The largest country in South America and the fifth largest in world, Brazil has been gaining in popularity with tourists in the last decade. Home to several beaches, the Amazon rainforest, and complex system of rivers, Brazil attracts many ecotourists interested in exploring the diverse topography. In 2011 over 5.4 million visitors chose Brazil as their travel destination, bringing in over $6.775 billion.
Tourism is not the only thing that has made Brazil’s economy one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With major exports such as automobiles, coffee, and ethanol many people are predicting Brazil will become one of the largest major economies in the world. Part of the country’s economic growth can be attributed to the commodities prices of certain exports like soybeans and beef.
Unfortunately Brazil’s economic boom is not the only thing increasing interest in the South American country. Due to its convenient location near the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil is a point of transit for the international drug trade route. It is also conveniently located near three of the largest cocaine producers in the world—Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. In addition to being a path for drug trafficking Brazil is also one of the largest consumers of cocaine in the world, second only to the United States. Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant. The plant thrives best in tropical climates thus making areas that are close to the Brazilian boarder, like the Amazonian lowlands of Peru, perfect for cultivation.
When Samuel Lebowitz, the subject of Locked up Abroad: Hasidic King of Coke, found himself as part of the drug ring in Brazil he was in awe of the amount of money he was making. However, he was not conscious of the impact his career choice was having on those who were buying and consuming drugs. It was not until he befriended a teenage addict while imprisoned in Israel that he was able to finally see the harsh reality of drug addiction. When the teenager died in Samuel’s arms his role in the world of drugs turned from dealer to anti-drug advocate.
The increase in drug addiction has been more than Brazilian healthcare systems can hand handle. An estimated 1.2 million citizens are believed to addict to crack cocaine—a cheaper, processed version of cocaine. As a result of the addiction many Brazilian hospitals have seen an increase in babies born addicted to crack cocaine. The issue has many calling for more drug prevention programs and prenatal care for mothers.
In recent years Brazil has attempted to crackdown on drug trafficking with the strategic boarder plan. An operation, setup by the federal government in June of 2011, aims to minimize crime with the assistance of federal law enforcement from neighboring countries. This enhancement of security along the country’s borders resulted in the confiscation of 14 tons of marijuana and cocaine in the first five months of its initiation.
While Samuel Lebowitz may have had a change of heart about being a drug lord, Brazil and surrounding countries are still fighting the war against drugs. As coca farmers and drug traffickers begin to expand their crops and routes to areas with less surveillance, the threat of an increase in drug related addictions and violence is looming.
Don’t miss Locked Up Abroad: Hasidic King of Coke, July 16 at 10p et/pt