Recurring violence by police aggravates situation for residents and frequenters of the region of luz

The local organizations Conectas Human Rights, the Brazilian Drug Policy Platform, the “É de Lei” Community Center and the Human Rights Advocacy Center for the Homeless Population (NDDHPR) publicly condemn the escalation of police violence in the region of Luz known as Cracolândia (Crackland), in the center of the city of São Paulo, due to ongoing crackdowns by the municipal and state governments of São Paulo.

The region of Luz has a long history of social problems that require unified strategies from health and social services based on the needs of the people who live in and frequent the area. 

On January 15, another disastrous and poorly planned police action resulted in one injured officer, among other victims, and in the arrest of drug users in possession of only minimal amounts of drugs – most with no documentation and receiving no treatment. During the raid, a videographer documented the moment when a person who had already surrendered was kicked several times by military police officers who are easily identifiable, which constitutes the crime of torture and deserves especially vigorous treatment from the oversight authorities. 

The current use of security forces is reminiscent of the alarming strategies used in 2013 during Operation “Pain and Suffering”, which was declared illegal by São Paulo courts. In 2017, when the current São Paulo Governor, João Doria, was mayor of the capital, he declared that he would “get rid of Cracolândia within six months”, with the use of similar militarized tactics. At the time, Doria was prevented from enforcing his policy by the São Paulo State Court.

When these events unfolded, the United Nations, prompted by local organizations, sent a statement to Brazil condemning the human rights violations and expressing concern with the dismantling of social inclusion services in the country. The UN rapporteurs noted that the strategy is “discriminatory, since it goes against those who live in poverty and social exclusion”. 

Police action to arrest users with small amounts of drugs further distances people from public services and increases the tension in the region for everyone. Reports of human rights violations are never investigated, increasing the sense of impunity. The aforementioned organizations call for a transparent investigation into the abuses, within the legal time frame, and an opening of dialogue with civil society to coordinate the services provided in the region.

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