Weeding out fakes? Lisbon tourism at threat from 'drug' dealers

LISBON (Reuters) – Whispering “Hashish? Cocaine?”, road sellers are supplying unsuspecting visitors in Lisbon’s centre “drugs” which police say are often bay leaves, flour or ground paracetamol.

Holidaymakers abide by to a tour information at Comercio square in downtown Lisbon, Portugal August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Locals in Lisbon’s historic Santa Maria Maior district say the phony medicines phenomenon is having even worse, stressing law enforcement and organization proprietors who concern visitors could start out to steer clear of the Portuguese capital’s bustling center.

“Everyone on my tours gets questioned if they want medicines,” Maarten, a Belgian tour tutorial doing the job in Lisbon, claimed. “Some just laugh, but some others do not like it at all.”

Portugal, which has prolonged been popular for its shorelines, historic websites and golfing programs, has turn into reliant on tourism in latest several years immediately after governing administration and corporations seemed to it to push advancement following the 2011-14 financial debt disaster.

Preliminary figures released at the stop of past 12 months showed Portugal welcomed a record of 26 million vacationers in 2019, with all over a third viewing Lisbon. Data from the Globe Journey and Tourism Council confirmed that the full contribution of journey and tourism to Portugal’s GDP achieved 19.1% in 2018.

Drugs are not a new issue for the place, which decriminalized possession and usage of a confined quantity of drugs in 2001 following decades of large costs of heroin habit.

But even though marketing medicines is unlawful, advertising bay leaf or flour is not. At ideal, it is a breach of street licensing rules.

Bruno Pereira, police commissioner for Lisbon’s criminal investigation office, said that new laws was wanted to tackle the trouble, which necessitates “continuous attention”.

“Tourists are unaware of this phenomenon so they are fooled,” Pereira said. Law enforcement say distributors make a steep profit by exhibiting possible buyers a authentic drug sample to odor or taste and when they have compensated, handing them a pretend substitute.

“Tourists complain every single week that they’ve been ripped off outside the house our bar,” a bartender in the major occasion road said.

Local business house owners, who like Maarten want to stay nameless in situation of a backlash from dealers, are nervous.

Vacationers occasionally arrive into bars saying they are hiding from dealers, one particular bar proprietor mentioned. Police reported that on celebration sellers get intense if a probable purchaser is not interested.

Law enforcement launched a sequence of posters in 2016 and nevertheless on exhibit featuring tongue-in-cheek slogans like “Need some seasoning? There is more affordable bay leaf in the grocery keep. Never invest in pretend drugs!”

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Catarina Demony Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alexander Smith

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