"Every three or four months, between the periods of planting and harvest, we eradicate cannabis plantations. Then, the peasants return to the same place, in order to plant again, in a vicious, interminable cycle."
Paulo Cesar de Oliveira joined the Military Police of the Brazilian state of Bahía in 1990. He retired in 2016 as a First Sergeant in the CIPE/CAATINGA, a special unit charged with fighting organized crime. His unit operated in the northern region of the state of Bahía, especially in the islands of the Sao Francisco River, which is the heart of the “marijuana triangle.”
Paulo Cesar describes the activities of the CIPE/CAATINGA, which has been operating for 14 years, as follows: “Every three or four months, between the periods of planting and harvest, we eradicate cannabis plantations. Then, the peasants return to the same place, in order to plant again, in a vicious, interminable cycle. Most people that plant cannabis have low or no income. In most cases, they are sponsored by entrepreneurs from the region. These entrepreneurs distribute the drug all over Brazil, often using drug mules or trucks whose drivers are seduced by the high profits. We live in a region that is very good for irrigated agriculture, which the government has forgotten. There are several towns near the river in which the youth have no jobs, except for a few temporary and precarious ones. For these young people, the only possibility of making money is marijuana cultivation or other types of crime, such as highway robbery along the region’s many unpaved roads.”
While working as a military police officer, Paulo Cesar began to understand that “our actions have not produced concrete outcomes, except for the increase of the prison population, which consists primarily of poor young people, and for the numerous lives that have been taken. The unfair acts that we have committed (and I include myself, as I am part of the state apparatus) are too many. Something must be done as soon as possible. Young police officers have lost their lives; young people of the lowest ranks of society have also lost their lives. Such killings happen in the name of an unattainable ‘social peace’ supposed to come from winning the drug war – an idea that has already been proved to be a big fallacy.”
Seeing LEAP as a powerful vehicle for ending the misleading and harmful drug prohibition, Paulo Cesar, a former drug warrior, is now a crusader for drug legalization.