Some call it a human zoo or a horror show, others a zombie tourist attraction or Brazil’s shame. But the most common name for the district south-west of São Paulo’s Luz station is Cracolândia. Drug users, many wrapped in dirty blankets, lie on the pavement or are slumped on stained sofas. Others shuffle along the road, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Nobody bothers to conceal the main reason they are here: crack cocaine, which is smoked openly and everywhere in white, single-hit balls that cost from three to 10 reals (£1 to £3.30). Just over a year ago, this area in the heart of South America’s largest city was considered so dangerous that it was practically a no-go zone even for the police. Studies suggest one in three people died within five years of ending up on these streets, usually violently. But with Brazil now gripped by the world’s second biggest crack epidemic (after the US), the authorities have launched a series of controversial initiatives to address this very visible symptom of the country’s social ills. Since the start of last year, São Paulo has introduced street clearance operations by police, increased funds for rehabilitation centres and, most recently, focused… Read full this story
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