Brazilian health and justice authorities gathered in Rio de Janeiro Friday (April 13) to launch a program to fight the country's growing crack cocaine epidemic.
The initiative is part of a larger $2.3-billion dollar plan launched by the government of President Dilma Rousseff which began in November to combat drug trafficking and consumption by 2014.
Brazil's Minister of Justice, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, said it is important to continue the fight against drug trafficking.
"Our challenge consists on seriously tackling the drug problem. With one side of the programme fighting the traffic as it should be fought and vigourously putting drug dealers in jail in the midst of fighting their offences. On another front, giving addicts the necessary health treatment to help them with social reintegration," said Brazilian Minister of Justice, Jose Eduardo Cardozo at an event highlighting the efforts being made in Rio de Janeiro.
Sao Paulo, another city included in the program, has police and specially trained social workers carrying out daily inspections in the streets of "cracolandia," a place where hundreds of crack cocaine addicts used to walk freely with their pipes in hand.
The Brazilian Minister of Health, Alexandre Padilha, said authorities expect to expand the treatment locations by 2014.
"It is possible to beat crack cocaine. We estimate that, by 2014, we will have in Brazil some 14 thousand beds for different kinds of treatments. In partnership with non-Governmental entities and in psycho-social centres, we have beds in clinics and some in hospitals and specialized shelters."
Officials said that $365 million U.S. dollars of the anti-crack package would be invested solely in the treating patients.
Most of the world's cocaine still comes out of the Andean countries of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, even after billions of dollars have been spent eradicating crops.