Pope to drug dealers: 'God will call you to account'

The pope's speech is met with cheers at a treatment center in Brazil.

Published May 13, 2007

GUARATINGUETA, Brazil - Drug traffickers will face divine justice for the scourge of illegal narcotics across Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI warned Saturday, telling dealers that "human dignity cannot be trampled upon in this way."

Brazil and the rest of the region face dangerously high rates of drug abuse, and traffickers must "reflect on the grave harm they are inflicting on countless young people and on adults from every level of society, " Pope Benedict said.

"God will call you to account for your deeds, " he said before a cheering crowd of 6, 000 on a sprawling lawn outside the Fazenda de Esperanca, or Farm of Hope, a drug treatment center founded by a Franciscan friar.

Brazil is the world's second-largest consumer of cocaine, after the United States, according to the State Department.

Drug-related violence in Brazil is a huge problem, driven by gangs that control street-corner dealing and the transshipment of drugs to Europe and the United States from elsewhere in South America.

In Mexico, gangs battling over billion-dollar smuggling routes into the United States leave a daily body count from beheadings, grenade attacks and execution-style killings.

The treatment center the pope visited claims an 80 percent success rate, giving addicts spiritual guidance as they milk cows, tend apple orchards and keep bees.

Pope Benedict donated $100, 000 to the center and told more than 1, 500 recovering patients that they must become "ambassadors of hope."

Addicts said Brazilian users are often ostracized and left to beg on the streets for drug money.