With the Olympic Games set to get underway in another month, it seems that drug dealers in Rio de Janerio are working to capitalize on the “Faster – Higher – Stronger” motto by branding packages of marijuana with the logo specially designed for the Rio 2016 event.
According to a report published earlier this week by the AFP, police recently discovered that marijuana is being distributed in some of the most downtrodden areas of the Brazilian state, labeled with the swirling rendition of the Olympics logo that was designed by the game’s organizing committee.
Law enforcement officers are said to have found a number of packages of the cleverly marketed pot product some time last week in the Nova Holanda district. The force’s leading narcotics agent Felipe Curi told reporters that the herb “had the Olympic Games logo stuck to the packets,” which are believed to be connected to the cartel activity that has ramped up ahead of the games scheduled to begin the first week of August.
Despite the illusion that Rio de Janerio’s police officers are working to crackdown on the illegal drug trade during the first ever Olympic event to take place in South America, some of the latest reports indicate that law enforcement officers across the state have simply thrown their hands up against crime because they claim the Rio state government has not paid them in months. In fact, police are now warning tourists that they will not be protected from the violence that is currently plaguing the area.
“Welcome to Hell,” read the headline of a sign being held by state police officers earlier this week outside Rio’s main airport. “Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”
While it is true that Rio has transformed into a veritable thunderdome over the course of the past few months, it appears the state’s police force is responsible for the majority of the mayhem.
A report from Al Jazeera reveals that nearly 80 children were trapped in a NGO building last week while police scoured the area searching for fugitive drug trafficker Nicolas Labre Pereira. These types of anti-drug operations have reportedly led to more civilian deaths at the hands of police officers than ever before – 40 more people were gunned down in May than in the same month last year, according to the Institute of Public Security.
Amidst the soaring death toll, a judge recently stepped in to suspend all nighttime police searches for the escaped drug lord, who goes by the nickname “Fat Family,” because she believes these operations are a blatant risk to public safety.
“It is unacceptable that the police in the twenty-first century do not find a way to address crime without exposing the law-abiding citizen,” Judge Angelica dos Santos Costa wrote in her decision. “It is often said that during the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro will be safe, however, society needs public security before, during and after that event.”
Although the judge admits that it is necessary to put fugitives like Fat Family back behind bars, she doesn’t believe this should be done at the expense of Rio’s citizens.
“The local population cannot be held hostage by unplanned and hasty operations, much less the police justify them with the flimsy argument of catching criminals. This is not the police that society needs and wants,” she wrote.
An executive order was issued last week allotting $850 million in bailout funds to pay police officers the compensation they are owed. The order was issued after acting Governor Francisco Dornelles expressed concerns that the 2016 Olympics could be an enormous failure without proper security and transportation. However, the funds have yet to be received.
Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes recently told CNN that crime is “the most serious issue in Rio and the state is doing a terrible, horrible job” at regaining order.
Perhaps it is time for Rio to consider a fully legal cannabis market. A taxed and regulated system could easily diminish drug cartel violence, stimulate the economy, as well as generate millions in tax dollars that could then be used to pay the state’s police force.