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Cracolandia, the largest open-air crack market

Latest NewsCracolandia, the largest open-air crack market

Around 500 crack-addicted Brazilians stroll every day through some of the streets of the historic center that were once some of the most majestic in Sao Paulo. This is an area dotted with drug shacks. Commonly known as Krakolandia, this is Brazil’s largest open-air drug market, territory taken over by drug addicts turned zombies and hostile territory to the rest of São Paulo. The city council has just made another attempt to dismantle Krakolandia in the name of fighting drug trafficking, deploying hundreds of police officers this week to demolish shacks and disperse drug addicts. According to local press reports, a man was killed early Friday in a riot.

Krakolandia has been a chronic problem for many years. The police operation had an effect similar to loosening a hornet’s nest. As the agents advance, hundreds of addicts wander in the opposite direction, trying to settle somewhere to resume the consumption and sale of crack. Many merchants in the area immediately closed their doors, frightened by groups of burglars. Several bus routes have been changed. And seven people were arrested with drugs, scales and fake weapons. In addition, police pressure affected the price of the goods. The price of crackstone rose from 20 reais to 50 reais (from four to ten dollars), according to the newspaper Estadão, citing police.

A man who lived in Krakolandia, a drug market in downtown Sao Paulo, leaves the area, pipe in hand, after a police operation, May 11, 2022.Andre Penner (AP)

The mayor of the metropolis, Ricardo Nunez, is a centre-right, determined to disperse them. This Thursday, he ordered the police to arrest anyone who carries a crack pipe. It is planned that they will be transferred to the police station, and from there to the rehabilitation program. So far, a third of the more than 300 people contacted by the authorities have agreed to go to the shelter, but Folha de S. Paulo said only a dozen of them have received a place in the municipal therapy program. The adviser explained that “the goal is to keep them from crowding together. Their dispersal facilitates the work of helping (drug addicts) and the police in the fight against drug trafficking,” the aforementioned newspaper reports.

Walking through the outlines of the Krakolandia camp means facing an army of zombies, very thin creatures – men, women, couples with children, teenagers or the elderly – sitting on the ground, smoking crack, exercising or walking with their eyes lost under the covers. protect yourself from the cold this time of year. Many drivers have a habit of locking their doors when passing by.

In a city marked by inequality, the dilapidated historic center is punctually visited by the privileged inhabitants of São Paulo, because the streets near Krakolandia are home to some relevant cultural institutions, such as the São Paulo Concert Hall, the Pinacoteca, the Museum of the Portuguese Language or the Museum of the Portuguese Language. Memorial la Resistencia, which keeps the memory of the dictatorship.

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Krakolandia is controlled by the First Command of the Capital, the most powerful group of Brazilian organized crime, functioning as a brotherhood of criminals. There is a suspicion that the order came from within their ranks, so that in April last year, from one day to the next, the entire camp and crackers moved a few streets further.

A man living in the drug market in Princess Isabel Square crosses the street with a blanket after police raided the market in central Sao Paulo, May 11, 2022.Andre Penner (AP)

The municipal operation coincided with an increased police presence on the streets of São Paulo at a time when mobile phone thefts have skyrocketed because PPC has turned them into a new illegal business. Police investigations show that, in addition to the value of the terminal, criminals use it for instant money transfers to the bank accounts of nominees.

There have been repeated attempts to liquidate the camp and expel the drug addicts. The most they have achieved over and over again is that Cracolandia will spawn for a short time in the same place or a few streets away.

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