Acceptance of drug use leads to violence: Rotterdam mayor

February 28, 2024  -Rotterdam’s outgoing mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has told the Guardian in an interview that a “negligent” attitude to recreational drug use has led to violence and corruption in Europe’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Aboutaleb told the paper that cocaine in particular “has mainly been used in the higher echelons of society”. And, he said, it “has been seen as less serious, just as crime in higher echelons is often seen as less serious. There is an advanced form of acceptance and socialisation around cocaine.”

Two months ago Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema gave an interview to the same paper in which she said the sale of cocaine and other drugs should be decriminalised and regulated, to squeeze out organised crime.

But Aboutaleb, who is stepping down this autumn after 15 years at the helm of the port city, said pleas to regulate or legalise drugs “ignore the fact that entire groups of young people in our working-class neighbourhoods are confronted with this misery and are corrupted.”

“The phenomenon of high-class users enjoying a line on a Friday night has heavy repercussions in working-class neighbourhoods.”

Last year, Rotterdam  targeted drug users in a poster campaign to raise awareness of the connection between so-called “recreational” drug use and gang-related violence.

Aboutaleb, who has recently visited Latin America to discuss the issue, told the paper that the results of a lax attitude to drugs are felt all over the globe.

“This is a big story and it starts with production in South America,” he said. “Those farmers have their backs against the wall… The world is just throwing those people into the hands of the criminals.”

On Monday, three members of a violent Dutch drugs gang were jailed for life for their involvement in six murders. Fourteen other members of the gang received sentences of up to 29 years.

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