HomeNewsBriefWealthy Traffickers Tapping into Brazil’s Middle Class Drug Market
BRIEF

Wealthy Traffickers Tapping into Brazil’s Middle Class Drug Market

BRAZIL / 19 AUG 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Wealthy educated youth are increasingly involved in drug trafficking in Brazil, a phenomenon likely linked to a growing internal middle class market.

Around 10 percent of the approximately 1,500 new cases investigated by the Sao Paulo Public Ministry each month now involve suspects from well-to-do families, reported Infosur Hoy

This is a relatively new development, according to Alfonso Presti, the coordinator of the Public Ministry’s Police Investigations and Prosecutions Center. Presti told Infosur that a decade ago he could “count on the fingers of one hand” the number of cases involving wealthy traffickers. 

Many of these elite drug traffickers reportedly got their start consuming drugs and selling drugs to their peers, and were later recruited by gangs. 

They offer home deliveries of high-quality cocaine and potent strains of marijuana, as well as ecstasy, LSD and heroin, which their upper-middle class clients order via phone or internet. These traffickers have a ring of taxi drivers, motorcyclists and bicyclists at their disposal, who make the deliveries. Drugs are also sold at fancy parties and clubs.

This modus operandi has also been identified as now common in Rio de Janeiro and in the states of Paraiba and Pernambuco.

Brazilian anthropologist Paulo Malvasi told Infosur that for this class of trafficker, the status and connections afforded by the business were just as attractive as the money involved. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The emergence of this new system of local drug sales, led by a new class of traffickers, is indicative of rising demand for high quality drugs fueled by a growing Brazilian middle class. Home delivery services and the use of the internet offer a clean, orderly way for both drug traffickers and their wealthy clients to operate, as opposed to the violent operations involving the sale of cheap cocaine bi-products in the so-called “bocas de fumo” in the favelas.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Micro-trafficking

They are also an attractive source of profits for Brazil’s gangs. In one case, Sao Paulo authorities caught two drug traffickers who were selling cocaine for $22 a gram — five times the average price. Investigators also said the middle class market provided more opportunities for money laundering.

Increasing police pressure on favela sales points — particularly in Rio — has been pointed to by experts as another reason for the shift. 

In Colombia and Argentina, criminal operations have similarly profited off a growing middle class market for party drugs such as 2CB and ecstasy

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