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For week ended January 30, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Congressman in Brazil Leads Powerful Drug Investigation
Los Angeles Times 24Jan00 P2
By Sebastian Rotella: Times Staff Writer

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL -- LDS Church member Moroni Torgan of Brazil's Ceara state has made a name for himself in Brazil by investigating drug trafficking and bringing to light the mafia-like practices of the sometimes prominent members of Brazilian society that are involved.

As reported by Mormon News last November, (see: Torgan is a returned missionary and one of 19 members of the Brazilian congress on an anti-drug investigation commission known by its initials in Portuguese, CPI. Sometimes called the "untouchables" after the U.S. FBI agents who fought the chicago mob under Elliot Ness in the 1930s, the CPI has changed the perception of illicit drug distribution in Brazil.

Brazil has become the second largest consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the United States, leading both national and international drug mafias to base their operations there. Also making Brazil attractive is its long borders to drug-producing countries like Columbia, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Because of the CPI's efforts, the nature of the problem has become much more visible. Brazil's President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, told journalists recently, "It's evident -- and the CPI demonstrated this clearly -- that the question of drug trafficking is more deeply rooted than any of us had imagined. These roots reach into some sectors of politics, government and organized crime."

Congressional deputy Antonio Biscaia of Rio de Janeiro agrees, "For the first time, we have shown that the drug lords are not just young men in slums. We have shown the relationship of drug trafficking with political power."

During the past eight months of the CPI's year-long mandate, one member of the Brazilian Congress has been expelled and arrested for leading a drug mafia in the Brazilian state of Acre. Another 150 suspects have been either arrested or investigated.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Torgan has spearheaded the CPI's work. A former federal police commander, Torgan pressed for the commission when the results of a previous commission which he had led, five years earlier, were disappointing.

To the Brazilian public, the most gratifying revelation of the CPI is that the drug mafias are being investigated, in spite of their high-level political ties. The CPI has managed to avoid being bought-off or shut up like local and federal police have been for so many years.

But while the investigations have been successful, it remains to be seen what will happen in the future. The CPI's mandate ends soon, and its final report should be issued by April. "They don't know how they are going to end this," said Rio de Janeiro political scientist Amaury De Souza. "They just can't keep revealing things -- they have to come up with a solution. And the federal government doesn't know where to go with it either. But it has huge popular appeal. It is political gold."

And the public has hope that good will come from the CPI's investigations, "People see the rich and powerful being accused and some of them going to jail," said drug trafficking scholar Alba Zaluar. "This is very rare in Brazil. Slowly, things are changing."


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