil-
dences and pedestrians, or which have been smuggled in from
dren off the streets", the main reason for popular support of such
other countries.Informal trade, which traditionally has been a way
programmes. At the same time, the social image attached to
out of unemployment and an alternative for subaltern work, has
those youngsters reinforces their new social identity, which is in-
thus become tied to organized crime.This becomes even clearer
creasingly linked to marginal activities and violence.This calls for
when one discovers its connections with gold selling shops, car
a change in school pedagogy and in technical teaching of this
repair shops, wrecked cars lots, antique dealers, etc., some of
sector of Brazilian urban population, as well as for institutional re-
which have become collecting points for stolen goods.It has been
forms in order to integrate the several dimensions of citizenship
discovered recently that even some legal truck transport busi-
for the poor.
nesses are part of the network for truck robbery. However, there
has been little systematic investigation of these networks so far,
although policemen have sometimes repressed harshly the last
Profit, the Etho of Virility
in the line: those who sell on the streets.
and Warfare in Drug Dealing
Most of the projects to reduce inequalities that were imple-
Some research on drug use has been done among the
mented during the eighties have been unsuccessful. To under-
Brazilian school population. It has revealed that the drugs most
stand this, one must take a close look at the political ideology
consumed are not the illegal ones. On the contrary, the most pop-
that guided them.The idea of poverty in Brazil, for instance, can-
ular are inhalants or solvents ("loló" or "lança-perfume", glues,
not be understood without considering the political culture
enamel, gas, acetone), all of them openly sold in shops. In the
74 Chapter 6

same way — but to a lesser degree — anti-anxiety medicine
an enormous source of quick profit and violence. In 1984, as the
(tranquillisers and sleeping pills) and amphetamines (or the fa-
consumers told the fieldwork team, "it snowed" in Rio de Janeiro,
mous "bolinhas" — small balls) are consumed. These are found
a tropical city.The traffic itself changed. It was no longer done on
nowadays on the black market since, starting in 1963, the Health
the familiar basis of the selling group, and the face-to-face rela-
(8) In this matter,there is today a hierarchy between
Ministry has progressively controlled them. Nevertheless, they
tionship with the "man of the truck" who brought marijuana from
shantytowns in Rio,some of them functioning as dis-
can also be bought legally as appetite moderators. Marijuana is
the producing regions within the country.In its place came a com-
tribution centres for retail, while others as simple
costumers and small dealers trading points. In the
only in fourth position, and if one includes alcohol and tobacco,
plex, diversified and very well armed organisation in which all
first ones, the exceedingly well armed crews domi-
it comes in sixth place. Cocaine appears in seventh place (Carlini,
commercial and personal conflicts were settled with guns. A vir-
nate the local population with extremely ruthless
1989 apud Bucher, 1992), although there are some signs that its
ile cult of guns and of violent exhibitions of power is now the
rules of security. In the second ones, the situation of
consumption is increasing. These figures, if correct, indicate that
main aspect of the organisation culture. Drug traffic and its re-
insecurity varies,depending also on the relationship
drug use does not necessarily provoke violent struggles between
pression, the history of which is recent in Brazil, created the con-
between drug crews and local military policemen,
or the neighbourhood and the Police. Because of
traffickers and users, since this does not happen with the other
ditions that enticed many lower income youths to involve them-
this, the Favelado Federation of the Dwellers’
equally dangerous but legally obtained drugs.
selves in a localised, but very deadly, war. In it, adolescents and
Association estimates that around 20% of "favela-
even children have been dying in increasingly greater proportions
dos" have left their respective shantytowns.
In Brazil, nevertheless, illicit drugs have continued to spread
due to the use of firearms (Zaluar, 1994).
(9) Some anthropologists,such as Sahlins (1987) and
rapidly, especially among young people, creating centres of bloody
Dumezil (apud Sahlins),have suggested a relationship
between power external to society, which takes on
conflict in poor neighbourhoods. Repressive policies have resulted
Today, the drug trade has become synonymous of warfare at
the signs of virility, and the violation of the people,
in corruption within repressive institutions, fear, prejudice against
the end of the traffic network. In order to keep control of a co-
which takes the sign of femininity. Hawaiian chiefs
the poor in general and a tendency to demonise drug users.They
caine outlet, a "front man" must be constantly vigilant. He must
came from the sea and were considered foreign gods;
have had a particularly bitter effect on the daily life of the poor.
make sure his competitors are not taking too big a slice of the ac-
they symbolically received native women during the
Relations between neighbours, families, drug users and non-users,
tion by selling more or better goods or acquiring more arms. He
enthronement rituals. Dumezil, taking the rape of
Sabine women in Roman historical formation differ-
armed bandits and unarmed working people, and relations within
has to deal with his supplier who is no longer just a person com-
entiates between a virile,youthful and violent power
neighbourhood organisations, have been deeply affected.
ing around in a truck. There are several new networks that con-
prevailing in the beginning of domination (celeritas)
nect Brazilian states (São Paulo, Mato Grosso, Rondonia etc) and
and a mature power based on the peaceful and pro-
Illegal drug traffic had never been a social problem in Brazil
others that connect Brazil with producing countries (Bolivia, Peru,
creative character of a well-established people (grav-
until the late seventies.Then, cocaine started to be negotiated on
Colombia)(8). The front man must deal with the local military po-
itas).The paradoxes and problems of legitimacy and
force are present in the rape of women by a violent
a large scale in the country, following the new routes chosen by
licemen, who commonly receive part of the profits, or else he
because virile power.
the Colombian cartels and the Italian-American Mafia. Cocaine
gets ripped off, his spot is taken, or he is simply wiped out by po-
(10) The gang responsible for most rapes was the one
cargoes were sent to Europe and to the USA by these routes. Rio
licemen or by competitors from both inside and outside his gang,
called "caixa-baixa" (lower-cases),a band of thieves that
de Janeiro and São Paulo, as well as other cities and towns, be-
inside and outside prison (Coelho, 1989).
entered into war with the most powerful gang in the
came new consumer markets for drugs. From the beginning of
neighbourhood because of the high cuts taken on the
valuable stolen goods the "lower cases" brought back
the eighties, especially from 1983, there was a clear market strat-
While the law of the streets used to condemn rape totally and
to sell.After Zé Pequeno's murder,the lower-cases took
egy oriented towards changing the habits of drug consumers in
prescribed exemplary punishment of transgressors, today sexual
over the hustle after a fierce struggle and were nearly
those cities. Formerly the illicit drug market concerned almost ex-
liberation has become so intertwined with disregard for other
all killed off in subsequent battle with the Red
clusively marijuana, which was an underground and dropout
people’s rights that rape, like death, has become banal(9). Only ha-
Commando (Comando Vermelho,an organised crime
drug and never had great economic importance nor received
bitual rapists are identified and sometimes thrown out of the
ring). Because of their disrespectful behaviour, the
lower cases were held in low esteem by the commu-
rigid repressive policy.Then cocaine started to be offered at good
neighbourhood or lynched(10).The predominant idea today is that
nity.The Red Commando has a policy of seeking sup-
gang members no longer have "respect" for their poor neigh-
port from the local population and therefore combats
bours, an attitude that used to prevail in the underworld, al-
local thieves who mess up their business.It also follows
As elsewhere, cocaine was not altogether new in Brazil since it
though attempts have been made to politicise them and main-
the strict rule of capital punishment for betrayers or for
used to be sold openly in drugstores and pharmacies for medical
tain a respectable facade for traffickers in the shantytowns of Rio
those who kill because of personal revenge. Death is
and social uses. Nowadays, it is linked to a new culture of money,
de Janeiro.
the punishment for men,women,"minors" who squeal
or kill for personal motives, but not for rapists.
power, violence and consumerism.As elsewhere, its trade became
75 Chapter 6

Nevertheless, the criminals themselves are the ones who are
raids, the young outlaws never tire of bragging that the "chicks"
likely to cite seductive women as the motive of feuding among
go for men who carry guns, because they feel more protected.
men: "It was a woman who led me into the life of crime". Many of
Women confirm this version:
them speak of the enemies they have made because of women.
".... So a guy goes and puts a gun in his belt, thinks he's really
Local gangs waged violent fights over women during or after
cool, picks up a whole bunch of women, makes a baby in one of
dances organised by youngsters during which they listened to
them, and dies overnight. Sometimes the older guys get women
new styles of music advocating violent confrontation with the
involved in this who have nothing to do with the scene, and they
"system" (funk, hip hop, etc.). The story of the war between Zé
think it's all going to be cool, like it's going to be like that famous
Pequeno and Manoel Galinha is well known. Manoel Galinha was
guy with all kinds of women, with gold necklaces, and they're go-
a handsome working man with a beautiful girlfriend, who was
ing to have it easy, go to a nice motel in a fancy car and all that...
coveted by Zé Pequeno, a gang leader who expanded his drug
Most women like outlaws...because of the guns, they figure if any-
business at the point of a gun. He wanted to "have it all", to take
body messes with them, they're going to get it... I think a guy like
over all the drug outlets in the neighbourhood. He also wanted
this thinks,like,he's got an iron in his belt,he's got a gold chain and
Manoel’s woman. Short and ugly, he was unsuccessful in winning
a Champion watch and he thinks tomorrow he's going to have a
her heart and took vengeance, humiliating Manoel in front of her
calculator and I don't know what else, and that he's fine.And then,
by shooting him in the buttocks and slapping her around.
one nice day, he goes out to rob for his lady, and he gets it."
Manoel decided to organise his own gang and take revenge. A
war started then that lasted for several years, involving other
In this game of seduction, it's important to flaunt fancy
gangs even after the main protagonists were killed. Hundreds of
clothes and other outward symbols of wealth: a gold chain, car,
young people died in the process (Zaluar, 1985 and 1992)(11).
expenses at motels, etc. That's what shows you have money in
your pocket that you can spend any time you want, since
While women would appear to be the main bone of con-
"women don't like to rough it".Young men say they go into crime
tention, they are actually just one element.The key issue is in fact
to show off for women and conquer them. However, under this
the meaning of the relations between men. The same kind of
emblem of the femme fatale, womanhood is reduced to a prop
struggle is waged over weapons, dope, and stolen goods. As one
for a young man's prestige in the neighbourhood: to go to a
disillusioned young "vapor"(12) said in an interview:
dance surrounded by women, with money in your pocket, to
"Dealing dope is a business of getting even. Pushers have al-
make everyone greet you, admire you, envy you. Even here, fem-
ways got an eye on other men's goods, even their women.They'll
ininity is just one more factor in the competition between men.
kill just to get another man's woman."
Neither will they submit to anything or anyone: "they think they
can get away with anything"
. Here may be the crux of the matter:
Dope hustling is cited by disillusioned pushers as a place of
exacerbated male pride and a thirst for unbridled power in a his-
distrust and animosity, where there is no respect except for the
torical context of moral and institutional crisis, with no restraints
(11) Many women died in this war from stray bullets
other man's gun. It is also a sexually charged, virile world. All the
on the highly lucrative, expanding market for illicit drugs, sought
or bullets on target.There were young women,girls,
men carry guns; to carry a gun is to "walk mated" or to "have your
by consumers as part of a pleasurable life.
even pregnant women killed, often after being tor-
iron in your belt". To show off your weapon, or "to pull your stick
tured because they were suspected of informing or
out", is a common characteristic of such urban outlaws, and one
It should not be forgotten that this style of drug dealing makes
treason,while for others there was no apparent mo-
which can often prove fatal. Instead of the verb to rob, they say
extraordinary profits possible, even though it is not as organised
tive. A total of 722 young people were killed in the
course of 15 years of warfare in this neighbourhood.
"to mount" their victims, an expression used both for mugging
as the transnational drug traffic and sometimes is actually disor-
(12) This term denotes the man responsible for the
people on the streets and for breaking and entering houses. To
ganised due to all the gangs and individuals who are striving for
drug distribution to the sellers. He is the one who
kill somebody is to "lay them down". The prime audiences for
power and position in the trade. Even if not co-ordinated entirely
takes care of the selling place (boca-de-fumo) and
such displays are apparently the women they are trying to im-
like a Mafia hierarchy, the drug trade in Rio has a very efficient hor-
administrates its personnel. In the hierarchy, he is
press with their power and the money in their pockets. Despite
izontal arrangement by which a shantytown that runs out of
second to the manager who is the financial admin-
istrator and keeps the book.
the fact that men with guns are the first to be grabbed in police
drugs or guns immediately gets them from the allied shanty-
76 Chapter 6

towns: either in the Comando Vermelho (Red Command) net-
Money in the drug business is highly concentrated at the top.
works, or in the Terceiro Comando (Third Command) network, the
Organised crime thrives in cartels at its highest levels based on
two best-known organisations for drug and gun traffic.These net-
the death penalty for those who disobey orders or denounce
works or Commands conciliate the features of a geographically
their superior. Small dealers in Brazilian shantytowns, despite
defined network, which includes central or diffusion points, from
their military apparatus, in fact help those higher up in the hier-
which other linkages are established on the basis of horizontal re-
archy (that is, those who produce and trade tons of the illicit
ciprocity. This has both positive and negative aspects. For, even
drugs) to concentrate income and accumulate capital. Lawyers,
though guns and drugs are quickly lent to allies, the violent re-
corrupt policemen, traders of stolen goods and so on should also
ciprocity of private vengeance becomes imperative in the ab-
be included in the list of those making a lot of money. Very few
sence of a juridical form of conflict resolution. Because of such ex-
of the poor youths manage to establish themselves in the busi-
changes, adolescents die not only in wars for the control of trad-
ness, for they die very young or go to prison. But they all con-
ing points, but also for any motives that menace the status or
tribute to the enormous enrichment of those who remain on the
pride of youngsters trying to assert their virility — the "Sujeito
dark side of crime, who are never recorded in the official data.
Homem" (Subject Man), as they say (Alvito, 1996; Lins, 1997).
Little yet is known about them in Brazil: who they are, how they
live, how they make contacts in the underworld of crime, how
According to the interviews, with the sale of only 200 grams
they climb the social ladder.
of cocaine, dealers can cover the price of one kilo sold by the
"matuto" or intermediary who left it on consignment. They can
Data on violent crimes during the past few years suggests a
make a profit of 500%, partly through mixing cocaine with
link between the spread of drug use, mainly amongst youngsters
cheaper substances. Half of the profit goes to the "man in the
(Carlini, 1993), the increase in violent crime rates(13) and the re-
front" or "trafficker", 30% to the "manager", who does the ac-
pressive policies aimed almost exclusively against the poor and
counts, and various percentages to the "vapor", who remains at
in which police corruption thrives.The social and economic con-
the trading point and distributes the small amounts of cocaine
text of inflation, recession and increased poverty only makes
("papelotes") to the "aviões", the very young dealers who finally
matters worse. This partly explains the political apathy that ap-
take the dope to the customers. The latter are those most com-
parently seized the population in Rio de Janeiro's poor neigh-
monly arrested and prosecuted. Most of the time they just re-
bourhoods. From the end of the seventies onwards, gun posses-
ceive "cargas" to sell, for which they become entirely responsi-
sion has created, for those youngsters involved in the drug traf-
ble.They may sell them after "malhá-las", that is after increasing
fic war, a military power that has shaken the foundations of all au-
their weight with cheap substances in order to raise profits; they
thority. Local politicians, businessmen and policemen became
may consume most of them, which makes them prone to be
the focus of aggressive behaviour. Schoolteachers as well as lo-
killed by the trafficker. The death penalty is the sentence for
cal leaders lost their authority vis-à-vis the youths who had the
those who repeatedly do not pay him or who excessively crum-
power of money and guns (Guimarães, 1992; Paiva, 1992; Zaluar,
(13) The definition of violent crime is not a uniform
ble the merchandise.
1985, 1988, 1993, 1994). Today, more and more students carry
one in all the statistics available in Brazil. The legal
guns to school and children sometimes cannot go to class be-
definition includes homicide, attempted homicide,
For young men or boys, the main source of pride lies in the
cause of gunfire or rivalries between the neighbouring schools.
robbery, armed robbery, harmful bodily injury, rape
fact that they are part of the gang, use guns, join in robbing and
Even the experienced and politically concerned adults who have
and attempted rape.In the data furnished by the po-
looting, become famous for this, and, if they have the proper "dis-
worked in the countless neighbourhood organisations, such as
lice, homicides as a result of traffic accidents are not
included ("homícidios culposos"), only intentional
position", may someday ascend in the hierarchy of crime (Zaluar,
schools of samba, dwellers' associations, soccer teams (Zaluar,
homicide ("homicídios dolosos").Data available from
1994; Lins, 1997).Thus, the strategies for recruiting youngsters —
1985), are almost powerless.
the Ministry of Health include all deaths by external
calculated according to how many permanent dealers (from 10
causes and then separate them into various cate-
to 30) the trading point needs — are based as much on the
gories - homicide, deaths caused by accidents and
prospect of earning "easy money", as on the youth’s fascination
other violent occurrences — which are not used in
uniform manner in the nation as a whole.
for power and fame.
77 Chapter 6

Statistics on Violent Deaths
poor municipalities of the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro,
doubtless because police investigation is particularly difficult
The data on the increase in violent crime in the eighties are ir-
there. A careful study of police inquiries and judicial cases during
refutable, but we will focus on the violent crime that is mostly
1991 in Rio de Janeiro showed that 57 % of the homicides that
linked to the drug gangs warfare: homicide. Generally, the young
year were linked to drug traffic (Soares et al., 1994).This is just one
("minor") violator's participation in violent crimes is clear. It tripled
more indication suggesting that the growth in the homicide rate
in just a few years, from 1882 to 1985 (Campos, 1988). Most of the
has been somewhat linked to the greater entry of guns and
agents of this violence were young males; they were also the main
drugs in the country, since both began at the same time. One of
victims. In 1980, according to the data of the Ministry of Health, 59
the main routes of cocaine in Brazil passes through Rondônia,
per 100.000 men between 15 and 19 years old died of gun injuries
Mato Grosso do Sul and São Paulo, states in which the violent
in the state of Rio de Janeiro; in 1990, 190 died the same way; in
death rates and the incidence of HIV virus through intravenous
1995, 184. The rates for men between 20 and 24 are: 111 per 100
use of drugs, reached the highest levels in the country, doubling
000 in 1980; 260 in 1990; and 276 youngsters in 1995. During this
during the decade (Bastos, 1995). But impunity certainly is also a
year, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, 6 399 people were victims of
factor in the increase of the mortality rate amongst the small traf-
deaths by external causes (113 per 100 000,) of which 45% were
fickers since homicides do not receive the same attention and in-
homicides. In the metropolitan region, 17 684 deaths by external
vestigation from policemen as crimes related to illegal drugs, at
causes were registered (33 per 100 000) of which 55% were homi-
least as far as the poor are concerned.
cides. As a point of comparison, deaths from nutritional deficien-
cies affected 382 per 100 000 persons in the same year.
In the São Paulo region, the percentage of violent crimes
among the total number of crimes registered increased 50 per-
Official data from the State Secretaries of Justice, based on po-
cent in four years (Brant, 1989). In 1981, the homicide rate in this
lice reports,indicates that,in the metropolitan region of São Paulo,
city amounted to 25 deaths per 100 000 (Caldeira, 1992), but a re-
the proportion of intentional homicides grew tremendously dur-
cent study reveals that between 1990 and 1994 the average
ing the eighties. In 1981, the homicide rate was 21 per 100 000 in-
homicide rate was 42.91 deaths per 100 000 (apud Adorno et al.,
habitants (Caldeira, 1992), whereas, from 1990 to 1994, it was esti-
1995). In only one year (between 1982 and 1983) the rate of
mated at 42.91 murders per 100 000 inhabitants (apud Adorno et
growth was 53.8% for all homicides (Adorno, 1992). In the mu-
al.,1995).This means that the richest Brazilian city followed the pat-
nicipality of São Paulo, in a ten-year period the increase was
tern found in other cities of the American continent (Zaluar et al.,
90.4%: from 3 516 in 1984 to 6 697 in 1994. These murders hit
1995).Of these deaths,47.21 % mainly concerned young males be-
mainly young males (47.21%) between 15 and 24 years (ibidem).
tween 15 and 24 years of age. Although violent death rates have
These figures are even more impressive if one adds the deaths
increased all over the country, the most common victims are not
caused by policemen. At the beginning of the 1980s, there were
children but adolescent and young males from the metropolises
approximately 300 deaths per year in the city due to encounters
and richest regions of the country.During 1991,official statistics in-
with the military police. At the end of the decade, there were 585
dicated that 12.5 men had died per each woman between 20 and
deaths per year and in 1991 alone, there were 1 140 deaths.Those
39 years old in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro. In some
figures were not included in the homicide rates. The number of
of the poorer municipalities of this region,the rate had reached the
deaths among the police force also increased over the years. Even
amazing figure of 15 men per woman.
though they include death off duty and in other work places, the
figures are quite clear: 26 military policemen died in 1982 and 78
In the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, the homicide
died in 1991 (Caldeira, 1992).
rate tripled during the last decade, rising from 23 deaths per 100
000 inhabitants in 1982 to 63.03 in 1990, a period in which the
There are other sources of data, such as the research done
population of the city had stabilised (growth of 1.13 %). However,
by the Brazilian Centre for Childhood and Adolescence (CBIA)
this impressive increase happened mainly in the peripheral and
throughout the country.This research established that Brazilian
78 Chapter 6

youths from 15 to18 years old die more from murders than
The relatively large participation of young males as agents
from any other motive. In the age bracket of 5 to 11 year-olds,
and victims of violence in Brazil is an international tendency, es-
traffic accidents are the first cause of death. From that age on,
pecially on the American continent (including the USA). Because
homicides provoked by firearms lead the statistics with 39% of
these deaths follow the same patterns as elsewhere on the con-
the total deaths, followed by traffic accidents (26%), other types
tinent, it is most probable that they are due to the fact that drugs
of arms (12%), and drowning (11%). Of the 39% of homicides
and arms enter the country easily. It should also be noted that re-
that were provoked by firearms, 78% of those killed were
pressive policies toward illegal drug trade and use, as well as vi-
youths who were 15 to 18 years old, 10% were 12 to 14 years
olent police practices in Brazil have added important elements
old, 8% were 5 to 11 years old, 4% were 0 to 4 years old.
to the high mortality rates and profits of those at strategic points
Therefore, adolescents over 14 years of age are being system-
of the underground business network.
atically killed, probably by other adolescents of the same age.
Corrupted policemen who form what one could call "extortion
The available data from Medellin (Colombia) shows that the
groups" rather than "extermination groups", also kill some of
proportion of 15-19 year-olds and 20-24 year-olds who die is very
them, but not the majority. The former name is more appropri-
high relative to the national totals. Also, 78% of the deaths regis-
ate since it became clear after recent massacres that policemen
tered in Medellin among youngsters between 15 and 24 years old
demanding their share of the traffic and robbery money exe-
are due to violence (Presidencia de la Republica, 1991). Brazilian
cuted the youths.
cities, however, have not attained the same records. In Colombia,
where violence reached world records during the fifties and six-
One could say that the age pyramid in Brazil is similar nowa-
ties, the homicide rates are in general much greater than in Brazil.
days to that of a country at war, with the lack of young men cre-
Guerrilla warfare, paramilitary groups, paid political assassinations
ating an unbalance between the sexes. But there is no ground for
are part of Colombian political traditions and have long been part
the statement that this war, as expressed in the rate of violent
of the population's daily life. Even so, there was a tremendous in-
crimes, is a class war as some leftists think. Nor is it a millenarian
crease in the last decade, when drug traffic and dirty war pros-
redress of wrongs in which the poor are avenging their oppres-
pered.Today the homicide rates are three times higher than they
sion by the rich. Homicide rates are higher in the poor periphery
were ten years ago (Presidencia de la Republica, 1991; Daza &
of the metropolitan regions and shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro
Moreno, 1993). In 1991, they had the following impressive figures:
and São Paulo. In other words, the main victims of violent crimes
435 per 100000 inhabitants in Medellin, 389 in Itagui, 339 in
are the young poor themselves.This is because of the chain of per-
Apartadó, 319 in Cartago, and 91 in Cali. The urban average was
sonal vengeance, especially bitter between drug dealer’s gangs,
92 homicides per 100 000 inhabitants (Daza & Moreno, 1993).
and because of their lack of political and economic resources,
which would guarantee them access to security and justice.In São
Paulo there is also evidence that rates of violent crime are highest
in the peripheral areas and outlying municipalities (Caldeira,
The justice system: impunity
1992). Consequently, poor families are deprived of those who
for homicides and sentences
would be the main breadwinners. The injured and disabled be-
for drug-related crimes
come a burden that increases costs in the tight family budget.
Public hospitals had almost one million in-patients during 1988
The very inefficient and unjust functioning of the justice sys-
who were victims of accidents and violent crimes, increasing costs
tem in Brazil has played an important role in the crisis of moral-
and the traditional lack of resources of which the system suffers
ity and the weakening of the ethos of work, and allowed crimi-
(Zaluar et al., 1994). In this context, it is difficult to affirm that drug
nals to become entrenched in the country. An incredibly high
traffic is implementing income distribution or "helping Third
percentage of homicides are not properly investigated and their
World countries".
authors never identified. A study of the Criminal Justice System
in São Paulo (apud Adorno, 1990) has found greater percentages
79 Chapter 6

of conviction among those accused of robbery, theft and drug
administrative officers.This delays decisions and discourages the
traffic than among those accused of homicide and assault.
parties involved, especially the poorest, from exerting their con-
Another study done in 1991 revealed that only 1.38% of the
stitutional rights. Convicts at the end of their sentence are the
homicides committed against children and adolescents up to17
main victims and the most radical critics of this system, but the
years old were effectively investigated, with the victims and the
precarious state of the judiciary is also the cause for constant
suspects identified, and transformed into police inquiries and ju-
complaint on the part of lawyers and parties in the judicial cases.
dicial cases which resulted in sentences (Mesquita, 1996). In Rio
However, one cannot make generalisations on the functioning of
de Janeiro, another study shows that 92% of the homicide judi-
the system, since slowing the decision of criminal cases can be
cial cases were returned to the police because they were poorly
one of the strategies of defence.
investigated; in other words, only 8% of the murders registered
by the police under the form of an inquiry were in fact judged
The biggest hindrance to the accomplishment of justice is
(Soares, 1993).
found elsewhere. The impositions on the penal proceedings of-
ten hinder the judiciary and the public defence, either because
Youths receive, in their respective neighbourhoods and
of social discrimination against the accused with certain social
cities, the instruments of their power and pleasure from out-
characteristics or without family support, or because the accusa-
siders. This is increased by institutional working and the influ-
tion law is not sufficiently precise. This is the case of crimes re-
ence of values that rush them into the pursuit of sensations and
lated to drugs. Indeed the accusation law in one of the two arti-
money. Beyond any nexus of objective causality, even those
cles of the Penal Code that deal with such crimes depends on the
which take place at the symbolic plane, some of these youths —
accepted ideas of the jurisdictional agents. In these crimes, the
but not all of them, even if submitted to the same conditions —
police investigators in the proceedings make decisions based on
"delegate to the world of the powers who seduce them to crim-
social factors about the choice of an article of the Code — use of
inality" (Katz, 1988). In this internal arrangement, they act as au-
drugs (article 16) or traffic (article 12) —since the language in
thors of their actions. The limits to this space of freedom are set
which they are written is not precise and opens many possibili-
by the rapid changes, effects of many previous actions, in the
ties of interpretation. This could happen at the moment of the
family organisation and sexual relationships as well as in the ac-
supposedly criminal act, which becomes the Act of Prison in
ceptance of values related to the consumption of "style". All of
Flagrant (A.P.F.), or during the interaction with other actors who
them provoked what one could call either a diffuse social
participate in the judicial process: judges, advocates, prosecutors,
anomie or lack and confusion of social maps. Equally important
public defenders. Thus, the preconceptions, the tacit truths of a
are the rooting of organised crime in some institutions achieved
police station routine, the interpersonal conflicts and the moral
through strategies of corruption, the unequal functioning of the
fiber of the person who is accused appear as fundamental com-
justice system due to the organisational practices created and
ponents of the judicial cases, and will be presented as "facts" dur-
maintained by those working in it, besides the obsolete Penal
ing the trial.
Code that resulted from public policies adopted by Republican
governments. Working together, all of them created "islands of
Here resides the illusion of "easy money" that charms so many
impunity", an expression conceived by Dahrendorf (1987) to re-
poor teenagers. The youngster who chooses the criminal career
fer to other countries.
in fact enriches other people — who often are never caught and
punished — but not himself. Those who become very wealthy
(14) Flux refers to the routes followed by several
records involving criminal accusations to people in-
One of the threads of this complex texture concerns, there-
are receivers of stolen goods, wholesale traffickers, smugglers of
side the System of Justice, which starts with the
fore, the Justice flux(14), the infra-structure of which is notably in-
guns, corrupt policemen and finally criminal lawyers who charge
Bulletin or Record of Occurrence (B.O.or R.O.),passes
efficient, due to the small number of judges per inhabitant in the
up to US$10 000 to defend those accused of illegal drug use, and
by the police inquiry that may or may not become
cities or the amount of lawsuits in each "vara" of justice, as well as
up to US$20 000 to defend those accused of trafficking.
a judicial denounce, that in its turn may or may not
the small number of jurisdictions in each town. Consequently the
provoke the opening of a lawsuit,that will end either
being judged or filed.
flux is slow and full of obstacles, encouraging the use of bribes to
80 Chapter 6

According to the Law 6368, the use and commerce of certain
description of the apprehension after a personal search. During
substances, such as marijuana and cocaine, are considered a
the inquiry and later, during the lawsuit, his testimony as to the
crime. This has given enormous power to the police. Policemen
conditions and the situation that generated the A.P.F. will also be
are the ones who supply the proof which, according to the inter-
heard and included in the proceedings. The defendant gives his
views of several actors in the judicial cases (registered by the re-
testimony after the policeman. It is not unusual that, as a strategy
search done between 1991 and 1997(15), needs to be reaffirmed
recommended by his lawyer, he plead guilty of use in order to get
during the process as the main element for conviction. This ma-
a lesser penalty. If the lawyer is sufficiently able and knows po-
terial proof is the drug found in the possession of the defendant,
licemen well enough, this confession is reinforced by the techni-
and must necessarily be obtained in the act. Policemen perform
cal expert who provides a toxicological exam which confirms the
(15) This research started in 1991and focussed only
the initial movements: the record of an A.P.F. and a B.O. that may
defendant’s dependency to the toxic substance. In this case, the
on the articles 12 and 16 of the Brazilian Penal Code,
result in a police inquiry, which in turn may be transformed into
defendant’s culpability is erased. Consequently, the judiciary in
the first of which refers to illegal drug traffic,and the
second to use and possession of such drugs.The re-
a charge and a lawsuit. During this flux, policemen prepare the
most cases legitimises the discriminatory functioning of justice
search team did it first at the rich municipality of
written registers of the proofs that may be decisive in ascertain-
whereby poor users and small dealers, who are more closely
Campinas, state of São Paulo, which had 907 995 in-
ing who will be indicted for use or for traffic. Under article 16 of
watched by policemen according to the organisational practices
habitants in 1996, attended by only four criminal
Law 6368, the penalty is six months to two years in prison that
still prevalent in the Brazilian Military Police and Civil Police sta-
courts.In 1994 it began at the municipality of Rio de
may be commuted to community work. Under article 12 of the
tions, are qualified as criminals. Needless to say, they are usually
Janeiro, the second biggest Brazilian city, that had
around six million dwellers, and 38 courts. ln both
same law, a "heinous" crime carries a penalty of three to fifteen
people who do not have enough money or the right connections
cities,a list was made of all the inquiries and lawsuits
years in prison. In order to show efficiency or to prove that they
to obtain good lawyers. Their destination is the penitentiary,
which had their results registered in the "Livros de
are not part of a scheme of corruption, policemen arrest mere
whenever they are condemned to privation of liberty.Meanwhile,
Tombo" of these courts between the years 1980 and
users or small dealers (aviões).The amount of drugs seized is not
money launders, medium and retail distributors of guns and ille-
1991.The researchers looked for some of the defen-
the discriminating factor, for the researchers found cases classi-
gal drugs are seldom condemned.
dants’attributes such as age, gender, profession, oc-
cupation.Later on,they had interviews with lawyers,
fied as "possession and use" involving 1 860 kilos of marijuana,
prosecutors, judges, public attorneys and prisoners.
and cases classified as "traffic" involving only two grams.
In the city of Campinas, State of São Paulo, the cases at crimi-
In Rio de Janeiro, nine of the courts could not be in-
nal varas increased many times during the decade, be the charge
vestigated, but the deeper study of 364 lawsuits,
The interviews with prosecutors and judges showed that
use or traffic of illicit drugs. In 1991 there were four times more
concerning crimes related to illegal drugs dur-
there are many preconceived images associated with traffickers.
people charged than in 1981; this may be accounted for by an in-
ing1991,made possible to add items referring to the
defendant’s colour and condition of defence to the
Some people said explicitly: "one can tell a dealer by sight", or "one
crease in use or as an effect of increased police surveillance. The
material proofs that were registered in the A.P.F.
knows who is a trafficker and who is not". Others argued rationally
figures for charges of use were systematically higher than the
(16) Following article 200 of the Brazilian Penal
that the quantity is not everything, since the stock may be at the
charges of traffic during those years, but the lawsuits against
Code, the confession during the police inquiry "will
end or at the beginning either for the user or the dealer.Therefore,
users increased much more at the end of the eighties. At the end
be divisible and retractable, without harm to the
they valued material proof other than the drugs: lists of names of
of the ten years, there were twice as many people charged with
judge’s free convincement, founded on the examina-
tion of the proof in its totality"
possible customers or guns, which were found with the defen-
illicit use as with trafficking.
(17) Recently (16/4/1995), the newspaper Folha de
dants. But, of course, one of the most important elements in the
S. Paulo presented a research which confirmed that
proceedings is the defendant’s confession, which is first made in
In relation to gender, data revealed that men accused of us-
the feminine participation in offences grew from
the presence of the Police Commissioner and which may be re-
ing illicit drugs accounted for almost the double of those accused
10% in 1993 to 30% in 1995. This growth could be
peated later in the presence of a judge(16).
of trafficking at the end of the eighties. On the other hand,
explained because prostitution became less well-
paid due to the panic induced by AIDS and because
women, globally less numerous, were doubly accused of traffick-
there was a strategy of traffickers to involve women
According to the due process of law that prevails in Brazil, all
ing(17). In Rio de Janeiro, due to better data-collection and regis-
in the networks of the illegal drug trade since they
the available evidence in the cases, even when solicited by judges
tering, during the mid-eighties there was a spectacular growth in
were less suspicious. The lawsuits examined in-
— who have all the power to do so — or by prosecutors and
the number of lawsuits on illicit drug use, which increased
volved women who were the head of a family, with
lawyers, is provided by the police. This includes the A.P.F. and all
twofold between 1981 and 1986 (from 573 to 1099). In 1986 a re-
several children from different fathers, who sold
dope, as they told the researchers "because they
other technical proofs. The first evidence usually includes the
pressive policy towards drug trafficking began. But in 1991, dur-
needed to" and not "for ambition", "like men did".
amount of drug the policeman said he found and his registered
ing the populist government of Leonel Brizola, the number of
81 Chapter 6

lawsuits fell to an even smaller figure (386). Trials related to traf-
for use were acquitted or had their lawsuits filed in 1981, whereas
fic remained stable during the decade: from 640 lawsuits in 1981,
respectively 38% and 63% in 1991 received no penalty whatso-
to 603 in 1986, and 502 in 1991. In other words, excepting the
ever. In other words, the proportion of those condemned also
year of 1991, lawsuits for use were always more numerous than
grew during the decade, especially in the cases judged as crimes
those related to trafficking. Women had also been, except in
of traffic.
1986, prosecuted twice as often for trafficking, but their relative
participation in this crime showed only a small growth during the
The age of the accused also varied. In 1981, 71% of those de-
decade (25%: from 46 lawsuits to 60). As regards to the crime of
nounced for using illicit drugs were less than 25 years old; in
use committed by women, the increase during the decade had
1986, 68%; in 1991, 47%. In 1981, 52% of them were acquitted,
its peak in 1986 (76 lawsuits), when it tripled in relation to 1981
whereas in 1986, only 24% had that luck, and in 1991, only 10%.
(25 lawsuits), and ended in 1991 with 46 actions.
Trafficking was the charge for older men: only 25% of them were
less than 25 years old in 1981 and 17% in 1991; 41% were be-
The proportion of convictions also increased during the
tween 26 and 30 years old. Among the women, the youngest and
eighties in the city of Campinas. In 1981, 41% of those charged
those not married (50% were between 18 and 25 years old, 3%
with trafficking were sentenced to prison; 58% of those charged
more than 40 years old and 74.3% were single) tended to be
with using illicit drugs met the same fate, although with much
more indicted for trafficking, whereas only 34.6% between 18
smaller penalties. In 1986, 69% of the alleged traffickers were con-
and 25 years old and 25.7% who were more than 40 years old
victed; 49% of the alleged users followed them to the same pe-
were accused for use of drugs.Thus, in the case of women, there
nal institutions. In 1991, 85% of traffickers and 62% of users were
was a tendency to be lenient starting with the inquiry phase, not
sent to prison.Therefore, less people were acquitted of the accu-
only because they were women but also because of family re-
sation of trafficking in all these years — in 1981, 33% were ac-
sponsibilities. Nevertheless, in a predominantly white population,
quitted, whereas 7.8% were in 1991. The total number of those
in which only 18.3% is classified officially as black or miscegena-
arrested and sent to prison represented an enormous increase:
tional, 50% of the accused were white and 50% were black or
from 80 people in 1981 to 400 in 1991 (Ribeiro, 1994). The
tremendous increase in lawsuits and condemnations occurred in
a city that grew at an annual rate of 2.23% during the eighties,
Although it is a fact — recognised by the judges, prosecutors,
going from 664 559 inhabitants in 1980 to 846 084 in 1991
lawyers and public defenders interviewed by the research team
(Zaluar, 1995b).
— that users and traffickers come from all social classes, the in-
dicted, whose professional qualification had been registered, on
In Rio de Janeiro, a city that grew even less (1.13%), condem-
the whole had low paying occupations. In fact, 70% of them were
nations followed a quite different flux, which also proves the im-
bricklayers, low servicemen, drivers, domestic servants, cleaning
portance of the judges’ and other actors’ subjectivity in the pro-
women, manicures and prostitutes. The only exceptions to this
ceedings. In 1981, 15% of the men and 20% of the women were
were a few students and some rare professionals accused of us-
punished for using drugs, whereas in 1991 37% of men and 25%
ing illicit drugs in 1986 and 1991. Yet, not all poor men and
of the women were. This fact reveals a bigger proportional
women have had the same destiny in these lawsuits.Those who
growth in sentencing for men than for women. As for trafficking,
worked for bigger and more powerful traffickers could have
convictions revealed that judges were more lenient with women
lawyers who would instruct their deposition and negotiate with
at the beginning of the decade, when only 32% of the indicted
others also implicated in the affair in order to decide who would
women were sentenced to prison whereas 47% of the men were.
"assume" the drug found in the A.P.F.
In 1991, condemnations for trafficking had grown to 58% for
women and 62% for men. (Nevertheless, this growth was signifi-
Despite the enormous repressive effort and the increased ex-
cantly smaller than the one registered in Campinas). Furthermore
penses, one cannot say that violence and crime have diminished
54% of those accused for trafficking and 84% of those indicted
in Campinas or Rio de Janeiro. On the contrary, in Campinas there
82 Chapter 6

was an amazing increase during the eighties in most crimes that
This is how judges in Campinas explain that there are more
are usually connected with drugs: theft tripled in four years; rob-
acquittals of traffickers than of users. A confession of use implies
bery had a 50% increase and the city acquired the reputation in
the user’s conviction.Traffickers, on the other hand, never confess
the media of being a violent city. With its spectacular growth in
to trafficking, even when found with sizeable quantities of drugs;
the rate of homicides at the end of the last decade and during
the doubt remains because the material proofs are seldom clear
the nineties – almost reaching that of Rio de Janeiro –, it became
about whether the amount reveals trafficking or consumption.
perceived as a place in which children and adolescents were
Nevertheless, in the cities of Campinas and Rio de Janeiro, pros-
killed as much as in the big metropolises of Rio de Janeiro and
ecutors and magistrates were often caught between the defen-
São Paulo.
dant’s words and the policeman’s report because material proofs
often do not exist. In a few cases there is proof, such as telephone
The interviews with judges, prosecutors, lawyers, public de-
numbers and lists of quantities, which could refer to clients, guns
fenders and prisoners show the mechanisms that make the re-
or material for packing small amounts of drug. When material
pressive effort useless or very inefficient. Drug users would not
proofs are lacking and doubts remain, magistrates affirm that
give the name of the dealers from whom they had bought the
they had to stick to the policeman’s report, since "the words of a
drug, dealers and small traffickers would not reveal the names of
shantytown dweller could not deserve the same respect". Thus, the
their furnishing associates. They know that if they talk, they will
credibility of the defence’s argument and the strength of the de-
be killed, even inside a prison. The dealers who are "inserted
fendant’s confession are not the same for all. The poorer the de-
within the context" (inseridos no contexto), that is, those who be-
fendant, the less believable his words are; this also applies to his
long to a gang, have their lawyers paid by the trafficker who fur-
witnesses when they are neighbours or colleagues.The poor de-
nished them with the drug. They only say what has been previ-
fendants are thus doubly hindered: their testimonies do not con-
ously agreed with the lawyer, who instructs the deposition (al-
vince the judge and they cannot hire a private lawyer to better
though this is not legal). The independent dealer, who does not
impress the judge.The comparison between the criminal courts
have a stable association with a trafficker and, therefore, does not
of Rio de Janeiro and Campinas indicated the permanence of
receive assistance from a private lawyer, does not denounce any
tensions and incoherence in the judges’ practices. Equally, de-
of them for fear of being killed. He belongs to the category of
fendants confessed not because confession would be the
those most often condemned because they depend on the few
"queen’s" proof, since it would confirm the judge’s moral certainty,
over-worked public defenders.
but because it denoted penitence or understanding of wrong-
doings and the will to repair them, as has been suggested by
Depending on the Penal Code article, different elements af-
Kant de Lima (1989). In other words, they confessed in order to
fect a sentence: under article 16 (use of illicit drug) it is possible
obtain lighter sentences.
to pay bail and respond to the lawsuit while in liberty, whereas
under article 12 (traffic of illicit drug) this is impossible. The for-
During the symbolic construction of the inquiry and the law-
mer also has a shorter timespan for the conclusion of the case.
suit, the defendant passes through different stages in which his
Thus, it is not a surprise that during inquiry defendants confess
moral person is being "built". Because the theme of drugs has
to drug use and that the defence uses this as a strategy to obtain
strong moral and emotional overtones, this construction is also
a minimum penalty for the defendant. According to prosecutors,
directed by the lawyer who calls witnesses to attest to the de-
the period of legal preventive imprisonment (limited to a maxi-
fendant’s moral integrity. But the discourses (in Campinas) in fact
mum of three months) is insufficient for a thorough investigation
transform the drug into a devilish thing. For a morally reliable
which would include the examination of the defendant’s bank
person could not be involved with such a diabolic substance. On
accounts and telephone calls. From their point of view, this makes
the other hand, in Rio de Janeiro, preconceived ideas about fave-
it easy to manipulate the proceedings in the case of trafficking,
las and the stigma of being the site of trading points for illegal
since there is usually little and inconclusive material proof.
drugs, make it much more arduous to defend someone who lives
there. This is true even when a person is caught with very small
83 Chapter 6

amounts of drug and accused of trafficking. However, in both
These discrepancies relative to the condition of defence
cities, if the defence convinces the judge that the accused is a
should be combined with other recorded differences between
working man, or someone who has sufficient schooling and
the defendants, such as gender and colour of skin, which re-
moral reliability, then he may be pardoned. According to some
vealed more clemency towards specific groups: women and peo-
judges, this would only happen if there is doubt about the ma-
ple officially classified as whites. Such discriminations are found
terial proof, which in fact is most often the case. Nevertheless,
in crimes that are considered more serious and consequently
they admit that when defining the time to be spent in prison the
have heavier penalties. Among those accused of use, 65% were
kind of drug and the amount apprehended are not as important
classified as whites, whereas 35% were blacks and mestizos;
as the defendant’s reputation. As one judge said in Rio de Janeiro:
amongst those accused of traffic, 60% were classified as blacks
"First I seek to know where the accused lives and what he does for a
and mestizos, whereas 40% were whites. As far as condemnations
living". For others, the most important element are the circum-
for use were concerned, whites were 6% more numerous than
stances in which he was arrested as told by the policeman who
blacks and mestizos (56% for 44% respectively); as far as sen-
detained him.
tences of traffic were concerned, blacks and mestizos had a
higher percentage than the whites by 26% (63% for 37%).
Despite the efforts implemented by the Public Attorney and
Amongst those pardoned, the variations were 56% of whites,
others who freely attend poor defendants, there is not yet an egal-
44% of blacks and mestizos tried for using drugs; 55% of blacks
itarian justice in Brazil. Crucial differences still exist between those
and mestizos and 45% of whites tried for trafficking, explained by
who can pay for private lawyers and those who can only count on
the fact that 20% more blacks and mestizos were sued for traf-
a overworked public attorney in the Criminal Justice system. Data
from the research done in 1991 in the city of Rio de Janeiro indi-
cate that this is one of the main factors concerning the results of
In the work methods of the Brazilian Criminal Justice, consti-
traffic cases. Condemnation, acquittal or classifying vary accord-
tutionally based on equality, one finds substantive modes of ar-
ing to whether the defence is done by a private lawyer or by a
guing that are engendered after the justification of demands for
public attorney. The statistics relative to the lawsuits reveal that
justice and its evaluation. In these arguments, notions of honour,
amongst those denounced for trafficking, 57% of those who had
trust and reputation — nonmaterial and non-market goods that
a private lawyer (106 cases) were convicted, whereas 68% of those
are not controlled by the State — are invoked during judicial dis-
who were assisted by a public defender (85 cases) got a prison se-
putes. These, in turn, rely on the previous arrangement (or in-
tence as well.This percentile difference was even bigger for black
struction) that the private lawyer has had with his client, as well
and mestizo defendants: 55.56% of 63 cases defended by lawyers
as on the images associated with gender and colour. Thus, the
for 78.85% of 52 cases defended by datives. For whites, the pro-
gulf between the letter of the law and judicial practice calls for a
portion was not so great: 60.47% of 43 cases defended by lawyers
public discussion on evaluating the criteria and rules of such
as against 51.5% of 33 cases defended by natives. As far as the use
practices and written codes.
of drugs was concerned, 29.5% of those defended by lawyers
were condemned and 41.86% of those assisted by public attor-
neys. However, under this article of the Penal Code there were no
big inconsistencies when the defendant’s colour is correlated with
the lawsuit outcome. Amongst blacks and mestizos, 46% of those
assisted by public attorneys were sent to prison and 6% had their
actions filed, whereas 50% of those defended by lawyers had the
same outcome. Amongst whites, 37.5% of those defended by da-
tives were condemned and 39% had their lawsuits filed, whereas
69% of those assisted by lawyers were acquitted and 3.7% had
their cases filed.
84 Chapter 6

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85 Chapter 6 - Bibliography

formation on this aspect of the general drug question. Few seri-
ous studies on these subjects going beyond superficiality have
been attempted anywhere in the world and few resources have
been provided whereas the task requires them to be identified
and in a sufficient number. Even such knowledge as that held by
specialised departments, albeit by no means negligible, has re-
mained within their walls and is narrowly applied to operational
purposes of prevention or else used for making purely political
Michel Schiray
There are places, however, that have been more thoroughly
investigated, and understood in greater depth. Colombia, Bolivia
and Peru are a case studies, they have experienced the full flood
of the drugs trade and every part of society, from peasant pro-
ducers to international dealers, has been involved; they have also
produced researchers whose work is among the very best, and
The most important original feature of the work undertaken
some of whom have paid with their lives.Thailand, Myanmar and
as part of the MOST project on drugs has been the in-depth field
Pakistan, have also for a number of years been producing re-
research conducted in the various participating countries.
search, some of it quite outstanding in international terms. The
Whereas the press and other media, cinema and television in-
same cannot be said of Africa, where Nigeria, South Africa and
cluded, have long made much of the world of drug trafficking,
Morocco (the main source of European cannabis), to name but
scientists and university researchers have neglected this field
three, have failed to muster any significant research on this mat-
where institutional support and academic legitimacy are appar-
ter. In Europe, Italy, a country known to be affected by these crim-
ently lacking and the subject itself is not only murky but dan-
inal activities, has successfully fostered a remarkable process of
gerous to boot. In this issue, we have presented the findings of a
research ancillary to — indeed blazing the way for — the cam-
number of local and regional studies. Many questions arise from
paign by some judges against organised crime and the Mafia.
this research, carried out in a number of countries and based on
Efforts in other European countries, also in the Netherlands, re-
the assiduous gathering of fresh empirical data, for this is a new
mained modest until just recently, even though that country is
departure, scientifically speaking, as far as this field is concerned.
regarded as the main crossroads for all illegal drug trade policies
The present contribution seeks to introduce these questions, al-
in Europe and is known to be at the forefront of research and so-
beit in a preliminary way, under a series of major headings.
cial policies concerning drug addiction.The United States are the
longest standing and still the most productive source of research
on the subject, and indeed on economic crime in general (in-
Research, the Media and Public
cluding money laundering), with bodies for fact-finding and anal-
Specialised Institutions: an Issue of
ysis in a class of their own, enjoying means of investigation and
Information at the International Level
a statistical apparatus unparalleled anywhere in the world. That
Along with other major branches of economic crime, the drug
country is, moreover, endeavouring to have its own information
trade has for some while now ranked fairly high among the pri-
and data-gathering systems accepted by other countries (just as
orities of international organisations, intra and intergovernmen-
in earlier decades it worked to have drug-related legal instru-
tal discussions, and public specialist agencies. However, the facts
ments, both national and international, accepted). But it also sup-
about drug trade are based on work by journalists (some of them
ports in-depth research on the nature of the problem, largely of
outstanding, much of them deplorable), communicated by the
high quality. This research covers every continent, including
media or by rumour, in the worst of conditions. Official institu-
Europe. However, lavish quantities do not always amount to a
tions are still extremely niggardly and touchy about sharing in-
clear vision and, though there is much to be learned from these
1 Introduction

studies, we still lack the tools, the overviews, and the new, pow-
pens in the typical examples of some shanty towns, or "favelas",
erful insights needed if we are to make real progress in properly
of Rio de Janeiro. But that moneyed influence may also have a di-
assessing the phenomenon and achieving the far-reaching re-
rect impact on local institutions and enterprises.The true extent
flection demanded by these problems as a whole. In other words,
of this is still one of the least well documented subjects but all
we must take a step beyond over-technical, over-segmented ap-
the cities studied in Brazil, in India, and even in China, show a
proaches that, at the end, are driven by ideology.
great deal of corruption in their police and court machinery and
elsewhere, and the existence of companies, real or fictitious, that
are a front for drug-trafficking operations or the recycling of the
Geographical Levels and the Diversity
proceeds. The case of the Mumbai film industry is an especially
of Drug Trafficking Issues
good illustration of this, with its particularly close financial links
to the city’s criminal underworld. In extreme cases, in certain re-
The geographical level under consideration is a determining
gions where government institutions have very little capacity for
factor for identifying the problems, and evaluating the conse-
surveillance or intervention, we may find above-board economic
quences of the drug trade for economies and societies.The work-
activity and drug-trafficking operations closely intertwined, and
ing and research methods will also be quite different.
those engaged in illicit commerce in positions of dominance
over the economic and even the political life of the locality; there
At the local level, and especially in large conurbations, the
are reports of this from various Amazonian states of Brazil.
most strongly felt consequences are connected with drug use
and drug abuse. Here, the personal and socio-medical aspects
At the national, regional and international levels, the ques-
loom large in the foreground but drug use and abuse are also,
tions appear to be more vague, harder to pin down, and in some
of course, a public safety issue, not only because of the charac-
ways more complex, though doubtless ultimately more crucial.
teristic behaviour of drug abusers but also because of the petty
The four countries on which the studies presented here concen-
crime very often associated with drug use and procurement.
trate (along with the countries of southern Africa) are all large
Drug trafficking, on the other hand, can produce truly violent
States where the drugs trade poses serious problems but which
situations, including murder, depending on the way local dis-
are not really specialised in drug production like their neighbours
tribution is organised. Rio de Janeiro is an example of this, but
(coca derivatives in the Andean countries; opium derivatives in
an extreme one that is not representative of the situation in all
the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent, respectively). These
large cities. When local trade is better organised (in the sense
countries have considerably diversified economies but drug
that it is controlled more by dealers and preventive institutions)
products are still relatively marginal in terms of the overall econ-
it certainly develops in a more salubrious way, and extreme
omy. This is less true however if all criminal economic activities
open violence, with its high social cost, is avoided. As Molly
are taken into consideration, since some of those are connected
charles shows in chapter 1, this seems to be the case of Mumbai
with drug trafficking activities, as we shall see.
At the national level, in all the countries studied, the organi-
Also at local level, in every large city throughout the world
sations or, more properly, the big operators carrying out large-
there arises the question of the economic fallout from this trade.
scale drug trade movements have yet to be clearly identified.
It is a branch of economic activity that is becoming increasingly
There have, indeed, been some impressive police seisures — as
attractive for some young people facing exclusion, unemploy-
many as three tonnes of cocaine, for instance, in Brazil, a seisure
ment, or, more generally, world-class models of success and con-
that may have led to the undoing of one particular network, or-
sumerism. This is confirmed, today, in most urban surroundings.
ganised from Rio de Janeiro, sourcing in Bolivia for final destina-
In any large city, in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where the
tions in the United States and in Europe, with operators estab-
State is markedly absent, drug dealers manage to convert the in-
lished in Amazonia and companies to front some of the trading
fluence of their money into naked power, sometimes armed, with
operations in a number of Brazilian states. But these are most of-
which they dominate social and community life.This is what hap-
ten ad hoc organisations, even though their members may be
2 Introduction

more permanently committed to developing these activities,
as shown in the example of the city of São Paulo, and others.
while constantly changing partners. Probably they are numerous
Sometimes, also, drug trafficking is associated with other activ-
and are set up a new for each operation, usually making them
ities which are quite legal: as one example from Amazonia
very hard to identify. Some cases, such as those illustrated here
shows, in poorly policed territories where the boundaries be-
from São Paulo, also reveal the existence of well-identified long-
tween the licit and the illicit are fluid in the extreme, such dis-
term international criminal organisations establishing them-
tinctions have virtually lost all meaning, the same groups may
selves in various countries, in association with local partners, a
act both as major players in the above-board local economy
phenomenon also found in India and in China. In Mumbai, for in-
and as major drug traders. We also find, at all stages of the ma-
stance, many criminal groups and their bosses are reasonably
jor drug-trading chains, genuine and quite legally constituted
well known : not only are they deeply rooted in the local econ-
enterprises — alongside front companies — which provide
omy and, sometimes, supported by politicians, but they have also
cover, as well as the actual logistics, for the transport and distri-
managed to build up an international circle of contacts, extend-
bution of these products. This is even more in evidence in the
ing not only to organisations in producer countries (in particular
case of the next phase of drug trafficking as of other criminal
Afghanistan and Pakistan), but also to other regions of the world
activities: the recycling of the profits, and the money launder-
where they maintain networks for distribution overseas.
ing carried out through financial institutions and within the "of-
ficial" economy.
The Drug Trade and
However, criminal organisations come in a great variety of
Criminal Activities:
forms. In Mumbai, as we shall see, many have historically grown
Diversity of Organisational Forms
up on the basis of different ethnic groups from the hinterland,
with chiefs and a kind of hierarchy, although there has to be
The drug trade, above a certain scale of transactions, is very
some degree of flexibility in the way they actually function.
largely organised nowadays by criminal groups or networks as
Between these groups there are understandings — as there
a rule engaged in many other forms of activity. They may spe-
must be — for sharing out territories and activities, but com-
cialise for a while, but each specialised activity tends over time
petition, sometimes violent, remains the rule. In Rio de Janeiro,
to become associated with the others in a comprehensive
four "horizontal" organisations are said to contend — occa-
range of illicit or criminal activities: drug trafficking is one
sionally, as we know, with extreme violence — for control of the
earner among many, though a particularly lucrative one in re-
points of supply to the local dealers in the favelas. Nonetheless
cent decades, as the consumption of these products has risen.
these forms of organisation can mostly be regarded as net-
These associations differ from situation to situation, and from
works for mutual assistance and criminal association, often ad
one world region to another. On the borders of Brazil, India,
hoc, among small, locally based groups: there is nothing to in-
China and Mexico, and also in southern Africa, the drug trade is
dicate any structured character to these organisations, no sign
generally linked with the smuggling of gold, rare minerals, pre-
of stable hierarchies or long-established leaders capable of im-
cious stones, arms, or more banal products. In Brazilian
posing their control on these activities, despite the periodic and
Amazonia, this linkage even takes the form of bartering cocaine
repeated reappearance of the same names. Likewise, in
for stolen goods including cars, trucks and aircraft. In large ur-
Guangzhou, China, a variety of small organisations struggle for
ban centres, for instance in Brazil or in India, drug (and, often,
the local market or the through traffic to the rest of the coun-
arms) dealing, armed robberies (of banks, armoured cars or in-
try or even abroad. Some of them are directly linked with the
dividuals), car theft, dealing in stolen goods, kidnapping and ex-
major criminal organisations operating from Hong Kong; oth-
tortion rackets may all be mounted by one and the same group,
ers are based on ethnic minorities; and some have a clan type
in turn or according to season, concentrating on one speciality
of organisation, on what is essentially a family basis: these are
or another as opportunities present themselves. We also fre-
more or less specialised, among themselves. Each of these three
quently find an association with promoters of forbidden and
examples constitutes a particular, original model of organisa-
clandestine sports or gambling (traditional or more modern),
tion in major cities.
3 Introduction

The example given in this part of the Report from São Paulo
the external balance of payments, but also the rules, standards,
introduces another dimension. Alongside a fairly traditional or-
regulations and laws which govern the functioning of that econ-
ganisation comprising small groups that share out the city’s mar-
omy. The examples here from Brazilian Amazonia show how, in
ket and territory, whether for retail distribution or bulk sourcing,
situations where there is little supervision by government insti-
large international organisations move in and operate in the city,
tutions, the presence, withdrawal or re-routing of this trade can
using it as an intermediate depot for supplying their interna-
enable whole medium-sized towns to develop or cause them to
tional trade but also, most strikingly, for developing new illegal
falter. In such places the redistribution of the profits involved
activities funded by the profits from this traffic.They move in and
may also sustain large sections of a region’s economy or firms
penetrate these cities in conjunction with local organisations
belonging to the officially recognised economy. Together with
with the means of influencing government circles, up to the
the proceeds of other criminal activities, they swell the funds in
highest at state and even federal level. This is obviously an ex-
these regions’ financial and banking systems in an utterly dis-
tremely important example, which it is not easy to duplicate: it
proportionate way, as compared with official endowments. In
touches on those parts of the drug trade’s organisation that are
Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in the Chinese region of Guangdong,
the hardest to identify, even for the police and judiciary — and,
farmers and fishermen have committed themselves to this
of course, harder still for academic researchers. These high-level
trade, selling off part of their inheritance. They form part of the
dealing situations tend not to be a matter of stable or visible or-
migrant and transitory urban populations who have used their
ganisations like those operating in city neighbourhoods. They
ancient economic and social bases to engage in illegal activities
may indeed involve large organisations; but these are mostly
and grow rich from them. In the great metropolitan conurba-
one-off operations, based on constantly shifting networks that
tions, drug money can make a considerable difference to neigh-
are accordingly hard to get to know and to locate.The flexibility,
bourhoods, indeed to whole city districts. While we must be
suppleness and swiftness of these associations are all factors that
careful not to exaggerate the real scale of the wealth that the
these ventures depend on for success. The preferred way of set-
trade has distributed in Rio de Janeiro, it cannot be denied that
ting up and operating these ad hoc organisations gives them a
redistribution is taking place, above all in the favelas, and that a
precarious, provisional, short-lived and contingent character, but
great many small enterprises and properties have been acquired
they rely on networks of more stable — often, very long-lasting
from this income source: the inventories of goods owned by
— relationships. Getting to know and understand how such net-
some of the largest dealers known provides evidence of this. In
works function, especially as they involve public servants, re-
Mumbai, the examples quoted here show still more clearly the
quires deep and prolonged study only possible for agencies truly
links between criminal organisations and dealers and the real
specialised in gathering, updating and managing information. In
estate business, commerce and manufacturing (and especially
fact these more stable networks represent the foundation or
film studios). These criminal organisations and dealers also op-
breeding ground of what we might call criminal ventures, usually
erate in the development of traditional, unofficial, banking sys-
short-lived themselves in terms of their actual operations.
tems that mirror the official ones and are also linked with the
trade in gold and precious stones. The researcher sees even
more clearly here than in Rio de Janeiro that these links between
Economic and Social Consequences
"white collar" criminal activity and the organised crime are
of the Drug Trade
opening up far larger areas for its expansion. In Rio de Janeiro,
as in São Paulo, it really does seem very difficult to identify the
The economic effects of the drug trade, linked as it often is
top levels of the trade’s organisation, including those parts of
to other criminal activities, may be assessed in a number of ways.
the trade involving foreign transactions, certainly the most prof-
The example of Colombia, without doubt the most thoroughly
itable parts. This demonstrates the researcher’s main difficulty
studied in the world, shows how large a part of this sector can
in this area and is connected with the obstacles encountered by
play in the national economy of a large country, affecting not
police and court investigators when they address certain busi-
only employment, incomes, investments (both productive and
ness and political circles in their society, not excepting their cen-
otherwise), commerce, economic property, financial flows and
tral State institutions. The very recent Brazilian Parliamentary
4 Introduction

Commission of Inquiry (CPI) into the narcotics trade, conducted
litically or ideologically inspired, and all too typical of pronounce-
at federal level, is most revealing in this connection: over 800 in-
ments on these obscure matters.A number of the articles here are
dividuals were declared suspect at the conclusion of this inquiry,
quite insistent on that score. Yet it is clear that nowadays these
which lasted almost two years. In a large number of cases the
matters strike at the very core of our economies and societies.
people involved were what could definitely be classified as
"white collar", including a number of members of the Federal
Of all the social consequences of the drug trade, the atten-
Legislature and a larger number of elected State officials.The list,
dant violence and the threat to public safety in certain areas are
however, of those from the country’s two great urban centres,
certainly the two paid the closest and most concentrated at-
Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, seems extremely short, and no fin-
tention by the government authorities and the public.They are
ger was pointed at any truly significant business or political fig-
particularly acute in large cities but the situation varies from
ures. We should observe that in these two cities the main court
place to place. In Rio de Janeiro it is still thought, as the chapter
cases, in terms of traffic quantities, have been instituted from
here says, that drug trafficking is behind the majority of homi-
outside, via Interpol or the specialist agencies of other countries.
cides (the city’s homicide rate is one of the highest in the coun-
One of the biggest cases in the country did indeed concern an
try). That would appear not to be the case in São Paulo: al-
operator based in Rio de Janeiro, but the criminal investigation
though that city has reached a similar high level of violence, the
was conducted in Amazonia and certain other states, and con-
connection with drugs seems to apply to a much smaller pro-
centrated on the organisation’s local agents in those regions.The
portion of it. In Rio de Janeiro, the favelas, thought to shelter the
main operator, in Rio de Janeiro, was in fact questioned in New
main supply sources of products for the local market, are gen-
York; the CPI inquiry left aside anything which might implicate
erally considered to be highly dangerous places owing to the
the Rio de Janeiro organisation. One cannot help noticing a cer-
presence of the dealers. In São Paulo, on the other hand, the
tain paralysis of the national institutions when it comes to tak-
"scenes" which concentrate on distributing the town’s material
ing action at the level of the country’s central authorities.This is
are not regarded as places of danger, even though the traffick-
obviously an enthralling subject for a researcher to investigate,
ing does disturb the life of the neighbourhoods. In Mumbai’s in-
and one that would be very useful in terms of understanding
ternal distribution, even though criminal groups also make use
and state intervention.
of force in precise circumstances and at restricted places and
times, observers do not report a high level of general violence;
It therefore remains difficult to assess the economic impact of
nor do they in Guangzhou, despite the existence there of ma-
the organisation and deals at the top level of the trade. It is worth
jor criminal groups whose internal organisation is regarded as
pointing out the considerable discrepancy between the informa-
"militarized". None of these cities is reported to have a single
tion gathered directly by police, judicial or parliamentary investi-
structured organisation controlling the trade’s operations, able
gations (and, naturally, by researchers) and some of the figures is-
to keep violence down (or, where needed, to increase it) in the
sued by official, specialist financial institutions — in Brazil for in-
carrying on of the trade, even though this might be predicted
stance, these have given the press indications of quite colossal
from a logical development of the market and its profits. In
amounts — which we shall not reproduce here, and which are in
these situations, all of which seem to be competitive, the dif-
all probability quite out of proportion — for the real situation of
ferences in the level of violence seem instead to be a sign of a
drug money laundering handled by banking and financial insti-
certain capacity among the various active criminal groups for
tutions, essentially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Undoubtedly,
mutual understanding and sharing out territory and activities;
the analysis of this discrepancy needs to be one of the cardinal
they also arise from differences in the ways — lawful or unlaw-
points for a researcher seeking to re-establish a modicum of con-
ful — in which official repressive institutions intervene. These
cordance between the microeconomic data emerging from pre-
are matters we need to know more about and to understand
ventive checks and the results of macroeconomic exercises re-
better. However, the extreme violence and insecurity linked
quired for international data-collecting. If that concordance is not
with the drug trade may bear more diffusely but still more
achieved, the wildest assertions will pass uncontested, leaving us
heavily on the regions of transit, away from the major centres.
subject to every imaginable form of "news" manipulation — po-
This is shown by some extreme examples in Brazilian Amazonia,
5 Introduction

where not only is the State unable to ensure proper public or-
sometimes over long periods. Institutional intervention also con-
der, but also some of its own representatives themselves con-
centrates on the most visible parts (in certain designated areas,
trol, or are connected with, criminal organisations for their own
especially) or those that are most readily controlled (at border
profit, and even use their legal monopoly of violence for their
posts, for instance), whereas the major parts of these activities’or-
own ends.
ganisation and profit are, of course, the most hidden ones. Police
institutions are compartmentalised, often indeed competing with
Other evident and particularly serious aspects are confirmed
each other, making it harder to pool knowledge gained in the
by a number of these inquiries, and backed up by details: they
field. Still more serious, the all too frequently arbitrary practices of
concern the attractiveness of drug-trafficking operations, along-
preventive institutions, their corruption and even, at times, the di-
side other criminal activities, to disadvantaged population
rect involvement of some of their representatives in criminal ac-
groups who have great difficulty entering the labour market,
tivities, may of course give reason to doubt the information that
even the informal one. In Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai and
can be gathered from such sources on the real situation of these
Guangzhou, but also in smaller cities and towns in the interior, it
activities.This only adds to the importance and value of research
is especially the young people from poor neighbourhoods, with-
efforts that impartially bring together and reconstruct all the in-
out access to school and apprenticeship systems, or dispossessed
dividual items of information from varied sources and different
migrants from the interior, who associate most directly with crim-
times, and try to establish a coherent, connected account of the
inal elements, for want of access to any proper legal place in the
way these activities are actually organised.
economy. The attraction is frequently reinforced by the increas-
ingly rapid spread of global models of consumption and certain
Still more than that, what these studies show, in their analysis
lifestyles to which these activities are believed to open the door.
of the economic and social aspects of the drug trade, is that con-
But beyond these highly typical situations, what these studies
trol policies cannot be confined to isolated preventive opera-
emphatically confirm is that venturing into criminal activity is
tions, but could be part of a wider system of intervention also ad-
something that may also be done by people from all sectors of
dressing all the most glaringly pressing questions, such as on the
the population, from the middle classes right up to the top of the
one hand the development of disadvantaged neighbourhoods
social scale, at each level breaking down the barriers between le-
and regions, support for full access to the economy by the weak-
gality and illegality, throughout society.While this phenomenon
est population groups — such as certain young or migrant peo-
may not really be new, with the new opportunities of markets
ple and, on the other hand, a more enlightened control of finan-
and profit it represents a central rift in the handling of economic
cial movements in the banking and tax systems, and the activi-
and social development, on an international scale and as such
ties of some companies.Together, these two sets of questions of-
deserves in-depth consideration.
fer a great range, and this shows how diffuse a phenomenon eco-
nomic crime really is and how, far from standing "on its own", it
tends to permeate the whole of society.That is what the present
Research Questions in the Field
issue sets out to illustrate.
of Public Control Policies
The experience gained in research with police or court insti-
tutions engaged in combating trafficking and criminal activities
clearly shows the limitations of control policies when they are too
strictly based on the most obvious, conventional form of preven-
tion.Such institutions, too narrowly preoccupied with operational
matters, find it hard to understand the organisation of these ac-
tivities as a whole. Police intervention, and that of the courts, is on
a case-by-case basis, whereas the pattern of development of crim-
inal organisations and networks is dynamic and continuous,
6 Introduction

chapter 1
from a feudal to a bureaucratic and to a fluid structure. We also
look into the reasons why people enter the world of crime, though
we do not provide any conclusive answer to this question.
Thus we find in this preliminary study that it is desirable for
policy makers to examine whether each of their major econom-
ic policies promote or control the emergence and survival of
Molly Charles, K.S Nair,
non-state actors including OCGs. Likewise, it is clear that aca-
demic institutions have to systematically study OCGs and pro-
Gabriel Britto and A. A. Das
vide relevant and up to date information to policy makers.
The Context
The Drug problem has been the focus of different interna-
tional bodies and deliberations since 1912. The Single
Convention in 1961 principally codified the international moni-
This chapter presents a descriptive account of the Bombay
toring of the cultivation of cannabis, poppy and coca and the
(now, Mumbai) underworld. As an exploratory study, it provides
prohibition of the non-medicinal use of these substances and
only a broad picture of the growth of the Bombay underworld,
their derivatives. The year 1971 saw the Convention on
referred to, from this point, as Organised Crime Groups or OCG.
Psychotropic substances. On the whole, the effort was to reduce
It touches upon the major landmarks that determined its struc-
the supply of and demand for narcotics drugs and psychotrop-
ture, activities, nexuses at the institutional level that supported
ic substances. Intelligence officers, enforcement personnel, doc-
its growth, and operations. It also provides insights into the
tors and ex-addicts have worked closely in this field. A call was
lives of the gangsters. Primary data were collected through
made at the Vienna Convention in 1988 to social scientists to
interviews with key informants; secondary data were culled
get involved in this issue by launching multi-disciplinary studies
from 250 court judgments under the Narcotic Drugs and
to understand the various dimensions of this problem. Efforts
Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act), newspaper clippings
were also made to introduce laws to confiscate money earned
over a period of 15 years, and magazine articles.
by drug trafficking. The UN held a special general assembly in
1998 to develop parameters to prevent the money-laundering
This chapter proposes that the underworld in Bombay
activities of drug traffickers.
emerged as a result of various government policies, unmet
needs of citizens due to various system failures in governance,
Till recently, only street level peddlers and addicts have been
as well as other socioeconomic changes in the city, inside and
incarcerated under various drug laws. Our current focus is
outside the country. It also tentatively suggests that there is a
understanding organised crime groups which are the back-
gray zone in our economy where crime and legitimate enter-
bone of the trafficking problem. This research is part of the
prise merge. Thus the underworld is a self-sustaining phe-
UNESCO-MOST programme on drug trafficking and its connec-
nomenon and cannot be wished away. It may change its prod-
tion with socio-economic transformations.
uct line, substitute one group for another, but operate, it will.
There is hardly any social science research on organised
We analyse organised crime groups (OCGs) to determine
crime in India. The limited number of studies available are his-
whether they are bureaucratic, feudal or any other, in structure.
toric in nature (cf.Das, 1994). We seek to understand the social
From our findings we can say that Bombay’s OCGs have moved
phenomenon of OCGs in India to bring about change in the
7 Chapter 1

methods used in dealing with it. We indicate that socio-eco-
were used to sharpen, or venture into, new areas of inquiry.
nomic transformations are happening, and will continue to hap-
Thus, we referred to existing research results only at the stage of
pen; the State, as an agent, has some role in making things hap-
writing the report, citing them in different parts of the paper
pen although it can not control everything. One of them is the
along with our data(1).
emergence of OCGs including their dealings in drugs.
This chapter points out that several government policies
intended to promote industries, to prevent the drain on foreign
exchange etc., have had the unintended consequence of pro-
Popular perception of crime often varies from that of the
moting OCGs in Bombay. Moreover, the ineffectiveness of some
establishment's. As early as in 1842 Karl Marx drew our atten-
of the institutions of governance, and the neglect of certain sec-
tion to how civil law or liberal legislations infringe upon the cus-
tors, have contributed to the growth and strength of OCGs.
tomary rights of the poor "based on hybrid intermediate forms of
Hence academic institutions have to systematically study OCGs
property" without creating an alternative framework. He eluci-
to provide inputs to policy makers who should examine the
dates his thesis with the example of the dissolution of monas-
potential influence of each economic policy they introduce in
teries. To quote Marx, "The monasteries were abolished. Their
promoting or controlling non-state actors and OCGs.
property was secularized, and it was right to do so. But the acci-
dental support, which the poor found in the monasteries, was not

This chapter seeks to present some answers to the following
replaced by any other private source of income. …the monasteries
received some compensation, but the poor who lived by the
. Why is it important to study OCGs in India?
monasteries were not compensated" (Das. 1994). Similar situation
. Under what circumstances OCGs emerge, evolve and
impinged on tribal populations in the wake of the Forest Act.
Despite innumerable revolts, rebellions and other mass move-
. What is the structure and functioning of OCGs?
ments of tribal populations, more and more of the rights of
. Why do people enter the world of crime?
indigenous peoples are being taken away in the name of
"development" activities but there is hardly any debate on
This chapter is a result of a larger study on socio-economic
whether this kind of denuding of traditional rights is a crime or
transformations in selected parts of India since the Indian inde-
not. In the definition of the establishment, the protests of tribal
pendence. It describes their linkages to organised crime groups
people were and are crimes; from the perception of tribal peo-
(OCGs), the creation of a parallel economy, and drug trafficking.
ple, these are efforts to protect their rights.
In the second part we provide reasons for the study of OCGs in
India by social scientists by showing that OCGs are powerful
At particular historical junctures crime becomes politics — it
entities with vast economic power, and that they have attained
can be a prologue to a conscious and articulate resistance by
sustainability. The third section presents the growth of OCGs in
the dispossessed (Das. 1994).The struggles, protests and violent
Bombay while the fourth focuses on the structure and func-
actions of the people in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and other
tioning of OCGs. Finally, using primary data, the fifth section
places reflect a scenario where crime becomes politics. What is
examines the world of actors in OCGs.
crime for the establishment is a symbol of struggle for political
and civil rights by a whole set of "nationalities" or races.
Theoretical Framework
But large scale crimes are committed by conformists rather
than challengers of the establishment. This we find to be true in
We began our data collection without any preconceived
Bombay (Das, 1994, p. 2877). What is defined as a heinous crime
deductive scheme. Our findings evolved through the process of
at a particular point in time and place is a function of many fac-
research. Insights gained in the initial and subsequent phases
tors. Crime and its definitions are indications of the changing
8 Chapter 1

relations between the citizen and the State especially in the
son of a highly respected Member of Parliament was arrested
realm of regulating social behaviour.
under it. Currently, strong protests have been made against the
Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) because
The colonial state separated the criminal from the rest of
a major diamond trader has been arrested under it along with
society and punished, reformed and controlled him through
a film producer. Let us take the so called non-performing assets
police action and imprisonment.This they did by making a set of
(NPAs) of nationalised banks in India. These are mostly monies
neat legal categories of criminals such as "goondas", "dacoits",
taken as loans from banks by the industry and business
"criminal tribes", etc. The Bengal Government’s Goonda Act of
tycoons. They do not repay these loans and the banks report
1926 made it mandatory for the police to maintain files on con-
them as NPAs. The amount of money involved is phenomenal:
victed or suspected deviants of a broad spectrum ranging from
over 15,000 millions USD. How could this happen without the
thieves, gamblers, pickpockets, smugglers, toughs and cocaine
collusion and corruption among the directors of these banks
dealers to political activists. The purpose of the Act was to force-
and at lower levels? There is a political tolerance towards this
fully drive them out of Calcutta. This is to create an image of the
kind of fraud of such proportions. This level of corruption
man as brought up outside the sphere of normal society — to
among the society's elites certainly makes the society vulnera-
ostracize them. In the process, the goonda is defined as someone
ble to OCGs.
not only expendable and undesirable but also outside the worthy
citizen-community whom the police is to protect. The same
The use of violence, coercion and physical threat is the trait
image still survives (Das, 1994). This is the kind of effort being
that determines what is acceptable and what is not. The activi-
made now against organised criminal groups (OCGs).
ties of business and industrial captains are kept out of the
purview of criminal law. That is one of the main reasons why
the Money Laundering (Prevention) Bill has been stalled and
Organised Crime
sent to a select committee of Parliamentarians for review.
The Interpol defines an OCG as "a drug enterprise or group of
people engaged in a continuing illegal activity which has as its pri-
The Locale of the Study
mary purpose the generation of profits irrespective of national
(Internet: OC Home Page, 1998).
Bombay evolved as an important place for trade and com-
merce during the British regime in India because of its location
In the last two decades, some of the OCGs have been tar-
and the frequent attacks on Surat (then an important port), by
geted in a similar manner in Bombay. The people who defraud-
the Marathas. The period 1735-1813 saw the modernisation of
ed the investors of over a billion USD (Harshad Mehta scam;
the Bombay Shipyard and the restructuring of its dockyard to
Ketan Parekh scam) or those involved in major corruption
support growing maritime activities with Persia, the Arabian
cases (A senior politician who was involved in a major scandal,
Gulf, Africa and China (Dwivedi, S. et al., 1995).
the present Chief Minister of Tamilnadu who has been convict-
ed on two corruption charges) are not treated in the same way
The Calcutta and Bombay ports exported opium. Opium was
as Varadarajan, Chota Rajan, Haji Mastan or Dawood Ibrahim
a major commodity for trade between India and China, under-
who are (were) heads of OCGs. Not much explanation is given
taken especially to restore the trade balance of the British
when numerous ‘encounter killings’ are carried out by the
Empire. In 1785, the East India Company was buying and selling
police — all that they have to claim is that the people killed
fifteen million pounds weight of China tea per year. Britain had
were members of one or the other OCG. The Terrorist and
to pay for her tea with silver and gold. It sent to the East
Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act — details are given
(between 1710 and 1759) a sum of 26,833,614 Sterling Pounds
below — was not repealed despite numerous protests by right
in silver and gold, and only 9,248,306 Sterling Pounds in goods.
thinking people but was repealed when a leading film star, a
It is this trade imbalance that led to the opium trade. To meet
9 Chapter 1

the Chinese strong demand for opium, the British enforced
were migrants from up country; they earned their livelihoods
opium cultivation in its provinces in India (Beeching, 1975,
as labourers, carters, and coolies, constituting a permanent
Charles 1998). In the year 1884, around 5,670 tons of opium was
volatile social group. These aspects of Calcutta’s social map
exported to China (Fabre, G., 1998). In this trade, not only the
contributed in varying degrees to the creation of the city’s
East India Company but also their Indian trade associates made
goonda world. Bombay too has a similar situation — skyscrap-
a huge profit. Kosambi (1994) cites the example of the Parsee
ers stand side by side with sprawling slums where the poor
community as one of the groups that prospered through opium
trade. Farooqui (1998) has done a detailed study on the role
opium trade had played in the formation of capital in Western
India. His list of 123 indigenous opium merchants/firms based in
Limited Space
Bombay, 116 firms based in Gujarat/Rajasthan and operating
Bovenkerk (1992) in Anuradha, 1999(a), focused on the ille-
independently of the British between 1803-1830 is a useful start-
gal functions of OCGs.They fulfill society’s need for illegal goods
ing point for further research. Since smuggling as an economic
and services and provide a temporary solution to the problems
enterprise began almost two centuries ago in Bombay, it is not
overlooked by the political administration. Two centuries ago,
surprising that Bombay continues to be a paradise for smug-
Bombay was seven islands which have been connected to be
what it is today. Thus space is limited. The government passed
several laws on the housing sector which gave rise to OCGs. The
Rent Control Act is a welfare measure to the middle and other

Vulnerability of Bombay
salaried classes and a protection against rapacious landlords.
However, without a clause for periodic fair revision of rents and

Bombay is vulnerable to crime for many reasons. There is a
maintenance costs, and the tardy progress of lawsuits in India, it
marked weakening of the bonds of kinship as a result of the
created a kind of system failure. This has not yet been addressed.
practical disappearance of extended families. The decline of the
OCGs effectively, if unjustly most of the times, provided the solu-
social significance of the family; the undermining of the tradi-
tion. Persistent, prolonged failure of systems of governance makes
tional basis of social solidarity and the erosion of traditional
the system vulnerable and makes way for non-state actors such as
methods of social control, together contribute to alienation and
the OCGs.
crime in this city.
Almost all OCGs in Bombay have been sorting out tenant-
City of Contrasts
landlord problems. Chota Rajan’s group for instance undertook
Gamini Salgado (in Das, 1994) makes a link between
different activities to maintain his stronghold in underworld
London’s social structure and the rise of Elizabethan under-
extortion, smuggling and drug trade. The protection money
world. London then was a place of vivid contrast. London
paid to his gang by builders has increased. One builder stated
offered far greater opportunity for beggary and fraud than the
"we can not do business in India, if we do not pay" (Times of India,
rest of England. The chances of arrest were very low. For the
1994 ; Balakrishnan, 1995; Balakrishnan, 1995 and Thevar, 1997).
London underworld appears to have had its own security and
Karim Lala entered the world of real estate and construction
intelligence network which were more than a match for the
industry; he provided muscle power to builders and landlords
rudimentary and quasi amateur police force which was all the
wanting speedy settlement of tenancy issues outside the court.
city could boast (cf. Das, 1994). Das found that a similar con-
trast in Calcutta facilitated the emergence of the underworld
Why was there such a tolerance of OCG intervention in the
in that city in the 1920s. Calcutta had sharp class and racial
real estate sector on the part of the administration? It could
divides : the white locality was juxtaposed with the native area
have been because of many reasons: may be there was much
and the stately mansions of Marwaris and Bengalis stood
money to be made by its different segments; maybe, if the
against unhealthy slums. Seventy per cent of the population
salaried classes spent only a small proportion of their incomes
10 Chapter 1

on housing, they would constitute a large consumer market,
ly to indulge in criminal activities to survive and OCGs may
they can purchase goods and services produced by the indus-
emerge in the process. Demographic analysis and employment
try. But it is more probable that the legitimacy of laws govern-
profiles of different communities, if done on a continuous basis,
ing the housing sector had lost legitimacy among the
and if corrective measures are consciously taken to include such
elite/propertied classes. But democratic processes do not per-
communities, crime prevention efforts will have a chance to
mit the lawmakers to change these laws for the simple reason
that tenants are a larger vote bank compared to property own-
ers. Thus there appears to be a compromise: we will not change
the law; we will look the other way, if you use your own meth-
Industrial restructuring in Bombay in the mid 1970s had a
ods to increase the value of your property by evicting tenants.
profound impact on Bombay. Mehta (2000) conducted a rapid
One can predict that until this dilemma is resolved, OCGs will flour-
study of this economic process as part of our study.The findings
ish in all urban areas. There is a judge who has been arrested in
are presented in a separate paper titled "Criminalisation of
Mumbai on the charge of using an OCG to evict tenants from his
Labour in Bombay" which indicates some aspects of OCGs in
property. This is an on-going case. It is symptomatic of the cor-
Bombay. With the rapid move to globalise the Indian economy,
rosion of the system.
liberalisation of imports and a de facto abrogation of many
labour laws (enshrining rights of the working class won over
several decades of struggles), there is bound to be a vast
Bombay’s growth as a place of trade and commerce encour-
increase in crime and in the strength of OCGs.
aged migration from within and outside the country since the
colonial period. Bombay offered various avenues for employ-
Nationally, the manufacturing sector has stagnated. There
ment: the docks, the railways, the port, the mills and business
has been only a minor rise — from 10.7% of the workforce in
enterprises. With the partition of the country, Karachi port went
1993-94 to 11.1% in 1999-2000 — in the manufacturing sector
to Pakistan. Large investments were therefore made to improve
which was also concentrated in urban areas. The growing
the Bombay port to make it the main port of entry and exit for
employment sectors are in construction and "trade, hotels and
India's trade with the West. Many of the OCGs in Bombay have
restaurants", the latter employing 41 million people as com-
had their core activities based in and around the port area.
pared to 43 million in manufacturing (Omvedt, 2001). In
Bombay, there has been a strong link between OCGs and the
What can we say about migration? The Constitution of India
real estate sector.There are several indications showing that the
offers the right to free movement as a fundamental right. India is
bar and restaurant sector is also periodically subjected to extor-
not China. Wherever massive investments are made as in
tion by OCGs in Bombay; shoot outs have occurred in them;
Bombay, wherever economic opportunities open up as it did in
some of these bars are or have been owned by OCGs either
Bombay, people with or without appropriate skills move in.
directly or by proxies. Members of OCGs often patronize them
Given the stark differentials in intra-state and inter-state levels of
(Britto, 1997). Sleazy bars mushroom with police's blessings.
development, migration to many places which promise prosper-
There are links between law-enforcer and bar owners. Sleazy
ity takes place. Besides, urbanisation is an inexorable process
bars have mushroomed all over the city in the last ten years.
since the policy makers have neglected rural areas in all but the
Some of them remain open till 4 a.m. Some policemen are
first five-year plans.
known to be regulars at some of the bars. Says a bar owner,
"policemen conduct occasional raids in a beer bar. But it is just eye-
It must be noted that migration per se does not create OCGs.
wash. They threaten bar owners and extort huge sums". "I was fed
It is not our case that only migrants get into or form OCGs. The
up of policemen regularly coming to my bar on a motorcycle. They
profile of different OCGs of Bombay would repudiate such
always came in mufti and were pleased to carry back a wadful of
notion. We can only state that if among the migrants any group
notes with them", alleges Jamshed Irani, who owned a stake in
gets left out of integration into the legal economy, they are like-
the Mastana Beer Bar in Tardeo. "Nobody can run a beer bar in
11 Chapter 1

Mumbai without being in league with the police, specially the con-
Bombay today is a world of risk and uncertainty, of individual
stables on beat patrolling", he added. Mr.Irani also alleged that
choice and pluralism and of a deep-seated precariousness, both
certain policemen have benami stakes in some of the bars. "The
economic and ontological. Suicide among professionals (doc-
policemen have ill-gotten wealth, which they invest in beer bars".
tors, chartered accountants, share brokers) is on the rise.
Police Commissioner M.N.Singh did not deny the possibility of
his men being corrupt. "There could be a possibility of certain
According to the strain theory of Robert Merton (1968) in
policemen being in league with bar owners… Such policemen will
"Firestone, 1997", Crime and vice constitute a "normal"
have some "mutual understanding" with bar owners so that it ben-
response to a situation where the cultural emphasis upon
efits both of them. However, you cannot single out policemen for
pecuniary success has been absorbed, but where there is little
corruption.There are several other departments or areas which are
access to conventional and legitimate means for becoming
more corrupt", the police chief stated (The Time of India 30th
successful. Arlacchi too opines: "High unemployment rate, that
March 2001).
targets the less favored population, the absence of government
measures to counteract this, the gap between the disfavored and
the consumer model, valorization of economic success and low

Globalisation and Liberalisation
possibilities to access resources through legal means, all these
combine together to favor the development of a criminal labour

The process of liberalisation and globalisation began in the
force" (Arlacchi as cited in Fabre, 1998). Further discussion on
1980s ; a period which saw the criminalisation of the labour
this is in the section on why people enter the world of crime.
force. To become competitive internationally and nationally, a
large-scale process (of industrial reorganisation, closure of fac-
Today an unfair situation controls the race to achieve and
tories, etc.) was set in motion in Bombay. Transformation of the
be someone. We have a large number of spectators, who are
labour market included streamlined production in the manu-
denied real access to the race but are the viewers of the glit-
facturing industry with the de-skilling of labour and the stress
tering prizes on offer. The fact that opportunities to the race
on the flexibility of the workforce. Another tactic is "out-sourc-
are available with little relationship to talent and price makes
ing" of labour to small firms or freelance personnel. Similar
it evenmore unequal. While the have-nots are scrounging,
changes have affected the service sector as well, with comput-
those at the top, the privileged, are seen as part of a "winner
erisation; many firms are able to eliminate whole layers of
takes all" where prizes are doled out without thought of justi-
white-collar workers creating insecurity even among those who
fication or merit. This scenario is a natural recipe for dissatis-
earlier felt secure.
faction (Young, 1999). The combination of relative deprivation
and individualism is a potent cause for crime in a situation
With trade liberalisation gaining momentum since 1991, prac-
where no political solutions are possible. To deal with this per-
tically thousands of goods have been put under the Open
ceptually, there is a move towards keeping the "out-group",
General License for imports. Hence the OCGs need to identify
who can be made "scapegoats".
other commodities to profit from. Smuggling of computer hard-
ware and software, pharmaceuticals, gems and precious stones,
The present period in Bombay can be seen as one where the
guns and trafficking in women and children and drugs are said to
trend is to exclude, as against the move towards inclusion earli-
be of interest to OCGs of Bombay in the post-control-permit era.
er, through assimilation and incorporation. The rise of Shiv Sena
party in Bombay was a direct outcome of the political mobilisa-
Liberalisation and globalisation have profound social impli-
tion strategy of attacking south Indians, demanding jobs for
cations in places like Bombay. The market forces they unleash
sons of the soil and such exclusionist processes (Mehta, 2000).
have transformed the spheres of production and consumption
The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, comes hand in hand with
relentlessly. Economic policies are challenging notions of mate-
their attempt, with the help of their supporters, to consolidate
rial certainty, uncontested values, and the resultant security.
the Hindu vote bank as a block by creating a communal schism
12 Chapter 1

excluding the Muslims and other minorities. Such a strategy of
Though TADA was repealed, the Government of
political mobilization is a function of perceived/real decline in
Maharashtra passed another equally powerful Bill, (Maharashtra
economic opportunities and of competitive politics of democ-
Control of Organised Crime Bill), in 1999.
racy especially in the consolidation of "other backward classes"
and their powerful entry into the corridors of power.
Some of its provisions are:
. Confession to a police officer of the rank of superin-
tendent of police and recorded by him may serve as evidence.
Impact of OCGs on Society
This clause was also provided in the TADA.
. Authorizes telephone tapping. The grounds for allow-
Why should anyone in India attempt to study the structure
ing it are, broadly, "probable" cause for belief in the culpability
and functioning of OCGs? It is because of the impact they have
of the individual and in the use of the facility for commission of
on society in general and on the systems of governance. In this
crime. The order or approval must state the reasons and set out
section, we make a preliminary statement based on secondary
the details-person, location of communication facilities, type of
data on the subject. However, a full-fledged research is needed
communication to be intercepted, etc.
to present the details with reliable data. We present our reasons
. In case of any complaint of torture by the detainee, the per-
for the study of OCGs under the following headings:
son shall undergo a medical examination before a medical offi-
cer not lower in rank than that of an assistant civil surgeon.
. Erosion of civil liberties
. Properties of the accused can be forfeited to the state on
. Perversion of democratic rights
conviction if the court so orders. They can also be attached by
. Creation of unproductive employment
its order pending the trial (Noorani, 1999).
. Inroads of OCGs into various systems of governance
. Nexus with the Police
Number of cases under the terrorist
. OCGs and sports
and disruptive activities (Prevention) Act
. The marriage of the legal and the illegal
1988 1989 1990 1992 1993
1994 1995 1996
. OCGs and the Film Industry
Arunachal Pradesh
. OCGs and the Gold market
. Under invoicing/over invoicing
. Hawala
Jammu & Kashmir
Erosion of Civil Liberties
OCGs provide justifications for governments to pervert the
rule of law and to erode the fundamental rights to liberty and
privacy of citizens. OCGs give a set of rationale by which the
government acquires enormous power eroding the rights of
the civil society through the passage of draconian laws. This
leads to massive abuse of power. The selective application of
the "Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act" is a case in point.The
Tamil Nadu
statistics below indicate that most of the cases were against
Muslims and in Jammu and Kashmir. Mercifully this law was
Uttar Pradesh
totally repealed.
Source: NCRB, Annual Reports, New Delhi: NCRB Na: not available
13 Chapter 1

Perversion of the Rule of Law
ly stated that death punishment be given to policemen found
guilty of committing murder in the name of encounter. As this
Another set of facts which forewarns against the dangers to
chapter would argue, the socio-economic reality that creates OCGs
civil society is the extra-judicial killings by the police and other
and the method to tackle them is to remove the factors which
enforcement agencies (Encounter killings). One of the "high
necessitate their emergence and not by brutalizing the state
profile" police commissioners of Bombay initiated this process
with the excuse that the criminals invariably hire powerful
lawyers, find all kinds of loopholes in the law and get away scot-
free. In order to curb crime, he suggested that the police may
Creation of Unproductive Employment
resort to "encounter killings" provided such a decision is taken
at the top level! Because the legal system is tardy and the govern-
The presence of OCGs in Bombay has created the need for
ment employs not so efficient lawyers, he felt it perfectly legitimate
private security agencies on an unprecedented scale. It is now a
to use extra-legal methods. It must be noted that it is again anoth-
nearly 380 million USD business thanks to terrorists, gangsters,
er example of system failures that give birth to OCGs. This is
personal enemies and professional rivals of the rich and famous,
explained in subsequent sections. When human rights groups
crazed fans of the glitterati and lone maniacal stalkers. The busi-
have pointed out that ordinary citizens also got killed in these
ness has grown in the past decade along with an increased feel-
so called "encounters", the stock reply of the establishment has
ing of insecurity among the citizens. There are nearly two lakh
been "an occasional human error" is inevitable.
private security personnel in the city, roughly five times more
than the Mumbai Police strength (Guards of honour. The Week
While the police themselves bemoan that the OCGs have far
15th April 2001).
more sophisticated arms and keep asking for a higher bud-
getary allocation, in almost all the encounters the press release
reads as follows: "Police sleuths… killed three sharp shooters of
OCG and Sports
the… faction of the… gang in an encounter on…night. Acting on
a tip-off… laid a trap. The police asked them to surrender but they

Dawood is a much sought-after man in Dubai’s social circuit
(sharp shooters) fired at the police. The police retaliated… the
and would often be picked up by TV cameras while watching
gangsters were injured and were rushed to… hospital, but were
cricket at Sharjah. The Dawood’s group has allegedly been
declared dead on arrival".
involved in the cricket betting racket. Though his men affirm
that Dawood is not personally involved, he does have many
Between January and April, 2001, in Bombay alone there
friends among Indian and Pakistani cricketers. They say that
were such 24 encounter killings. Some of these may not have
since Dawood took a keen interest in cricket and was part of the
been encounters at all but sheer murders by the police. Imagine
expatriate social circuit in Dubai, touring cricketers from the
sharp shooters who have never missed a target in their careers
subcontinent would usually be introduced to him. Senior Indian
miss a whole posse of police at point blank range! In different
players have enjoyed his hospitality and have even been pho-
states, the police have been asking for more powers to the
tographed with him. Chotta Shakeel has even admitted in a
police to tackle the growing organised crime in the wake of
press interview that he had sorted out problems between
sophisticated methods adopted by OCGs.
bookies (Hasnain Ghulam, "At Home in Exile", Outlook, 20th
November 2000). The Asian Age (24th April 2001) reported a
Fortunately, we have a few small civil rights groups monitor-
statement made in Parliament that the central Bureau of
ing these developments. In Karnataka in South India, they have
Investigation (CBI) has found "clear signals" that the underworld
urged the President of India to withhold the passing of a Bill to
mafia was taking interest in the cricket betting racket and could
control organised crime because of some obnoxious provisions.
take over its control if not checked immediately.
The Allahabad High Court (Uttar Pradesh, in North India) recent-
14 Chapter 1

Increasing Sophistication of the OCG
There have been several instances of OCG members using
There are cases where the underworld masterminds abduc-
cell phones from within jails to conduct operations. OCGs
tions via satellite phones. The Babloo Srivastava gang had used
appoint only the most trusted lieutenants as the dubbawalas
sophisticated technology to lure a UAE businessman. Though
(people who bring food to prisoners undergoing trials) for their
top names in the underworld — Dawood Ibrahim, Abu Salem
members. They are said to be the conduit for bringing cell
and Chota Rajan — use satellite phones regularly to keep in
phones and messages to and from their bosses. Many of these
touch with their trusted lieutenants, this was the first known
dubbawalas over time have graduated to higher ranks either as
instance where the underworld used satellite phones for
sharp shooters or money managers in almost all the gangs.
abduction.This, however, is not the first case of sleuths finding a
There has to be a collusion with the police for this to happen.
satellite phone while investigating a criminal case. The Delhi
Police had seised a similar INMARSAT mobile satellite phone
A large number of OCG members invariably get themselves
used by Mumbai gangster Ashwin Naik, who was arrested in a
into hospitals as soon as they are arrested on one pretext or
murder and narcotics case two years ago (The Indian Express 26th
another. Medical professionals have been accused of being
March 2001).
hand in glove with the OCGs in providing health certificates
which warrant hospitalization. Some have escaped from hospi-
The underworld's armoury has caused concern to the city
tals too. The doctor-criminal nexus came to light three years
police. Though over 1,500 firearms were seised from gangsters
ago. However, the government remained unmoved even after
in the past five years, the underworld is still equipped with
this revelation, resulting in a petition in the Bombay high court.
sophisticated firearms like AK-47 assault rifles and Glock pistols
A bench delivered its judgement on the case (petition 5603 of
(The Times of India 17th March 2001).
1999) on March 13, 2000, directing the health minister to hold a
fresh, impartial inquiry within four months from April 1, 2000 by
Inroads of OCGs into various systems
appointing appropriate authorities. The Minister gave the court
of governance:
an assurance that he would do so. A year has passed after the
. Nexus with Police/Professionals
order and no action has been taken as yet against the persons
The police arrested two constables in connection with the
allegedly involved in the nexus (The Asian Age 25th April 2001).
daring escape of Imran Sheikh just outside the court room.
Such sequence of events is ominous.
Imran Sheikh, a member of the Barain based Ali Budesh gang,
opened fire when he was given a revolver by someone in the
crowd and quickly escaped from the premises. Investigators
The Marriage of the Legal
suspect that the two policemen turned a blind eye when the
and the Illegal
weapon was passed on to him. Their suspicion was further con-
firmed because the duo did not open fire when the gangster
OCGs are dealing in stolen property.This section offers inter-
escaped ("Two Policemen Held for Gangster’s Escape", The
esting insights into the links between government policies,
Indian Express 2nd April 2001). Undergoing trial and accused for
gangs, dockworkers and legitimate businessmen.Varadha Rajan
smuggling charas, Azadkhan Bashirkhan Pathan, a resident of
and Haji Mastan were veteran OCG leaders. Data show that the
Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, fled from the court
dockworkers they recruited were instructed to steal from spe-
premises on Monday. Pathan pushed aside the escort compris-
cific consignments. The workers knew where the consignments
ing of two armed policemen and fled. Incidentally, this is the
were on any given day. They would break the seal, remove the
fifth instance in the current year of an accused person under-
contents, neatly re-seal the container/box. Industrial items (ball
going trial managing to escape in the presence of armed police.
bearings etc. which had high duties) were obtained by busi-
Pathan was arrested from Fatehgunj area early this year. He was
nessmen using the services of Varadha Rajan and Haji Mastan.
carrying a 2-kg of charas consignment (Under trial Escapes From
They had multiple advantages: they could claim insurance,
Vadodara Court Premises, The Times of India, 29th Nov.2000).
avoid paying duties and then sell the stolen goods in the black
15 Chapter 1

market and make money. Obviously, a percentage of this is paid
country and, if business circles are to be believed, he even
to the OCGs which carried out the theft...
helped out Pakistan’s Central Bank with a dollar loan to tide over
a crisis. He also controls the parallel credit system, called hundi,
This activity has become more difficult with the use of con-
in Pakistan and India. He still dominates the gold smuggling
tainers. However, a recent case points out that despite stealing
into India. Mumbai is no longer the main conduit for Dawood’s
at the port, people in charge do not follow strict rules. Since the
drug trade, it is said. Dawood’s financial liquidity is stupendous.
government levies 105% tax on imported cars, it is highly prof-
Property developers in Islamabad were amazed when he paid
itable to steal new cars arriving at the port. A bunch of eight cars
over USD 5 million in cash in just a few days to acquire a huge
(valued at 0.5 million USD) were robbed. The modus operandi
plot in Islamabad (Hasnain Ghulam, At Home in Exile, Outlook,
was simple. The robbers obtained fake identity cards by bribing
20th November 2000). In this section we shall present three types
someone in the Port Authority, drove in old cars, opened the
of activities which are involved with OCGs: the film industry,
containers, took out the new cars, changed the number plates
gold smuggling and diamond trade. The Hindi film industry has
with the new cars and drove out. It was found that these stolen
a turn over of 1.5 billion USD annually.There are indications that
cars had been sold to politicians and film personalities (Khomne
OCGs have a powerful presence in it and in more than one way
Ranjit, Probe Exposes mafia role in car thefts, Times of India, 14, 06,
(details below). Gold smuggling has been the forte of the OCGs
since independence and more so since 1963 after the passage
of the Gold Control Act. The volumes of gold smuggled into our
country (which holds a third of the world’s gold ever mined) by
the OCGs is mind boggling. Diamond trade is the second largest
item in our exports. If what is being said of Bharat Shah (details
Smuggling facilitated another trade, Hawala (money trans-
below) is true, the entry of OCGs into this sector should make
action through illegal channels). Hawala has existed for decades
policy makers think.
to save up money. Smuggling gave it a boost. Industrialists, busi-
nessmen, bureaucrats, smugglers and politicians require foreign
currencies and hawala operators proved indispensable to them.
OCGs and the Film Industry
Till the mid-1980s Indians traveling abroad were not permitted
to carry above US$400/. Even now the INR is not fully convert-
Sometimes, the public has needs which are easily met by the
ible and the demand among Indians for USD is very high. Few
underworld groups. Only recently the government has recog-
Indians can obtain permission to hold international credit cards.
nised film production as an industry despite the fact that India
As long as these types of controls continue, hawala will flourish.
makes the highest number of films in the world, and that the
The government has recently approved convertibility on capital
Hindi film industry deals mostly in hard cash, most of which has
account. Hopefully, this kind of measures will reduce the role of
always been black. In this sector, a small time producer hoping to
hawala operators.
make it big can never hope for a loan from any bank or financial
institution. He then secure the help of the underworld groups
through a mediator.The gangs give the money with the full con-
Wealth of OCGs
fidence that they can recover the money under any circum-
stance through force and threat. On the same basis money is
The sheer wealth of OCGs is a matter of concern. Dawood
given to builders. Additionally, both these avenues are easy ways
operates, by remote control, an empire spread across Mumbai-
of laundering money. At present close relatives of the under-
Gujarat-Uttar Pradesh-Delhi-Dubai. The Indian agencies esti-
world have begun to produce movies, making money launder-
mate his worth as about USD 0.5 billion. Insiders claim that he
ing much easier. For example the brother of Chota Rajan has pro-
has invested billions of Pakistani rupees in real estate in Karachi
duced a blockbuster Hindi movie. Recent shoot-outs and killings
and Islamabad. Apparently he controls the stock-market in that
are only symptoms of the long-term link between the OCGs and
16 Chapter 1

the filmdom in Bombay. According to the police, 35 cinema
evidence show that the businessman’s diamond trading enter-
artists had received threatening calls from the underworld this
prises were being used to launder mafia money. In June 2000,
year, compared to 21 threatened last year. A top police official
customs officials at the Santa Cruz Electronics Export Promotion
attributed the rise in threat calls to the spreading tentacles of the
Zone in Mumbai had issued notices to both companies,
underworld in almost all areas of filmmaking. He said, "It sounds
demanding payment of duties of around 4 million USD in addi-
like a cliché now, but most of the directors were asked to drop
tion to penalties, and threatening to confiscate equipment.
actors and actresses in favour of somebody else, despite the tal-
Officials found that 73,730 carats of diamonds, worth an esti-
ent the person dropped may have."
mated 6.5 million USD had disappeared without trace from BV
Jewels’ accounts. Inversely, they discovered USD 6.8 million
Here we shall merely give a summary of a case that is in
worth of diamonds used in exported jewelry which were not
progress in Bombay: The film "Chori Chori Chupke Chupke".
listed in import documents.
. Its producer was picked up for connections with
Mumbai’s underworld. Its financial backer, wealthy diamond
. Customs officials believe that Shah’s companies had been
merchant Bharat Shah was also arrested. Both have been
smuggling raw diamonds and diamond jewelry in and out of
booked under the MCOCA. At the time of writing, the judge
the ‘Export zone, fudging figures in order to maximise tax
dealing with their case have denied bail five times.
exemptions on the import of raw materials and machinery.
. But the film was a financial success. All the 325-odd prints
While part of this financial misconduct may have been driven
of the USD 3.2 million film were sold out on the eve of its release
by pure greed, investigators suggest that the enterprise have
netting a cool USD 4 million. Almost 100 per cent collection was
enabled Mafia organisations to launder their proceeds from
made in the first week.
. It was made in a record time of six months. That the artists
gave their dates promptly is due to the pressure exerted by
. Similarly, dollar revenues from film sales overseas and expen-
ditures incurred on shooting movies in exotic locations abroad,
. Another film, which was due to be released at the same
were fudged in order to enable criminal cash to be turned legiti-
time, was delayed, again due to the pressure exerted by OCGs,
mate. "Money made from extortion", says one Mumbai police offi-
authorities claim.
cer, is useless to the Mafia unless it can be put back to work.
. The Mumbai Diamond Merchant Association (has 12,000
Enterprises like those that Shah was running, or Kadawala (details
members apart from 7,500 diamond exporters) closed down to
are given below) used to run, allow that to happen. The money is
protest against the arrest of one of its members, Bharat Shah,
recycled, and put to work buying stocks, business or properties.
one of the leading diamond exporters. His exports constitute
. Some of the reactions of the public are worth stating:
around 80 per cent of all diamond exports. Shah is a brand
- "He (Bharat Shah) is a clever businessman and
name himself.
most of his investments have been routed through channels, but
. The net worth of Bharat Shah has been estimated at USD
money which have been routed cannot be traced back to him."
250 million
A diamond trader
. The diamond lobby expressed the fear that if he is detained
- "Everybody in the diamond market is aware of Shah’s connec-
for long, the market could be affected. At a time when the long
tions with the underworld. But he has a clean image in the dia-
lull in the diamond market is ending, such news can damage
mond market. He is ready to help any trader in times of need."
the image of Indian markets abroad, some asserted. This is a
A diamond trader.
classical way to put pressure on the judiciary and politicians to
- "Every one knows that Dawood Ibrahim’s mistress is a former
get him released.
actress. Why haven’t the police tried to arrest her? Politicians suck
. Allegedly, Shah also has stakes in a television channel, a gar-
blood, cricketers fix matches and doctors sell kidneys. So it is not
ment manufacturing company and the construction industry.
surprising that film personalities use slush money."
. Enforcement Directorate claims to have a growing body of
Asif Mulla — a consultant for Industrial Relations.
17 Chapter 1

. Hanif Kadawala was the owner, along with Hingora, of the
high, then the attraction to gold is high as well (Vaidyanath
video firm Magnum, one of the largest players in the distribution
1999). Gold is a very popular recourse among launderers since it
of Hindi movies in West Asia, Europe and the United States. In
is a universally accepted medium of exchange, making it a
addition, he had substantial interests in the property markets,
hedge in times of uncertainty, and with its price set daily, giving
and a string of other businesses. He was the producer of many
it a reasonably foreseeable value. Gold is a commodity traded
hit films. Kadawala was standing trial for his role in the Mumbai
on world markets, it offers anonymity, and it is easily liquifiable,
serial bombings of March 1993. In that year, he had been
making it possible for dealers to layer transactions in order to
instructed to hand over three "guitars" (AK-56 rifles) and some
blur the audit trail. It also offers scope for double invoicing, false
"tennis balls" (hand grenades) to a film star. He was said to have
shipments and other fraudulent practices. Gold is the only raw
been in business with Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Anis. On
material comparable to money.
February 7, 2001, three men walked into his office and one of
them shot him five times at point-blank range. All three men
India hardly produces any gold. The only important gold
then walked down the staircase, and disappeared into the
mine in Kolar has been contributing a minuscule production to
crowded streets.
the total annual consumption. But India annually accumulates
one-third of the gold mined in the world and is ranked the sec-
ond largest consumer of gold in the world. Practically the entire
OCGs and the Gold Market
demand is met from imports and the recycling of previously
accumulated stock and scrap (Vaidyanath, 1999). The gold stock
We are devoting a separate section on gold smuggling for
of the country by the end of 1997 was 10,000 tons valued at cur-
the following reasons:
rent price on the world market at $120 billion. This is nearly four
. The financial power of OCGs in India can be gauged
times the country’s exports and official foreign reserves in that
by the volume of gold they have already smuggled into India.
year. This situation can have significant consequences in terms
. Gold smuggling is a sector which has direct link with
of the scale and functioning of the hawala market, the availabil-
the legal sector of the jewelry market; and thus it is a point
ity of foreign exchange for other uses and the health of the bal-
where organised crime and the powerful industry merge, in
ance of payments. Hence factors relating to the demand for
turn giving enormous clout to OCGs in the system.
gold and the sources of finance for importing it merit closer
. Gold smuggling requires the connivance of Airlines,
study (Vaidyanath, 1999).
customs, and an array of government and other legal func-
tionaries, thus contributing to the general criminalisation of
Around 150 nations either charge a high tariff on gold or ban
its import altogether. Gold smugglers thrive in India, Pakistan,
. Gold smuggling is one of the largest mechanism for
Indonesia, Thailand, Iran, France, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Brazil,
money laundering in India.
Egypt and Turkey. Among the countries that allow their citizens
to hold gold freely and do not prohibit its import are
For these reasons, this activity exemplifies the impact OCGs
Switzerland, Canada, the United States, Lebanon and Singapore
have on Indian society which in turn calls for a proper under-
(Green, 1977). Indian policy with regard to gold has never been
standing of their functioning and the creation of control mech-
static since independence. Import of gold was restricted from
anisms. It also again reinforces our view that policy makers have
1947 and later the Gold Control Act was introduced in 1963
to create multi-disciplinary task forces to analyse the potential
(Malayala Manorama, 1998). However, illegal gold supply contin-
outcomes of any major economic decision which may help
ued to come into the country. In the 1950's around 80-90 tons
strengthen OCGs.
reached India annually. The gold import, most of it illegal, kept
increasing from 31 tons in 1941-50 to 80-90 tons per annum dur-
When many financial assets offer little hedge against infla-
ing the 1950s, to 150 tons per annum in the 1960 and early
tion, gold is a useful asset. When the incentive to evade tax is
1970’s (Vaidyanathan, S. 1999). In 1991 the legal import of gold
18 Chapter 1

was allowed after the Gold Control Act was abolished in 1990.
Gold smuggling is also prompted by the need to launder black
Only to change again in 1999, when government imposed
money. In 1998 the difference in price between the London mar-
import duty of around USD 8 per 10 gm of gold. This has
ket and Bombay was only Rs. 316 for 10 gm. In spite of this, by
increased gold smuggling once again, in May DRI seised gold
August of that year, there had already been an unofficial import
worth USD 80,000 (Times of India, 1999).
of 42 tons.This, if one were to consider the landing charges, com-
mission to be paid for smugglers (30%) and other incentives, can-
The world’s two big producers are South Africa and the for-
not be a viable business to operate in itself.The only other reason
mer Soviet Union, which mine 85 percent of all gold. South
for it being sustained is its role in money laundering (Venkatesh,
Africans and former Soviets sell all their gold as "gold delivery
1994, Kottary, 1988; Economic Times, 1996). It has been alleged
bars" each weighing 400 troy ounces and, with gold at $160 troy
that when there is election, political parties use gold as a means
once, costing $64,000 a piece. Gold smuggled to France, Spain,
of bringing in their savings from abroad for election expenses.
Morocco or Turkey is in one-kilo bars (costing $5000). To India
and Pakistan, the gold supplied is in ten-tola bars or "biscuits" as
The financial task force on money laundering in 1997 identi-
they are called and costs $600 each. In the case of Malaysia it is
fied the gold market as a means for laundering money. Also the
in 10-ounce bars. The type of gold purchased indicates the des-
heroin route coincides with the gold routes. So is "Hawala" the
tination it will be sent to. All smugglers buy gold from two
alternative banking system, wide spread in South Asia and the
wholesale markets: London or Zurich. The London and Zurich
Middle East, well connected with gold circuits. This system facil-
markets are fully aware of the illegal destination of their
itates both currency exchange and the purchase and sale of
reshaped bars. The Indian customs authorities and Revenue
gold (FATF, 1998).
Intelligence service have tried for years to get the British to do
something about the sale of gold to Dubai. But Indian authori-
Among the known personalities involved in gold smuggling
ties were told politely that such dealings were legal (Green,
in the 1980s are the Bhattia brothers. Abdul Yaqub Bhattia was
1977). This is an area for organisations such as the FATF to delib-
running the international syndicate from Dubai, supplying both
erate upon.
India and Sri Lanka. His syndicate and another syndicate from
Singapore took care of 40% of India's requirements; Hong Kong
Dubai is a free port. The smugglers operating out of Dubai
provided the other 60%. Nepal is used as a conduit by
are doing legitimate business there just as the Indian jewelers
Singapore and Hong Kong. Nepal permits the import of 10 kg of
are doing legitimate business of selling ornaments. The illegal
gold and 150 kg of silver. As the Nepalese purchasing power is
act starts when the gold crosses into the 12-mile limit of the
limited, it is smuggled to India (Venkatesh, 1994). In India the
Indian seas and ends when the metal is melted and made into
entire operation is well managed, its network spreading
jewelry by the gold dealers in India.Those acting in between are
through out the entire west coast. Dawood Ibrahim is an impor-
smugglers and criminals. Smugglers in gold have the advantage
tant partner of the Bhattia syndicate. Sub-agents receive the
of not attracting international attention, for they only violate
consignment and safely transfer it to their hideouts. The broth-
the customs regulations of the country for which the gold is
er of Dawood, Mohammed Annees is said to be the person who
loads the contraband from Dubai. In Goa a vessel was captured
by the customs and the interrogation of the person under
In most parts of the world, it is price differential policies with
whom the vessel was registered revealed that the vessel was
regard to the import of the yellow metal that partly make smug-
under total control of a close associate of Mohammed Annees
gling of gold a viable proposition. But in India it does not appear
in Gujarat. In 1994, Karim Bux Ghazi, a smuggler, was picked up
to be a necessary condition. If the prices do not vary much, gold
by the Border Security Force (BSF). Upon arrest, he admitted
smuggling records drop for a while. But gold smuggling contin-
that he is a close associate of Dawood and the Memon brothers
ues in spurts. While between 90-91 around 337 kgs of gold was
(Bhatia, 1988; Nandandhar, 1988; The Telegraph, 1994; Indian
seised, in 1995 it was reduced to 65 Kgs (Economic Times, 1995).
Express, 1987).
19 Chapter 1

According to media reports the links between smugglers,
Diamonds have the advantage of having a value relative to
customs officials and airline crew have been important. It is not
size/weight and store value for future use. It also offers scope for
just the national airline that is involved; Gulf Air was penalised
laundering money. It can ensure no audit trail as the entire busi-
USD 250,000 for abetting gold smuggling. Another indirect sup-
ness is done behind closed doors. There are no receipts main-
port given to the gold smugglers is the insurance provided by
tained at any time of the transaction at any level and the deal is
six agencies in Dubai for transactions between the India-
sealed with a handshake (Green, 1977). According to Boston
Pakistan borders. This helps to cover losses, which might occur
Bankers and former Soviet Commissars, diamond is used in trad-
due to custom seisures (Bhardwaj, 1992; Sharma, 1996; Times of
ing for heroin.
India, 1999 and Kaodar, 1999).
In 1998, 46 tons of gold were smuggled into India. The black
Diamond and OCGs
income generated by this, amounts to around 480 million USD.
Thus, in this industry, legal merchants' business with OCGs in
It has been stated that diamonds are given as a form of pay-
that year was to the tune of half a billion USD! At a nominal 10%
ment to top film stars in Bollywood. The film industry in India
as profit, OCGs in India made a profit in a single commodity in a
has been important to money laundering and recently, impor-
single year around 48 millions USD. Most of the transaction at
tant diamond dealers have been financing major productions.
the retail level takes place without bill and thus contributes to
South Africa as already mentioned, is a major source for dia-
the generation of black money.
monds. The international community in a bid to force it to end
apartheid placed economic sanctions on it for several years.
India was one of the most articulate members against apartheid
and agreed to enforce economic boycott of South Africa. But
India has a large Indian community in Southern Africa and a
It must be stated at the outset that this is an extremely sensi-
flourishing diamond industry. How did the diamond trade con-
tive subject in India.The diamond traders are well organised,close-
tinue with South Africa in all the years of economic boycott? It
ly knit and powerful. So is their international counterpart, De
is apparent then that Indian traders must have used unofficial
Beers. When the United Nations Commission inquiring into the
channels to bring in raw diamonds and to export it and also to
financial support gained by rebels in Sierra Leone by the sale of
handle the money for such transactions. It is our contention
"tainted diamonds" visited India to hold a meeting with the Indian
therefore that in the days of apartheid, diamond trade in India
diamond traders, most of the papers did not report it. Those who
had to have the help of smugglers and hawala operators for
did, carried the news only once in the inside page.Therefore, what
running its normal business. It would appear that caught in a
is stated here should be taken as a working hypothesis for further
dilemma of furthering business on the one hand and upholding
commitments made at the UN, the official machinery simply
ignored the role played by the OCGs.
Mines in South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Zaire, Angola,
Ghana, Botswana and the former Soviet Union meet the global
demand for diamonds. The main player in the global market is
Under Invoicing/Over Invoicing
De Beers, which owns mines in South Africa and Namibia. The
De Beers Central Selling Organisation (CSO) markets over 80
Just as corruption is a universal phenomenon which under-
percent of the world’s new diamonds. The purpose of purchas-
pins all spheres of life in India, the trading and industrial com-
ing diamond from all sources is to control the world diamond
munity here indulges in under invoicing and over invoicing to
market. There is a surplus in the market in comparison to the
avoid taxes, to stash money away in foreign accounts etc.
demand and hence monopolistic control will enable controlled
Bhagirathi (2000) has computed the overall under Invoicing of
supply (Green, 1977 and Executive Intelligence Review, 1986).
exports and over Invoicing of Imports by using the partner coun-
20 Chapter 1

try data comparison technique. India’s exports to the country is
stones, is that those well versed in assessing the worth of
compared with the country’s imports from India and vice versa.
gems are limited. Hence there is always a threat that examina-
Since export figures are given as free on board (f.o.b.) values, and
tion by the customs can be discouraged by later claiming that
that of imports as c.i.f. (cost, insurance and freight), 10% is added
goods have been tampered with, with the consignee refusing
to the export cost. Analyzing the data for countries to which
to receive the consignment.
India’s exports were more than USD 1000 million in 1997, she
found large volumes of money involved in this type of practice.
Growth of OCGs in Bombay
Diamond trade offers flexibility to its traders and allows
them to practice under invoicing of exports and over invoicing
Social reality shapes and forms OCGs and their activities. As
of imports. Under invoicing of exports helps sell foreign curren-
the situation around organised crime is dynamic, the structure
cy in black and avoid tax. At times, under invoicing of imports is
that evolves is never static. So are their activities moulded by
done to evade import duties in case of precious gems and
the demands of society, changing with government policies,
metal. As per data available, the main trade between India and
technological advance, and political situations.
Belgium are gems and semi precious stones. For the year 1996-
97, pearls, precious and semi precious stones made up around
The Bombay underworld began to emerge in the 1920s.
78.56% of Indian imports from Belgium. During the same peri-
There was no organised crime then but rather small groups of
od the export of gems and jewelry to Belgium was 62.34% of
thugs in various parts of the city. Their activities were restricted
Indian exports.
to their specific territories and involved in small time extortion.
By and large, the dada (thug or the God Father) would lie on a
Statistics given in the Table below provide some idea of the
cot holding court throughout the day. Even in the fifties this
trade volume between Belgium and India. The figures given in
phenomenon continued, two known dadas in Bombay then
bold numbers suggest there may have been some over/under
were Borka and Sitaram. Occasionally politicians used them to
invoicing in the years 1994-1996. Such large discrepancies can-
whip up communal passions.
not be explained by freight and insurance etc.
Das (1994) presents a scenario where people involved in
Trade between Belgium-Luxumburg and India
communal riots subsequently established OCGs. He describes
the communal riots of Bengal in 1946. Gopal Mukherjee raised
Millions of USD
a private army to protect Hindus during the riots. His group
Trade Direction
1991 1992 1993 1994
1995 1996 1997
received liberal support from wealthy Hindus during the com-
Belgian Exports to India
munal fury. Once the rioting subsided, this support was with-
Indian Imports from Belgium
drawn and the very figures who had been hailed as saviours
Belgian Imports from India
from Muslim brutalities were now looked upon with social con-
Indian Exports to Belgium
tempt. Gopal Mukherjee and others began their OCG career.
Source: IMF, 1998, Direction of Trade Statistics Year Book, Washington: IMF, pp.126,
They continued their communal actions in 1950. Subsequently,
some joined the Congress Party; some the Communists. There
According to a report, two leading firms owned by dia-
was also a Muslim from the riot days who subsequently became
mond merchants were arrested for duty evasion of around 4
an OCG don. One of the limitations of this chapter is that we have
million USD by the Customs operating under the Commerce
not examined the link between riots in Bombay and their role in the
Ministry. They were misusing the facility provided for import,
birth of OCGs.
by avoiding tax under the condition that goods imported
would be exported back. According to an informant another
In Bombay, Among the OCGs that evolved and established
advantage enjoyed by those dealing with gems and precious
themselves during the sixties to the late nineties are: Karim
21 Chapter 1

Lala's group, Haji Mastan's group, Varadharajan's group,
Involvement of Organised Crime
Dawood group, Amar Naik group, Arun Gawli group, Dholakia
Groups in Drug Trade
group, Chota Rajan group, Chota Shakeel group and Abu Salem
Drug business, is an economically sound venture for OCGs
because of the huge profit margin.Ten kilograms of opium from
National policies regarding imports inadvertently facilitated
within the country can be processed to give one kilo of heroin.
smuggling. After the Indian independence, imports were highly
Only a few venture into the field because of the risks involved
restricted, the underworld took on smuggling of any goods that
and tight competition. The trade is not for amateurs, a newcom-
had a demand: gold, diamond, electronic goods, luxury item,
er needs to know somebody already in the field. Otherwise he is
arms etc. The mode of transport includes sea, air, and land
arrested under NDPS Act or eliminated. Police informers on
routes. The sea route that started decades ago continues to play
drug trade have close links with the underworld.
an important role. Transport of smuggled goods across the
country, whether for local consumption or for transit to another
The story of Shyam Narain Mishra is an interesting illustra-
country, is undertaken by land, sea and air routes (see Annex II for
tion of entry and growth in the drug trade. After his studies
some examples).
Mishra got married to an opium cultivator's daughter. He soon
learnt that diversion was part of the business and the huge
Drug trade in India was facilitated by its geographical prox-
price difference between opium in Uttar Pradesh and heroin in
imity to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and the
Bombay. He immediately recruited a retired employee of the
political disturbances that occurred in the region. As a result
Central Government to run opium factory at Ghazipur and with
India evolved as an important transit route for drug trade. For
his chemical expertise, he set up a simple bathtub technology
example, Afghanistan became an important producer of
lab in Bombay. He identified people with chemical expertise
opium with a cadre of expert drug dealers on account of the
looking out for a job. One of those employed became a police
cold war politics and the consequent internal turmoil. People
informer and the lab was destroyed. This was a blow to Mishra,
in Afghanistan live in an extreme climate and with hardly any
as it is difficult to restart this part of the drug chain.
means to a comfortable life. Under such circumstances some
of them have decided that opium growing is a better option
It is in the seventies that the involvement of organised
for them than the cultivation of other crops. This decision has
groups in drug trade came into prominence. In Bombay, Karim
been strengthened by the fact that cultivation of opium gives
Lala's group caught the attention of the media. He had begun
far higher returns than cultivation of any other crop in a given
to trade in cannabis products with the help of Jhuma Khan
plot of land. Besides, unlike other crops, opium needs less care
Charaswala. After the latter expired Karim Lala continued his
and irrigation. It has also been alleged that both United States
drug trade with Khan's son Farukh. Later Karim Lala's nephew
and Pakistan have encouraged opium cultivation as a way of
and brother joined the group.
financing weapon purchase by Afghans when they fought
against the former USSR (Sarwar, 1992). Recently, the Taliban
Karim Lala’s main activity was smuggling hashish into the
has imposed a ban on poppy cultivation with their usual style
country and exporting it to UK and other countries. As a
of threats. The UNDCP has launched a major crop substitution
Pathan he had easy access to Pathans in Pakistan and
programme there. However, there are hardly any example of
Afghanistan. The brand he sold then was called Bombay black.
crop substitution succeeding anywhere in the numerous
One of his henchmen later became a known international don
highland development projects. At best, cultivation shifts to
in the drug trade. H was Iqbal Mirchi, according to enforcement
different areas.
officials. But attempts to get him extradited from England have
failed for want of adequate evidence. Lala's group faced a set-
back after Haji Mastan withdrew from smuggling, which creat-
ed a vacuum in the underworld. Around this period Varadha
22 Chapter 1

Rajan’s group was also dismantled through police action.
Iqbal Mirchi
Before retiring from the field, Karim Lala was harassed by court
Iqbal Mirchi from Gujarat, began his career in a humble
cases and he soon sought truce with Dawood. After him, it was
manner. He used to work as a taxi driver and did roadside sales
Iqbal Mirchi who managed the drug scene along with other
of spices in his spare time. Slowly he began to take part in
groups. Iqbal Mirchi unlike the others from the underworld
organised theft of goods from the docks. These were insured
kept a low profile and managed his business in a smooth man-
goods, often oil, chemicals, steel, ball bearings and auto spare
ner. Though cases have been filed against him, nothing has
parts. It is alleged that Iqbal Mirchi was able to establish himself
come out of them.
in organised theft of insured property because he ensured the
fall of Varadha Rajan, then King of the docks. Along with nar-
cotics, he smuggled textiles and electronic goods. Contraband
The Drug Traders from the Eighties
was landed in Surat. He initially took the help of Amirzada and
Alamzeb, who were later killed. Later he shifted his activities to
The drug traffickers in the eighties were dealing with prof-
real estate and other business ventures, which helped him to
its beyond the dreams of earlier smugglers or even the dealers
launder money.
of charas or cannabis. For the profit through heroin at a con-
servative estimate was put at 125 to 200 million USD. In 1983
Iqbal Mirchi handled the Mandrax trade to South Africa and
the Gold seised was over one million USD, but in 1987 the
Canada, for the latter he took the help of a Canadian national,
quantity seised was 11.2 million USD. By the year 1988, the
Willima Pitt. He had manufacturing units in Surat and Vapi.These
amount went beyond 42.5 million USD in nine months. This
units were run under the guise of medicine manufacturing fac-
increase in gold seised cannot be explained by the profit mar-
tories. Later he increased his network by linking up with
gin in gold or the related hawala trade. The only explanation is
Dawood. His network soon spanned different parts of the coun-
that the gold smuggled in were on the funds from the outflow
try (Rajasthan, Surat, Ahmedabad, Kutch, Bombay and Alibagh)
of heroin (Kottary, 1988). Heroin became a handy substitute for
and other countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Dubai, Canada, Hong
silver ingots, a metal that had been traditionally bartered for
Kong, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa and Australia).
gold (Bombay, 1991).
Through his various trades he was able to build up assets
Unlike in the sixties when a few gangs trafficked in products
worth 50 million USD, most of them in the form of real estate in
of cannabis, in the eighties when heroin and its impure form
Bombay and London. He also has hotels in Dubai and a rice mill
brown sugar entered the field, many groups took up the activi-
in London. He lives in a select locality in London, where he is
ty of drug trafficking along with smuggling in gold and hawala
considered to be a businessman. A part of his assets, he claims,
business. Some of those who are alleged to have made it big in
came legally from the government, the Indian government has
Bombay were Iqbal Mirchi, Gurbux Bhiryani, Dawood Ibrahim,
paid him over Rs.1.60 crore over a period of six years for tipping
Kishore Bhatt, Bhavarlal Somani, Vinod Gulati, Narendra Bishnoi,
off customs officials about contraband. Informers who tip off
Shashi Chadha and Kamal Chadha. Others who became known
drug hauls are paid 20% commission. It is alleged that Mirchi
in Delhi were Sukhdev Sidhu, Surender Mehta, Dr. Gurdev Singh
through his close links in the customs ensured that drugs traf-
Sangha, Vinod Kumar Aneja, Jasbir Singh Sandhir, Jogender
ficked by his rival gangs were seised and at times also his own
Malhotra and Yudishter Kumar. Out of these Bhavarlal, Vinod
Gulati, Narendra Bishnoi, Gurbux Bhiryani, Sukhdev Singh Sidhu,
Surender Mehta, Dr. Gurdev Singh Sangha, Jasbir Singh Sandhu,
A handful of seisures cannot harm an established drug trad-
Joginder Malhotra and Yudhister Kumar were arrested (Kottary
er. For the business profit is so huge that even if a part of the
consignment reaches the destination, the venture can be prof-
itable. Unlike gold, only a small quantity needs to be trafficked
at a time.
23 Chapter 1

At present Mirchi is a comfortably settled businessman, he
The expertise of a packer is important to the trade. It helps
never had any direct contact with illegal activities as he dis-
in evading unwanted attention. The skill needs to be perfected
tanced himself from direct action. It is alleged that the arrest of
and changed when one method becomes too well known. In
Vicky Goswami, was manipulated by Mirchi. Another person
Gurbux’s outfit this person was Narendra Bishnoi in Bombay. He
who was arrested was Khalid Chappalwala, who was at the cru-
specialised in packing heroin in chocolate slabs and in arrang-
cial juncture of taking over the hawala trade from his mentor
ing couriers. Jasbir Singh Sadhu a second-generation gold-run-
ner in Punjab with links in Pakistan was an important person in
Gurbux’s organisation, wanted for as many as 18 violations of
Mirchi has been successful in evading the hands of the law,
the Arms Act. In addition to this he trafficked heroin and hashish
despite his arrest in London. He managed to evade extradition to
to UK and US, but never had his own roster of couriers (Kottary,
India. He even went ahead to apply for anticipatory bail to come
to India, when the government froze his assets in Bombay. Mirchi
has been accused of financing the serial bomb blast (Abraham,
The Gurbux Bhiryani group got caught trying to send hero-
1995, Bombay, 1995; Murthy, 1995; Indian Express, 1996, Thevar,
in packed in chocolate bars and cheese packs.The consignment
1998 and Basu et al. , 1999).
was to be taken in two parts; one belonged to Jasbir and the
other to Gurbux. The group used Zeenie Ahmed who was the
Gurbux Bhiryani
contact of Bishnoi and Manjula Desai was put in touch with
Gurbux Bhiryani was the man responsible for initiating the
Rajnibhai Patel a notorious Bombay cheat by Yogesh Pandey, a
Indo-Dutch connection racket in Canada.He had started his career
diamond dealer. Through Rajnibhai she got in touch with Gala.
unremarkably, migrating to UK as a penniless laborer.When arrest-
These two female couriers boarded the flight from Bombay-
ed and put behind bars, he studied and earned an engineering
Delhi-New York. In order to ensure that their consignment was
degree and then a doctorate in laser technology. The degree was
safe, a supervisor, H.S. Gala, was also on board (Kottary, 1988).
of no use to him after prison. No one was willing to give him a job
because of his criminal background.
The role of corruption in facilitating the trade was seen in
the case of Gurbux’s group. All messages to him were transmit-
He decided to give his full attention to setting up a drug run-
ted through his contact, Kshma Abhyankar, a telephone opera-
ning organisation out of India into Canada, with the headquar-
tor in a public sector corporation of New Delhi. When confront-
ters in The Hague since neither Netherlands nor India had an
ed by the NCB, Bhiryani is reported to have mentioned the
extradition treaty with Canada. He used the cover of Orient
names of two union cabinet ministers. The other instances of
Exports in Delhi to traffic hashish. To facilitate business he had
links were when Bhiryani disappeared for days when he was
links with partners and workers across the globe. Some known
shifted for medical care to a hospital from Tihar Jail. During his
personalities linked to him are Iqbal Mirchi, Kishore Bhatt, Vinod
appearance in court instead of being kept in the court lock-up
Gulati, Eric Hammer Quist, Shyam Mishra, Sunil Bhiryani (broth-
he was allowed to wander around freely near the lawyer’s
er), Manu Dadlani (brother-in-law), Rajnath Kasi and Billa Puri
(Brother-in-law). is contacts undertook money laundering, set-
ting up of laboratories, managing bank accounts, being couriers
for the trade and ensuring money flow.
Workers with different skills were employed in Gurbux
Bhiryani’s group. The contacts between workers were limited to
one level below and one level above. This ensured that the
groups were protected even if one of them were arrested and
disclosed whatever they knew.
24 Chapter 1

On the Structure and Functioning
It can be a mixture of both, making it an open system that has
of OCGs in Bombay
a highly fluid structure that adapts to changes in immediate envi-
ronment. The more homogenous and stable the environment,
Das (1994) studied the structure of the Calcutta underworld
the more formalised and hierarchical structure will be adopted by
with police records on four aspects:
the OCGs. Whereas in a diverse and rapidly changing environ-
. Whether they were homogenous in that they had
ment, a less organised form will dominate. This is in essence the
members with similar social and religious backgrounds.
contingency theory, which stresses that there is no best way to
. Factors behind the process of their criminalisation
organise. All organisations have fluid structures that adapt them-
. Their links with institutional politics
selves to the changes in their environment (Lawrence, 1967 in
. The type of crimes they committed.
Lombardo 1997).
Our main query for this section is whether OCGs of Bombay
Annelise Anderson (1974, in Lombardo, 1997) indicates
are feudal or bureaucratic or fluid in their structure and func-
that both bureaucratic model and patron-client models of
tioning. The crimes they commit have mostly been covered
organisational structure can exist at the same time. Her
under the section titled: Impact of OCGs on Society. The links of
research found that traditional OCGs did have positions of
OCGs with political parties is merely touched upon here. We are
boss, under boss, lieutenants and so on, but they were not as
exploring the dimensions of criminalisation in the next section.
organised as portrayed in bureaucratic models. Their associ-
The final sub-section of this chapter gives the details of the
ates carried out many activities necessary for the success of
grassroots level structure of drug trade as an example to show
the group and entered into patron client arrangement with its
that it is highly hierarchical and bureaucratic.
The structure of OCGs in Bombay is diverse in nature; the
Theoretical Resume
intra-group relationships can be described as a combination of
both the bureaucratic and patron-client models. There are,
The journey of our understanding of OCGs can be traced back
besides, individuals not directly linked to the gangs except on
to the early fifties when it was first defined. Donald Ray Cressey’s
assignments. At times gangs interact with smaller groups who
work constitutes a landmark in the theorization on OCGs through
control specific territories and tasks.
his presentation of their bureaucratic model in 1967 and 1969.
Subsequent researchers have questioned this highly structured

In Bombay, as OCGs developed, each had specific territori-
bureaucratic model, one of the strong critics being Joseph Albimi in
al boundaries and specialisation. Small time criminals,
1971. This criticism led to further research. Today we accept the
depending on their business acumen and ruthlessness, were
existence of a decentralised structure for OCGs, as well.
able to evolve as underworld dons. The structure of their
organisations and their activities depended also on the level
Others have moved beyond looking for specific model for
of competition. Among the various illegal activities of the
OCGs, there are indications that the structure of OCGs can be
gangs in Bombay were: trade in illicit liquor (till prohibition
fluid. It may not be a bureaucratic model like a business corpo-
was in force), gold, electronic goods, drugs and arms. Running
ration or government organisation — rationally structured to
brothels, collection of protection money, extortion, eviction
maximise profit/efficiency and accountability. It may also not
were equally their domains of operation.
have an exclusively feudal form, be organised by such actions
and by cultural values that have nothing to do with modern
It was during the eighties that the gangs became more
bureaucratic virtues.
organised and used technology to enhance communication
and control. Certain gangs began to have strategic alliances
outside the country to strengthen their position within India.
25 Chapter 1

They grew on to provide illegal goods and services, providing
The dealers in the Bazaar made payments to the galadaris
temporary solutions to problems ignored by the political
directly. Haji Mastan, had to have links with different groups in
administration. This smooth arrangement of underworld busi-
different areas, interacting with diverse communities of work-
ness faced a major crisis with the "Bombay Blast"(2) that shook
ers. His group also avoided confrontation with ordinary citizen
the city.
and believed that respect for other gang’s territory was crucial
for peaceful existence. Of course, this understanding between
Neither the structure nor functioning of the organised
gangs was vital for his business to survive. Thus we see a con-
crime is static. It keeps changing depending on the social real-
trast of two organisational forms in these two gangs due to (a)
ity and environment that surrounds it. While Varadha Rajan
a composition of the group (b) necessity of multi-nodal oper-
and Karim Lala were able to maintain a closed organisation
ating units.
and make their writ run, this was not the case with organisa-
tions that came up subsequently.
Unlike other groups Gawli had strong local support but
totally lacked any international connection. He had a large
workforce (around 800-1000), willing to try their luck starting
Examples of Bombay OCGs
small time and moving up the ladder. Gawli got into trouble
when he decided to enter the political arena. This was unac-
Karim Lala’s near homogenous group easily enforced their
ceptable to the local party that supported his OCG till then.
own set of laws in their territories (Sunday, 1988; Bombay,
Without political support, Gawli's group could not sustain itself
1989). Most of his group's key members were Pathans. His OCG
too long, since he could not compete with international players,
was a closed organisation. The elimination of key members
like Dawood and Chota Rajan. Harassed by numerous cases he
proved fatal to its survival. Samad Khan (his nephew),
kept moving in and out of jail. Not that the jail was a deterrence
Amirzada, Alamzeb, brother Rahim Khan, Chandrashekhar
to his work, for with his mobile phone he was able to continue
Saphalika and Jaffar Siddiqui were killed in a gang rivalry. By
organising his street tax. He, like other groups began to collect
1986, entangled in fifteen cases, he slowly lost his support
tax from professionals. With strong police action against extor-
structure and faded away from the limelight of the underworld
tionists and elimination of his members through encounter
(Indian Express, 1985; The Daily,1986; Times of India, 1986;
killings, his group's reach has shriveled but did not completely
Sayani,1987; Sunday, 1988; Shah,1988; Thomas 1991; Indian
Express, 1994 and Rattanani,1994).
Dawood could not afford to have a closed organisation; he
Unlike the Karim Lala's group, the group of Haji Mastan
needed all the support he could get to manage his organisa-
(also a migrant from south India) could not have a closed
tion. After his feud with Karim Lala’s group, he had to shift his
group. Mastan's main business was gold and other smuggled
base to Dubai; there was also a case against him. He was able to
goods. The activity occurred at different levels, in various loca-
get his work organised in India through his network. This he
tions depending on different types of people from distant
could manage since he maintained a business like approach in
places. Gold smuggling managed from Dubai or Singapore
his interaction with others. Hence, when there was a dispute
had its landing area and the gold dealers in India. Once the
between his lieutenant, Chota Rajan and his landing agent con-
dhows reached Indian territorial waters, a group of workers
trolling the western suburb, he had to support his landing
(invariably from migrant populations) meet the dhows at sea
agents. This is probably what made Chota Rajan part ways with
to unload the gold. The goods are carried in vehicles to the
final destination. There were different groups of workers, one
to collect the goods to bring them to shore, another to collect
The Dawood group has its bases in Dubai, London,
the goods and place them in the vehicles. The people driving
Singapore, Colombo and Kathmandu. At the national level they
and managing the next level of activities are totally different.
operate from Bangalore, Delhi, Indore, Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad
26 Chapter 1

and Ahmedabad. In Bombay Dawood has acquired around 54
To run an underworld business, purely on one's own reli-
structures, through both legal and benami (Proxy) transactions.
gious association is impossible. To an extent, this maybe possi-
ble within the city, but certainly not at the international level,
Activities undertaken by Dawood for maintaining his 1750
especially when one's counter parts are from Malaysia/
million USD monolithic smuggling cum trafficking empire
Afghanistan/Pakistan or other parts of South Asia.
include gold smuggling, drug trade, "vasooli" (collecting dues
from business men), settling scores, procuring foreign
The irrelevance of religious affiliations can be seen from the
exchange, "supari" (contract killing), securing college admis-
fact that most gangs, after the eighties, have people from vari-
sions. Many of the public from all walks of life approach him for
ous religious backgrounds. The marriage of Chota Rajan was in
justice, be it businessmen, industrialists or film personalities.
fact organised by Dawood in Dubai, a Hindu wedding — the
bride belonging to an upper caste Hindu community. Contrary
The work force running the show is grouped in the following
to popular notions in India, Dawood’s gang also has Hindu
members. "Despite the blasts, we have many Hindu boys working
. Money managers,
for us. Those who work for him in India get a handsome commis-
. Overseers of business transactions,
sion. Though Chota Rajan has left us, we still have many Hindus.
. Messengers,
Bhai has that personality that endears him to his men. Once you
. Fixers,
start working for him you can’t abandon him", says a close asso-
. Go between politicians and the police.
ciate (The Cohorts of Crime). Das (1994) too found a similar situ-
ation in Calcutta OCGs. The social background of OCG mem-
One such person was Romesh Sharma, a front man for
bers there varied; they came from different economic class,
Dawood. The actual name of Romesh Sharma is Styanarian
educational background, linguistic groups, religious communi-
Mishra. A native of Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh he is known in the
ties and even nationalities. Within a particular gang, he found
political circle since the time of Varadha Rajan. He used to enter-
two Anglo-Indians and a Chinese with a foreign passport
tain police and government personnel in hotels. The focus on
among the prominent goondas.
Romesh came partly from his involvement is facilitating the Visa
for Dawood’s mother, soon after the Bombay bomb blast. It was
But almost all OCGs seem to have an element of feudalism.
found that Romesh had property worth 125 million USD, fixed
In OCGs, loyalty is a must and is well rewarded. In his vast net-
deposits worth 175,000 USD, shares worth 250,000 USD, jewelry
work, Dawood retains loyalty with big money. "Bhai only
worth 125,000 USD and vehicles worth one million USD, with-
demands trust from you, the rest you can leave to him", Ahmed, an
out any accountable source. He had links with politicians and in
employee of Dawood said in an interview. Ahmed’s cover busi-
1996, he himself had contested the elections and floated a
ness is the plush shop he runs in Motan Das Market in the Old
party, the Bharatiya Congress Party. He has interactions with
Town. There are hundreds of people like Ahmed spread across
members of various political parties including those from the
West Asia, India and Pakistan.They work for Dawood or Shakeel
Congress (I), the BJP and the Samajwadi party.
and earn a handsome living. "You cannot imagine how much
they pay you. An acquaintance of mine, whose family member

Chota Rajan, as Dawood's lieutenant, had naturally
died for Dawood, gets $ 2,000 a month. It’s for life", says a
demonstrated his business skills after his split from Dawood
Pakistani trader. While Dawood buys loyalty, and while his men
after the bomb blast and the resultant public animosity
claim that Bhai never abandons any of his men, he’s reputed to
against Dawood's group which was a blessing in disguise for
be demanding and doesn’t tolerate those who "lie or disobey".
Chota Rajan. He had a chance to disown his association with
Such is the case of Aejaz Pathan. One of the key accused in the
Dawood and gain the sympathy of people by claiming to be
Mumbai blasts and a Dawood confidant, he along with several
others joined the don in Karachi to begin a new life. As the
story goes, Aejaz Pathan continued to smuggle drugs out of
27 Chapter 1

Pakistan despite repeated warning from Dawood. One day
toilets at night to use weapons such as Tokareu and Mauser pis-
Dawood came to know that Aejaz had begun dealing in RDX.
tols. They are trained how to load and unload a pistol, to cork,
So he rang up his Pakistani mentors who raided Aejaz’s house
point at the target and escape the scene of crime. They are
and arrested him. It was only when Aejaz’s wife personally
given real bullets only for the main operation; as a result they
pleaded with Dawood that he was released, but on condition
often miss a shot even at short distance. For their work, they are
that he would leave Karachi for Dubai and nevercome back
paid a small amount, USD 25 to 50 per assignment. Those who
watch the scene and do not shoot are given around USD 10
(Times of India, 1999).Thus it appears that at the grassroots level,
Among the youth taken into the gang, some are willing to
the organisation has a large turnover and is fluid but at higher
give their life for Dawood, as it is he who gives them food, shel-
levels, Dawood’s OCG is bureaucratic.
ter and clothing (Sheela, Bhatt, 1988). Such feelings occur more
in those who have a longer interaction with him and have the
While Dawood has problems managing the show from a dis-
minimum of other support structures. Both types of youth are
tance, the issues facing Arun Gawli group are of a different kind.
useful for the group, for one cannot disclose anything because
His group emerged in a specific locality. Till the police disman-
they know nothing and the other because the feeling of loyalty
tled his group, he was well settled in Dagdi Chawl. This area was
is intense, taking full responsibility for the crime is seen as an
well protected with 15 feet high wall, huge iron gates and elec-
opportunity to repay the goodwill.
tric wire. The entire population within Dagdi Chawl support
Gawli, they either collude with the gang or submit to its restric-
Dawood had to look at other options to run his trade, after
tions. They refuse to divulge any information to the police
the bomb blast. Most of his first generation supporters were
(Times of India, 1990; Balakrsihna, 1993).
either dead or behind bars. Looking for young recruits was not
too difficult with many aspiring youth, within the city and out-
side, willing to take up assignments for a small price. Dawood's
lieutenant Chota Shakeel handles that. Chota Rajan's group
does the same. The task is facilitated by the social reality in
It is the era of decentralisation in the underworld. It was
neighboring states. Take the situation of Azamgrah, in Uttar
long ago when Dagdi Chawl, with its group of 300 odd tene-
Pradesh. This district has the distinction of producing many
ments, Ghatla village (Chembur), 144 tenements (Lower parel)
gangsters, such as Abu Salem, Muna Singh and Babloo Singh
and Pakhmodia Street, was a cluster of mini fortresses, hideouts
(Gupta, 1998). In Azamgrah there is an average of one murder
for the gangsters and their aides. It was from here that an Arun
every three days, with daylight shooting between rival organ-
Gawli sent out his message of terror or a Dilip Kulkarni negoti-
ised groups being a routine affair. It has as many gangsters as it
ated a supari (contract killing). Today globalisation and tech-
has MPs. Often the political criminals and criminal politicians
nology have affected the modus operandi of gangsters who
lead small and big time gangs armed with AK-47s and G-35s.
have now fanned out. A Don can reign supreme sitting over-
seas issuing instructions and networking thanks to satellite
The lure of a fast buck, unemployment and respect for vio-
links and mobile phones (The Indian Express 29th April 2001).
lence make the youth highly vulnerable to join organised
groups. As a result they come to Bombay for their specific
assignment and leave the city by the next train on completion
Structure at the Grassroots Level
of their task. The underworld groups are happy as they have a
fertile land for their manpower (Joshi, 1997).
This part of the chapter is based on primary data collected
from members of OCGs dealing in drugs through in-depth
Recruits in Bombay are trained to use sophisticated
interviews and field observation.
weapons in a casual manner. They are often trained in public
28 Chapter 1

Unlike the middlemen and those above them, peddlers are
inhaling the drug. Three of the interviewee’s stated that initial-
generally uneducated and come from the poorer strata of soci-
ly they used to feel giddy and after they completed the work
ety, living on the pavements or in the slums. Often more than
they slept for sometime. One of the females involved in it got
one person from the family is involved in the trade. Since the
addicted to the drugs and used to slash her wrist to get the
nineties there are more women managing the business then
drug from her husband who also peddled and used drugs. To
men. This may have been a survival mechanism to avoid police
facilitate packing, butter paper in which the drug is to be
harassment and also as men peddlers tend to indulge in drug
packed, is cut to the required size and placed in a row in
use, whereas women peddlers use alcohol, which is less harmful
advance. While one puts the substance, the other person
for business.
packs the pudi properly. The color of the substance is not visi-
ble to the user, and he does not know the quality of the sub-
The business requires different kinds of work force, those
stance till he pays for it.
who collect the money, those who hand over the drug, those
who pack the drug, those who test it and those who act as
From the lump small quantities of the drug is removed for
watchdogs. They also employ a literate person to maintain
packing with the help of a small knife, the handle of a small
spoon or even the stove pin. The quantity to go into each pudi
was measured by one person to be the same size of the small
For sensitive jobs such as handing over the drug, collecting
lump at the end of a matchstick.
money and packing the drug, peddlers use their relatives. There
is a shift in this pattern, probably because close relatives get
arrested for possessing drugs. For example a female peddler
Watch Dogs
was forced to own up her crime, when her adolescent daughter
got caught with drug on her person. Now, some of the big
Those who work as watchdogs are all male and non-drug
timers employ others, often drug users, to hand over the sub-
users. A peddler especially a female peddler will employ three of
stance.The person who actually sells the drug just watches over
four unemployed youth for this purpose. They are well taken
his/her workforce, while they collect money and hand over the
care of, so they hang around the place of work and safeguard the
drug. Since, drug users are employed, the peddler can make
business and inform the peddler in case of trouble. Often the
payment in kind.
female peddler has a relationship with one of these watchdogs
or has a boyfriend on the side. She spends a lot of money on this
person, especially since the husband, invariably a drug user, has
little interest in a physical relationship. These partners are never
steady and she keeps changing them, the change is inevitable if
For packing one has to depend on the most trusted of per-
he ends up using drugs.
sons. Hence, it is one of the family members who pack’s the
drug. Women are involved in this activity, possibly because few
of the women are drug users. The packing is not done in the
place of safe-keeping, another location is selected for this activ-
Testing the drug is risky as the tester often ends up becom-
ing a drug user. In the drug trade, quality is very important for
At times any closed shack is hired for a period 2-3 hours.
getting customers and retaining them. Many rivalries between
The family goes outside the shack and sits around it, while the
peddlers emerge from this. Some peddlers have tried to use
packers sit inside and pack. For safety and to avoid the possi-
drug users to test the quality of the drug. This does not always
bility of a breeze disturbing the process, the entire work is
work. At times, just to get the share of the drug as payment for
done in a closed place. This in turn exposes the packers to
the service, they vouch for its quality. Later when other cus-
29 Chapter 1

tomers' complain the peddler is left with a lot of stuff that has no
and recovered nine packets containing 25.5 KGs of brown sugar
takers. Female peddlers depend on their drug-using husband for
(NCB, 1997, NCB, 1998).
testing the drug.
According to the data collected from those operating in the
field. There are a handful of people in charge of overall distribu-
Drug Peddling in Bombay
tion. They have strong links with the organised groups, but it is
not clear whether this is in the form of paying obeisance or
Bombay, the capital of Maharashtra is an important transit
partnership. It is very difficult to get information from those
point for drug trade to other countries. In 1999, a total of 77.99
who are at the top of the hierarchy and from others who finance
Kg of heroin and 181.62 Kg of methaqualone were seised.
the trade in the event of a cash crunch.
Among the fourteen significant seisures made in Maharashtra,
thirteen were in Bombay. Of which nine seisures took place at
Those who deal with large consignments subsequently dis-
the airport premises or the cargo consignment area for export
tribute it to middlemen. According to the data available from
goods. The major destination points of these consignments
the media, there are people who deal with only 50 Kgs at a time.
were African countries, and South Africa was the destination of
They later hand over the substance to others. As per our data,
three of the seisures. On two occasions South African Airlines
there are also middlemen (maybe second level) who deal with
was used for transportation.
20 KG at a time. They then distribute the drug to various desti-
nations through their carriers.
While Bombay plays an important role as a transit point, the
local market is also lucrative. An adulterated form of heroin
There are local as well as foreign carriers who are often
called brown sugar is the common drug of choice. Other drugs
Nigerian and Tanzanians. For example, Bhanumati Arvind Patel
used are pharmaceutical products, the demand for which
was arrested near Bandra Railway station for carrying 4 KG 200
increases when there is a sudden slump in the heroin market as
gm and 3 KG 800gms of brown sugar. He was also carrying a
a result of a few arrests or intense police action.
revolver with 7 rounds of ammunitions. The detenue, a school
drop out started his career with a videocassette library, then
In Mumbai city the crude or adulterated form of heroin is
shifted to the matka business. According to his statement, he
called the desi mal. At present there is a stronger and better
sold heroin to Nigerians. Using USD in the transaction, he pro-
product available, which, unlike the pure gray or white color of
cured and sold around 150KGs in one and half years. He
heroin is black in color. It is apparently easier to chase, as the
claimed he made Rs.12 lakhs through drug trafficking
user does not have to wait for the powder to melt nor for fumes
(Criminal Writ Petition n°: 1416, Bombay High Court).
to form. The black product is semi solid. According to the local
peddler, an oil base has been used for its preparation. The prob-
African groups keep the drug with their contact, and dis-
able additional advantage of this is that it looks like hashish.
tribute it to any purchaser who needs to make a delivery to an
already known customer. One of the peddlers received the drug
Heroin that reaches the streets of Bombay comes through
on an emergency basis by placing a phone call.
land routes. Mules bring them through trucks, train and other
vehicles.Truck drivers are considered to be useful links for trans-
This is the most visible activity of drug trade and hence the
portation within the country. For example in 1996, DRI
most vulnerable for the peddlers, "victims" of token intervention
(Bombay) intercepted a truck at Vasai, which was transporting
in drug prevention efforts. Street level sales occur in easily acces-
wheat form Amritsar and seised 71.577 KGs of heroin and
sible localities in the streets. A hut is often used to store or sell the
118.625 KGs of hashish.The consignment was to be delivered in
substance to customers. In 1998, officers of Mumbai Police
Bombay. On another occasion in 1997, officers of Narcotics Cell
searched a hut in Bombay city and apprehended one person and
and Customs (Prevention) intercepted a truck parked at Dongri
seised two kilograms from his possession. The man was arrested.
30 Chapter 1

From the data collected, the drug is rarely stored in the
Limitations of the Trade
peddler's residence. It is kept in another slum nearby, with
someone who may be a close relative or a neighbor who is
The basic objective of peddling is to give, on a daily basis,
indebted to the peddler in one manner or another. At times it
the regular customer good stuff on demand. Even at night, the
is kept in government flats of their relatives, for raids rarely
demands of regular customers are met. When the police picks
take place in these localities.
up one of the peddlers in the locality, the others then stop their
business, close shop for the day, go to the movies or go shop-
There are around fourteen important places for drug sale
within the city plus many other small time sellers. In each of the
fourteen spots there are more than two peddlers selling the
When a person is arrested and put behind bars, the business
drug on a daily basis. All of them maintain good business rela-
is held back or managed discreetly till the dispute with the
tions with the officials to sustain their business.
police is settled. The peddler waits till he/she gets the informa-
tion as to the amount of money to be given to the police, they
There is a difference between peddlers in terms of the qual-
know the price range of the officials and keep the cash ready in
ity of the drug they sell and the quantity they deal with at a
case of trouble. It is on these days of confusion that the peddler
time. Some peddlers deal with good quality drug and others
gets a holiday. Too long a break from the field can mean a loss
deal with the adulterated form, brown sugar. The price per
of regular customers.
"pudi" (quarter gram packets) of good quality drug is a little over
a USD, far higher than the usual price of 25 cents per pudi of
Peddlers take up their profession for money, which he/she
brown sugar. Depending on the business capacity of the ped-
earns but they continue living in the same locality. A permanent
dler, he/she deals with 250 gms to 5 KGs a day.
change becomes difficult, unless one leaves the locality after
getting a good break. Being tied down by circumstances they
Peddlers maintain a cordial relationship with the police.
rarely manage to make it big or operate in legality, rarely chang-
They give a weekly contribution called "hafta" to the police-
ing their lifestyle with more money coming in. A change would
men. When the business is doing well, then they have to give
raise difficult questions and to continue the business, they need
a larger contribution. At times rival peddlers in the same area
to live in the streets in a known locality.
inform the police about the status of business. Though they
maintain a cordial relationship with officials, they are at times
Community support is important in case of trouble and
arrested depending on the pressure from the top for some
helps prevent people becoming police informers. Peddlers help
action. The peddlers are not happy with such interference, at
local people financially during a crisis, to ensure some support
the same time they sympathise with the officials predicament.
or at least non-interference in their affairs.
On being arrested, a peddler doesn't have to end his busi-
Their only escape from their reality is to imitate the elite as
ness, another member of the family can take over and manage
far as possible. Going to the expensive hotel close by for their
it. On other occasions when the business in one area is com-
meals on a daily basis. While others go with their family/friends,
pletely disrupted, another new area crops up to cater to drug
the peddlers go for lunch and dinner with all those who facili-
users' demand. Known as the balloon effect, it illustrates the
tate their trade, around six to ten persons and spend a major
limitation of token intervention.
share of their earnings on food and drinks.
In spite of the high returns they rarely change their lives dras-
tically, unlike major players in organised crime with NRI accounts
to convert illegal earnings. The peddler has limited options,
banks are often out of their reach. For example, when Inder tried
31 Chapter 1

to save his drug money in the bank he got into difficulties. The
Despite the money they save for the family, the children
bank was close to his house and the bank manager questioned
remain illiterate, unable to manage money in a productive man-
him about his source of income.
ner. There is often this false impression that the income will
never stop. They tend to waste it on anything they fancy. The
He found it difficult to accept that a person living in a shack
lifestyle of the peddler and his/her family continue to remain
could make around USD 125-250 a week. Inder claimed that he
the same. The worst happens when the peddler dies for there is
dealt in stolen property and the same week withdrew his money
never any document relating to the money/assets he/she
saying his mother was unwell, and left Bombay for sometime.
saved. Only a few manage to save in distant places and manage
to shutdown business in Bombay and shift their base totally.
Peddlers have evolved other ways of saving money. One is to
purchase gold and keep it with the local "Marwadi". The gold is
often pawned for far less than its actual worth. At times they
The World of the Actors in Crime
give money to the local Marwadi who, in return, lends it out on
interest and gives a small percentage to the peddler. Female
In this section, we base ourselves on primary data collected
peddlers' often take their guards with them, to ensure that the
from 23 actors in the world of organised crime. Many factors
Marwadi does not cheat them. They also save up in fixed assets,
may have contributed to their entry into crime such as Low self-
procured in the name of relatives and at times outside the city,
esteem, social tension, fear, neighbourhood conditions (in many
such as land.
areas, crime is a daily reality), economic insolvency resulting
from family poverty, failure of family business or loss of employ-
In addition to regular expenses paid to the police and local
ment, falling down from grace.
goondas in the form of hafta, they have to be prepared for major
raids. Invariably a large sum is kept within reach with a close
The process of primary data collection
friend or relative, which can be drawn day or night. It is this facil-
The interviews depended on the researchers’ gaining the
ity of timing that makes banks inconvenient.
acceptance of and establishing a rapport with the actors. Of
help were contacts established through people known to the
Another expenditure of the peddler is the investment on
actors yet not involved in criminal activities. These people
community support. The peddler can never do business with-
understood the researchers’ interests to be purely humane and
out the community turning a blind eye on his illegal activities.
This he/she achieves by giving money to those in need and by
investing money on close family members. Often a close rela-
Primary data collection from the actors in the world of crime
tive can take a huge amount merely by hinting about the possi-
was complicated by the unpredictability of their occupation,
bility of informing the police.
making it difficult to fix up interviews and expect adherence to
any schedule. Our organisation (the National Addiction
Expenses involving arrest invariably drains the peddler, in
Research Centre — NARC) runs a free hospital for addicts, which
addition to lawyer’s fees, police bribes, he ends up paying a
has treated over 6000 patients drawn from the slum and pave-
huge hafta to gang members inside the jail. When members
ment dwellers of Mumbai. The fact that we were from NARC
hear of a peddler amidst them, he is immediately targeted. The
reassured our respondents. Some of them had seen us in vari-
gang leaders collect regular hafta and ensures that the peddler
ous drug dens over the years and never suspected us as being
spends on him and on his associates. The media has reported
police informers or agents. However, it was not rosy all the way.
instances of Arun Gawli gang beating up inmates detained
Despite being contacted by people trusted by them, some
under NDPS Act for obtaining protection money to the tune of
respondents did put a tail on us up to our office. On one occa-
1000 to 4000 USD. This has happened within the jail premises
sion, they followed the principal investigator up to her resi-
and with the knowledge of the officials there (Ranade, 1991).
32 Chapter 1

It became evident that the researchers had gained the trust
is at best speculative. We have made an attempt to get to the
of the actors and that the genuineness of their inquiry was
reality as much as possible.
accepted when they agreed to spare long hours for the inter-
views. The interviews were free flowing with no notes being
a) Initiation into crime
made during the initial interviews — to facilitate rapport build-
Though case studies from primary data for this research
ing and avoid breaks of thought out answers. Some of our
chapter that several field level operators joined OCGs to achieve
respondents were willing to permit us to take brief notes of the
financial success and to attain quasi-respectability, they do not
interviews, but most were not. Details of each interview were
explain the entire picture. Currently there is a case in court of a
noted after the session. Where insufficient data was available
wealthy diamond trader, who also doubled as a film-financier,
follow up interviews were conducted.
being accused of collusion with the OCGs; money laundering
and routing of extortion money into the share markets. If the
The interviews were not free of hiccups. With experience, we
official line is true, how can the deprivation related theories
learnt to refine our non-verbal communication. Once an inter-
explain a billionaire’s entry into OCGs? May be for such people
viewee abruptly terminated the interview. Later he explained to
entry into OCGs may be necessitated by their occupations. The
the contact person that he was being taped.The researcher had
case of O.P. Singh who was recently arrested in Delhi would per-
in fact put her hand inside her handbag, absentmindedly, dur-
haps require a complicated explanation. Most of his family
ing the conversation. Extreme care was taken thereafter to keep
members are teachers and academics including his father and
handbags at a distance. On another occasion an interviewee,
elder brother. He has a master’s degree from the University of
still wanted by the police, insisted that the interview room be
Mumbai and was employed as quality control officer at
locked from outside, to make others assume that the room was
Mazagaon Docks in Bombay till the early 1990s. Currently he
has been charged with extortion and twenty police stations in
Bombay want him for various offences connected with the
It was difficult to retain the detached researcher's role
underworld. "His entry into crime was by compulsion and not
throughout when criminals often shared their life stories for the
choice according to police records" (Mid-Day, 1st June, 2001).There
first time, especially traumatic experiences. Interviews scheduled
are yet others who have had other options to change their lives
for half an hour, sometimes stretched on for three to four hours.
but they still join the gang perhaps for the thrill and joy of being
Listening to first hand descriptions of violent acts of crime in a
a part of the fast life.
detached manner was not an easy task. We could maintain a
non-judgmental attitude throughout this exercise only because
Cultural deviance theory explains crime in terms of sociali-
of our firm belief that existential reality and development
sation and environment. A person turns criminal learning crim-
dynamics have a major role to play in a person's decision to step
inal behavior from role models, usually friends or family mem-
into a life of crime.
bers. Unless he/she experiences countervailing examples of
law-abiding behavior, the person ends up being a criminal. This
The respondents too had their own difficulties as can be
can be said to be the case of people entering crime, in certain
noted by the exclamation of an interviewee: "So, you have come
pockets of the city, where the gang has a total control over that
to listen to me be little myself for your research purpose! "
Reliability of data
Whereas, the control theory states that crime is caused by
Data presented here have been cross-checked with two or
alienation from the surrounding social institutions, a person
more different sources for reliability. With actors (members of
becomes a delinquent because his bond with society is weak or
the OCGs), repeated interviews were done for the purpose.
broken. There are four elements of bonds between the individ-
However, with most things to do with the Mumbai mafia, reli-
ual and society:
able data are hard to come by and most of the media reporting
33 Chapter 1

. Attachment (defined as involvement with others)
Entry into the world of crime occurs as a result of the com-
. Commitment (investment of personal resources in
bination of the social reality that creates relative deprivation
legitimate goal)
and individualism. The irony of the situation is illustrated in the
. Involvement (involvement in conventional activities)
case of a woman who began drug peddling because she was
. Belief (defined as acceptance of national social val-
not willing to tolerate sexual abuse when she worked as a
housemaid after her husband passed away. On hearing her
predicament, a friend who was in the trade suggested she
A few cases in our data illustrate the despair faced at a
entered it.
young age as result of non-attainment of some of these values,
especially attachment, being cut off from socialising institutions
In another instance a woman had taken up part time work as
such as family, school, religious institutes and community.
a sex worker and in the process had a police official as a regular
customer. On knowing that someone from the police was fre-
In the city, migrant populations are vulnerable to induction
quenting her place, her friends from another locality who ped-
into criminal careers as a result of social disintegration. This is
dled drugs requested her to keep their stuff in her residence.
especially true in the case of second generation migrants dis-
Under the given circumstances, the chance of any checking tak-
placed from the organised sector witnessing the economic suc-
ing place was minimal. She obliged them and in return they took
cess of a few without themselves having the resources to obtain
care of her monetary needs. This arrangement was disturbed
it. Unlike first-generation migrants, the second-generation
when a senior official came to check out on the police personnel
migrants have very little contact with their native culture, which
on receiving a complaint. The police official was transferred and
leads to their marginalisation. However, it is not just the
she was left with no source of income and so she shifted her
migrants who are vulnerable. Factors of relative deprivation and
locality and began peddling drugs with her friends.
individualism, in combination, make the situation fluid. It is no
longer possible to identify any specific group (be it a minority or
As per the limited data available, the factors that in combi-
migrants or others) as being susceptible to crime.
nation lead to an entry into the world of crime are: poverty, dis-
ruption in social setting, lack of adequate social support, alien-
In Bombay, those who indulge in crime (financial and other
ation from social institutions, absence of skills for upward
types) are not necessarily from the marginalised groups.
mobility in the legitimate world, contact with individuals
Instances of middle class youth involved in extortion, is a clear
involved in crime, proximity to places vulnerable to crime (such
indication of the difficulty in ascertaining the causes of crime.
as docks and involvement in dealing with stolen property),
Stock market frauds defy any such notion that the poor or the
need to sustain the drug use of a partner/self, introduction to
minorities are alone in the crime world. Even the definition of
criminal world in the Children's Remand Home, being a tourist
crime becomes difficult as the legitimate trade is closely entan-
guide (satisfying clients’ requirements), desire to protect family,
gled with the illegitimate as in the case of the film industry — its
desire to make fast money and exposure to fast, luxurious life
sources of finance are invariably from black marketeers. Jewelry
style. In order to give some insights on the local scene, some
makers and shops are used to and continue to depend more on
cases are presented here as illustrations.
smuggled gold than the legal gold (Bhagirathi, 2000). This is
mainly to avoid paying taxes. Seldom do many jewelry shops
give receipts. Their books of accounts are often sui generis.
Case A
However, both primary and secondary data on the process of
Mr. Raj’s parents had migrated to Bombay to make a living
entry into crime show that involvement in crime cannot be
settling in a colony on the suburbs of Bombay. His family being
explained away by any single perspective.
two married sisters, a younger brother and his mother. In the
early eighties they were relocated to another suburb.
34 Chapter 1

In the earlier suburb, he used to work at a zari (embroidery)
Raj began to socialise with his new friend and enjoyed their
workshop and gave whatever he earned to his family and kept
life style of spending money on good clothes, food and drinks.
only a small percentage for himself. The sudden relocation
Raj never had money to spend on these items, it is others in the
changed his life. Having shifted during the monsoons they
group who took care of his expenses. His time for repayment
found no shelter even from the rain. The temporary houses
came when one day he was woken up from his sleep and taken
were made of thick plastic sheets thrown over bamboo sticks,
to a place and told to do a "job". Which was to slash a person he
the winds kept blowing away the plastic during the rains.
never knew.
He tried to get a job in vain. There where no small business-
men, no workshops with there being no infrastructure. Besides,
Case B
some had sold everything and shifted to another place. Raj’s
mother began to sell what assets they had in the form of orna-
Mr. Babar, aged 45 lives with his wife and two children in a
ments. Everyday in the morning he left home with hope but
suburb of Bombay. He did his eleventh std in the Urdu medium.
returned in the evening totally disheartened.
Further education required good knowledge of English, and he
was not familiar with the language. In order to continue his edu-
While looking around for a job some friends of his who were
cation he needed to go for tuitions, which his parents could not
pick-pockets asked him to join them. Since he did not have the
afford. Thus, he discontinued his studies.
skills for pick-pocketing, he was supposed to be their body-
guard in case of trouble. He had to divert the attention of the
He used to stay in a boarding school coming home for holi-
public and ensure that the person with the money left.
days. Often, he witnessed lumpen elements in the slum area
Pick pocketing is never done by a single individual but by a
harass his father on one pretext or another. His father, soft by
small group. This ensured that the person who actually picked
nature, never retaliated. Seeing their physique, he worked on
the pocket could pass on the stolen items to another group
improving his body and boxing skills. After school hours he
member. The Bombay public, always harassed by pick-pockets,
used to practice in a deserted area close to the slum. Initially
never let a person off in one piece if found with the stolen item
with a novice friend, picking up a few hints on boxing he began
on him. He did the work for a few months, but was not happy
practicing with other boxers.
with it as his mother kept abusing him for his involvement in
Prepared, he waited for the local lumpen elements to come,
when they did, he ensured that they would think twice before
Much later, he came across one of his old friends who had
coming again. The group was surprised, they had never expect-
just completed his sentence for murder. He began to socialise
ed any protest. They were just going around doing the regular
with this friend and his criminal circle of friends. According to
business of troubling everyone, which included Babar’s father.
him till then his life had been little "teda" (deviant), but with his
They never troubled his family again and Babar earned the rep-
new circle of friends his life became completely teda.
utation of being a tough guy.
While hanging around with his new friends from the crime
In between he had begun to work in a shop at the docks as
world, a rich man in the locality approached Raj and told him,
a painter. As an assistant earning a regular monthly income. It
"You do not have to do what you are doing. I am willing to support
was when he married and had a child that the money he got
you". Raj replied that he would be unable to support Raj forever,
from the docks proved barely sufficient to run a family, leaving
on a continuous basis, and he was not willing to stand in front
him pondering.
of anyone’s house and ask for money on a daily basis. Since
being dependent on anyone’s sympathy made him feel very
A friend then introduced him to beer. Never too short of
cash, this friend had always tried to support him. Then he went
35 Chapter 1

on to hard liquor, on a regular basis. The drinking sessions went
His sister was having a bath, while waiting for her to come
on till late, leaving him too tired to work the next day. Being
out he saw food all ready and decided to serve himself, as he
absent from work on a regular basis, one fine day he lost his job.
was getting late. Just as he filled his plate and began eating, his
sister came in from her bathroom and saw him with the food. He
He did not mind being thrown out, his friend continued to
told her that since he was getting late for school, he decided to
provide him with good food and liquor. He also organised a job
help himself.
for him, as a coolie for passenger ships. There were regular pas-
senger ships those days and he got at least one or two assign-
His sister took away his plate, removed the food and said
ments a month. Making around Rs. 3000-Rs. 4000 an assign-
"Either you work and earn your food or if you want to study, go to
ment, he was earning an adequate income to run his family.
school and forget your hunger". His eyes brimmed over, as he
recalled the incident, and he said he could never forget the inci-
He was one of those who put the ladder up and went inside
dent.That day he went home and threw his bag on the floor and
the ship when it docked.He was to inquire whether any passenger
said goodbye to his education.
wanted his group’s help to avoid paying a huge duty. Learning
from the passengers what goods they carried with them, he
He did try to get odd jobs, but found it difficult as he was
passed on this information to his group member which included
very young. Then he began to steal salt from the salt field and
the clearing agent.
then sold it at a distant market place. For every bag of salt he
earned Rs. 10 to Rs. 15. He gave his entire earnings to his moth-
Later, carrying the luggage to the official they had made a
er, as he had no vices and did not feel the need for personal
deal with, he ensured that other officials did not notice it, to
avoid trouble. Each passenger gave Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 (in var-
ious currencies) which was then pooled by the group and
A person then suggested that he seek a job at a hotel close
shared equally. Babar, thus shifted from a regular job, to one
to a building construction site. He got the job and was very
that manipulated the system and supported illegal entry of
happy there. His boss gave him some space to sleep, food and a
monthly payment of Rs. 300 - 400. The boss also bought his toi-
letry for the month. The monthly payment was always collected
by one of his family members.
Case C
One day he was sitting on a high stool and frying snacks,
Mr. Sheikh aged 44, has been in Bombay from childhood. His
when another boy dropped a can from the shelf above which
parents migrated to Bombay to improve their lives. He had his
tipped the pan over. The hot oil fell on Sheikh’s legs, he
parents, three sisters and two brothers. The mother had given
screamed in pain.
birth to eleven children of whom only six survived. The rest died
at birth or during infancy, of illness. In early childhood his father
After that he was bedridden for days, his boss tried to con-
passed away.
sole him saying that his earnings would continue and gave him
home remedies to deal with the wound. Later, he thought, he
After going to school till the second standard, he had to dis-
would feel better if he went home and so took leave from his
continue his education, because of financial problems. Sheikh
boss and went home. Within a few days his mother, asked him
loved studies and went to school regularly. One day before leav-
to stay with his sister for sometime.
ing, feeling hungry he asked his mother for food. His mother
told him to go to his sister’s house as it was not yet ready. His sis-
At his sister’s place, he was told to go back to his mother.
ter lived nearby with her husband.
Though tired of being sent from one place to another and being
criticised about being careless and a burden on others he never
36 Chapter 1

thought of asking them about his having given them his entire
Case D
income for so many months.
Kishore lived in a suburb of Bombay where his parents had
During this period while walking by a deserted place close
migrated. When he was five, his father died. After his death, his
to the salt pans, he saw a big snake. A part of him wanted to run
mother was married off by her family. His mother wanted him
away and another part said "What the hell, this is the end there is
and his younger sister to be with her, but an uncle refused to
anyway nothing but pain in my life". The next thing he remem-
send Kishore to his mother. Kishore being the last symbol of his
bered was two adults shaking his shoulders and asking him why
brother, he wanted his nephew to stay with him.
he stood there in front of the snake. Apparently, they had
chased the snake away.
After being separated, he used to lie around his uncle's
shack. The shack had a small attic where he used to spend most
He then looked for other options and got work at a huge
of the time. No one thought of sending him to school. The food
mutton factory. His job was to carry the carcass and hang it on
he received was hardly enough to satisfy his hunger.
a dangling hook.To do this he had to walk with his back towards
the hook. The carcass made the hook swing and on placing the
One day his aunt decided to send him to school, but no one
carcass, he had to move to one side, or the entire weight would
bothered to buy him his books. He often went to school hungry
hit him on his back.
and ravenously ate the small pieces of bread and drank the lit-
tle milk they distributed at school. After one year, he left school
One day while moving away, he slashed his leg on a chopper
to look for odd jobs.
held by a butcher standing close by. He did not feel much pain
and took no notice. Some time later he went over for a chat with
He took up a job as a handcart puller but found it difficult as
the women who prepared the items for packing. They were
he was not very healthy. Around this time he heard of a new
good to him because he was so small. One of them told him that
product available which could improve one's life style. He had
there was blood on his leg, bending over, he saw the blood,
seen others change their life by marketing this new product.
assuming it must have come from the meat he brushed it away.
He then realised it was his own blood and fainted. He returned
He contacted a friend whose sister was in the trade.The lady
home to find the earlier experience, of being shunted from one
put him in touch with a person who supplied the drug.Taken on
place to another, repeated.
as an assistant, he learnt the trade, changed his life, and went on
to become an expert in drug trade.
One night, two friends came over and they sat around dis-
cussing their lives. They worked out that if they continued
b) Recruitment Process
working, they would never reach anywhere. They would have
Entry into the world of crime and subsequent recruitment by
to look at other alternatives. One of them knew people mak-
an organised group is a process and not events that follow one
ing a living stealing for others in the docks, so they all decided
after the other. In general, there are two methods through which
to join in. This person later went up in the hierarchy of crime
a person may be recruited into a gang. One through the selec-
and has now many people working under him.
tion process from a group of new aspirants and another, through
the selection from inmates serving their sentence in jails.
New Aspirants
New aspirants are usually from the same locality or they
reach the circle through word of mouth. No one is selected into
37 Chapter 1

the gang when they are in operation (Thomas, 1998), unless a
Once comfortable with the routine, he befriends people and
known member from the gang vouches for him.
develops some vices. Then, the gang strikes. They engineer his
arrest usually on a petty charge. Then the "social worker" steps
The person who is the "sponsor" is therefore the one who
in. (He is a person whose job is to bribe lawyers, lower court
keeps a watch on the individual's activity, sincerity and loyalty
magistrates, policemen, to ensure — if not a quick discharge, at
to the group. At first they are not given any specific activity, but
least a judicial remand rather than police custody for the boys.
later they may be asked to do acts such as collection or carrying
This ensures that they are not bashed up by the cops). The boy
money/arms from one area to another.
is assured that the gang leaders will protect him, and that the
social workers will get him a judicial remand instead of police
After the aspirant has entered the world of crime he is
custody. The individual is extremely grateful to the social work-
exposed to a different life-style without any personal expense.
er and group.
He develops good feelings towards the sponsor which
strengthen the sense of loyalty which is crucial to avoid any risk
In jail, he is well looked-after, he gets good food and meets
in case he, the new recruit, is arrested. To avoid any risk, the per-
gangsters who brag about their killings, their life style. Inside
son is observed under different situations.
the jail, his indoctrination is almost complete. When out of
prison, he is asked to lie low for some time before he is given his
Some industries often have established links between the
first big assignment. This can range from passing on a weapon
criminal world, the elite and the government machinery. Here,
to assisting someone in a killing to delivering extortion threats.
individuals under extreme economic deprivation are willing to
On the successful completion of this job he becomes a gradu-
make a fast buck and can be selected and socialised into the
ate ready for a career in the underworld (M. Baghal, 1998).
world of crime. The textile industry is one example.
The flourishing textile industry in 1976 employed as much
Recruitment in Jails
as 27 percent of the city’s population, by 1991 the figure went
down to 12.5 percent. In 1998, those employed by textile mills
Life in jail is a different world in itself, people who are
were down to a single digit figure. This created a sense of root-
respected are those who evoke maximum fear through their
lessness among children of the retrenched migrant laborers.
deeds and contacts. The most respected person is the one with
These second generation migrants have no village to go back
links to the gangs, murderers come second and robbers last. It
to, Bombay being the only home they have known.
is very easy to identify a person who is powerful. He invariably
has a handful of "boys" hanging around him to massage him
This creates a class of people who feels deprived and exists
and run petty errands for him while he lays back and relaxes.
in an urban climate that encourages uninhibited expression —
it is a lethal combination (Baghel, 1998).
Those with the money and the right contacts have nothing to
worry about, everything is available to them in jail. Liquor,
A member of the Arun Gawli gang described how a young
cigarettes, cannabis, brown sugar. When a person smokes, three
boy can be socialised into the world of crime and at the same
or four people sit around talking to him, waiting for him to throw
time feel a sense of gratitude towards the gang members. For
the butt to grab it. In case a chillum is smoked, others hang
example, a boy may be asked to keep a watch on the move-
around to inhale it.
ments of a particular person or a policeman, or just count the
number of times a patrol van comes into a particular lane. For
At times a person becomes so used to the jail that he finds
this, he is paid up to Rs. 2000, a handsome bonus for a family
it more comfortable then the outside world. A person who has
with a monthly income of Rs. 800 to Rs. 1000. Since this is not
been in Children's Home (remand home for children) or has
illegal, the deal is easily made.
been locked up is not scared about going to jail. He knows it is
38 Chapter 1

just another place to learn new skills, further his network and
ready. He was surprised at the incident and tried to ask them the
increases the avenues to money and power. The conversation
reason for their visit. They did not reply to any of his queries.
in jail revolves around their criminal activities.
When he was ready, they took him to a distant place. As Raj
By the time he leaves jail he is well-seasoned in all acts of
was in the habit of drinking, he did not have a clear mind. When
crime, even the fear of imprisonment disappears. The workload
they reached the place Raj saw a person who was totally sur-
is also not too heavy in jail. Jails are preferred by criminals as a
prised to see a group of individuals with weapons. One of the
place to earn money or to avoid the wrath of rival gangs. A rela-
group members overpowered the stranger, another member of
tive of one peddler, when jailed, joined a gang from within the
the group placed a weapon in Raj’s hand and told him to slash
jail and then began to send money regularly from within the jail
the stranger. Raj had no option but to follow instructions and
to his home. Though there is supposed to be no money trans-
collect the payment for the job.
actions inside the jail there is always a way out. Gang members
also consider jail as a good hiding place from rival groups. Six
members of the Gawli gang avoided paying a bail of Rs. 2000 in
Case F
order to escape the wrath of rival groups (Times of India, 1994).
Mr. Amar aged 45 lived with his parents and siblings. His
In the end recruitment is a process where the intentions of
father was a "social worker" who enjoyed having money to gain
the new entrant are tested out. He becomes accustomed to a
acknowledgement and the service of others. There were always
different lifestyle until ordinary jobs can no longer satisfy his
two to three people hanging around his father massaging his
needs. Loyalty and its evidence in acts of crime are extremely
hands and legs.Though he spent on others, he avoided spending
crucial. For example, when Shakeel, 26, left the village for
on his children.
Mumbai he started working at Abu Saleem’s (a Dawood gang
) hotel.
Amar was very scared of his father and disliked him, but
never could express it. As a result of his rift with his family, he
In Mumbai, he met Abu’s friendKhurshid, another don. Soon,
began to spend more time outside his house. He used to be
Shakeel was asked to prove his loyalty to Khurshid during a
friendly with a group that was involved in many anti-social
shootout between Khurshid’s gang and that of his arch rival.
activities. They spent most of the time, from day till night-time,
When Shakeel bumped off the kingpin of the rival gang,
together, and through them he began to meet people from an
Shakeel found instant entry into gangdom. In a recent trend
organised group. Since most of their time is spent drinking and
after the Bomb blast, the gangs managed by bosses from out-
eating together, a friendly relationship develops.
side are preferring new recruits with a clean background in
order to reduce police detection (Sujay, Gupta, 1998).
Recruitment depends on the interest shown by the new to
be recruited. No one goes out of his way trying to bring a per-
son into the circle, but invariably a new person gets enamored
Case E
by the life style. Which includes drinking at expensive bars, hav-
ing good food of different kinds and driving cars. The lifestyle
Below are the details of case A mentioned earlier in this
attracts the individual, he continues to move in the company of
study: this is how Mr. Raj, who had enjoyed life having lots of
new-found friends, and then without realising it accepts the
money and without having to spend on anything, was forced
assigned "job".
without any coercion to enter crime.
Without being clear as to what the work is about, he goes
He was fast asleep when four people with weapons entered
along with the group and does his first violent crime, for which
his house. They woke him up from his sleep and told him to get
he is given enough money. After this, he either keeps a low pro-
39 Chapter 1

file or leaves Bombay for some time until he is ready to take on
In Bombay, a clear illustration of selectivity of justice is the
further assignments.
conviction of those arrested under NDPS Act, 1985, and people
on trial after being caught with a small quantity of drugs. Often it
Often the attempt is to recruit those who hardly have any
is the poor who are caught with small quantities of drugs or
support structure. "Besahara" ( person without any family sup-
unsuspecting first time mules who have no resources to seek
port and poor) people are given preference. Amar pointed out
legal help and consequently languish in jails (Anuradha, 1998(b).
one assistant as an example. (Amar has six to seven youth hang-
ing around, willing to do various job for him)
. He said, his assis-
It is also observed that big timers manage to get released on
tant Shan has no support structure to satisfy his dream to
technical grounds and small timers are at times convicted. As
make it big. Having just completed his "VIII std." he dreams of
per case number: 67/1989, Shri. Kwabena Osei, accused of
getting a secure and easy government job. In India, the mini-
smuggling Rs.10 lakh worth brown sugar, is set free on techni-
mum qualification required for a government job is a pass at
cal grounds. At the same time as per case number 137/1993
the High School Level.
Sanjay Laxman Patole, is convicted for possession of three
grams of brown sugar.
Amar placed him with a private agency, but he left because it
involved hard work. Amar mentioned he helped Shan for many
In another case, 375/1993, Daniel Odemonam was accused
years and that Shan considered him a big brother. Shan would
of smuggling 2 Kgs. of brown sugar, but was set free as legal
do anything for Amar without blinking an eye. Amar said the
procedural requirements were not followed. In contrast, case
group, if they recruit at all, would recruit such people who are
38/1988, Vinod Kisan Zaveri was found in possession of seven
extremely loyal.
pills of charas and was convicted. Other instances are cases of
financial frauds and the plight of small timers in their tussle
He said that unlike earlier days, today’s youth from the slums
with the law. Those involved in big financial frauds of billions of
want to enjoy the pleasures of what money can buy without
dollars hardly ever enter jail, while the arrests of small time rob-
much struggle. All the six assistants of Amar are school failures,
bers and those guilty of fraud keep increasing.
who dreamt of getting a government job. Unable to do so, they
say they like hanging around with Amar and doing any "job" for
A different illustration of selectivity is seen in the nexus
between gang members and jail officials. A judge recently dis-
missed a case against Anthony Veerswamy (alias Kaliya) and six
c) Selectivity of Justice
others for rioting and threatening witnesses inside the jail. They
This aspect has been clearly illustrated by Edwin
are all associates of Samad Khan. Samad Khan (nephew of Karim
Sutherland (1940) in Young, 1999. According to him " The theo-
Lala) was in jail standing his trial.
ry that criminal behavior in general is either due to poverty or to
the psychopathic and sociopathic conditions associated with

From inside the jail he ordered his associate to bring the wit-
poverty can be shown to be invalid… the generalisation is based
ness against him, Mr. Kashmiri, to the jail premises for cross-
on a biased sample which almost entirely omits the behavior of
examination. Mr. Kashmiri, who came with his son, Nasir, was
white collar criminals.The criminologists restricted their data, not
harassed and beaten inside the jail's judicial room. They also
as a principle but for reasons of convenience and due to igno-
forced him to sign blank papers before letting him go. All this
rance. They were drawn largely from cases dealing with criminal
was done in the presence of jail officials. The judge who dealt
courts and juvenile courts, agencies principally used for criminals
with the case said it surprised him why the officials who were in
from the lower economic strata. Their data are grossly biased
the jail premises were not accused in the case. In addition to
from the point of view of the economic status of criminals.
this, he stated that he did not understand why the big fry was
Consequently their generalisation that criminality is closely asso-
allowed to go scot-free and the smaller fry was implicated
ciated with poverty, is not justified".
(Chandrashekhar, 1995).
40 Chapter 1

Another method adopted by the police to manage the
prisons all over the state. For gang members carried over their
show is to undertake selective intervention depending on the
grudges into jails and continued warfare within the jail. As an
political pressure. Based on the political party in power, certain
example, in 1994, when Gawli members were sent to Arthur Jail,
organised groups are selected for intervention and cleaning
they were promptly dispatched to Thane Jail, for the former
up. This leads to small groups cropping up to fill the vacuum.
detained many members of the Dawood Ibrahim group (Times
The police dare not disturb the new bred of COGs for they rep-
of India, 1994).
resent the source of extra income. This was clearly seen in the
case of the attack on Varadha Rajan groups, or the harassment
In the case of NDPS Act, there is a clear reflection of police
of Gawli's group after he began to enter politics (Pereira, 1986)
giving in to pressure by "filling up suspects/cases". This was
It is interesting that the fall of Varadha Rajan coincided with the
especially true during the initial period, when police used to
death of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
round up drug users for filling in their case requirements. This
subjected them to further trial for 3 to 4 years, before their cases
d) Problematisation of punishment and culpability
were heard. In some cases the judges began to set them free and
When crime increases in terms of frequency and serious-
reprimanded the police for the way the cases were handled.
ness, the law enforcement machinery is faced with the predica-
ment of how to deal with it bureaucratically. More so when it
It is probably the need to intervene in a cost-effective man-
has limited resources at its disposal. As a result, the bureaucrat-
ner and portray the picture of intense police action that led to
ic machinery strives to be cost-effective and selective in terms
the sanction of encounter killings. Unlike the eighties, the
of its interventions (Young, 1999).
nineties, after the bomb blast, saw an increase in extortion
cases. This was partly because gang leaders facing an econom-
Under such difficult circumstances, along with the pressure
ic crunch in their other ventures, asked their lieutenants back
on government to maintain an economic and effective service,
home to take care of themselves. Another explanation was the
officials naturally enter into plea bargaining and corruption.The
arrival of new players in the field.
dependence of police on criminals as informers to make major
seisures or catch big timers is one manifestation of this predica-
Since the gang members were used to a luxurious life style,
ment. A clear example is seen in the case of Iqbal Mirchi claim-
they were forced to use more violence than before to obtain
ing to be in lawful business because of the remuneration he has
their street tax. The situation was complicated as the recession
collected as a police informer. Even from other sources it was
also made it more difficult for the tax payers to meet the
found that informers are rarely individuals without a criminal
demands of the gangs. The trend for collecting protection
money began to catch on and new comers tried to cash in on
the situation. Educated, unemployed youth began to think of
Another instance of plea bargaining of a different kind is
this as a quick way to make money.
seen in the segregation of inmates in different jails according to
their gang affiliation. The power of gangs over the legal deter-
An interior decorator collected Rs.30 lakhs through extor-
rence/prevention institutions is evident from the day of entry
tion, but was caught on his second attempt by the police. On
into prison. Invariably, according to the informant, police offi-
another occasion the son of a policeman was caught on
cials check out the gang affiliation of each person, before
charges of extortion along with his friends. He allegedly
assigning a cell to him. This is to prevent fighting between rival
belonged to Akhil Bharatia Sena which had strong links with the
gangs within the jail premises.
Gangster, Arun Gawli.
The media has also reported the same arrangements. In the
There was also a change in the category of people asked to
year 1993, the government machinery was in the process of
pay tax.Earlier,only builders,film producers,bar owners and broth-
grouping criminals by gang affiliation to be put in different
el keepers were tapped for street tax. To meet the financial crisis
41 Chapter 1

they began to tap small time businessmen, doctors, engineers and
belonging to any gang. One of them had taken money from a
lawyers. Some doctors with a good practice paid up to Rs. 2 lakhs
rich person on two occasions, keeping a chopper on his throat.
per person.
This person had a good contact with the police and ensured
that he would no longer be harassed.The police had reported to
Interestingly, this shift also affected people's life-style. It was
the media that the extortionist tried to shoot at the police and
noticed that on exhibiting a luxurious life-style, a huge tax was
so they fired back at the gangster.This person had never carried
demanded. As a result a lawyer about to throw a luxurious party
a pistol and used only a chopper to get his work done.
for his daughter's wedding decided to have a small family affair
to avoid a tax of Rs. 60,000. In another instance an executive who
In this context it may be of interest to note that one of the
had bought an Opel Astra through a financial scheme returned
people working at an office reported that there was a police
his car for he could not afford to pay an exorbitant municipal tax
shoot-out in their neighborhood. He had been an eyewitness to
of Rs. 60,000. According to the executive, harassed day and night
the incident. He saw this criminal, wanted for murder, go to a
by the local goonda, he was told that anyone purchasing a car in
friend's place for dinner. After dinner, the criminal left the
the locality had to pay a municipal tax calculated according to
friend’s place and was approaching his car, when the police sur-
the car's trademark.
rounded him. This eyewitness and others saw that the person
was unarmed. The police asked him to lift his hands, which he
For a Maruti 800/Maruti Zen/Fiat the tax was Rs.20,000 and
did, but still they fired. One stray bullet hit a child who was close
for a foreign car/Opel Astra it was Rs.60,000. Unable to pay the
by.The mother started screaming but the police made it clear to
new municipal tax, the executive returned the car. It is alleged
her that she had to state that it was the criminal who was shoot-
that most of the extortion was being carried out by Municipal
ing at the police who injured her son.
bodies, Corporations and MLAs. In some instances the Voluntary
Disclosure Scheme list was used to identify the new victims for
e) The winner takes it all
street tax collection (Menezes, 1995; Times of India, 1998, Times of
The view that winner takes all is clearly reflected in the world
India, 1999, Indian Express, 1999; Gangwani,1998; Times of India,
of crime. While the able ones take risks, manipulate and deal
1998; Balakrishnan, 1998; Indian Express, 1998).
ruthlesslyend up as media-adored dons, small timers who
undertake direct action are easily eliminated.
The impact extortion had on the life-style of people, was cer-
tainly bad for business. So the police had to act to create a pub-
The dons are able to distance themselves from the act and
lic image. This situation made them intervene in a decisive man-
thus protect themselves. In case of trouble they either get those
ner to prevent proliferation of tax collectors. What could have
who can be a threat eliminated or get the best legal brains to get
been a better example to stop the trend other than the arrests of
them out scot-free on some technical ground or other. Those
newcomers and "encounter deaths" of known trouble makers.
who have good skills are valued and rarely used. For example a
good sharpshooter is used only for important assignments.
Soon "encounter death" was also used to settle gang rivalry.
It is alleged that Dawood tended to eliminate his own members
More than in the world of direct crime, it is in white-collar
once they became inconvenient through an "encounter" with
crime that this attitude is clearly reflected. People in the world
the police. Earlier gang leaders had to hire other persons to do
of politics and business who manipulate the system to enhance
the job, but now they only have to tip the police who will finish
their power and wealth are excused by all. There is hardly any
them off in an encounter (Sharan, 1992, Times of India, 1992,
serious thought given to the violence created by their manipu-
Sharan,1993 and Sharan,1993).
lation. Some of the methods they adopt are false insurance
claims, creating shell companies, under invoicing/over invoic-
According to one informant he knew of people killed in an
ing, facilitating hawala/money laundering, and dealing with
encounter who were members of the underworld but not
smuggled goods. In addition to this, there are other frauds, such
42 Chapter 1

as postal frauds, railway frauds, bank frauds and commercial
methods of money laundering within or outside the country.
Hence, it is crucial to address the political and social reality that
facilitates the growth of relative deprivation and also the grow-
Many cinema halls show huge cinema ticket sales when
ing tendency to reaffirm the attitude "Winner takes all". For
halls are empty and launder black money on behalf of various
such a philosophical base, where white-collar crime is ignored
financiers. Another method is to show inflated number of cus-
or reprimanded subtly can only create a fertile ground for the
tomers in various hotels and launder money through the pro-
growth of organised crime, especially through its nexuses with
cess. The methods used are numerous, and action taken against
political, government and policing agencies. White-collar crime
them is rare. Society is unable to cope with the impact caused
can only widen the feeling of relative deprivation and can
by these practices (Moutussi,1994).
directly or indirectly offer a platform for the growth of organ-
ised crime.
For it is this manipulation that partly creates and perpetuates
a scenario of relative deprivation and resultant chaos. Since this
Intervention programmes that employ purely punitive solu-
violence is not perceivable and unlike the starkly visible extor-
tion cannot by themselves be adequate because of the struc-
tion or murder, it is always tolerated.The sad truth is that it is this
ture of judicial administration in India. There is no disincentive
tolerance that leads to frequent enactment of intolerable crimes,
to commit crime here.
when it combines with the dynamic force of individualism.
There is a need for efforts that are preventive in nature
which focus on containing the social and political reality that
can act as fertile ground for the growth of organised crime or
initiate actors into the world of crime. Otherwise these agencies
may be providing space for petty criminals to become hard-
Organised crime in Bombay is a reality that was created by
core actors in the world crime. Only humane intervention of
the commissions and omissions of various governments in
quality can create an impact on the lives of those who entered
Independent India. The general culture of corruption creates a
the world of crime for a variety of reasons.
fertile ground for it, just as OCGs themselves along with the
industrial, business and political elites of India contribute to the
A thought of caution has to be stated in this context. It
spread of corruption. The penetration of OCGs in Bombay into
would be unfortunate when, for better cost-effective manage-
various systems of governance is considerable. There are too
ment, these correctional institutions are privatised. For such
many stakeholders requiring OCGs and too much money is
profit-oriented ventures would become a well-oiled machine
involved. The situation is such that it can not be eradicated but
for the powerful to churn out easily disposable criminals as per
can only be contained.
the need of the hour. This is not a far-fetched thought, for steps
are being taken in certain developed countries to privatise cor-
OCGs evolve in structure and functioning depending on the
rectional institutions. Last but not least is the silent violence of
local situation at a given period of time. This has been the case
the state and the powerful on the underprivileged, and the ten-
of the Bombay Underworld. We find that in Bombay, the OCGs
dency to magnify the portrayal of the violent retaliation of
have taken on different types of structures at different points in
some of the members of the silent victimised majority, who any
time, and they have shown that they are highly adaptive to the
way have limited options to vent their frustrations on the pre-
environment. The way OCGs are organised today is such that
sent society.
only ground-level people are penalised or forfeit their wealth.
The relationship between the OCGs and the lawful economy
Nor is the situation of the underworld insulated from the
needs close scrutiny and government policies should be exam-
social reality of other states, since they are interlinked either in
ined for their potential impact on OCGs. Multi-disciplinary studies
the procurement of cheaper disposable criminals or better
on OCGs are needed for a better understanding and enforcement.
43 Chapter 1

Modes of trafficking
tainers as big as 40 feet are being used. It is not possible to open
all containers. For any action to be taken the customs and other
(A few examples)
agencies require concrete information to nab the culprits. The
At times, there has been political and official patronage pro-
continued use of sea transport is evident from the seisure of
vided to smugglers. As a result, there are many willing to be
methaqualone in the Bombay port in 1993. The Narcotics
mules while border drug-running operations become extreme-
Control Bureau has seised 3330 kgs. of methaqualone.
ly profitable to the Mafia. Along with drugs, contraband such as
electronic goods, Chinese silk, medicines, saffron and dyes are
In addition to heroin, methaqualone is an important com-
brought in through the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.
modity of trade, especially as exports to African countries. In
1993, 10 seisures of methaqualone were made in Bombay, by
In return for the goods, paan, alcohol, bidis, matches and at
various agencies (NCB, Customs, DRI and the Police).The highest
times sugar are smuggled into Pakistan. The haul of heroin
quantity seised was 3350 kilograms and the lowest 55
worth Rs. 78 crore in the international market in Jaisalmer and
Kilograms. In 1992, in Zambia the enforcement agency seised in
adjoining Barmer districts, takes place along the border of 760
a year 106725 Mandrax tablets that originated from India.
odd Kms. with Pakistan. (Rahul, 1987) In one incident at the R.S.
During the year 1996-97, there was a reduction in the seisure of
Pura sector in the Jammu district of the Indo-Pak border, two
methaqualone, it is alleged that this occurred as the manufac-
intruders were seen crossing the border. On being challenged,
ture of methaqualone began within South Africa itself (NCB
they ran back to Pakistan taking advantage of the darkness. On
Reports, 1992-1997; Laniel, 2000).
searching the area the DRI Amritsar and the BSF Jammu found
21 packets of heroin weighing one kilo each.
In 1998, DRI intercepted two consignments of cement
booked by South African Airways. On examination of the con-
Along with land routes, airways are used, as it is a quick
signments, a false plywood partition at the bottom was found.
means for trade, for which mules or couriers are employed. As in
On breaking the partition, 209 polythene packets containing
smuggling, airline personnel are the best mules for trafficking as
167.200 Kilograms of Mandrax tablets were found. Investigation
well. In 1997, an Air India pilot was arrested, as his suitcase con-
revealed that the documents were forged and the name of M/S
tained heroin in its false bottom. He received the suitcase from
Larson and Toubro was misused to give authenticity to the con-
Banwarlal Hiralal Somani, on behalf of Dinshaw Pastakia a for-
signment (1998).
mer Air India employee, who wanted the suitcase to be handed
over to his relative in New-York.
These seisures and others clearly illustrate the market for
Mandrax in different parts of Africa. Some of the important
According to the customs in Air India there exists a well-
places for demand are Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Maputo,
organised network for facilitating smuggling. This network is
Zimbabwe, Malawi, Dare-salaam and Durban/Johannesburg.The
linked to the recruitment of staff, so that the obliged recruits
profit margin in the Mandrax trade is quite high according to the
can be deployed in the sensitive areas of the air carrier opera-
deputy Director of NCB (Mr. Kakkar). A tablet, which is prepared
tion (Shinde, 1997). In 1997, the air route from Afghanistan to
at local cost price of Rs. 2.5 to Rs. 3.50, can be sold in Africa for $
Raja Sansi Airport, Amritsar, continued to be exploited in the
2 to $ 3 per tablet. Since the cost price is minimal, even large
smuggling of heroin, 41 Kilograms of heroin was seised at this
seisures do not hamper the business. The production of these
Airport in five cases during the year and one Afghan and four
tablets is done in a nonoperational factory or in an industrial unit
Indian nationals were arrested (NCB, 1997).
in an isolated area. Most of these units are located in Indore
(Madhya Pradesh), Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
With liberalisation the trade has enhanced the age-old
mode of caravan route by including the sea and air routes. As a
Another substance being traded is Acetic Anhydride, the
result of a certain flexibility in enforcing import restrictions, con-
chemical precursor for the manufacture of heroin. In year 1995,
44 Chapter 1

9282 litres of Acetic Anhydride was seised. In 1996 this came
Heroin is also locally processed from the opium sold in the
down to 4627 and later in 1997 increased to 8311. In 1998, 6197
black market by lawful opium growers. The farmers declare
litres of Acetic Anhydride was seised from different parts of the
lower yields per hectare, and keep part of the yield for them-
country. While reports indicate a decline in smuggling through
selves, which is later sold and processed in laboratories. From
land borders, there are indications of the increase in smuggling
1992-1998, over fifty such laboratories have been destroyed. In
through sea cargo consignments by making false declarations
1998, eight such laboratories were destroyed in Madhya
(NCB, 1998).
Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Among the mules arrested, the largest number in 1998
were those from Nigeria (26), followed by Nepal (17), United
Kingdom (17) and Sri Lanka (12). Other than Africa, Europe is
an important destination for drugs routed through India. In
1999 at Delhi international airport a German national was
caught smuggling Rs. 1.86 crore worth (1.860 kg) of heroin. Mr.
Richard Heinrich was arrested while awaiting a flight to
Amsterdam. He had heroin concealed in his suitcase and
shoes (PTI 1999). He admitted that he had got the drug in
Islamabad and was carrying it to Amsterdam. He was caught
while on transit in Delhi on his way to Amsterdam. He had
arrived by Royal Nepal Airline and was flying to Amsterdam
from India.
Experienced mules willing to take risks are highly sought
after in this trade. Nigerians and other African nationals are
known for their risk-taking ventures as mules. Nigerians have
been caught at airport trying to smuggle drugs by carrying it
within their system in the form of capsules. A 25-year-old
Nigerian lost his life this year trying to traffic 35 capsules con-
taining heroin. One of the capsules burst within his system in
the intestines. Each of these capsules was four centimeters in
length and one centimeter in diameter and all of them covered
with tape (Sharma, 1999). In another instance, a Ghanaian was
held in check and was found to be carrying drug in his
intestines (Indian Express, 1999).
According to one of the interviewees the people who carry
the drug in capsule form in their stomach have to be extremely
careful. They have to calculate the flight time and the time
required for reaching the safe destination. Based on which they
consume the capsules. Another precaution taken by these
mules is to ensure that they will not need to use the toilet by
smoking a huge quantity of heroin or cannabis which helps
them avoid using toilets for longer periods.
45 Chapter 1

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50 Chapter 1 - Bibliography

Chapter 2
to take the first course of action. As a result of this policy, the sym-
biotic relations between different actors with common and in-
terrelated interests, form today a social, economic and institu-
tional fabric in several countries, leading to systemic factors in-
side nations and in the international arena (van der Veen, 1998).
Alba Zaluar
But the money and the power that goes with it are not the
only explanations for the expansion of the illegal drug economy.
Political power at several levels, cultural processes that allowed
the flowering of drug use, and the changes that followed the
growth of this profitable economic activity, have been less stud-
ied.This chapter is concerned with the drug informal market ac-
tivities and the political and cultural changes that accompanied
it at the local level. Therefore, we will not discuss the intentions
International Economic Background
and consequences of drug law enforcement adopted by the
Brazilian government, as what we have done elsewhere (Zaluar,
No one doubts today that the illegal drugs market is one of
1998 and 2000). Although these policies form part of the back-
the biggest economic sectors of the world economy, and that it
ground of the actual dangers, posed by the illegal drug market,
has become deeply embedded economically and socially in al-
to the democratisation of Brazil.
most every country in the world. Because economic sectors, es-
pecially illegal ones, interrelate, interweave formal and informal
For the purposes of this chapter, it is sufficient to say that re-
markets, and interconnect governmental agencies or institutions
pression of the drug trade induces scarcity that increases the
and drug businessmen, drug-related businesses permeate
price and the impurity of the merchandise. Consequently, profits
through many sectors of society. These sectors often function in
multiply and many more people are induced to take the risks of
the formal economy but draw part of their profits from drug-re-
crime-business. Their activities are organised in such a way that
lated activities.These activities are manifold in the sense that they
allows them to avoid the risk of detection and prosecution, and
include other criminal activities such as robbery and theft of
to maintain or increase profits.This, undoubtedly, is the main rea-
goods — trucks, cars, jewellery, domestic appliances etc — that
son for the mounting corruption in state institutions: the Police,
will be used as currencies for buying drugs and precursors (Zaluar,
the Judiciary, the Legislative and governmental agencies. As yet,
1994; Geffray, 1996; UNDCP, 1997). Other activities involve net-
little is known in Brazil about the supply of illicit drugs and the
works already used for other illegal activities such as smuggling,
organisational strength of trafficker networks, and more espe-
governmental corruption, gun trafficking, etc. (Geffray, 1996;
cially, the connections with the legal economy. Despite the grow-
UNDCP, 1997). Examples of these networks are banks and trans-
ing state powers to control it, little attention has been given to
port companies which provide services to illegal businesses and
the political and economic interests related to the drug economy
another is the real estate market which serves as one of the main
and how it is controlled. In particular, there is very little informa-
mechanisms for money laundering.
tion about the tightly knitted symbiotic and systemic interac-
tions of the official and the underworld, the legal and the illegal,
Robert Kendall, the Executive Secretary of Interpol, said once
the formal and the informal sectors of the economy. Up to now,
that it would be better for police forces not to be committed to
little is known on this issue in Brazil. Nevertheless, many studies
hunting drug consumers or small dealers, and instead allot their
now point to the effects of other regulating functions of the po-
resources, which are always insufficient, to the repression of traf-
lice and other state agencies related to drug trafficking and drug
fickers and launderers. Unfortunately, the legislation of various
use or abuse, that is, problems involving issues of public health
countries (including Brazil up to now and the USA) forces them
and public order.
51 Chapter 2

The international picture is rather gloomy. Over the last
derstanding (Habermas, 1991).This ethics surpasses the one ex-
decade worldwide production of illicit drugs has increased dra-
isting in civil law or in the conception of interpersonal contracts
matically. Opium and marijuana production has roughly dou-
that bind private domains, and also exists to a certain extent, in
bled, while coca production has tripled and new synthetic drugs
organised crime (3).The new ideas on the compromises each one
have been developed and in high demand in some countries.
must make with others in the public sphere (Ricoeur, 1990) have
Brazil has become not only a channel for cocaine transportation
not been entirely absorbed in social practices. As a result, gam-
towards other countries but also a consumer centre for this drug.
bling, drug use and pleasure-seeking are the main objectives of
I suggested before (Zaluar, 1994) that the underlying dynamics
life for many sectors of population, especially for the youth.This
of the war on drugs, explain the predominant place that the drug
makes the businesses that exploit their illegal consumption
issue has attained in domestic and international policies of many
highly profitable, precisely because they are illegal.
states. And how this situation has contributed to place Brazil in
(1) All over the world,the existence of laws that pro-
hibit, and the strong moral censorship that is im-
the cocaine route to Europe and the USA and open a widespread
Another element in this complex situation is the revolution in
posed on such activities, compel practices and or-
market for this drug.
consumption patterns in Brazilian society. More consumer goods,
ganisational forms that are both underground and
more styles of consumption and more buying spree at shopping
violent in their means of negotiation (threats, in-
One thing is certain. Today, the demonstration of violence in
centres have been the main changes in these patterns. Cultural
timidation, blackmail, extortion) or in conflict reso-
the world cannot exclude the local impact of transnational or-
values have also changed: more individualistic and modern val-
lution (aggressions, murders, terrorism) to react ac-
cordingly to either their commercial or private dis-
ganised crime, that is, globalised crime that has sui generis eco-
ues became widespread in Brazilian society during the seventies
nomic, political and cultural characteristics. In it, those who are in
and the eighties, such as the well-acclaimed media commenda-
(2) Style is a concept used for substituting culture
strategic positions in the large network of transnational connec-
tion "always seeking the best for yourself" (tirar vantagem de tudo),
and subculture which have theoretical conse-
tions may profit quickly and easily, as a result of little or lack of in-
"making easy money" (fazer dinheiro fácil). Drug traffic is part of
quences and presuppositions which are inapplica-
stitutional limits, while using violent ways of conflict adjustments
this new social, economic and political environment since it is an
ble in such times of very rapid changes and uses of
social identities and practices.Used first to designate
. This may be considered as the illegal sector of the production
individualistic, entrepreneurial activity which is the best organ-
what was called "youth culture", style then became
and distribution of goods and services which form part of what
ised of all underground and illegal activities.
the most suitable term to describe the swift and
is called "mass consumption of style" (2).
transitory novelties in fashion of music,clothing,art,
Among the illegal drugs, cocaine is today associated every-
language and other juvenile behaviour that could
where with a style that puts great value in money, power, vio-
no longer be exclusively interpreted on the holistic
perspective of religion or of class culture, although
Theoretical Perspective
lence and consumption of goods with a reputed trademark.
not entirely disconnected from them.
Because of the very high prices of the drug, which is more costly
(3) Mafiosi contracts damage third parties and, al-
There has been intense debate over the character of post-
than gold in several places (4), its trade has become a source of
though they may avoid conflicts, are based on the
war society — be it called post modern, post industrial, high
huge and quick profits, as well as of greater violence. In this
participants' instrumental interests (Habermas,
modernity, etc. — that went beyond the mere discussion of the
case, the profits are not engendered by productivity or greater
1991). The relationships of personal loyalty and re-
ciprocity are neither the outcome of a personal free
proper terms to denote it. However, there has also been a cer-
use of labour, but by the illegality of the enterprise itself
act, but are forced upon mainly by the threat or use
tain agreement that this society has been subjected to an ac-
(Salama, 1993).The demand that guarantees high profits, is cre-
of physical violence or even by terror (Caillé, 1996).
celerated process of social, economic, political and cultural
ated by changes in lifestyle associated with individual con-
Demonstrations of the chief’s generosity and mag-
transformations, the central points of which would be social
sumption, which is characterised by style consumption (in-
nanimity exist,but are dependent on the whims and
fragmentation and the increasing importance granted to
cluding the use of illegal drugs) and which is more expensive
caprices of his personal power, leaving little space
leisure and consumption activities as means of ascertaining
than post-war family consumption due to the secure and com-
for other views to be considered.The mixture of fear,
respect and affection that surround him does not
and defining new social identities. On the level of social control,
fortable domestic patterns of middle class families (Sassen,
nullify the despotic trait of his power.
such transformations mean that conventional moral restraint,
1991). Such changes in consumer habits have been accompa-
(4) In New York the same pattern is found in the traffic
which up to a certain point exists without the law, has weak-
nied by new conceptions about work and suffering.
of heroine in that,from the sixties onwards,trafficking
ened and has not been replaced by new post-conventional
Furthermore, these changes, which have been credited as one
was established in the black and Puerto Rican neigh-
ethics based on personal freedom as well as mutuality, respect
of the effects of the globalisation process, are said to have
bourhoods, and the pattern continues in the more re-
cent traffic of cocaine and crack (Sullivan, 1992).
for the rights of others, or the use of dialogue to arrive at an un-
favoured the impressive and verified increase in certain crimes
52 Chapter 2

"against property" — thefts and muggings — as well as
bilises so many young favelados will be described in their inter-
"against life" — aggressions and homicides (UNDCP, 1997).
connections at the cultural, political and economic planes.
However, the local and micro mechanism by which this has
come about is yet to be properly studied.
The first part concerns the historical background of the eco-
nomic, social and political changes that compound the scenario
Since inequality remains at the social, economic and institu-
in which violence and drug traffic thrive, particularly those that
tional levels, these new globalising forms of economic activities
lead to a change in the masculine identity or the warrior ethos.
configure a perverse social and economic integration for those
The data comes from an ethnographical fieldwork done in a gov-
who are part of what is called exclusion. The question yet to be
ernmental housing estate, as well as from another on-going re-
properly discussed is how the effects of poverty and accelerated
search project that compares styles of drug use and trafficking in
urbanisation or immigration are linked with institutional mech-
three different districts (Copacabana, Madureira and Tijuca) of Rio
anisms and the presence of networks (5) and fluxes of a more or
de Janeiro. One in the richest zone, another in a predominantly
(5) The concept of the network is used in two main
less organised crime (Reuter, 1986). Although poverty and accel-
middle-class area and the last one in a predominantly poor sec-
ways in studies concerning drug traffic nowadays.First,
erated urbanisation are clearly connected with the results and
tion of the city. In the second part I will interpret the data from
it is anchored at concepts of territoriality and hierar-
causes of exclusion, organised crime (6) crosses all social classes
other fieldworks that focussed on the changes in community af-
chy with which Geography has envisaged interna-
and has bonds with organised legal business (Schiray; 1994,
fairs and local politics.
tional, national and regional metropolises as well as
other cities in order to study the flux of information
Geffray; 1996).Therefore, it does not survive without institutional
and products that pass from one to the others through
support from state agencies delegated to defend the law.The re-
knots and strategic points of interconnections from
lated themes of violence, criminality and insecurity will not be
which some of them hierarchically exert over the oth-
Economic and Social Scenario
properly understood if they are not connected with such di-
ers.Second, closer to the anthropological conception
of Drug Trafficking in Shantytowns
mensions. Assuming that many poor young men have been in a
of a social network,it is used to study and understand
the illegal activities that have the character of a con-
state of vulnerability as a consequence of crisis within families,
The existence of a new form of informal/illegal market, tightly
tinuous business that flows by interpersonal relation-
estrangement between adults and youths, an inefficient school
intertwined with criminal activities, is the main element that
ships based on secrecy and trust always under proof,
system and lack of professional training added to insufficient
helps to understand what is going on in Brazilian cities today.
in other words, on knowledge and vigilance people
work posts, I will present arguments that further the idea of "per-
Informal markets have always existed in them, and have been an
have of each other as well as tacit arrangements and
verse integration" (Castels & Mollenkopf, 1992).
important source of income for the poor with little qualification
rules between them.In this second meaning,it applies
notably to the lower levels of the drug traffic that have
for work or little schooling. These informal markets have devel-
an intricate and a hardly controlled decentralised web,
oped personal networks and complicated rules for the occupa-
contrary to what happens with the wholesalers and fi-
nanciers of the traffic, who tend to create centralisa-
Drug Trafficking in Rio de Janeiro
tion of the main streets in the major urban centres of the coun-
try.Yet, for the past decades, they have been joined by street ven-
tion and hierarchy in Cartels e Mafia (UNDCP, 1997).
This chapter will focus on the changes that took place in the
dors who sell several types of goods which have been stolen
(6) The concept of organised crime is entangled with
informal market in Rio de Janeiro due to the presence of drug
from trucks, residences and pedestrians, or which have been
the concept of Mafia and has been the object of an
unfinished debate which started during the last cen-
traffickers in the city, especially in shanty-towns (favelas) and how
smuggled in from other countries. Informal trade, which tradi-
tury: the former referring to its organised or disor-
this contributed to a process of criminalisation of the informal
tionally has been a way out of unemployment and a morally val-
ganised character (Reuter,1986),and the latter point-
sector, a way of relativising poverty and exclusion as causes of vi-
ued alternative for subaltern work, especially if conducted in the
ing to its condition of crime,work or enterprise.In any
olent drug trafficking. I will discuss as well the paradoxes and am-
streets of the city, had thus become, on another level, tied to or-
case, there is no doubt that one is dealing with a set
biguities of the old and new political cultures, conceived as mod-
ganised crime, that is to say dangerous and morally suspicious
of activities spread in networks that have compo-
nents of economic endeavour, that is, it needs repet-
els and practices of the political, bearing on the social and the re-
undertakings.This becomes even clearer when one discovers its
itive activities, (though without the discipline, regu-
ligious, which seem to have had unintended consequences. A
connections with gold selling shops, car repair shops, wrecked
larity and rights of regular work), a goal of which is
fluid, easily contaminated and unstable culture of fear has had
cars lots, antique dealers, etc., some of which have become col-
profit (easier and higher the better, seen at the
important consequences in so far as an imaginary fear took form
lecting points for stolen goods. It has been discovered recently
wholesalers and intermediaries network),using vari-
in different social classes and affected their inter-relationships.
that even some legal truck transport businesses are part of the
able methods and currencies for exchanges typical
of secret or underground relationships.
The limitations, dangers and ethos of this new activity that mo-
network for truck robbery. However, there has been little sys-
53 Chapter 2

tematic investigation of these networks so far, although police-
pay one kilo to the "matuto" or intermediary who left it on con-
men have sometimes harshly repressed the last in the line: those
signment. Of these 500% of profit, partly obtained from the mix-
who sell stolen goods or drugs in the streets.
ture of cocaine with other cheaper substances, half of it goes to
the "man in the front" or "trafficker", 30% to the "manager", who
Illegal drug trafficking is part of the formal and the informal
does the accounts, and various percentages to the "vapor", who
economy, as it employs a few and allow many to earn money in-
remains at the trading point (Zaluar, 1994).The "vapor" is the one
formally as street sellers, and permits a well-placed few to earn
who distributes the small amounts of cocaine ("papelotes") to the
lots of money from laundering and diverse drug related en-
"aviões", the very young dealers who finally take the dope to the
trepreneurial activity. Even at the most extreme point of this vast
customers. The last ones are the more commonly arrested and
network — the "boca de fumo" at a shantytown — the language
prosecuted, and who often receive "cargas" to sell, for which they
employed is one of business: "profits", "accountancy books", "in-
become entirely responsible. They may sell them after "malhá-
puts and outputs", "bookkeepers", "owner", "manager".The drug
las", that is, after increasing their weight with cheap substances
traffic gang is similar to the Mafia for there is a cult of violence, of
in order to raise their profits; they may consume most of them,
conspicuous consumption, and of exploitation of the weaker. But
what makes them prone to be killed by the trafficker. Death
unlike the Italian Mafia it is not based on personal dependence
penalty is the sentence for those who repeatedly do not pay him
and loyalty, even less on family ties. It is not a family business; it
or who excessively crumble the merchandise.
has no big chief, it works in networks, although not always hori-
zontal. There is a great inequality inside it, in terms of power re-
Amongst the boys — aviões —, the main reason for pride is
lations and division of profits and "gains". In other words it is ver-
the fact that they are part of the crew, use guns, join in defying ini-
tical: the trafficker or owner, the managers ("gerentes") who con-
tiatives in robbing and looting, become famous for this, and may,
trol the fixed selling place, the vapours and the street sellers (in-
some day, if they show enough "disposition", ascend in the hier-
side the shanty town or in the asphalt or "pista"), who are always
archy of crime (Zaluar, 1994; Lins, 1997).Thus, the strategies for re-
changing positions. This verticality is expressed symbolically in
cruiting youngsters, according to the rational calculation of how
terms of power from the head:
many permanent dealers (from 10 to 30) the trading point needs,
are based as much on the prospect of earning "easy money", as
"Weak head" (cabeça fraca) versus "strong man"
on the fascination exerted on them by this power and fame.
"Guided by remote control" (Teleguiado) versus "chief com-

Some of the more business-like traffickers have established
"Induced by others" versus "decided for oneself"
legal establishments, such as trucks, taxis, bars, bakery stores, gas
stations and so on. But most lose their money quickly and peri-
The qualities listed on the left belong to the employed (book-
odically paying corrupt policemen, lawyers, and their own lavish
keepers, "vapours" — sellers who may stay in one place or move
consumption.When they are short of money or want to increase
rapidly from one place to the other depending on arrangements
the business or their share in it, they organise robberies, car thefts
with the police) and many "little aeroplanes" (go-between sellers)
and muggings — calling youngsters, considered tough and will-
(Zaluar, 1988).They get a variable salary or a small percentage on
ing to comply with their rules, to come with them, even if they are
the sales or just a small portion, for their own consumption, of the
not part of the permanent drug trafficking gang.
drug they are able to sell elsewhere. Even when the payments are
monetary, they may get back to the trafficker for most of them
By the end of the seventies, when the drug trade had become
are heavy users or "viciados". On the right is the image of the
a synonym for warfare, disagreements and conflicts had to be
owner (the trafficker) and his managers (usually three), the only
solved by violence, usually by gunfire, since they could not appeal
ones who have lots of guns and profit in the business, and some-
to the justice system.They affirmed then that in order "to keep hold
times making a lot of money, especially the owner. According to
of a cocaine outlet, you could not lower your guard for a minute". A
the interviews, with the sale of only 200 grams of cocaine they
"front man", that is, the owner or trafficker who is in charge of the
54 Chapter 2

outlet, is obliged to keep all his underlings in line, to keep his eyes
gets them from the allied shanty towns. These commands con-
open, to make sure his competitors are not taking too big a slice
ciliate thus the features of a geographically defined network,
of the business by selling more or better goods or acquiring more
which includes central or diffusion points, with the anthropo-
fire power. He has to do right by his supplier, who is no longer just
logical which focuses on horizontal reciprocity, working in both
a man coming around in a truck. Otherwise, he gets ripped off,
directions: positive and negative. For, even though guns and
loses his spot, or is simply wiped out by competitors from both in-
drugs are quickly lent to the allied dealing crews, the violent re-
side and outside his gang. To carry a gun at all times, to kill or be
ciprocity of private vengeance is imperative in the absence of a
killed, and to keep constant surveillance over the gang's power
negotiable juridical form of conflict resolution. Because of such
are simply everyday concerns for him.Violence is required for the
exchanges, adolescents die in wars for the control of trading
leader of a drug gang to prevail. Despite this, many inexperienced
points. Even so, it should not be forgotten that trafficking in Rio
young men get into warfare because of rivalry over a woman, a
is sometimes really disentangled for there are many crews and
simple childhood strife or any act considered as a provocation,
individuals striving for power and positions inside the trade.
that is, any motive that menace the status or masculine pride of
youngsters trying to assert their virility — the "Sujeito Homem"
Outside the shantytown, the selling activities today involve
(Subject Man), as they say (Alvito, 1996; Lins, 1997).
many characters that have always worked in the streets: hookers,
doormen, taxi drivers, small shopkeepers, bar tenders, and the
Dope hustling is thus cited by disillusioned pushers as a place
"camelôs", that is, the street vendors who have been the main fig-
of distrust and animosity, where there is no mutual respect ex-
ures of the informal market. In the districts studied, they buy
cept for the other man's gun. It is a sexually charged, virile world.
dope at the shanty towns ("favelas"), the most dangerous places,
All the men carry guns, and to carry a gun is to "fucking strut" or
in order to sell it dearer (two, even three times more expensive)
to "have your iron in your belt".To show off your weapon, or "to pull
at the regular streets of the city ("asfalto"). Thus, they have com-
your gun out", is a common habit of such urban outlaws, yet one
bined their legal selling activities inside the commercial centres
which can often prove fatal. Instead of the verb to rob, they say
of those districts with drug dealing. Nevertheless, they should
"to mount" their victims, used both for mugging people in the
perform this activity only with the permission of the trafficker
streets and for breaking and entering houses.To kill somebody is
from the nearest shanty town, especially in the streets closest to
to "lay them down".The prime audiences for such displays are ap-
it. If not, they will be killed.This is especially clear in Copacabana
parently the women they are trying to impress with their power
and Tijuca, districts where selling in the "pista" or asphalt has
and the money in their pockets.Yet these are the first men to be
been more frequent than in Madureira, where everyone goes to
grabbed in police raids. In spite of this notorious fact, the young
the nearest "boca de fumo" inside one of the many "favelas" in the
outlaws never tire of bragging that the "chicks" go for men who
place. The main reason for this is the lower priced (half the price
carry guns, because they feel more protected.
at the "pista") and purer drug found inside shantytowns, into
which only those who are acquainted with the traffickers dare to
There is another crucial motive for constant warfare among
enter. Even so, those who choose to deal directly with them must
dealers. Drug outlets in shanty towns are divided in two "organ-
have the nerves to face the dangers of gun firing and a quick ex-
isations" or networks: Comando Vermelho or Terceiro Comando.
ecution in case of an unpaid debt (a week's delay) or even on a
These two opposite webs encompass most of the shantytowns
mere suspicion of betrayal.
in Rio de Janeiro, which are classified either as C V or T C, the ini-
tials being printed all over their walls.When a friendly "quadrilha"
(criminal crew) in one shanty town needs either drugs or guns,
Traffickers and Neighbours
the others localised elsewhere supply them when possible.
Therefore, even if not co-ordinated entirely as a Mafia hierarchy,
In some of the more traditional shanty towns, such as the
drug trade in Rio has a very efficient horizontal arrangement by
favela of Serrinha in Madureira, it was observed that a clear sep-
which a shanty town that runs out of drugs or guns immediately
aration exists between drug dealers and their neighbours. In
55 Chapter 2

those localities, people suggest that they impose a distance
the hatred they feel of the dependence they acquired from
with regard to traffickers with such phrases as "they respect us",
sniffing cocaine, the most common heavy drug used among
"we do not have anything to do with them". Those are the ones
who do not want to make agreements with traffickers or let
them intimidate local inhabitants who do not allow them to sell
This present opposition to traffickers may be explained by the
drugs at their gates or to show guns to small children. But this
recent change in the hierarchy of Comando Vermelho: the elder
is not the case for all neighbours or for all communities. At
leaders, mostly in prison, were ousted by younger traffickers who
Serrinha only the older inhabitants, who also follow afro-
were more desegregated among themselves and had less con-
Brazilian religions and support the old School of Samba tend to
nections with the shantytown dwellers. Because of this, violence
maintain this attitude, whereas newcomers, who belong to
against these new younger groups increased and local traffick-
Pentecostal churches and prefer funk music, tend to make
ers lost respect from them. Most of these young dealers inspired
agreements or alliances with the dealers. They consider them-
only fear or terror amongst neighbours. The elder leaders de-
selves more modern and realistic, justifying their attitude by
cided to form a new organisation, based on the same principles
saying that it is impossible to do anything without their con-
of reciprocity, called "Friends of friends", which is in fact the prin-
sent or help.
ciple of open networks, always trying to include more and more
Drug traffic has developed divisions between shanty towns
so close to each other that their internal streets and construc-
Anyway, ambivalence has always been expressed linguisti-
tions merge. Although neighbours still recognise the areas by
cally in terms employed by some of those youngsters and their
their initial names, now they are officially considered as one com-
neighbours to denote criminal actions. "Vice" (vício), "delay"
plex. In one of these complexes, o "Alemão", after the death of the
(atraso), "stop" (parada), "devil condominium" are words that ex-
leader that unified several "favelas", there was not only a state of
press the opposite of morally valued work (Zaluar, 1994).They are
war between their respective gangs linked to different traffick-
applied to explain why someone is stuck or trapped in a
ers; neighbours were prohibited to trespass the artificial borders
vengeance circle, in blood feuds as well as in police persecution.
between them. Many adolescents have been killed just because
"Revolt" is the positive term used to denote those who will not
they passed from one area to the other, also due to the existence
accept low wages and hard work, based on a simple conception
of the two biggest networks of this crime-business.
of social justice and male pride that defies economic exploita-
tion. But injustice can also be another bloodthirsty bandit or cor-
Anyway, for some of the youngsters who hang about the
rupt and violent policemen.The political place occupied by traf-
streets of the favelas and the districts, traffickers and their or-
fickers is not, then, clear cut.They may be praised for the respect
ganisations are well valued. Their symbols — TCK trade marks
they have for neighbours or for the many social activities they pa-
for the Terceiro Comando or Nike for Comando Vermelho — are
tronise inside the shantytowns. Contrariwise, they may be
used as ways of identifying themselves with one or the other.
loathed because of the way they seduce or order girls to have
Adolescents say they belong to one of them as if they were soc-
sexual relations with them, as well as the continuous threat that
cer team supporters.They also absorb the warrior ethos with all
their guns represent in any case of conflict or suspicion of be-
its consequences by saying they have enemies everywhere and
trayal involving traffickers, common (unarmed) inhabitants and
need guns. Finally, they show simultaneously a deep loathing
the police.
for policemen and a fear of being considered delators (or X9).
This possibility is a great risk (of being killed) and an enormous
Some favelas are considered safer than others, from the point
shame (of losing respect from the mates). At the same time they
of view of freedom in trading drugs. Mangueira, near the district
talk about the hatred they have of dealers who have killed
of Tijuca, is one of the safest, because policemen seldom go there,
friends, close relatives or innocent neighbours. Some of the
although it is known as one of the main drug distribution centres
heavy users, who have connections with dealers, also verbalise
and one with a strongly armed mob. Inside it, the main street
56 Chapter 2

called "Buraco Quente", is a series of bars and small shops
system for its inefficiency, corruption and impunity that make
("biroscas"), where dealers can negociate calmly. Another case in
their living worse inside the poor neighbourhoods. Thus, if the
point is the favela of Borel which is close to a main shopping cen-
first type of crime is obviously linked to the virile ethos, of which
tre of this district. From time to time, police invasions may disrupt
bandits are the main holders, the second must be understood
this apparent tranquillity, betrayed by the frequent confronta-
within the intricate web it has with the criminal justice, as nowa-
tions amongst the dealers themselves.
days affected by drug traffic and other forms of business or or-
ganised crime.
Traffickers have also succeeded in penetrating several vol-
untary and public organisations, such as the community dust-
As institutions, the Police and the Judiciary, especially the for-
men who work for the official company that takes the garbage
mer, have their almost unanimous negative evaluation. When
away — Comlurb. In several favelas which were visited there
someone assesses them positively, it is most certainly referring
were more than five people linked with the drug dealers who
to a specific person, such as a policeman they used to know or a
were on the payroll of Comlurb. Drivers and watchmen of the
judge that passed a just decision. Prison and police precincts are
company also belong to the drug gang. Even those who are not
equated with "factories of bandits" or "schools of banditism".The
part of the gangs are compelled to carry drugs or guns inside
Justice system as a whole is seen as "propelled by money", as
the Comlurb trucks from one place of the city to another, with-
most of the country’s organisations nowadays. Policemen have
out arousing suspicion. The same happens with drivers of am-
the power of beginning an inquiry by registering the "auto da
bulances on service for public hospitals, who have been forced
prisão em flagrante" (flagrant imprisonment document) or any
to do the same. Those who do not comply are killed.
other proofs necessary to start a judicial process.They also main-
tain the secular practice against the existing institutional norms
and the constitutional rights of Brazilian citizens, of torturing pris-
Drug Trafficking, Morality
oners, mainly poor and black people, in order to extract confes-
and the Institutions
sions from them about their supposed criminal acts. Policemen
have thus acquired great power that makes them all the more
Bandits and workers share the same moral view of crime.This
prone to corruption.
view however, is dissociated from the Brazilian Penal Code that
sometimes has a different ranking and evaluation of the dangers
Impunity is another consequence of their weak professional
of crimes endorsed by the poor. For the workers as well as for the
ethos and precarious technical training as investigators. Many
bandits, the most odious crime is rape that deserves in Brazilian
petty criminals and bandits never get caught and claim this as a
Penal Code a small prison sentence. Next appears murder, espe-
stimulus to repeat delinquent acts. And since money may guar-
cially if the victim is "innocent". All atrocities committed against
antee impunity, either because a policeman will not register the
old people, children and pregnant women may be the focus of
act and thus start an inquiry, or because well-paid lawyers know
severe condemnation (Zaluar, 1994). Nevertheless, there is a clear
how to avoid judicial processes or condemnations once those
separation between crimes committed out of a strong emotional
have been set, joining drug traffic gangs becomes even more at-
reaction and those motivated by insensitive calculations.The for-
tractive (Zaluar, 1998). Nevertheless, the whims and wishes of the
mer happens at "the heat of the moment", since "a man cannot
traffickers may be decisive in the outcome of a youngster’s career.
take it" or "a man must always strike back".This applies equally to
One of the many stories heard by the researchers told how a 20-
small provocations that challenge their masculine pride or to se-
year-old man was arrested because the trafficker did not like him.
rious infidelities and treasons that bring shame and peril to their
He was a go-between for the owner of a bar situated just at the
families and neighbourhoods.The latter imply some kind of com-
fringe of the shanty-town, who, in his turn, worked as one of the
putation of gains and losses, as well as a mere habit or what they
managers for the local and powerful trafficker who did not like the
call "vice". This is the one they most talk about, either trying to
young man. He was told to carry a great quantity of drug to an-
justify for the external public or criticising the Brazilian justice
other faraway shanty town (Mangueira). It was a set up. The traf-
57 Chapter 2

ficker had warned the Police and the young man was caught, ar-
Therefore, corruption and the institutional policy predominantly
rested and incriminated. He has no money to pay the lawyer and
based on repressive tactics, especially with regard to metropoli-
the trafficker will not help him, as it is usual for the vapours and
tan poor youths, have added more negative effects to their al-
managers. He is due to be sentenced to prison.
ready hard life (Zaluar, 1994; Lins, 1997).
Since the income of drug business is highly concentrated at
Still, in their interviews, youngsters mentioned that the
the top of its hierarchy, and because of the absence of market
"quadrilhas" (criminal crews) provided more security for their
regulations, adjusted prices, minimum wages, and work rights for
members, since they assure juridical assistance that increases the
the "soldiers" and "peons", small dealers in Brazilian shanty
chance of not being sentenced, the higher the youngster is in the
towns, despite their military apparatus, do in fact help those
organised crime hierarchy.This is an element in the calculation of
higher up in the hierarchy or those who produce and trade tons
the pros and cons in joining a gang. Since money can buy de-
of the illicit drugs, in concentrating income and accumulating
fence, and guns offer the protection that emerges from fear, it is
capital. Lawyers, corrupt policemen, traders of stolen goods, and
rational to practice more and more crimes in order to always
so on and so forth, should also be included in the list of those
have money, guns, and the respect and protection of the gang.
who are making plenty of money. What these young men imag-
Actually, their preference for armed robbery is explained by the
ine as absolute independence may be just a death trap, both for
fact that they can silence possible witnesses by terror, force fear-
them and those around them (Zaluar, 1994). Very few of those
ful respect on accomplices and offer the gun as a "treat" to the
poor youths manage to establish themselves in the business, for
policemen, and multiple ways of escaping arrest and making
they die very young or go to prison, but they all contribute to the
condemnation more difficult.
enormous enrichment of those characters who are still in the
dark side of the criminal records, the shadow rate or the black ci-
In real life this calculation may prove ineffective in so far as it
pher. Those types never get included in the official data. As yet,
does not completely eliminate the likelihood that a poor or less
little is known about them in Brazil: who they are, how they live,
important bandit may go through the experience of being beaten
how they make contacts in the underworld of crime, how they
up, tortured or extorted for a sum of money they cannot provide.
achieve to climb the social ladder.
Their guns and the riches they have just stolen may be taken away
from them, and yet, they may still be taken into jail, if policemen
With high profits, it is easy for the ones well-placed in the net-
prefer to show their readiness to render a service to the corrup-
works to corrupt policemen. Since there are no laws to protect in-
tion game and hence increase their bets. They could also be ac-
terests and properties in this sector of the economy, disputes
cused at the police precinct of crimes they did not commit as a
tend to be settled by violent means, even if they are not with the
way of clarifying crimes that must be quickly solved for their su-
same intensity as what one finds in certain Brazilian cities.It is nec-
periors. There are work pressures and orientations inside the in-
essary therefore to understand how bribing eased the way for
stitution besides the secular practices of violence and corruption.
guns and illegal drugs to arrive at shanty towns and poor districts
At least two cases of "revolt", that is, the decision to take up guns
in Rio de Janeiro without noise or uproar.Conversely, stolen goods
and follow criminal careers, were due to these experiences at the
— automobiles, trucks, jewellery, domestic appliances — robbed
hands of policemen, which were presented as unbearable by hu-
from their owners in highways, roads, streets or residences inside
man beings.In general, their assertions invoke the demoralisation
the state of Rio de Janeiro and used in non-monetary exchanges
of the Police as an important factor that pushes them to crime or
for illegal drugs, easily reach their final destination. To reach
that causes them to calculate whether crime is worth it or not.
Paraguay or Bolivia, these stolen goods go through several
Brazilian states and municipalities: the interior of the states of São
The situation would be even more serious if criminal activities
Paulo, Mato Grosso and Rondonia (Geffray, 1996). This "style" of
did not have their own dynamics that could restrain their actions.
trafficking is in contrast to the noisy and murderous one at the
A case in point are power relationships and the division of labour
selling points inside the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
that are sometimes very exploitative. As I said before, the lion’s
58 Chapter 2

share goes to the "owner" of the "boca de fumo" (selling place),also
Second, the brutal rules that dictate relations inside the
called "the trafficker". He gets almost all the profit, whereas his
criminal gang or within the more inclusive "mundo do crime"
"managers" and "vapores" (vapours) only get different percentages
(world of crime), may deter some of the youngsters from join-
on the sales.Thus, if someone wants to become rich quickly, indi-
ing it, even when they strongly feel the attractions of carrying
vidual initiative is the most suitable line of action.But it may result
a gun, being part of the mob and being feared. Others choose
in the loss of the gang’s protection, which in turn may result in po-
to quit, even if this is a dangerous operation. Their success de-
lice persecution outside the area the gang controls.This could also
pends on several circumstances, such as being able to move to
hinder the objective of climbing quickly in the gang’s hierarchy in
another district, city or state as a means of disentangling from
order to gain more from the drug business.Independent and petty
the former partners. The only ones who never talk about quit-
criminals are the ones most targeted by policemen since they do
ting are those who are getting richer and richer from the illegal
not pay the regular bribe that allows business to take place with-
business: the traffickers and their managers. But there are sto-
out any disturbance. Nevertheless, they also make their decisions
ries about the latter that tell of treason from associates, wives
about "going into the movement" on the assumption that police-
and lawyers; of persecution from policemen who get envious
men have poor ideas about who is a criminal, and may not differ-
of their wealth; of losses provoked by their own vices and lav-
entiate between delinquents and workers since they all look the
ish consumption that may take them out of business or cause
them to simply wear out (becoming a "caido").
I started by saying that workers and bandits alike have a
moral view of crime that relates it to a necessary punishment.
Fear, Images of Justice
Nevertheless, the dynamics of interactions I described transform
and Local Politics
this view in favour of a cynical, instrumental and manipulative
version of the law on the part of those who have been sued.
In the current historical context, revolt in the face of injustice
Luck, manipulation of judicial actors and the due process of law,
and hypocrisy is lost in acts of violence beyond comprehension
occasional pressures and bribes before, during and after the ju-
and are increasingly attributed to an absolute evil.This is clearer
dicial process, regular corruption of policemen, intimidation of
in the case of those who join Pentecostal churches, especially The
possible witnesses by the use of guns, terror exerted on neigh-
Universal Church of the Reign of God. For many Brazilians, mid-
bours, and a very lucrative business offer incentives and justifi-
dle or working class, hatred is devoted to twisted criminals who
cations for the crimes committed, even the most discursively re-
they believe stop at nothing with their destructive action. Their
freedom or even their human rights are considered abusive, not
legitimate, and the complaint is that the victims’ rights are not
Yet, there are deterrents to criminal action. Surprisingly, they
championed in the same way. Rights of bandits became a syn-
are not from the repressive action of policemen, which, they un-
onym for human rights. They also express this concern in terms
derstand, is manipulated, but from the poor neighbours’ own
of modern times, in which God no longer exists, moral parame-
organisations and values. First, family obligations and compro-
ters have weakened, and institutional restraints are unjust, inef-
mises may bring a feeling of "vergonha" (shame). Some youths
ficient, on nonexistent.
and adults shudder at the possibility that their parents, specially
their mothers, or their children and other relatives may know
Fear is not only a product of people's imagination or their
about their crimes and feel ashamed because of them.
passive reception of media messages. It is, to a certain extent, a
"Vergonha" is a moral issue, although not associated with the
realistic fear. Data on violent crimes in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo
classical Iberian notions of shame and honour that are linked to
and many other Brazilian cities justify this posture of the urban
the purity of women. "Vergonha" in this case is connected to a
population. All violent crimes have had increasing rates, mainly
loss of dignity and family pride.
homicides, the rate of which tripled in the Metropolitan Region
of Rio de Janeiro, between 1982 and 1990 (from 23 to 63,03 mur-
59 Chapter 2

ders per 100 000 inhabitants).This astonishing increase in almost
supported by rapid inflation. Brazil had a varied and modern
a decade took place mainly in the poor periphery of Rio and not
economy, but its political and juridical traditions and institutions
in the municipality of Rio. Moreover, the participation of young-
had not evolved. Not only did it have one of the worst income dis-
sters ("minors") was three times greater in 1985 than in 1982
tribution in the world, but there were also great inequalities in
(Campos, 1988).The official data from the Ministry of Health also
terms of access to Justice or distributive justice (Zaluar, 1994).The
showed that, in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, the number of
latter manifests itself when people are systematically excluded
deaths from "external causes" was the third highest, just near
from services, benefits and guarantees which are considered as
cancer tumors, both of which were almost three times lower than
social rights of citizenship ensured by the State. It is seen when
deaths from circulatory diseases. However, while women, mostly
people do not have human or civil rights, that is, the rights con-
those more than sixty years old, were equally victims of these dis-
tained in national constitutions or in the Universal Declaration of
eases (48,7%), men, mostly from 15 to 39 years old (84%), were
Human Rights. It also appears when people do not or can not crit-
the victims of violent deaths. In Brazil, 4 men die per each woman
icise the laws or the workings of Justice. There is an undeniable
in average, but between 15 and 29 years old 8 men die per each
fact in many Brazilian cities today, particularly in Rio de Janeiro,
woman and, in some poorer municipalities of the Metropolitan
that drug traffic is destroying poor working families and that the
Region of Rio de Janeiro, this rate reaches the amazing figure of
warfare it unleashes is taking the lives of thousands of young
15 men per each woman. From 1987 onwards, murders exceeded
people, especially those of colour. For these social groups, this
traffic accidents and nowadays are 30% higher.
"way out" of poverty or "inclusion" in the economic system has
been self-destructive.
The social and economic context of inflation, recession and
increased poverty, only add problems to make matters worse.
Social movements in Rio, mainly in poor areas, had then to
This partly explains the political apathy that seemed to have
face a dramatic and very dangerous situation of recurring deaths
seised the population in Rio de Janeiro's poor neighbourhoods.
as well as of increasing rates of larceny and robbery, on one hand,
From the end of the seventies onwards, gun possession has cre-
and corruption on the other. As a result, all over the city explana-
ated, for those youngsters involved in the drug traffic war, an
tions abound, covering the whole ideological spectrum. It is pos-
armed power that has shaken the foundations of any authority.
sible, however, to simplify the variety of statements on the sub-
Local politicians, businessmen and policemen became the tar-
ject, organising them into two main lines of thought which are
gets of aggressive behaviour. Their schoolteachers as well as lo-
sometimes overlapping. One is the growing demands for order,
cal leaders lost their authority vis-à-vis the youths that have the
based on the diagnostics of an insuperable social conflict and the
power of money and guns (Guimarães, 1992; Paiva, 1992; Zaluar,
institutional failure to deal with this matter. A new conservative
1985, 1988, 1993, 1994). It is a fact that more and more students
trend advising more efficient and tough police practices as well
carry guns to school and that children sometimes cannot go to
as the election of right-wing politicians who defend death
school because of gun battles or rivalries between the neigh-
penalty(7) and strong governments are found in all social classes
bourhoods where the schools are. Even the experienced and po-
(Zaluar, 1991, 1992, 1993; Caldeira, 1992; Vargas, 1993).The other
(7) The Catholic Church has been the main social
litically concerned adults who work in their countless neigh-
is the belief that, because of the deterioration of workers' life con-
and political force that contends and condemns
bourhood organisations, such as schools of samba, dwellers' as-
ditions, low salaries, high rates of inflation, increasing misery and
death penalty which has gained most of the public
sociations, soccer teams (Zaluar, 1985), are almost powerless.
unemployment, disorder is good. Along the same line of thought,
opinion support lately. Thanks to this firm opposi-
and taking the left road, are those who think that a civil war is in-
tion, also followed by the Evangelical Churches,
death penalty has not been implemented in the
On the political plane, other consequences must be consid-
evitable and revolution is approaching.
country. The main argument is based on human
ered.During the eighties, the country had progressively recovered
rights, especially the right to life prisoners have. A
democratic practices. This followed a period of economic devel-
The existing dwellers’ associations, since the middle eighties,
more practical argument affirms that more poor and
opment during the military regime (1964-1984), when increased
has also to remain independent from the drug dealers' gangs,
blacks or mestizos would be punished in this way,
wealth had never been distributed. Instead of economic growth,
which introduced an unexpected challenge arising from the
following the bias of the institutions in charge of law
and order in the country.
there had been a scenario of economic, moral and political crisis
growing rates of violent criminality and the armed power of or-
60 Chapter 2

ganised crime. Most of these involving the young drug dealers
communitarian leaders and ordinary dwellers sometimes ended
who lived and did business in shanty-towns and low-income
in the expulsion or even the death of the latter. On the other
housing estates. This armed power went beyond the restricted
hand they had already been playing the role of security guards
field of crime and drug traffic, becoming an important political
in some "favelas", eliminating or sending away those who robbed
issue at various levels. Locally, the drug dealers started to take in-
working people or raped their daughters(8). But their very pres-
terest in the election for the dwellers' associations, advancing
ence and the way they dealt with the young users of the drugs
candidates linked to them.The local youth became more identi-
they sold were incentives for the violent criminal activities of
fied with them and explicitly supported their election because of
some of these young men. Consequently, the images of traffick-
a general process of marginalisation among the poor youngsters,
ers have always been ambivalent and fearsome.
including the repressive measures taken by policemen during
the last decades, which affected all the poor young males who
Within the associations, the main effect of the undesired pres-
corresponded to the police stereotype of the criminal. Many drug
ence of drug dealers' gangs was to make unfeasible certain rou-
users, and not only dealers, have been arrested or coerced to pay
tine activities and administrative functions such as the gathering
bribes to policemen in order to avoid imprisonment.
of water supply bills, which is a single rate for the whole area or
shanty-town, and, of course, free and public discussion of certain
At the local level, amongst the community leaders who direct
common problems including noise and violence. Light, water,
the dwellers' associations, silence about the bandits' actions and
and sewage are the main collective problems which "favelados"
a constant blame on police repression is the most common re-
are unable to solve without services from the State, which were
sponse.The revolutionary paradigm combined with the millenar-
attended to during the eighties. But although light supply fol-
ian matrix of political action, although not always explicit, informs
lowed a model, adopted by the State company LIGHT, in which
this interpretation of the increasing rates of crime against prop-
the population was to, first of all, organise in commissions that
erty and the rising tide of violence against persons as a manifes-
would discuss with the technicians the way of doing the con-
tation of the active struggle of the poor against the rich and the
nection network, and then put meters for each home, the other
oppressive State, as well as a sign of the end of the world era.The
two public services did not accomplish the task with the same
role played by organised crime and the Mafias has been under-
success. For light was paid by each family and the company itself
stated, if not ignored. Another trend is to reduce the importance
was in charge of maintenance.Water and sewage services — pro-
and impact of violent crime as exemplified by the media, and the
vided by another State company CEDAE — followed a different
imaginary fear on the part of the propertied classes.
policy, for some associations received the necessary money for
the job and there was little or no public discussion of the techni-
Studies carried out in Rio de Janeiro focussed on shanty-
cal plans. In the end, each family had to decide and do the nec-
towns or periphery districts, where the poor live, and showed an-
essary aqueduct or sewers, by finding the main pipes coming
other type of enclosure as well as the substitution of political dis-
from the central source or going to the main sewer. Because of
course for another type of discourse. The dwellers' associations
the lack of a common plan, some dwellers built the pipes and the
at these places were deeply affected by the recent presence of
sewers very close to each other, but the payment for this state
very well-armed gangs of drug dealers whose violent crimes
service, especially the water supply, remained collectivised. This
made deaths and rapes banal. Around 1985, the associations be-
caused more tensions and conflicts between neighbours, who
(8) These facts may be the reason why so many com-
came part of the dealers' interests, Catholic churches were sur-
were increasingly closer to each other due to the growing pop-
munitarian leaders refuse to talk about the violent
means employed by local drug dealers, as it hap-
rounded by small houses and huts bought by the dealers who
ulation of those shanty-towns already attended by these public
pened recently during the trial of the policemen in-
also became careful listeners of the priests' sermons, and
volved in the killing of 23 workers at a shanty-town
Evangelical temples were forced to accept the existence of hid-
(Vigário Geral), well-known for the feud between its
ing places for the dealers and their friends or their arms just
Greater density and a confusion between what were the in-
young traffickers and the ones belonging to a close
above them. (O Globo, 13/10/1993). Criticisms of their activities,
dividual and the collective responsibilities, as well as conflicts
shanty-town (Parada de Lucas). In this feud, dozens
of youngsters have died.
of course, were not welcome and these tense relationships with
over the use of the State and non-governmental organisations
61 Chapter 2

made the functions of the dwellers' associations more difficult.
later become incorporated into the sociability and solidarity net-
Lack of juridical means and power to implement their decisions
works created.There is also a focus on the solutions and not on a
and to collect payments were some of the reasons for an in-
denunciation discourse, mixing old and new political patterns
creasing willingness to accept the leadership of traffickers, who
and religious language which is essentially Christian. The local
have already been playing the role of security guards in some
committees of this campaign are simultaneously marked by the
"favelas", replacing the former leadership in the associations. A
perspective of autonomy and freedom and by localised particu-
great despair took hold of the activists who believed in the par-
lar associations which prefer to attend to their own kind: neigh-
ticipation model of democracy and who, no longer able to get
bours, church members.That is, their help is directed towards the
them to meetings, watched their members leave the associations
poor of their neighbourhood, shantytown, church etc.
(Peppe, 1992). Besides that, as it has happened in São Paulo, peo-
ple became more isolated inside their homes and families as a
This implies a new political culture that is not organised in the
consequence of living without predictability and security, a con-
axis of work, such as trade unions or political parties had before
sequence not only of economic crisis and inflation, but also of vi-
(Jacobs, 1992).Their personal investment is made on community
olence and mistrust.
work, where they live. For them, the worst picture of poverty is
not being able to participate in such associations or exchange
That meant people became withdrawn in their own private
groups. There is in fact a dislocation of class compromises from
affairs, and more isolated inside their houses and families. There
the place of work to the local or dwelling areas. The most active
was also an enormous increase in the attendance to new
participants in their former associations (recreational, dwellers’
Pentecostal churches which emphasised the need to destroy the
etc), who are now under the control or limited by the power of
devil through rituals of exorcism performed on the individual.
traffickers, have changed their way of participation and inter-
This of course occurred at the expense of Afro-Brazilian religions
and the Catholic Church, the former, because it has never had
conceptions of absolute moralities, the second, because it is fully
involved nowadays in political and collective activities in the
dwellers' associations, most of which were controlled by people
linked to the Church. In it they developed a meaning of commu-
nity which is making the political translation of this spur of indi-
vidualism more difficult which is not yet linked to civil or politi-
cal rights.
More recently, campaigns in favour of citizenship and social
justice have spread all over the country. One of the most impor-
tant ones — a Ação da Cidadania contra a Miséria e a Fome —
began in Rio de Janeiro in middle class areas or public organisa-
tions. After a few years, it shifted from these middle class space
to poor areas. It began as a way of creating social links indepen-
dently from the State and the market, aiming at alternative ac-
tions for fighting social inequality, since the State proved ineffi-
cient to do so. Nevertheless, the Campaign mimed and interacted
with governmental organisations, as it established new forms of
association, reinventing old patterns and creating new ways of
participation.The social links are initially established between so-
cially distant people who are unknown to each other, and these
62 Chapter 2

PAIVA, V. "Violência e Pobreza: a educação dos pobres", em Zaluar,
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ALVITO, M. "A honra de Acari", em Velho, G. Cidadania e Violência,
REUTER, P. Disorganised Crime: Illegal Markets and the Mafia,
Editora da UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.
MIT Press, Massachusetts, 1986.
ARLACHI, P. Mafia Business,the Mafia Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,
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Bogotá, 1994.
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VAN DER VEEN, H.T. "The International Drug Complex: When
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HABERMAS, J. Pensamento Pós-metafísico, Tempo Brasileiro:
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VARGAS, J., A Espera do Passado, tese de mestrado. em. Antropologia,
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JANKOWSKI, M. S. Islands in the Street, 1a ed.
ZALUAR, A., A Máquina e a Revolta, Editora Brasiliense,
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64 Chapter 2 - Bibliography

Chapter 3
. The State of São Paulo is an important crossroads for
trafficking in and out of South America, since it has the conti-
nent’s major air and seaports.
Another feature, nothing to do with the city as such but
mainly connected with the conjuncture, is the emergence of a
steadily growing criminal subculture. One reflection of this is an
Guaracy Mingardi
increasing crime rate over the past twenty years. Homicides, for
and Sandra Goulart
example, have increased from 30 per hundred thousand inhab-
itants to almost 60 between 1980 and 2000. Certain crimes
against property have increased even more than that. There are
countless theories to explain this increase but the fact is that
This chapter summarises a three-year research project. Over
there are greater numbers of outlaws in the city than ever
this period we endeavoured to analyse the modus operandi of
before. Drug dealing is one of the ways how many of criminals
illegal drug traffickers in the city of São Paulo. It aims at map-
earn their living.
ping drug trafficking in the city, identifying the traffickers’
modus operandi, conducting a case study in an area of intense
trafficking, and understanding the use of the city as a hub in
The Geography of the Traffic
domestic and international trafficking.This chapter presents the
main research findings.
The first stage of the research(1) was of a geographical nature.
We tried to visualise the question by mapping out the distribu-
For years Brazil has been considered as an important thor-
tion of trafficking and the use of illegal drugs in the city.This was
oughfare for the international cocaine trade. On many occa-
an important approach for relating the traffic to the various city
sions the subject has been addressed in a simplistic way by the
districts and use of drugs to the socio-economic conditions of
domestic and foreign press, as if the big international gangs
local residents.
simply passed through Brazilian territory or as if the trade had
little to do with the country’s economy, politics or society. In this
Our data were collected from three sources:
study, we have set out to demonstrate how this trade operates
in the city of São Paulo and how its organisation has a strong
1) Reports of an incident (BO). This is a document pre-
presence among local dealers, even if we only take internation-
pared by the civil police
al trade into account.
registering a formal complaint. The majority of the BOs refer
to cases where
Situated in the southeast of the country, the city of São Paulo
someone was caught red-handed.
is the capital of the federate-state of the same name and has a
population of just over 10 million. Some of its features currently
2) Book of police incidents from the Departemento
make it the leading Brazilian city in terms of trade in illegal
Estadual de Narcóticos
drugs, both locally and internationally. These features include:
(DENARC), a specialized agency in the combat against drug
. São Paulo is Brazil’s most populous city;
. It is the city with the greatest economic development;
3) Investigation Orders (OI). These aredocuments in
. It is generally the main consumer market of any prod-
which all the Civil Police
(1) The general coordination of the project was over-
uct be it, legal or illegal;
or to the Ouvidoria de Polícia ("Police Ombudsman") are reg-
seen by political scientist Guaracy Mingardi, while
anthropologist Sandra Goulart took charge of co-
. It possesses the most extensive street network in the
ordinating the fieldwork.
65 Chapter 3

It is clear that at this stage of the research we made the
Table 2 :
option to work exclusively with official documents. The main
Origin of dealers caught red-handed — 1996.
reason is that they enabled us to begin the research by setting
a quantitative framework. Obviously these figures, collected for
us, did not resume our aim but allowed us to have an initial idea.
In our research we did not use the official figures but worked
with earlier State documents. Our figures differed from the
police statistics on various counts.
The DENARC reports confirm the increase in the city’s impor-
tance in the drugs market.The numbers of arrests of suspects in
flagrante delicto reveal a steady increase in the numbers of
arrests of dealers and users but also of users voluntarily apply-
ing for treatment services.
Source: DENARC reports
Table 1:
It comes as no surprise that 55.5% of all dealers operating on
Annual number of arrests relating to trafficking,
the São Paulo market come from the State of São Paulo. In many
DENARC. 1991-96.
countries it tends to be the rule that drug dealing on the streets
is done by local leaderships. A preliminary observation of our
police inquiries showed that even those born a long way from
the city of São Paulo were mostly long-term residents in São
Paulo. The only surprise is the high number of non-Brazilians.
According to police statisticians’ information most of these for-
eigners were arrested for international trafficking and nearly all
were caught in the State’s harbors and airports, trying to leave
Brazil in possession of cocaine.
Source: DENARC reports
Table 3:
As these figures show, there was an increase of 243% in the
Prisoner's situation regarding the labour market
annual total of arrests made by DENARC over a period of six
years. Much of this increase is due to the expansion of the
department, which in 1995 gained an intelligence division, but
undoubtedly also reflects the increase in the number of dealers
operating on the São Paulo market. We only mention the statis-
tics predating the beginning of the research, for this reason: as
Source: DENARC reports
soon as we began collecting our own data it became obvious
that we could not trust the official figures.
This table is very unreliable.The fact that most of the dealers
arrested declared that they were employed is no surprise. Since
in order to obtain mercy from the law they need to have a job
and a permanent residence most professional thieves declare
themselves to be employed (Mingardi, 1992). It is also easier for
them to persuade judges that they are drug addicts not dealers.
Most of the information provided by the accused is never
66 Chapter 3

checked by the police, the State Prosecutor or the Courts. Even
Table 6:
if they are found out, as defendants they cannot be punished for
Persons dealt with by the state prosecutor’s office
perjury. The unreliability of these data has been confirmed by
for using or dealing in drugs — São Paulo —
the information gathered from drug users approaching
samples 1990, 1995 and 1999.
DENARC for treatment of their own accord. Of the 818 persons
who sought this service 587, or 71.8%, turned out to be jobless.
CRACK 54.0
While they are not of use for identifying the jobless who turn
to dealing, the figures supplied by DENARC do help us
understand how many children and adolescents are involved.
The following two tables throw light on two major points with
relation to minors held for the possession or for dealing in
Source: State Prosecutor's Office and DENARC
illegal drugs.Table 4 shows that over half of the minors detained
were accompanied by an adult, possibly their supplier or boss.
The explanation for this table, with its variations in the rank-
ing of the most used drugs, can be found in the history of local
Table 4:
consumption. Marijuana is the most traditional of all the illegal
Minors taken into custody for dealing:
substances used in Brazil. It was used for decades by all social
whether or not they are accompanied.
classes. Cocaine, which was fashionable among the upper class-
es and in bohemian circles in the first half of the century, flood-
ed back on to the market in the 1980s. It was used, above all, by
the middle classes, as its price has never been attractive for the
less privileged. During the 1990s, crack became the "poor man’s
cocaine" and flooded sectors of the market previously limited
Source: DENARC reports
to other substances. This is true of street children, who tradi-
tionally sniff shoemaker’s glue to escape their harsh reality for a
Table 5:
short time. One part of town — about twenty blocks — in the
Illegal drug found on minors taken into custody.
centre has so many crack users that it has been nicknamed
Cracolândia or "Crackland". The crack boom has now subsided
and, after twenty years of oblivion, marijuana is making a come-
back as a cause for concern.
The past two decades, successively dominated by cocaine
Source: DENARC reports
and crack, have left a deep imprint on the São Paulo market.
They have led to the entry of new players who have pushed out
The figures clearly show that children and adolescents taken
the old dealers. The major novelty is the increase in dealing-
into custody by DENARC are crack users. This is a relatively
related violence, which scarcely existed until the early 1970s.
recent phenomenon. The ranking of the most sold illegal drugs
Another consequence, observed mainly in the last ten years, is
varies considerably over time, according to fashion or availabili-
the fragmentation of the market. Unlike the Rio de Janeiro mar-
ty. The following table shows how consumption in São Paulo
ket, essentially based on cocaine and highly organised, the São
changed in just five years.
Paulo market is fragmented. It seems to follow the classic liber-
al model, with an infinite number of dealers and buyers, which
results in strong competition and keeps prices low.
67 Chapter 3

Drugs have to travel great distances to reach the city.
Guilherme stands out precisely because of the existence of the
Marijuana comes from several sources: from Paraguay by lorry,
Carandirú penitentiary complex, where some 7000 inmates were
hidden among other goods, the most common of which is tim-
ber, or from the north-eastern states of the country, mainly
Pernambuco. Small quantities of free-base cocaine — up to 20-
Cocaine does not circulate very much in the two poor
30 kg — are normally bought at the Paraguayan or Bolivian bor-
peripheral areas of the city, South and East. Most seisures are
der, while larger amounts are usually flown into Brazil, the
concentrated in the central and northern areas. The only excep-
planes landing and unloading in various parts of the state.
tion is 27 DP, Ibirapuera, one of the wealthy districts. No working
Dealers, who have already paid for the goods by bank transfer,
class district experiences high levels of cocaine seisures.
receive their orders and transport them by van or lorry to their
operating base in the city. The largest seisures of free-base have
Of the five districts with the highest number of crack
involved transactions taking exactly the form just described.
seisures, four are downtown: Santa Efigênia (3 DP, or
The largest was 300 kilos in early 1999. Cocaine for local con-
"Crackland"), Santa Cecília (77), Bom Retiro (2 DP) and Cambuci
sumption arrives in São Paulo by similar routes, but also comes
(6 DP). The majority of arrests for the use of or dealing in crack
from Amazonia and sometimes directly from Colombia. The
take place in Santa Efigênia, known since the early twentieth
extra expense is compensated for by its sale price, twice that of
century as "Boca do Lixo" or "Garbage Outlet". For decades it has
been home to brothels and striptease joints. In the first half of
the twentieth century it was also known for its morphine and
Another important issue concerns the rise in crack use. This
heroin dens (Fonseca, 1988).
product is given a great deal of attention, more than any other
in the media, to such an extent that it can seem to be the only
Outside the downtown area, crack has been highly popular
drug used. This can be explained thanks to three factors.
in the extreme east and north of the city. This is interesting
1. Many consumers use it in downtown streets.
because roughly speaking they are under quite different socio-
2. Among the three substances mentioned here, crack
economic conditions. The extreme east is part of the poverty
is the one that produces
belt, densely populated with low-income residents(3). The north-
harmful effects within the shortest period.
ern district, on the other hand, has a core of middle class and
3. Its rapid introduction onto the market. In 1990 it
lower class residents but the population is less dense. Another
barely existed and only
factor to be taken into consideration is that this district is home
0.7% of all police seisures concerned. By 1995 this fig-
to most officials of the Military Police, possibly leading to more
ure had risen to 70%,
law enforcement.
according to DENARC.
However, it may be that the police have been focusing on
The São Paulo Market
(2) A kilo of freebase can be bought in Bolivia for
crack dealers for some time, increasing the number of seisures
$400; once turned into crack rocks, it may be worth
and distorted the sampling figures.
According to various surveys, there are at least three profiles
as much as 4000 - 6000. Cocaine in powder form
of illegal drug dealers operating in the city of São Paulo:
costs more than double,but in compensation can be
Marijuana is in first position because it is still mostly used in
resold at a higher price, mainly because it increases
greatly in volume as each buyer "baptizes" (mixes) it,
middle class neighbourhoods. Of the four areas with the largest
Micro drugs dealers:
so that one kilo may have turned into as many as four
number of cases involving marijuana, three are in middle class
They correspond to the biggest group operating in the city.
kilos by the time it reaches the end-user.
districts: Pinheiros (14 DP = Distrito Policial or precinct), Ibirapuera
Most of them are young, aged 16-27 years. They mainly sell
(3) This is a very large district with a mixed popula-
(27 DP) and Consolação (4 DP). The exception is the Distrito
crack rocks and small amounts of marijuana. Almost 80% of
tion and pockets of middle or even upper class res-
Policial of Vila Guilherme (9 DP), including cases registered relat-
dealers arrested belong to this group. The dealing model they
idents, but as whole the far eastern fringe of the city
is inhabited by poor or working class residents.
ing to the Carandirú headquarters. In most criminal statistics Vila
follow cannot be regarded as organised crime: most work inde-
68 Chapter 3

pendently. They buy small amounts of marijuana or crack
Despite the evidence, he was wordless and did not call a
stones, and resell them for a small profit. Most of the profits go
into drugs for their own use. They are disorganised and poor. Of
three arrested two were jobless and one was a poor addict and
Small dealers are on the borderline between the gangs and
none tried to bribe the police officers arresting them with a sup-
organised crime. According to an assessment of their own
ply of drugs. It is obvious that these cases of petty dealing do
members, the downtown groups are less organised, without ter-
not involve criminal enterprises or traditional ones. They act
ritories, and their hierarchies are weak. In some peripheral areas
alone or at most in badly organised gangs. Their only possible
bocas are more structured. Lookouts warn of police arrivals;
link with organised crime is the type of customers they have.
there are so-called "passadores" (pusher) or "aviões" (airplane)
This type of dealing is the most common in the downtown area
who deliver the goods, boca managers and bosses.
of São Paulo. A few are not addicts themselves, only dealers.
Some of them are "promoted" to the status of small dealer. The
The retail drug price varies from outlet to outlet.The clearest
two cases below are typical.
example is that of crack stones whose price may be as high as
R$ 10.00 while in Crackland they can be found for as little as R$
Pedro was arrested in a bar for selling two small packets of
cocaine. He was also in possession of a small amount of mari-
juana. He had had no previous trouble with the police and had
Medium dealers
no lawyer.
They are retailers or wholesalers dealing in amounts up to
Luciano was arrested while selling to a girl three crack
stones downtown, in rua do Triunfo, Crackland. He confessed to
Kito was arrested, with a helper in a truck, in a lorry transport-
be not only a dealer but also an addict. He also said that he was
ing 200kg of cocaine base paste on the way to São Paulo. It is cal-
selling drugs to buy his own. He had no police record or lawyer.
culated that 700,000 to 1,000,000 crack stones can be produced
from this amount of base paste. He is well known in the south of
Small dealers:
the city and he controls dealing in Vila Joaniza. He works with
They are retailers but they also sell small quantities to other
drugs in two ways. He transforms freebase into crack and sells it
dealers.They normally operate with quantities of less than 10kg.
at two outlets that he controls in that district. He sells wholesale
to another smaller dealers who make their own crack.
Small dealers may be independent or manage a boca (spots
where traffickers and users meet). Often they have a criminal
Both Kito and his assistant were primary of São Paulo. The
record for dealing or other offences, usually crimes against
drug had been collected from a plantation in the interior of the
property. They do not work alone, unlike petty dealers. Very
State of São Paulo where Bolivian dealers had dropped it from a
often they have up to three partners or employees. Most of
low-flying aircraft. It had already been paid for by bank transfer.
them are aged 20 years or more, some more than 40 years.
The gang has its own lawyer who is well known for his work
The following two dealers belong to small dealer category:
in major drugs trafficking cases. This implies a certain degree of
Ávila was arrested while selling some 300 crack stones. He
business stability.
was arrested along with his uncle and partner in the deal. They
were caught red-handed and neither volunteered the name of
a lawyer. They were not armed.
Violence, Corruption and Trafficking
Tibiriça is typical — not specialised in a single type of mer-
chandise. He had no criminal record and was arrested in his
The introduction of crack and cocaine on to the São Paulo
apartment with cocaine, freebase, LSD, marijuana and Ecstasy.
market led to an increase in violence. Until the early 1970s only
a few deaths in the city were related to drug dealing, most of
69 Chapter 3

them the result of scores being settled between dealers. Drug
The other reason for the lack of control and repression of the
dealing and drug use are now responsible for almost 20% of
Brazilian law enforcement services lies in their origin.The police,
murders in São Paulo, but they are not distributed uniformly
the public prosecution service and the judiciary were estab-
throughout the city. There are areas where dealing is intense
lished to act against individual criminals. The law itself was
but there are few murders, while other areas are very violent but
drafted based on individuals, rather than gangs. In a typical
there is little in the way of drugs. My reading of this is that relat-
case, the police arrest and supply evidence against an individu-
ed to drug dealing violence is linked to two distinct factors:
al selling cocaine, but only against him. They do not track down
. the local history of violence: the areas in which deal-
the other people involved. The prosecutor prosecutes only the
ing causes many deaths are those in which the city has tradi-
dealer, and the judge does not even want to know whether or
tionally been more violent, for example, the south-western dis-
not the individual belongs to a gang. Each simply follows the
tricts which have been at the top of the murder chart for more
letter of the law, which dictates the imprisonment of the dealer.
than 20 years;
. the shortcomings of law enforcement: in the district
As far as big dealers are concerned, the Brazilian judicial sys-
nicknamed "Crackland", right in the centre of the city and recog-
tem hardly ever hears about them. Law enforcement with
nised as the area where most crack is used, policing is far more
respect to dealing leaves a great deal to be desired. There are
effective than on the outskirts, where there is less drug use. The
gross shortcomings in the way investigations on organised
result is that the "Crackland" dealer engages in far less killing
crime are conducted. Different police forces do not share the
than his colleagues on the outskirts.
same concept of organised crime. There is no clear idea as to
how it should be tackled. The one thing that is absolutely clear
Law enforcement, or rather its absence, is one of the factors
is that the international drug trade is of exclusive competence
affecting dealing. The various Brazilian police forces have little
of the Federal Police.
or no chance of tackling the problem. Except in very rare cases,
it is only small and substantial dealers who come up against
Who, though, is responsible for curbing trafficking between
the law. Fewer than ten substantial dealers supplying São
States? In fact, no sector of the Brazilian police is specifically
Paulo have been arrested in the past ten years, while it is esti-
responsible for it. State police seeks only to curb local dealing.
mated that there are at least a hundred of them operating in
The Federal Police is responsible only for international traffick-
the city. Several reasons for this ineffectiveness have been put
ing. Metaphorically, it is safer to transport cocaine from Campo
forward, two of which seem the most plausible. The first and
Grande to São Paulo, a distance of more than a thousand kilo-
perhaps more important is corruption. Since the cocaine
metres, than to sell the cocaine in São Paulo, or transport it from
boom, the number of cases of police officers involved in deal-
Puerto Soares to Corumbá. The Federal Police operates at the
ing has been increasing steadily. The corrupt São Paulo police
border, the Civil Police in São Paulo. No one operates in
officer has at least three ways of increasing his income with
the help of drug dealing:
. freeing prisoners in return of payment;
Another weakness is the lack of communication between
. taking half the quantity of cocaine seised and selling it.
police forces. There is no practical way of exchanging informa-
In order to avoid
tion between State police forces. A computerised database has
suspicion, he adds powder or another substance to the
been established at the federal level very recently. It is fortunate
cocaine, thus maintaining
that major international gangs invest only rarely in the Brazilian
the weight of the original seisure;
market. They are usually involved only in transporting cocaine
. receiving a previously agreed monthly payment from
abroad. The fragmentation of the market is one factor that
the gang, known as
makes it unattractive for big dealers to invest in the Brazilian
"the book".
markets. The advent of crack may be the single factor that has
mostly contributed to that fragmentation. Another important
70 Chapter 3

factor is the difference within goods, as local crack consumption
the locations registered by the police as being the main points
dealers normally import free-base cocaine, but not cocaine in
of use of or dealing in drugs were actually those most used by
powder, which is the most exported product. A third factor is
persons linked to the offences. The police registers may be of
price. Cocaine costs ten to twenty times more in Europe and the
more use for demonstrating a given operation or even a specif-
United States than in Brazil. It is therefore far more profitable to
ic perception of the area, rather than for analysing the move-
export it than to sell it in the country. Furthermore, traffickers run
ment, supply and demand of drugs in a given district. It must be
few risks in Brazil, so exporters can operate with no fear of the
noted that the registers at our disposal were all those of the
Civil, not the military, Police.
This has resulted in the biggest traffickers using São Paulo as
We also aimed to acquaint ourselves with the local popula-
a base or channel. The state is a crossroads for most of the
tion, identifying above all those groups most involved with
goods passing though the country and is therefore also used by
street life and the link that they maintain with the use of and
cocaine exporters.
dealing in drugs in general. On this score, we did research on the
profile of this population in an attempt to verify, inter alia, which
groups (children, beggars, prostitutes, transvestis, the jobless,
Cracolândia ("Crackland")
etc.) were most closely related to drugs.
The third phase of the research was conducted in the district
The first finding of our research was that the geographical
identified as the main drug consuming area in the city, known
definition of the district known as Crackland varies according to
as Cracolândia or "Crackland". The research was conducted in
the person asked. Some people think of it as only half a dozen
May 1999.
blocks while for others it covers virtually the whole of central São
Paulo. Nonetheless analysts generally agree that the centre of
Although the name of the area covered by the research sug-
Crackland lies to the north of avenida São João, in Santa Efigênia.
gests a close link with "crack", the intention of this study was to
gather and analyse data concerning all kinds of illegal drugs.
After the first week of fieldwork we noted that we could
From this point of view, one of our questions referred to the
restrict the area still even more. The cases of crack use or deal-
analysis of the actual association between the district called
ing observed indicated that we could exclude the six blocks
Crackland and the use or sale of that drug. It should also be stat-
between Av. Rio Branco and rua Santa Efigênia, fixing the latter
ed that, when speaking of drugs, we shall invariably refer to
street as the south-western limit of the area under research.
those considered, by Brazilian legislation, as illegal whether for
sale or use. In other words, these are "illegal drugs".
In the first half of the twentieth century this district was
known as the Bohemian quarter of São Paulo. Over the past few
Initially we consulted police sources, classifying and
decades it has suffered from the same inner city decay as the
analysing police records and denunciations to the Civil Police
rest of downtown São Paulo and lost its status. Until crack
(DENARC and DECAP), relating to offences involving the use of
arrived it was known as Boca do Lixo, as low-class prostitutes
or dealing in crack, and other drugs. This covers the period
lived there. In the 1970s, for example, the whole area from pre-
between June 1998 and March 1999.
sent-day Crackland to Av. São João was full of striptease joints,
brothels and, latterly, explicit sex joints. The arrival of crack
After having gathered data from these sources, we decided
brought the district down even further.
to analyse the empirical reality. We compared the figures from
the police data with our actual observation, with a view to
It could be divided into at least three separate areas:
understanding the police records, especially because they were
- Crack Zone — rua dos Andradas, rua Vitória, rua dos
incomplete. On the other hand, we also set out to verify whether
Protestantes and rua Gal. Osório
71 Chapter 3

- Prostitution Zone — Basically rua Santa Efigênia and
changes occasioned by the arrival of crack in the area.
rua dos Andradas, and the interlinking side streets.
- Mixed Zone — Blocks nearest to rua Mauá, Av. Duque
We noted that anyone directly involved in drugs, and in par-
de Caxias, Av. Ipiranga and Av. Cásper Líbero, i.e. near the bound-
ticular in crack, tended to have been in the area for less time.The
aries of Crackland.
same goes for the street dwellers not directly related to illegal
drugs; one possible explanation is the apparently fluctuating
character of this population. In fact, we noted that both groups
Log of Interviews and Fieldwork
— persons involved in illegal drugs and street dwellers — con-
stantly move around between Crackland and other parts of the
The fieldwork entailed regular visits to the area, carried out
city. Although some questions were common to all the inter-
on different days and at different times, with a view to observ-
views, some of them involved special points, depending on the
ing the differences in the movements connected with the use
group to which the interviewee belonged. We defined four sep-
and sale of drugs. The visits were made for the most part by
arate groups, representing different types of occupation in
researchers working in pairs, who walked around the different
blocks of Crackland, observing general activities and the flow of
A. Persons formally employed and residents;
people in the area, and making contacts with them. The initial
B. The world of illegal drugs;
contacts made it possible to gather information about
C. Prostitution;
Crackland, which helped us to create a log of interviews and to
D. Street dwellers.
select the people to be interviewed. Our initial contacts were
rendered difficult by disastrous declarations by the police the
A. Persons formally employed and residents
week before. According to these declarations,the area was
This group comprises persons who have been in the area for
under police surveillance and being filmed. Nonetheless, we
more than two years. Some of the interviewees have main-
gradually managed to contact people and carry out our inter-
tained working or residential links in the area under study for
views. Contacts were made and people in the streets were inter-
more than twenty years. This means that not only do they have
viewed (both adults and children), along with persons linked
a special overview of the changes that have taken place but also
with prostitution, local residents, traders and local workers, peo-
tend to have closer links with the district.
ple involved directly with drugs, as users and dealers (adults and
children) and local employers.
Despite some variations within the facts about involvement
with illegal drugs, people in Group A in general were neither
Despite the differences between the interviews, we man-
alarmed nor scared by the impact of activity resulting from the
aged to compile a list of the questions common to all of them,
use or sale of psychotropic substances. In fact, from the outset
since the same points kept popping up. Our constant concerns
of the empirical research, one fact that became evident at once
were: how long the interviewees had been in Crackland; their
was the natural way in which traders, employees and residents
socio-economic profile; some details about their lives before
in the district addressed the subject of drugs and the use of
they came to the area; their relationship with drug users and
crack in particular.
dealers in Crackland; their position in Crackland.
First of all, it is clear that this attitude shows the routine
Some of the interviewees — traders, workers, those linked
nature of this type of offence in the district. However, it also
with prostitution and representatives of various bodies — had
shows that the people involved with illegal drugs are not nec-
been in Crackland for over twenty years. The interviews were
essarily associated with being dangerous or seen as a threat to
vital for our assessment of any changes in recent years in the
society. On the contrary it was agreed that people involved in
area currently known as Crackland. Given the tenor of our
drugs deserved pity. Indeed, an idea that often emerged from
research, we were interested in registering any facts about
the interviews with members of Group A was that the most
72 Chapter 3

negative effects of links with the world of illegal drugs were
sion may be used by locals who do not use crack when refer-
reflected in the lives of those persons involved in that world. In
ring to people linked to the drug, whether users or dealers. It
other words, for traders, employees or residents of the district,
may also be employed by people involved in petty crime, such
drug users and dealers were to be commiserated with or looked
as prostitution or by street dwellers, especially groups of them
down upon but not feared.
who are very close to the world of illegal drugs, since they all
share the same space, the street. In these cases the term is used
This does not mean that the residents or workers in the area
as a means of creating a distance between extremely close
fail to recognise that violent acts linked with the use or sale of
groups. It is important to highlight the difficulty of differentia-
illegal drugs do take place. But it does imply that violence takes
tion detected during the empirical research. By this we mean
place within the group involved with those substances. There
the distance between crack users and dealers. Although we
were several reports of cases of physical aggression and even
could say that many users do not identify themselves as nóias,
death involving people directly related with the illegal drugs
on the other hand most people selling crack are seen by the
group. In general, the stance taken by the district’s residents and
local community as users of the substance and are therefore
workers could be defined as a kind of indifferent tolerance and
referred to as nóias.
a refusal to get involved.
Many interviewees mentioned cases of those responsible for
Another important issue concerns this group’s attitude
selling crack ending up by consuming some of the crack that they
towards the police. Curiously the police are often seen as a dis-
were meant to sell.People working, residing or hanging around in
turbance. One of the commonest criticisms was that police
the district classify dealers according to the amount of crack
action against crack dealing was inefficient. In most of our con-
being sold. According to the local community there are small,
tacts and interviews with local residents and workers this ineffi-
medium and large dealers. Virtually all of them admit that in
ciency was explained as being a result of informal agreements
Crackland small dealers predominate or that people sell only
between the police and local dealers. There were plenty of sto-
small amounts of crack. One of the most usual explanations for
ries about agreements between the police and certain dealers,
this predominance is that dealers also use some of their mer-
allowing free transit at a certain time of night. Many people
referred to major negotiations between the police and dealers.
However, this classification does not tally with what is
B. The world of illegal drugs
known about dealing in the city as a whole. Within the general
This group comprises persons using or dealing in illegal
classification of dealing in the city most local dealers are so-
drugs. It is true that of all drugs the one most used in the area
called petty dealers. Their suppliers are small dealers, possibly
under research is crack.The users of this substance are known as
getting their supplies from non-resident, substantial dealers.
nóias. This term is used invariably by residents and workers, the
There is no suggestion that large dealers even come to
whole community in fact, for people who take crack all the time.
Crackland. This difference between the local assessment and
The expression refers to one of the typical side effects of crack
the widely held view shows that the perspective of the local
and is an abbreviation of "paranoia" — crack use results in a
community is restricted to day-to-day observation. The table
state of anxiety or nervousness and, above all, a desire to repeat
below is an attempt to relate the two classifications.
or even increase the dosage.
We realised that the term nóia is used whenever people try
and distance themselves from practices linked to the use or sale
of crack. In this way nóias are always "others" or, in other words,
people seldom use it to refer to themselves. Nóias are uncon-
trollably dependent on crack, i.e. they are addicts. The expres-
73 Chapter 3

Table 7:
This issue of the demand for the crack sold in Crackland
Comparison between the classification used by the com-
needs to be analysed more attentively. Whether the demand
munity in Crackland and the police classification
is mostly internal or external to the area under study could
have different consequences for the origin of the money used
for buying drugs. If the consumer market is essentially local
the first question would be how the local residents can afford
to buy drugs, especially since most of them are not involved
in money-making activities. This points to a possible link
between dealing in and consuming crack and acts of petty
Since it transpired during our research that the most fre-
crime, such as theft or robbery. On the other hand, if demand
quently found drug in Crackland is crack, we shall now describe
is mostly external that would reduce the link between local
in detail how this substance is prepared, consumed and mar-
crime and crack dealing and use.
keted, and the profile of the people involved in its use.
According to some reports and interviews the presence of
The small dealers in the "area" not only can be identified as
buyers and/or consumers of crack from outside the area used to
users of crack but they also share many characteristics with
be greater. This might be precisely because in the past the area
nóias. Most them live in the same places as many of the nóias,
was not yet generally known as Crackland but also because the
namely the small boarding houses in Crackland, and although
policing was less intensive. Once the area became more closely
some of them are slightly better off than most users (many of
associated with crack and, according to the statements, more
whom cannot afford their daily rent) like crack consumers they
"famous as Crackland", police action became more frequent,
tend not to have a fixed abode, constantly moving from one
scaring off any buyers from outside the district and conse-
boarding-house to another.
quently deterring them from coming to the district.
As far as the demand for crack is concerned, this is more con-
This information matches the data presented in another
troversial. In some reports it is stressed that local dealing is
report where it is claimed that, although the district is now bet-
mostly sustained by external demand, or in other words that the
ter known than before as a place for crack, the main dealing in
biggest buyers of the drug live elsewhere in the city and belong
and use of crack in the district, both for external or internal
to better off classes. According to this line of thought we heard
demand, took place in the past. According to these reports, for
stories that, especially at night, Crackland is frequented by "lux-
example, whereas today it is possible to find blocks in Crackland
ury cars" from which potential buyers emerge.
where at night as many as thirty or forty people consume crack
openly, in the past the same streets were full of people, includ-
On the other hand, some of the interviews and information
ing far more nóias (some reports speak of fifty people or more).
suggest that local dealing is based far more on local demand.
Consequently there would appear to be a kind of migration of
Accordingly some of the local street dwellers — children, beg-
users and dealers away from Crackland to other parts of the city.
gars, unemployed persons and groups exercising activities such
It could be concluded that the original Crackland is now being
as prostitutions (including transvestites) or even people living
dispersed and its members or protagonists are moving to other
nearby — are said to be the main consumers.
places like Praça Roosevelt or Praça República.
Initially our field observations seem to uphold this notion
Still on the subject of dealing, it is worth mentioning the
that dealing in Crackland is mostly based on local demand.
prices of crack sold in the area under study. The price is R$ 5.00
During our incursions into the district we seldom noted the
for a small crack rock while some larger rocks may fetch as much
presence of anyone from outside. Nor did we notice the afore-
as R$ 10.00. Rarer are tiny rocks sold for R$ 3.00. We noted that,
mentioned "luxury vehicles" driving around Crackland.
often, local consumers — children, street dwellers, prostitutes
74 Chapter 3

and transvestites — buy a couple of crack rocks together and
of bicarbonate of soda and powder or freebase cocaine. It is
then share them.
more common to use freebase and pure cocaine is very rarely
used. They are mixed and cooked together and the rocks are
As we said at the beginning of the chapter, our empirical
formed from the vapour and ashes resulting from this process:
research entailed daytime and night time walks around the
this is crack proper.The place where it is prepared is called a coz-
blocks of Crackland.We set out to observe movements linked to
inha or "kitchen".
dealing in and use of crack. Curiously we soon understood that
our itineraries closely resembled those of users and dealers —
Although we did not manage to extract from the locals any
who continuously walk round and round while buying and sell-
information about the exact location of the kitchens our infor-
ing crack. Both buyers and sellers walked around streets most
mation suggests that many of them are nearby or even in
closely linked with traffic in the hope of making contact with
Crackland, i.e. much of the crack sold there is prepared on the
someone. Anyone walking around the area especially at night
spot. According to interviews with former DENARC officials,
can be approached, as they are seen as potential buyers or sell-
until a few years ago nearly all the crack consumed was manu-
ers. It is also interesting to note that we researchers were some-
factured in the area. Dealers used around 500g of cocaine and
times approached both by dealers wanting to sell us crack and
250g of bicarb. They would mix it together in a small pan and
by buyers.
obtain just under 750g of crack (some is lost during the pro-
cess). With the increased demand some now has to be manu-
While dealing entails constant moving about, crack users on
factured elsewhere. Proof of this is that recently the police have
the other hand usually consume the substance sitting still on
seised crack from Bolivia and Paraguay.
the pavements. They have a preference for pavements in front
of long walls, i.e. where there are few shops or homes. They call
Profile and situation of users and dealers: Owing to the short
them "paredões" or "big walls". The paredões are mostly used by
period of the study we were unable to work with a sufficiently
nóias at night. During the day we sometimes found people in
large sample of the community to extrapolate any socio-eco-
Crackland using crack but we found far more at night. The same
nomic means and other data. A farther-reaching study of the
can be said of the dealing which, even more so than consump-
socio-economic profiles of the population linked to the con-
tion, mostly takes place at night.
sumption of and dealing in crack would require a longer period
of empirical research. However we shall present here some
We could not determine the exact number of rocks that a
observations on the initial data with respect to the features of
nóia can consume in one night. Roughly we could say that a
the users and dealers of crack in the research area.
highly compulsive nóia can smoke as many as twenty rocks in a
five or six-hour period, if he can afford to buy them. This does
The first point to be highlighted concerns children involved
not seem to be the case of local nóias who cannot afford that
in crack use or dealing: crack is usually associated with minors,
many rocks. In approximate terms, we could say that on average
especially poor ones, street children and delinquents. This asso-
they get through six rocks.
ciation receives a lot of media attention — in fact Crackland
became famous as a place where children could be seen smok-
As we said earlier, the term nóia also refers to a side effect of
ing crack in broad daylight.
taking crack. This is related to the euphoria reached by the user
and the paranoid desire to obtain another dose of crack, and
However, during our research we noted that most people
other more specific obsessive sensations, such as a heightened
involved with crack in the district were adults although admit-
feeling of persecution. Nóias are well known for constantly pick-
tedly many of them were very young. There were adolescents
ing up pebbles off the street in the hope that they are crack
and children, but they were far fewer. In general, they can be
rocks that have been dropped.
seen in the daytime, especially the youngest of all. We did see
Properties and preparation: Crack is obtained from a mixture
children as young as 8 years old smoking crack in the street. Of
75 Chapter 3

course, these were extremely shocking scenes and this is why
group in Crackland. Some of them have been working there for
the area is associated with child crack smokers.
more than ten years. Female prostitution in the city is mostly
based in certain Crackland streets, such as rua Santa Efigênia, a
These surveys and the interviews, plus our observations,
favourite haunt for prostitutes.
indicate that most of these children have no fixed abode and
sleep in the street or in parks. The Parque da Luz, for example,
One interesting fact is that prostitutes mark out their own
near Crackland, is full of children and other homeless sleeping,
territory, and it is separate from that used for crack dealing.
especially during the daytime — at night it is closed. During
When we contacted or interviewed prostitutes we kept hearing
the daytime we counted 19 people who slept there every day
about the important difference between the prostitution area
— five children and fourteen adults. Praça Roosevelt and Praça
and the drugs area, especially with regard to crack. In one inter-
da República were also mentioned as favourite sleeping
view, in particular, the interviewee said that there was far more
violence in "Crackland", and it was related to the crack trade.Yet
curiously the interview was actually taking place in one of the
At least one case, unconfirmed, was mentioned of middle
streets in the area normally regarded as Crackland. This backed
class children and adolescents leaving their homes because of
up the notion that the streets frequented by prostitutes for
their addiction. Apparently one is the disabled son of a judge
soliciting customers are not seen as part of Crackland as such.
and former detainee who lives in a Crackland boarding-house
to consume crack; he is supported by his family whose attempts
The same differentiation cropped up in interviews and other
to remove him have failed.
contacts with transvestites. These operate in various hotels and
have been working in Crackland for nearly two years. The
Children are the main victims of local violence since they
transvestites we interviewed said time and time again that the
are more heavily addicted to crack than adults. It is said that
places where they worked had nothing to do with the crack
many children are constantly attacked or even killed for fail-
trade or any other drugs, although they admitted that away
ing in their crack selling "duties". We tried to back this up with
from the hotels other transvestites might be involved in crack
evidence but could find no specific cases, over the previous
use or sale — especially use.
year, of murders of children in the district. We did come across
various cases of sexual exploitation of minors related with the
This differentiation in the minds of people linked with prosti-
local crack trade. Girls are more exploited than boys; they sell
tution does reflect the local situation to some extent, since prosti-
their bodies for crack — our interviews found direct evidence
tutes ply streets that are not mainly used for the use or dealing of
of one case of this.
crack, but it also needs to be put into perspective: after all, mem-
bers of this groups are doing illegal work. Of course, it is very
This violence does not affect only children. Adults also suf-
important for prostitutes and transvestite prostitutes to make a
fer the consequences of being related to the world of illegal
clear distinction between their own activities and those linked to
drugs. Many adults, like children, die of crack use, usually
crack, as a way of toning down the illegality of their own activities.
owing to overdoses. Some die as a result of fights with dealers
or other users.
However, if we take a closer look at the world of prostitution
in the area under study we note that the separation between the
C. Prostitution
world of prostitution and the group linked with illegal drugs
Apart from field observations on this group we also con-
(especially crack) is not so clear-cut. Even in the surveys that
ducted interviews with people involved in prostitution in
showed up a distinction we can see that there are in fact many
Crackland. We could divide this group into two sub-groups:
connections between the two worlds. For example, in one inter-
prostitutes and transvestite prostitutes.
view with a prostitute, just after stressing the difference between
The group of prostitutes seem to be the most established
"crackland" and prostitution land, she went on to mention sever-
76 Chapter 3

al occasions when her customers came to buy crack or asked
is garbage. We observed countless members of the group sifting
prostitutes how to get it. She also mentioned acts of violence or
through the rubbish of local shops, especially between 7 and 9
attacks on prostitution due to the use of crack.
p.m. when the rubbish vans pass through. Many of them recycle
paper and walks through the streets pushing carts full of paper
Many of the interviews with transvestite prostitutes empha-
and scrap metal.
sised the difference between their territory and "Crackland" but
went on to mention cases of customers whose only reason for
Their other source of income is, of course, begging. They do
finding a transvestite prostitute was to have someone to smoke
this mainly during the day. We noted, however, that the number
crack with.They told stories of customers who paid transvestites
of daytime beggars is smaller than the number of street
for a whole night in order to smoke R$ 100.00 worth of crack
dwellers at night. This may be explained by the fact that some
beg in other parts of the city but come back to Crackland at
night to sleep, collect waste paper or take crack.
Transvestites and other prostitutes work in different places
and streets possibly to respect each other’s stamping grounds.
Contacts and interviews with members of this group sug-
Nor do they work exactly the same hours. Prostitutes tend to
gested that, precisely because of their close contact with the
work in the daytime while transvestites tend to work more at
crack-related group, they tend to be affected by the latter
night. During our research we noted that the middle of the
group’s actions. Sometimes conflicts among dealers or between
night is crack time. After midnight hardly anyone out in the
dealers and consumers of crack affect street dwellers not direct-
street has nothing to do with crack, whether smoking or deal-
ly involved in dealing in or using this drug.
ing. The only exception is the transvestite prostitutes who ply
almost the same areas as the nóias.
Similarly the street dwellers may be confused by local
traders with nóias and this results in more aggression towards
D. Street dwellers
them. In this regard, in an interview with a street dweller, a for-
This group comprises people living in the street in Crackland
mer detainee, we were told of the presence of vigilantes con-
but not directly involved in the consumption of or dealing in
tracted by local traders to remove people from the pavements
crack. It is an extremely heterogeneous group, comprising beg-
in front of some shops in the district. Some of the street
gars, jobless persons, people in casual employment, homeless
dwellers therefore prefer to sleep during the day. According to
people including children, all kinds of people without occupa-
another interviewee their preferred location was the Parque
tions, former detainees, etc. It should be highlighted that it is
da Luz, which opens at 8 a.m. Unsurprisingly, relations
very difficult to distinguish genuine street dwellers from nóias
between this group and the police are quite tense.
in advanced stages of decline.
It is an extremely mobile group since its members are con-
The Limits of Law Enforcement
stantly being renewed, partly as a result of clean-up campaigns.
While newcomers constantly arrive on the district’s streets, oth-
The analysis of police law enforcement in Crackland was
ers migrate to other parts of the city — thus the population is
based on four different sources:
always in flux. We opted for defining this group as a specific
. Police reports on the use of or dealing in illegal drugs,
Crackland community, not necessarily related with the world of
. Direct observation,
crack or other illegal drugs, because during our research we
. Interviews,
realised that it is a typical group in the district and occupied
. Police statistics
Crackland even before it received its moniker.
The following tables and graphs were produced from the
first source, police reports. They refer to the period January
One of the main sources of income for members of this group
1998-April 1999 and cover the whole of 3 DP (Police District), not
77 Chapter 3

only Crackland — which is just one third of the police district.
Table 10: Place of arrest
The reason for taking into consideration all the police reports
for the district is that many do not mention the exact location of
Public highway
the arrest, and could refer to arrests inside or outside our spe-
Hotel 30
cific area. Despite this, the assessment of all reports does not
Apartment 6
interfere with the analysis since we verified that police action
Bar 3
inside and outside Crackland differs little.
Others 4
Total 240
Table 8: Substance seised by the police.
The overwhelming majority of arrests take place on the pub-
Substance NUMBER
lic highway. Hotels are in second place, with a significant char-
Crack 195
acteristic. Of the thirty cases registered, only six were for pos-
Marijuana 6
session alone. 18 were for dealing and another six both posses-
Cocaine 17
sion and dealing. In other words three-quarters of the arrests in
Crack and Marijuana
hotels were dealing-related. This led to the conclusion early on
Crack and Cocaine
in the survey that local hotels are the venue for the heaviest
No information
As a rule the quantity of illegal drugs seised is very small —
This table unequivocally demonstrates that the main mer-
7.3 grams on average — confirming the notion that the police
chandise in the area is undoubtedly crack. Out of every five
focus on users and petty dealers. Only 1.742kg in all was seised
arrests at least four were crack users and dealers, as the area’s
and the biggest seisure during the period studied was only
name suggests. The following table shows the percentage of
315g of crack. Direct observation and interviews revealed other
arrests of dealers and users by the police.
significant facts:
1. The Military Police regularly but inefficiently patrols the
Table 9: Reason for imprisonment
area. We interviewed someone who had been stopped by the
police and had marijuana on him.
2. The work of the Military Police is often half-hearted.
Dealing 71
We observed a case where policemen were searching people in
a bar and watching a football match at the same time. Anything
Possession and dealing
smaller than a weapon would not have been found.
3. Some places, such as boarding-houses, are patrolled
virtually daily. Yet known dealers are scarcely affected.
The most interesting thing about this table is the small num-
4. The Civilian Police — especially DENARC — spend
ber of arrests for dealing in illegal drugs — under 30%. In the
the night in a local bakery. Virtually every night that we spent in
city as a whole more than 40% of police arrests are for dealing,
the area we saw a DENARC vehicle parked outside and its occu-
which suggests that in Crackland the proportion of arrests of
pants were drinking, eating and watching TV.
users to arrests of dealers is higher than elsewhere.
5. The Civilian Police use informers who act as agents
provocateurs. We were approached by one who asked if we
wanted to buy some crack in an obvious attempt to provoke us
into an illegal act. In police language this is known as "criar uma
or creating a situation. Those involved may have to
bribe their way out.
78 Chapter 3

6. Information from traders, locals and users told us
International Trafficking
that some military policemen often break any crack pipes they
find in order to obtain some of the crack in addition to the R$
Unlike what happens in the case of local trafficking, in the
20.00 they extract from the nóias.
case of international trafficking we discovered that various
Our other source, police statistics, enabled us to compare
criminal organisations are involved in transport of drugs. One of
interviews with facts. The table below compares 1° Distrito
the most important criminal organisations to have operated in
Policia (1st precinct), or Sé, the city’s busiest district, with 3°
the state developed in the 1980s and survived until 1992 or
Distrito Policial, or Santa Efigênia.
1993. Its members included directors of medium-sized compa-
nies, four airline pilots, an influential politician, several police
Table 11:
officers and a big businessman. Its modus operandi could be
Police records 1998 — Comparison between Sé
described as follows: they bought cocaine in Bolivia or Paraguay
and S. Efigênia
and flew it to a medium-sized town in the middle of the state of
S Efigênia

São Paulo. From there, it was transported to the port of Santos,
the busiest in the country, where it was loaded for transporta-
tion to Europe. The town where the plane landed had several
advantages: it was dominated by the above-mentioned politi-
Source: cap (Coordenadoria de Análise e planejamento — Analysis and plan-
cian; the local airport was not monitored and the town was fair-
ning coordination) SSP/SP
ly close to Greater São Paulo. The ring was apparently broken
following political change in the state when a new Governor
One thing that stands out in this table is that 3° DP, where
was elected whose party had no connections with the leaders
Crackland is located, is not that dangerous, since fewer homi-
of the ring. However, no important member of the group was
cides take place there than in Sé. However the number of crimes
arrested, apart from a few pilots who were arrested on landing.
against property are far higher. This means that the information
Nor was any police investigation opened against the heads of
given us by the local community was incorrect on at least two
the organisation. The political and economic influence of the
members of the ring was perhaps too great for the forces of law
and order to confront.
1.The use of or dealing in illegal drugs in the district kill
far less than is supposed;
The following three cases concern other types of criminal
2. Offences committed by nóias to obtain money for
organisation operating in Brazil. They are organisations that
crack are committed in Crackland and not elsewhere.
were founded abroad but established links with authentically
Brazilian criminal gangs.
Analysis of the police records on homicide or attempted
homicide reveal other special features of the district. Of the
fourteen records registered from 1 January to 15 May 1999 only
The Mules from Nigeria
half occurred in Crackland proper. The other seven took place
elsewhere in 3° DP. Of the seven cases that took place within
According to virtually all sources since the 1990s Brazil has
Crackland only 4 were possibly related to drugs, the other three
become one of the main hubs of cocaine traffic for the United
were crimes passionnels, possibly exacerbated by the use of
States and Europe. Major seisures have taken place at the
crack — but this is just guess work.
country’s main harbors and airports. Some were enormous,
such as that made by the Federal Police in Amazonia, coming
to more than three tonnes of cocaine.
79 Chapter 3

Less newsworthy but far more common are arrests of persons
flown direct to Europe, sometimes via Africa. Usually it was
transporting small quantities of products hidden under clothing
taken by customs but the person responsible for dispatching
or in luggage. In some cases individuals have been arrested who
it could not be found. Santos harbour or Guarulhos airport
had ingested capsules containing a few grams of cocaine. One of
were the main exit points.
the main groups dedicated to this activity is composed basically
of Nigerians. According to some police officers this is the main
White Mules
group. The penitentiary census of 1994, by the Secretariat of
The organisation contract poor Europeans, mostly white, to
Penitentiary Administration, confirms this to some extent. It
act as mules (hence White Mules) and the merchandise travels
revealed that 74 Nigerians had been taken into custody in São
directly to the mule’s country of origin, by passing through
Paulo — only in the prison system proper, without counting any-
one held in remand in state or district police gaols.They were the
main foreign contingent among the prisoners, exactly twice as
White mules receive US$1000 - 2000 for the work plus travel
many as the national group coming in second place, Chileans, 37
and subsistence allowances. They usually stay in flats rented for
in number.
a few days. In some cases they are attracted by the trip, an oppor-
tunity to travel. This was the case of two young, low class British
The first cases involving Nigerians occurred in the early
women, one white, one black, arrested by the Federal Police in
1990s. They aroused interest because of the unusual nature of
Rio de Janeiro. According to press interviews they had agreed to
what they were doing. Africans transporting cocaine from
transport the cocaine because, in addition to the money, they
Latin America to Europe. Over the next seven years, the system
were entitled to a week in Rio, all expenses paid, a dream for
became more sophisticated, in various stages, always one step
someone of their economic status in normal circumstances.
ahead of the police.
Their cases are very similar to those of many others related in
discos by wealthy Africans. Other mules are paid more but are
A reading of police reports and interviews with police offers
professionals; they are unconventional and are consequently
responsible for the arrests revealed a historical model of the
less suspected by the police. These included an elderly lady, for
stages of the activities of the main criminal organisation of
Nigerians carrying cocaine through Brazil:
In the period of a year the São Paulo Civilian Police arrested
Direct transport
nearly 30 White Mules working for Nigerian groups. According
The merchandise would leave Brazil directly from Guarulhos
to police estimates this accounts for 10% of the total numbers.
International airport (São Paulo) carried by the organisation
Each mule transports 2 - 4 kg of cocaine. A single organisation
members themselves. The destination could be Europe or they
sent 20 or so of the White Mules arrested. It is calculated that
might stop over somewhere in Africa.
this organisation sent almost a tonne of cocaine to Europe in a
single process. When arrested the mules revealed their contacts
Other Nigerians
with the Nigerians but later denied this when making state-
Those carrying the cocaine were Nigerians not directly
ments to the police or the courts.
linked with the organisation but simply contracted as mules.
They would pick up the merchandise in Brazil and take it to
The manager of the organisation in Brazil, a Nigerian, Peter
Nigeria from where it was transported to Europe or South
Christopher Onwumere, was arrested in São Paulo on 27 March
1997, in possession of a small amount of cocaine and in the
company of four other Nigerians. He spent most of his time in
Concealed in cargo
São Paulo but his men worked on the border with Bolivia. He
The cocaine was transported as cargo, hidden among
bought his cocaine on the Brazilian side of the border and his
fridges, automobile parts or bottles of drink. Sometimes it was
employees, some of them Brazilian, transported it in batches of
80 Chapter 3

ten to fifteen kilos to São Paulo, where it was wrapped and sent
Paulo, where they seised US $276,372 and the equivalent of
by European "mule". The price of cocaine bought in Bolivia was
nearly US $30,000 in Brazilian currency, as well as various docu-
between one and two thousand dollars per kilo. When arrested
ments and two vehicles.
he had been living in São Paulo for seven years.
Carlos Alberto is a former captain in the Colombian army
Although fewer and fewer Africans are arrested in São Paulo
expelled for involvement in drug trafficking. On the basis of the
transporting cocaine, at least 25 have been caught over the past
documents seised and information obtained principally from
thirteen months (March 1996 - March 1997). Of these only 3
the FBI and the DIA (Direzione Investigativa Antimáfia), it can be
were women. 18 were of Nigerian nationality, 3 South African
stated without any shadow of a doubt that he was one of the
and one Liberian. The average age was 30 years — 7 were 28
leaders of an international drug-trafficking gang.
years old, the commonest age.
The traffickers’ modus operandi was as follows: they hid the
Many of them were in possession of drugs but had not
drugs in mattresses, blankets and car batteries. They issued invi-
bought an air ticket anywhere. They were waiting for the mules
tations to tender and bought several tons of organic fertiliser
to arrive. Of those already with a destination most were headed
and fishmeal. They probably mixed the drugs with these prod-
for Abidjan or, in second place, South Africa. Others said they
ucts. The drugs were put in containers and loaded on to ships.
were going to Africa but the country or airport were not noted.
Transportation abroad took place through export companies.
The documents seised led to the identification of several of
The merchandise was mostly carried in luggage — in seven
these companies in São Paulo. The police also seised sewing
cases it was found in false-bottomed cases. In second place
machines for mattress making, and orders for fabric, rubber
came hand luggage and in three cases the mules had swal-
foam, thread and ribbon (for piecing together the mattresses
lowed it.
once they had been lined with drugs).
The work of Czech researcher Miroslav Nozina on the
There is firm evidence of at least two large dispatches to
Nigerian rings and their connections with the outside world
Europe. The documents seised show that a large quantity of
clarifies the issue a great deal. It shows that groups similar to
mattresses was sent to the Padrino Trade Company in
those operating in Brazil are among the main dealers in Eastern
Yugoslavia through the port of Bar. The group’s accounts record
Europe.They consist of about ten people and transport cocaine,
the purchase and dispatch of mattresses but there is also a note
marijuana, hashish and heroine to various countries in the
of the purchase of a sewing machine for mattresses. It is sus-
region; they have also been working in retail since 1994. Many
pected that the mattresses left Brazil filled with cocaine.
Nigerians studied chemistry in the former communist countries
Another company in the group sent car batteries filled with
and, he adds ironically, some were policemen in Nigeria or other
cocaine to a Spanish company.
African countries or studied at police academies in Eastern
Europe. Groups are tribally or family based. Another factor that
The São Paulo group was responsible for receiving the con-
makes them similar to what happens in Brazil is the use of
signments of cocaine, putting them in batteries and mattresses,
"mules" of other nationalities — often men or women recruited
then sending them to Yugoslavia in containers. In order to do
in discos frequented by lower class Europeans.
this, they rented depots throughout the city.
The drugs were unloaded at the port of Bar in Yugoslavia
Wholesale Dealing
and then sent to Bari in Italy, where they were received by the
criminal organisation Sacra Corona Unita, which distributed
On 5 February 1999, the police invaded the house of Carlos
them throughout Europe, and more particularly in Spain.
Alberto Ávila Gonzalez in Pirituba, a district of the city of São
81 Chapter 3

A man known as Chepe apparently had important responsi-
The name of Fausto Pellegrinetti appears in the Italian doc-
bilities in the group. He is Colombian and looks after the trans-
uments as the ring’s financial backer. Pellegrinetti commands
portation of money. He is also known by the nickname given
the Banda della Magliana, a criminal organisation that dis-
him by the Criminal Investigation Division of the United States
tributes cocaine and heroin in Rome. The bingo machines
Treasury Department Internal Revenue Service. He is implicated
came from the Recreativos Franco Company in Spain and were
in a drug money laundering operation in Miami.
imported into Brazil by Nevada Diversões, a company with a
French director. His name is François Filippeddu and he
The police have identified the names of more than twelve
appears as the manager of Nevada Diversões Comércio
people believed to belong to the gang. Most of them are part-
Importação e Exportação Ltda. Another important person in
ners in the companies used for the illegal trade, but a few of the
the network is his brother Julian, a Corsican connected with
people mentioned are simply names.They may not exist at all or
one of the island’s separatist organisations, who played an
they may be false names for the traffickers.
important part in the initial phase of the operation when he
several times negotiated with Lauricella, Pellegrinetti and the
Because of mistakes made by the police, no members of the
Brazilian partners the conditions for the formation of the com-
ring have been caught. Some, like Captain Carlos Alberto, have
panies needed for marketing the machines. Lauricella states
disappeared. There is no evidence to suggest that the ring has
that Jean Filippeddu invested money in the business,
been disbanded. It is virtually certain that they are now using
although his name appears nowhere.
other phantom companies to conduct their illegal activities.
Fragments of Lillo Rosario Lauricella’s interrogations sent
by the Direzione Investigativa Antimáfia show that the
Video Bingo
accused acknowledged his involvement with Ivo Noal at sev-
eral points. This new character is known in São Paulo as the
On 27 October 1999, Manoel Tubino, former Director of the
biggest operator of illegal lotteries (the game of bicho). When
National Institute for the Development of Sport, denounced a
the Mafiosi began to take an interest in the São Paulo market
number of senior civil servants in the Ministry of Sport and
Tourism to the Senate Committee on Social Affairs. According to
was needed for the installation of the machines. He received
him, they had favoured the owners of some of the "bingo hous-
$80,000 a month. In another passage, Lauricella says that he,
es" by giving them permission to use "video bingo" machines.
personally, gave Noal $200,000.
After this first denunciation, other civil servants also expressed
other senior officials in the Ministry.
The organisation worked with the aid of two operational
sectors: the first concentrated on drug trafficking, the second on
Documents submitted by the State Prosecutor’s office sug-
the financial management of the affair. In order to carry out
gest that the Mafia collaborated in the drafting of a ministerial
their money-laundering activities, a de facto company was
order authorising the import of video bingo machines, despite
founded consisting of people whose reputation was at best
the fact that the game was illegal. Furthermore, companies con-
dubious; some of them were even wanted Mafiosi. The compa-
nected with the Mafia apparently helped distribute more than
ny had a "Board of Directors" composed of Lauricella and two
twenty thousand slot machines in Brazil.
other members of the organisation. Lauricella states that the
funds for this investment came directly from drug trafficking. As
According to the Italian DIA (Direzione Investigativa
Pellegrinetti’s representative, he enjoyed considerable freedom
Antimáfia), the owner of three of the companies that installed
and therefore the possibility of knowing all about the underside
the machines in Brazil is the creature of Lillo Rosario Lauricella,
of the affair.
one of the heads of the Italian Mafia who was arrested in Rome,
accused of trafficking several tons of cocaine and heroine.
82 Chapter 3

In order to conceal the illegal money by laundering it, a com-
The problems caused by trafficking are not confined to the
plex international mechanism of banking transactions was set
producing or major consuming countries. Economic globalisa-
up. According to the DIA reports, there were two banking routes
tion and the opening up of an endless number of trade routes
whose point of arrival was a Miami bank in the United States,
have made all countries vulnerable to being used by crime,
where the financial flow was deposited in a current account of
which is also globalised. Who could have imagined, ten years
a tourist company. All the DIA investigations are based on infor-
ago, that Nigerians would transport cocaine to Europe from
mation collected by the agency and intercepted telephone con-
Brazilian airports, or that a criminal organisation like the Mafia
versations. Another banking route began in Spain. Capital
would launder drug money in Brazil in association with
arrived in Brazil via Switzerland, Andorra and the United States.
Brazilian partners, using countless companies throughout the
world? However globalisation in no sense means doing with-
Nobody has yet been arrested on the basis of these accusa-
out local people; it does not imply only subordinating local
tions, but a scandal of this magnitude would inevitably create
powers to international groups. At least, not as far as criminal-
an upheaval in political circles. Since the scandal was revealed in
isation is concerned. This is because law enforcement is still
the press, several of the companies have closed down. The arti-
conducted on the basis of the police and legislation of each
cles have also led to a number of resignations by officials, the
individual country. Crime may be global, but law enforcement
most recent being that of the Minister of Sport.
is local, and no criminal organisation can do without "invest-
ments" in the law enforcement agencies of nation-states.
Corrupting the Yugoslav police does not guarantee the free
Concluding Remarks
passage of traffickers in Brazil, and vice versa. If Colombian
groups want to send cocaine to Italy via Brazil and Yugoslavia,
The outlined description of trafficking set out above is not
they will need support in all four countries.
valid for ever. Gangs come and go fast, consumption locations
change, as do the products used. Nonetheless, to a large extent,
the model described on these pages is permanent. After all,
some of the conditioning factors of dealing remain unchanged
— police inefficiency and the social and economic inequalities
that have always existed throughout Brazilian history.
In this chapter I have merely tried to demonstrate that the sit-
uation is more complex that many analysts normally imagine.
For example, the international organisations cannot exist with-
out contact with local groups. Like any criminal organisation,
international drug trafficking networks cannot exist unless it has
some link with the law enforcement services in the countries
where it takes place. In the case of Brazil this means maintaining
contacts with the federal and state police forces. Local criminal
groups, in turn, only function within a determined social and
political structure, which they stem from their strength. In a less
corrupt state, for example, the international traffic by interna-
tional organisations and the small-scale dealing in "Crackland"
would have to be more discreet.
83 Chapter 3

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organisado. Record. Rio de Janeiro, 1993.
ZALUAR, A. A máquina e a revolta. Editora Brasiliense.
ARBEX, J. Narcotráfico. Um jogo de poder nas Américas. Editora
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ARBEX, J. & TOGNOLI, C. O século do crime. Boitempo.
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COELHO, M. P. Crime organisado e pobreza: uma nova associação.
In Polícia Militar, Estado e Sociedade. Fundação João Pinheiro.
Belo Horizonte, 1992.
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sobre la policia en América Latina
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Chapter 4
local institutions, committed suicide after taking drugs for two
years and enduring unbearable physical suffering and social,
and family pressure. Beginning in 1997, students get a "Drug
Prohibition" pamphlet with their textbooks the first day of
Case 2: May 1958. The PRC’s first major drug-prohibition
exhibition at the Beijing Military Museum focused on the tragic
aspects of drug use and the results of worldwide drug prohibi-
Deng Zhenglaï
tion. All members of the Chinese Communist Party politburo,
headed by Jiang Zheming, attended the three-month exhibi-
Background of China’s Drug Problem
tion one after another. Given the highly symbolic significance of
and Explanation of Research
ceremonial activity in China, this suggested that the top deci-
sion makers were determined to implement drug prohibition
The drug problem is a hot issue with global significance, an
with decisive action.
issue of deep concern in all countries. China’s experience with
drug problems has followed a curious, twisted path. When the
While China can be seen as merely the latest victim of the
People's Republic was established about a half-century ago,
recent world-wide growth in the trafficking, production and
China had the world’s highest rate of drug consumption and
consumption of illegal drugs, the continuing rapid growth in
the largest addicted population. The new government immedi-
China’s illegal drug exports poses serious dangers to other
ately mobilised a quasi-military program that generally elimi-
countries worldwide.
nated the drug problem in China.
Important matters need to be understood concerning China
In recent years, while China’s policies of reform and
as a newly developed centre of drug trafficking, consumption
increased opening to the outside world have pushed econom-
and production:
ic development and improved living standards, drugs returned
1) How has this activity developed since the early
as a major social problem. Various reasons are given for this,
including backward social administration and incomplete,
2) Under what conditions does drug-related crime
uncoordinated social policies.
occur and what significance does it have?
3) How does China’s social and economic transforma-
Over the past 20 years, China became a major drug traffick-
tion affect drug crime, and vice versa?
ing point, then developed a huge internal drug consumption
4) How does China’s drug problem today compare with
market, and now has become a major base o