HomeNewsSão Paulo's 'Crackland' Drug Market Finds New Real Estate

São Paulo's 'Crackland' Drug Market Finds New Real Estate


Residents of Brazil's largest open-air drug market have relocated amidst renewed police interventions and the possible orders of organized crime.

In mid to late March, the population of 'Cracolândia’ (Crackland), São Paulo's largest downtown drug market, picked up and moved to Plaza Princesa Isabel just a few streets away.

Local media posited that unlike previous dispersals of Crackland’s homeless population, the latest was likely carried out at the behest of the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), Brazil’s leading drug trafficking organization which is based in São Paulo.

Some drug policy experts in Brazil suggested that the PCC, which now rakes in a fortune from the international cocaine trade, may have seen Crackland as "bad business", given its reputation and the frequency of raids there by security forces.

The move may have been further propelled by just such a series of government crackdowns on the illicit market. Beginning in June 2021, state and municipal police had renewed armed interventions in the area, seeking to rid the zone of between 500 and 800 homeless people estimated to reside in the area.

Employing operations reminiscent of previous infiltrations in 2017, security forces entered Crackland repeatedly with gas bombs and rubber bullets attempting to clear the area of the crowds of drug users often referred to as the “flow”.

SEE ALSO: Brazil Police Mount Another Futile Crackdown on São Paulo 'Crackland'

As of March 2022, some 92 individuals had recently been arrested in connection to micro trafficking, according to the news agency, Efe.

For thirty years, ‘Crackland’ has existed as a quasi-community for the homeless and drug dependents, primarily those addicted to crack – the cheaper, smokable derivation of cocaine.

InSight Analysis

São Paulo is the birthplace and criminal stronghold of the PCC, so the decision to relocate the “flow” of ‘Crackland’to Plaza Princesa Isabel was likely dictated by the organization.

For all the habitual incursions by law enforcement, ‘Crackland’ as a haven and a market for microtrafficking has been an immutable institution. While its physical location may have changed, the underlying problems of addiction, state neglect and see-sawing policies towards its population persist.

In a statement in 2021, São Paulo’s Public Ministry lamented “The sad history of [Crackland] recalls the countless failed attempts of the Public Power, both state and municipal, to face the problem, with a succession of projects, sometimes consistent, sometimes electoral, which cost huge volumes of public resources, but show few results.”

The choice by drug traffickers to propel a shift in the primary zone and seemingly abandon the micro trafficking hotspot was likely due to the PCC’s declining interest in maintaining order over the open-air market.

SEE ALSO: The Changing Face of São Paulo's 'Crackland'

According to journalist Bruno Paes Manso, an expert on organized crime dynamics in São Paulo, Crackland does not represent a significant stream of revenue for the PCC.

“Nowadays, the PCC’s money comes from wholesale rather than retail drug sales.” Manso noted that the group has been involved in 'Crackland' for roughly a decade now and that it may attract more unwanted attention from the public than it is worth, stating “it’s really not important in terms of money for the PCC.”

With gubernatorial elections set to take place on October 2, ‘Crackland’ is back in the spotlight as a political issue for Governor João Doria. Under Doria’s tenure, a politician who himself initiated previous police interventions while mayor of São Paulo, heavy-handed approaches to stamping out micro trafficking will likely continue.

Already, the Metropolitan Civil Guard (GCM) and public security forces have set about dismantling shelters and removing individuals in Plaza Princesa Isabel, according to Globo

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

BRAZIL / 6 FEB 2015

Police in Brazil are questioning the treasurer of the ruling Workers' Party over the Petrobras corruption case, as the scandal…

BOLIVIA / 6 DEC 2010

Bolivian government spokesperson, Sacha Llorenti, announced yesterday that Peru, Bolivia and Brazil all plan to hold a meeting to coordinate…

BRAZIL / 7 JUL 2021

Newly leaked audio recordings have sparked a political firestorm in Brazil - linking President Jair Bolsonaro to an extortion scheme…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…