Hands down, I would still buy chocolate if it was illegal.
No word of a lie, one time I cried myself to sleep because my fiancé’s drunk friends ate half my galaxy chocolate bar. Lovingly flown over to Brazil via my mum months before, I had been saving it for a sad day.
I guess I was sad when I ate the other half…
Interestingly enough, there have been parallels drawn between chocolate (along with other supermarket stock) and the drug traffickers of Brazil. The sale of stolen chocolate turns quite a profit with such small risks, that traffickers have broadened their horizons to fulltime merchandise theft. Consequently leaving dire consequences for the Brazilian consumer.
In brief, the War on Drugs in Brazil comes in the shape of Police Pacifying Units (UPP). Police forces dispatched to favelas to “end” the drug trade. So let us take a look at how exactly did drug traffickers turn to chocolate dealing?
Want to speed things up a little? Watch the youtube video below!
Simple enough policy, accompanied with unintended consequences.
Traffickers impeded by the new police units, lost their income and needed to substitute for another cash source. They had the selling skills to create a supply chain of drugs, so surly it must be a doss to create one for in-demand legal products like chocolate…
The humble truck driver trundles along the thousands of miles of Brazilian highway carrying Mrs Fulano’s freshly churned cheese or Garoto’s (highly sickening) chocolate bars to the big metropoles. Next the drug gangs, who already own substantial heavy and dangerous weapons from the defence of their territory, jump him, sometimes by just simply waving their armoury at his windshield. There’s no face off and practically no violence. These trucks are sitting ducks.
In comparison to the current heavy-handed methods of dealing with drug traffickers in the favelas (namely daily shoot outs and numerous arrests with high penalties if condemned), there seems little deterrent from ambushing a few lorries a month.
Again and again, those caught carrying out merchandise theft are found to pertain to drug trafficking gangs. On top of this, the main targets for the hijacks are in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Both of which harbour the largest factions and organized crime groups.
Where does the cargo go?
At this point the robbers have a mammoth vehicle that is pretty dang hard to hide and so swapping registration plates and implementing logistics planning they swiftly unload the truck in a nearby hideout and dump the vehicle elsewhere.
Unfortunately, in Rio de Janeiro many of the storage warehouses are located close to favelas that have been linked to gangs that carry out these assaults. The chain reaction continues as “receptors” scurry out of the wormholes, buying the stolen stash to sell it on stalls in the city, street, inside the metro and bus anywhere they can to be honest. It can be just 3 hours later that Mrs Fulano’s cheese and the chocolate are going into the pockets of consumers, surprised by the “abnormally low price, with all this inflation that’s going on in the supermarkets.”
WAIT A MINUTE.
Let’s look at some figures.
- Brazil is 12th most dangerous country IN THE WORLD for cargo transportation.
(coming only behind war-stricken countries like Syria and South Sudan)
- In Rio de Janeiro State there were on average 840 cases of truck attacks.
- Estimated cost of R$6 billion to economy (US$2 BILLION).
(Substantial, considering even the blessed pensioners in Rio are no longer being paid)
- 20% increase in shipping costs
(mate, I abandon an Amazon order if it ain’t giving me free delivery)
Undercover cops’ maths:
- 19 TONNES of sweets stolen from a truck.
- Stolen vehicle tracked to a FAVELA 3KM away called Complexo do Chapadão.
- Five hours later the merchandise of 500g or 300g is sold for R$2 each.
- Whole sweet truck = a WHOPPING R$100 THOUSAND (US$300,000).
If you thought drug traffickers were thick, think again. The profit margins are immense. Hence it is of little surprise that this crime has caught the attention of the cash savvy drug dealers. One job is enough to buy a house. To buy a small plane. To quite your crappy day job.
What are the consequences?
- Yet another tax.
In Rio, the government had to introduce the Emergency Tax (taxa de emergência excepcional) to provide more rigorous security measures for the transportation and along the most dangerous stretches of highway.
- Shipping costs higher than ever.
Costs have been upped to try to compensate for losses, ensuring that the packaging is higher than the cost of the cargo.
- Increased Violence.
The profits go back into gangs, consequently they buy weapons and feed the violence in the city.
- Sad loss of morals.
Amid the crisis more and more business men and woman are becoming “receptors” of stolen goods because they can gain higher profits on merchandise they sell.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day why would you pay $4 for a chocolate bar when your vender buddy has got 3 for $4? We’re not all economist, but I’m going for one that gets me more chocolatey goodness for less bucks.
However, in conclusion, when it boils down to it, this crime is a vicious circle and the only one who’s bearing the brunt of the cost inflation is the average Brazilian consumer.
Is it immoral to purchase stolen goods from street venders?
What do you think have been the unintended consequences of the UPP policy? Are there solutions?