By Felipe Neis Araujo / Talkingdrugs
While left-leaning presidential and gubernatorial hopefuls are either silent about or dodging the issue of drug policy in their campaigns and manifestos, there are two political forces gaining momentum in Brazil. The first one emerges from right-wing, military-minded candidates. It aims to normalise the police operations (a cornerstone of prohibitionism) that have claimed several thousands of lives in recent years. The objective, of course, is to provide more equipment and training for police forces, while praising lethal operations that are allegedly carried out to free society from the scourge of drug suppliers.
The second force emerging with strength during this electoral run emanates from civil society. The Brazilian Platform of Drug Policy, allied with the Black Initiative For Drug Policy, launched the campaign “You are also a victim in the war on drugs”, with an accompanying Emergency Manifesto For The End of The War on Drugs, inviting society at large to think about how we are all victimised by the violence associated with prohibitionism. The manifesto is organised in four axes: starting with the “Care” Axis, calling for governmental investment into harm reduction-oriented initiatives. Among the demands are the development of drug education programmes, investment in the public health system, the offer of continued professional development for health and social workers, and the provision of adequate spaces to develop harm reduction programmes.
The manifesto was handed to the former and currently leading presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva by the lawyer and activist Dandara Rudsan. With well-structured and straightforward demands, based on the best practices and ideas related to harm reduction, human rights, and reparations, the document can provide good guidance for Lula, if he is elected, to amend the issues related to the drugs legislation he signed back in 2006. The challenges are many, but if he is willing to listen to society, especially those affected by drug policy failures, there will be an opportunity for transformation. We have a unique opportunity to use our social capital and our right to vote to make sure that these demands are met.