Case Studies and Success Stories

Children of the drug trade. A case study of children in organised armed violence in Rio de Janeiro

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Luke Dowdney

This study was conceived following the Brazil-based NGO Viva Rio’s participation in a number of international seminars and events that dealt with the involvement of children in major armed conflict. Through this participation, Viva Rio became aware that the role of children and adolescents participating in the territorial disputes of drug factions within Rio de Janeiro has more in common with the lives of ‘child soldiers’ in armed conflict situations than with the lives of traditionally defined as gang members found in other urban centres around the world. Despite this similarity, and despite the fact that drug faction armed disputes are causing fire mortality rates in the city comparable to combat casualties in many modern armed conflicts, Rio de Janeiro is not in a state of war. Consequently, children and adolescents working in an armed capacity for drug factions in Rio de Janeiro are categorised as juvenile delinquents, criminals or gang members.

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