Side event: Innovations in Brazilian drug policy

Organized by Brazil with the support of the UNODC Country Office Brazil

Federal Police Commissioner, Elvis Secco: In the years 2019 and 2020 the federal policy adopted some guidelines to fight drug trafficking. Brazil is a continental country with more that 16.000 kilometres of boarders with the biggest producers of drugs in the world; Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. For many years we faced this reality by apprehending drugs as if this was the end solution. Apprehending drugs appears to be impressive in the media. However, facing the reality of cocaine production the amount seized is nothing in comparison; around 5% of what is produced. Thousands of tons enter our country, some for consumption. We are the second larger consumer country. We need innovation therefore we adopted new guidelines of “decapitalization” or fighting crime. By “decapitalization” I mean to arrest the leader and to attach the top of the pyramid. Also, international cooperation via information exchange in order to identify the financial structure of the criminal organisations; the financial flows. We introduce new doctrines in the police. We need to replace the old paradigms; from drugs seizing to goods seizing. We need to find the goods that sustain the criminal organisations. We were arresting the transporters and these are in the lower level of the organisation and were easily substituted. So we had isolated actions where we would fight drug trafficking through money laundering but now we have collaborative operations where the central department will coordinate many operations together. Now we have targeted operations that are more effective. We are fighting multinational criminal companies and when targeting the financial structure the company loses its accountability and becomes broken. We you actually face drug crime you face tax evasion. You can’t expect big drug leaders to actually have to deal with cocaine; is not even going to be in contact with the members of the criminal organisation. That’s why we have to look elsewhere beyond drug trafficking. This requires a very complex investigations to be able to spot and remove the core of an organisation. We have found out that the perplex network of money laundering, fictitious ownerships etc often serves more that one [drug leader]. Without that network drug leaders are losing their power and become easier to arrest.

Gustavo Camilo Baptista, Director of Public Policy and Institutional Articulation (SENAD): What has been done in other countries in regards to international cooperation?

Elvis Secco: Within the international cooperation we have the interexchange of information; money circulates with the use of offshore companies and cryptocurrencies and many times these criminal organisations open in other countries. Legally formed companies with employees, paying taxes etc. where they not only importing/exporting merchandise but drugs so legal and illegal economic activity is mixing and evidently the work of police becomes more complex. Big traffickers are not really isolated in one country. Every they are innovating when it comes to money laundering.

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: This introduces the issue of our next guest and calling him to expand on this cycle of drugs.

National Secretariat for Drug Policies (SENAD), Ministry of Justice, Secretary Luiz Roberto Beggiora: In fact we have a guideline from the EU back in 2014 that aligns with the [Brazilian national] guidelines in putting special attention to centralised asset management and seizing. In 2018 the EU parliament with the ordinance #805 described that [the seizing of assets] is one of the most effective tools against criminals; with the “decapitalization” and the recovery of the financial means of the drug traffickers. Brazil has aligned with the best international practices of governance. We are adopting measures to improve the public policy mechanism. The work of federal policy is very important and does great good by reusing the [seized] resources to strengthen the bodies of public safety. We collaborate with auction houses and we are in partnership with the national supply counsellor in order to successfully manage these assets. We also have agreement with the respected authorities in Colombia. In a single operation we had more than 53 gas stations and over 70 companies seized. This year we had over a 1000 auctions so far. 

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: What are the priorities in dealing with that?

Luiz Roberto Beggiora: As we have seen this creates a virtual cycle: we would seize the assets to be able to modernise and strengthen the police for the fight against crime to improve our effectiveness and the cycle goes on. We have 27 states and each has a military and a civil policy along with the work of the federal police. We also have many projects financed by SENAD: one involves digital communication systems at the boarder with Paraguay providing efficiency and safety for the operations there, another is to create a center for specialized dogs. Also we invest in training personnel in the area of drug policy and judiciary, and in public security, toxicology etc. Also, we collaborate with UNODC in defining programmes and projects based on evidence that give a way to [creating] public policies in Brazil.

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: I would like to invite Gabriel Anderuccetti to comment on the decision making process of drug policy which is based on evidence and monitoring. The work of generating evidence is complicated and extensive when we are talking about assessments and planning and designing public policies. How can the Centre of Excellence offer the basis for the decision making within SENAD and society as a whole?

Centre of Excellence for Illicit Drug Supply Reduction (SENAD/UNODC/UNDP), Coordinator Gabriel Anderuccetti: The idea for the Centre is to provide the Ministry of Justice with [evidence] from data analyses and from international cooperation assisting Brazil in this new paradigm. We need data analyses for the policies to be used. The idea of the Centre lies within the cooperation with UNODC and UNPD. We have some basic objectives to try to instrumentalize this and assist the Brazilian state to fill this gap: 1) creating a data depository with all the variables that we have in public security; [drug] seizures must be understood as only one piece of the puzzle within the criminal dynamics. A clear example is to utilize the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug trafficking. 2) giving technical support to all organisations; therefore we need research and fast data and these can be obtained through international cooperation; we need to have evidence on the efficiency of policies that work nationally, so analysing data and evidence is a good way of directing public policies in this end. 3) data dissemination; we have a website that was recently launched that allows that. 

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: Regarding the future, which areas are you focusing on? new partnerships with other countries that could be build for instance.

Gabriel Anderuccetti: We indeed believe this is the next step building on the current dynamic. One example relates with the monitoring of the drug prices as an indicator of the purity of drugs in the market; not as the only variable however. We are partnered with other organisations and we provide information to local police. Another example relates to the early warning system regarding the NPS. In Brazil we have a comprehensive network including police forces and toxicology services providing information but we must invest to make this process easier.

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: I would like to invite Secretary Quirino Cordeiro Junior to elaborate on the division between the Secretariats of Drug Policies and of Drug Care and Prevention.

National Secretariat for Drug Care and Prevention, Ministry of Citizenship, Secretary Quirino Cordeiro Júnior: In Brazil we have an increase of people living in the streets with mental health issues; people who consume drugs in the public space; an increase of crack dependent users and in consumption in prisons along with an in crease in crime and homicides. Numbers were high so we had to consider an alternative. These new laws and norms align themselves with a new orientation: apart from demand reduction and supply reduction we now focus on the organised crime with a more intelligent application of the law. We also care about prevention with actions that are now more effective. 

Regarding chemically dependent users and their families we have expanded the network of services [for them]. So not only ideology matters but also treatment services and care for the recovery of the chemically dependent users that haven’t been receiving proper attention. Now we have a more robust system of care and recovery based in the real needs of chemically dependent users. The Brazilian government is taking [guidance] from and supporting partners in civil society, like therapeutic communities and support groups. Just in 2019 the federal government financed 11.000 vacancies in the therapeutic communities and now looking on the expansion of this support to reach 20.000. We also concerned about the training of the professionals who work in these entities; we have collaborated with universities for that. We also support their families because recovery goes through them as well. We also also working with NA and AA groups. We have also introduced to social re-integration programmes: 1) progress programme and 2) entrepreneurship programme. 

Regarding prevention we have had media campaigns and in schools and partnerships with the military police all over the country; using different programmes based on the same methodology. We have athletic programmes for socially vulnerable kids, in armed forces like navy and air force so they can spend some time in the military units so they work and study remaining protected from drugs. We also run a collaboration with the national soccer teams. We have specific preventive actions for pregnant women and newborns. We have actions preventing suicides after finding that the 2nd highest group of people who commit is chemically dependant users, therefore we have an important collaboration with the Brazilian psychiatry society. We also run campaigns to prevent DUI car accidents. As well we have a very important nation-wide programme called “Referencia Brazil” with a focus to homicides. We have created also a drug observatory with a direct channel to population through telephone for people to find information for programmes and actions. We care for scientific based approach; [ ] running a sewage analysis study and also working with the epidemiological centre. Internationally, we have collaborations with neighbouring countries for planned actions, with UNODC in training our public policy agents and also have set technical agreements with CICAD to implement actions to reduce drug demand in Brazil. Last, there is our collaboration with UNDP for training and research purposes. We also work with our Supreme Court for the legalisation and decriminalisation of drugs.

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: What are the challenges of this new legislation?

Luiz Roberto Beggiora: The legislative developments bring determination to action and finish endless discussions what harm public policies. The new legislation brought legal security against judiciary conversion. The challenge is to disseminate the knowledge of this new law and call the attention of all actors at play.

Elvis Secco: If you want to fight organised crime you need to defund it. Just “following the money” does not bring in the proper dimension. Identifying the financial core of the criminal organisation requires a complex analysis. The seized assets are of real value in comparison with the pseudo-value of seized drugs.

Gustavo Camilo Baptista: Thank you all.

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