The Construction of a Drug War Enemy
Drug Traffickers, Police, the Bourgeoisie and Media Confusion
By Karine Muller
Narco News Authentic Journalism Scholar
June 5, 2003
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL: In the 1980s, the musician, composer, and poet Cazuza embodied the myth of the romantic, urban, and bourgeoisie hero, expelled from life among his peers, carrying the burden of the cadaver of an unburied dream (“My heroes have died of overdose/My enemies are in power”)…
From the “live and let live” era of that short summer of Brazilian anarchy, post-Tango-of-Gabeira, on Ipanema Beach, our yearning, outspoken rebel wrote in his lyrics about the political moment of revolt against the enemy that was in power, in this case, according to him, the unhappy bourgeoisie.
Almost 20 years have passed and if he were still alive Cazuza would certainly have more arguments to demonstrate his rebellion to everyone. The political scenario changed little as the confusions increased. We see, in the media, the tough construction of an enemy. The first is the police, the other is the trafficker, and now there is also the drug user. In the case of the trafficker, the enemy figure always appears as black, poor, or “almost black like any poor man,” as Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil wrote in their musical, Haiti, it is he who lives in the complexes of Alemão, of Turano, of Borel, of Providência or any other Carioca favela slum. In the case of the user, he could always be a member of the bourgeoisie.
One of the worst worries about the combat against the violence that is consequence of drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro is defining the enemy. As such, the trafficker from the hills invades the universities, forces the shops to close, burns buses, assaults people in the streets… defies the authorities. An illegal drug business is established all over the city. He makes a lot of money and spends it all on his beautiful pleasures. The enemy is eternal. He dies, and another takes his place.
As if this is not enough, many see, in him, another threat to society: the drug user. This one belongs to the middle class, to parties ruled by cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, etc. A member of the bourgeoisie, or another bourgeoisie rebel: Someone like Cazuza fits this description perfectly.
Students at private universities fire shots in open campus until the moment that a cop becomes the principal suspect. The case of the student Luciana Gonçalves de Novaes, shot last month, calls the attention of the media, that offers a crude analysis of the facts.
Every day, innocents die in shootouts between the police and the traffickers. The problem has already become a banal fact for media coverage. Beyond this, these innocents, many of them children, are black and poor. They are confused with the enemy. There is a social stigma that places anyone who lives in these communities as a bandit by consequence. First, we don’t have to be sociologists nor social workers to know that there are many honest people in the favelas who do not want drug trafficking. Or, going deeper into the question: It is easy to succumb to life’s illusions offered by trafficking once we have lived in a system that favors social exclusion of whoever cannot afford to consume.
A university student has to be shot before there is a greater social mobilization in relation to the violence caused by drug trafficking. Bourgeoisie or not, these words allow us to feel that what happened to this girl represents the vulnerability of everyone caught in the midst. Or it could be that people feel more directly attacked as the media creates a spectacle. It was like that during the kidnapping of bus number 174 in June of 2000 in a barrio named Jardim Botânico, the Botanical Garden. The kidnapper, Sandro do Nascimento, was an ex street child, in debt and addicted: a perfect stereotype of the constructed enemy. Any one of us, the city dwellers, could have been on that bus that day of the lamentable occurrence that took the life for professor Geísa Firmo Gonçalves.
But, returning to the problem of the enemy in the media, all this barely serves to, once more, hide from us the true motive behind the violence caused by drug trafficking: It’s illegality. And the bourgeoisie hero, Cazuza, already sang about this in the decade of the eighties. In his opinion, “the law’s position is ridiculous. Never was there so much drinking as in the United States during the times of the Dry Law. Who does prohibition interest? It interests the mafia of Bolivia, of Colombia and of Brazil. They are the very same governments that get rich off this in Bolivia, in Colombia, and in Brazil. That’s why they marginalize… In the times of Freud, cocaine was sold in a pharmacy. The Indians smoked marijuana for the whole of their lives. Thus, power is interested in marginalizing those drugs, because other kinds of drugs are sold in every pharmacy: 21-years-old, with a medical prescription, and you can buy… That’s why I find: Drugs should be sold in a pharmacy.”
What the media doesn’t cover is what happens between the lines and that there has been an inheritance of power protected by narco-trafficking. Few speak of legalization. They sustain their argument with a confused enemy and they are often wrong, a consequence of the arrogant power that doesn’t permit the legalization of drugs.
The First of July will be National Anti-Drugs Day in Brazil. Once more there will be a grand mobilization in the media about the old question of drug consumption. And users beware… Everything will be turned on them. There will be campaigns and lectures about “use” of drugs.
The power of narco-trafficking needs these artifices to maintain it self. Why not promote drug legalization to end the illegal commerce that generates all the violence.
Pay attention also to another appeal by our unforgettable bourgeoisie rebel: “Brazil! Show your face! I want to see who pays people to be this way. Brazil, what is your business? Who is your partner? Trust in me…”
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