Home » To defeat “drug economies” an international educational approach is needed

To defeat “drug economies” an international educational approach is needed

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To defeat “drug economies” an international educational approach is needed

The international dimension of drug use ordinarily escapes the mere observation of the impact we see on our streets. Or, rather, we certainly have the perception of the existence of a global production and distribution network of various products, but we are more struck by the disturbing sight of drug dealers outside our homes or by the local news which sadly notes crimes and deaths linked to drug trafficking.

It seems less interesting for our public opinion to consider the effects – that natural or artificial hallucinogenic substances sow along their path – on the people involved or involuntarily involved in the countries of origin and transit. Yet, the many violences in the metropolis or the pitched battles between the army and armed squads emerge from time to time, which arise from the competition for the control of cultivation fields or laboratories for manipulating potentially homicidal molecules.

Even the UN through its Office on Drugs and Crime highlights that «Especially in low- and middle-income countries, where approximately 86% of the world‘s population lives, drug-related challenges pose difficult political dilemmas. The issue cannot be addressed by a single country or region.”

When we say “drug economies” we mean vast regions or entire nations affected by the phenomenon: it worries governments that not only tolerate but entrust the balance of state budgets to this particular export. We are frightened – rightly so – by the calculation that some foreign power can make to erode the physical and moral strength of an “enemy” from within through the constant infiltration into its territory of hallucinogenic and organism-destroying substances. How can we not think that the financial and commercial war can also be fought by weakening the competitor’s population? This is the question that may arise, for example, from the alarm over fentanyl which was recently launched in Italy by the Ministry of Health, already prefigured by VITA with an article by Paolo Manzo in June last year as a “supermarket drug”. The circulation of this highly potent and competitively priced opiate brings drug trafficking very close to biological warfare which worries us at least as much as missile warfare.

The “terminal” set up in Italy by Don Bosco Missions, compared to the educational and social activity carried out by the Salesians in 136 countries, highlights the close contiguity between the lack of development of many realities in the South of the world and the domination of drug criminals. The most striking case is Haiti, where there is a hub for sorting cargoes from South to North America, which requires the absence of a democratic power that attempts to stem it. In recent weeks we have noticed this due to the impossible institutional balance on the island, where a “temporary” president, elected after the assassination of his predecessor, cannot or does not want to call elections; but the population and the administrative system are at the mercy of criminality, organized and armed to the teeth, so it is difficult to think of regular votes. THEDrug consumption is the oil that makes this machine of the absurd run, since drug dealers are hired by offering a few doses as a benefit for the “work” they do, and the most violent make a career out of protecting the loading and unloading from the port or airport of the capital.

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The heroism of the missionaries and many social workers who resist in Haiti lies in the pursuit of a normality that allows children and young people to attend school and to be protected when going to and returning home. May they build a future entrusted to the hands and intelligence of honest work. A Salesian, Don Attilio Stra, over eighty, is among those who resist, but shares a personal outburst: «We are “among those who are suspended”, an ugly Purgatory, but to purge what? Our large Enam professional school (the first Salesian work in Haiti way back in 1936) is occupied by bandits, and its director, Don Lex Florival, was beaten and held hostage for three weeks, freed after paying a large sum. Even the Lakay Don Bosco center for street children is occupied by armed gangs. In Port-au-Prince it’s hell.”

How can we think about combating drug trade and consumption in a similar context? More than an example of preventive and recovery intervention, the international gaze today signals the extreme limit to which the spread of the phenomenon of drug addiction can reach.

Other countries are largely headed down this path: Venezuela sees assiduous users of substances within the government, and the resulting policies have the scent of these; Ecuador is the new starting point for drug trafficking, more accessible because the country is not familiar with combating it: here there is a margin of defense, if the situation does not worsen.

In Africa, drugs are used to incite irregular troops to serve some neocolonialist interest, to break down lines of demarcation and to foment racial hatred, to prevent access to civilians in areas reserved for economic exploitation. Or it is used to force girls and boys into prostitution, as happens in many Asian countries (and, let’s not forget, in much of Europe). There are projects (for example in Sierra Leone) specifically dedicated to exploited girls, to save them from trafficking, and to young people, who can acquire skills for decent work through introductory courses. Nigeria, Gabon, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo are also blocked in their development by the growing number of young drug addicts.

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But talking about drugs is a “luxury” in certain situations. In Peru, kids inhale industrial glues and other volatile chemicals to numb themselves, so they can face the nothingness of long days; in Angola they scratch the walls and burn the dust they obtain with the sole function of interfering with the respiratory system and, in turn, with the circulatory and cerebral systems. The “high” is guaranteed.

There is an exemplary intervention by the Salesians in Colombia. In Medellin, the city that hosts the most powerful drug trafficking cartels, a “Don Bosco” center has been active on the hill since 2001 which has various objectives, all inherent to the living conditions of children and adolescents, of those who have no family or live in conditions of poverty. It offers material and psychological support, even with long journeys and therefore experienced in a residential manner; they learn a trade to build a sustainable future. Among these very young people, in agreement with the government, were also welcomed the former soldiers hired at school age by the guerrilla, originally cloaked in the title of “revolutionary” and over time becoming the armed force of the coca “republic”. The project was successful for dozens and dozens of boys and girls who had been emptied of their personality, forced not to be aware of the violence they suffered, the same violence they then had to exercise against their enemies, including the defenseless population caged in the fighting areas. . In the previous state, their consciousness was conditioned by a by-product of the processing of coca for export: basuco, popularly known as “brain thief”.

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Welcome, offer of alternatives to the streets, oratories open day and night, basic education, professional training. It is the simple “formula” but the only one to be practiced by missionaries if they want to remove the “reason” for existence from the spread of drugs. And then – at the same time – psychological and relational recovery interventions are active: the Salesians also shape their intervention on this aspect, while the tug-of-war with crime requires radical interventions from the institutions, hoping that these are less corrupt or corruptible .

We dedicated an investigation to substance use, particularly by young people, in the issue of VITA magazine “Drugs, let’s open our eyes”. If you are a subscriber or subscriber to VITA you can read it immediately from here. And thank you for the support you give us.

If you want to read the magazine, receive future issues and access dedicated content and features, subscribe here.

Photo on Kindel Media/Pexels

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