Following the police and military operation in Comlexo de Alemão, a large favela complex ruled by narcotraffickers for the past 20 years, several voices have emerged in favor of drug legalization as a solution to the violence generated by narcotrafficking and efforts to combat it. Former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Governor Sérgio Cabral, and writer João Ubaldo Ribeiro are among the well-respected figures who have spoken out on the issue.

However, one of the most longstanding supporters of drug legalization is a former chief of Rio de Janeiro's Military Police and current university professor Jorge da Silva. As a police officer, he spent much of his time catching small-time marijuana dealers, and felt as though he was doing his duty as a police officer. He arrived at the point, however, in which it began to seem like the more drugs and weapons seized and the more people sent to prison, the more drugs and weapons were in circulation and the more criminals were on the streets.

This planted the first seed of doubt: "Am I doing the right thing?" he asked himself. Today the word "maconheiro" (pothead) is no longer part of his vocabulary, as, he says he no longer has the moral supremacy or prejudice that his previous work required. Today, he distinguishes between drug users, small-time dealers and armed narcotraffickers and says this differentiation is key for a more efficient drug policy in Brazil.

Thanks to his experience in the field, today, Col. da Silva is certain that repressive policies to control drug use is not only inefficient, but it is also the cause of the serious public security problems in countries like Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.

Col. da Silva, the coordinator of Public Security, Police and Human Rights Studies at the Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and member of the Brazilian Commission on Drugs and Democracy spoke with Comunidade Segura about why he did a 180 on his position toward drug policy and elaborates on some of the alternative policies he proposed in his article: "Drogas: alternativas à guerra" (available below in Portuguese).

For more information, please read an interview with Col. da Silva.