I am currently working on a research project comparing the drug trade in Mexico with its counterpart in Brazil. I have an outstanding undergraduate student, Tony Zamoro, working on this project with me. It has been a great deal more difficult to find information on Brazil’s drug trade than Mexico’s, but he has managed to locate a wide range of maps -from Insight Crime, Newsweek and other sources- that display the drug trade and cartels visually. Here are some links to these maps.
What I find most interesting about the maps is that they often focus on favelas, rather than individual states. Of course, the PCC has influence throughout most of Brazil. The Mexican drug cartels also often overlap. For example, the situation in the state of Guerrero is complex, while even in Sinaloa -the home of the Sinaloan cartel- the drug cartels still compete. There are also areas in Mexico -such as Juarez- where competing cartels seem to have fought each other to a state of exhaustion, as the falling death rate in this city suggests. My point here is that there are similarities between the nature of drug cartels in the two countries. Still, the Brazilian drug trade is much more defined by the control of small urban environments, rather than broad swathes of territory, as is the case with Mexico. My question is: how has the differing character of the two countries’ borders shaped the geography of the drug trade and the character of the drug cartels?
The Brazilian drug trade is also driven by the diverse mix of drugs used within Brazilian urban areas, unlike in Mexico where rates of drug use have been lower than in the United States. In 2005 I interviewed drug traffickers and users in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The drug market there was stratified by age. Older users were more likely to inject drugs, including cocaine, whereas younger users more commonly used crack. It was also the case that people often varied the drugs that they used, even within a single day. The Mexican drug cartels also have diversified, but the Mexican drug market internally is perhaps not as large or as complex as Brazil’s.
Shawn Smallman, Portland State University