Society

Police and government in the spotlight over controversial Cracolândia crackdown

'Cracolândia,' São Paulo's decades-old open-air drug market, is back in the headlines due to a series of heavy-handed police operations

Photo: Danilo Verpa/Folhapress

Before dawn last Wednesday morning, roughly 650 police officers armed with guns, batons, and stun grenades advanced on a throng of several hundred homeless crack cocaine addicts congregated in an open-air drug market in the center of São Paulo commonly known as “Cracolândia,” or Crackland.

Existing since the mid-1990s, Cracolândia is akin to “Hamsterdam,” the fictional free zone for drug dealing and consumption in Baltimore created by U.S. crime drama The Wire. 

Located in a degraded enclave in the center of Latin America’s biggest city, it is an open area where people can purchase and use crack, cannabis, and...

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