What would you call "drug mafia" in Portuguese?

I would say "máfia de drogas" but a friend from Brazil told me that it does not sound natural. Should I use just "máfia"?

suggestion: máfia, máfia de drogas

Thank you.

  • Depende do contexto, pode ser necessário definir o tipo de máfia, mas geralmente seria apenas máfia.
    – Jorge B.
    Oct 30, 2016 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


In pt-BR we don't usually hear the word "máfia" for organized crime such as drug trafficking and selling. Without context and preceded by a definite article ("A Máfia") it alludes to criminal organizations in Italy, or their branches abroad. We do use the word "máfia", however, in other contexts:

  • "a máfia do orçamento"
  • "a máfia das aposentadorias"
  • "a máfia do INSS"
  • "a máfia do metrô de São Paulo" etc..

These phrases usually refer to a group of people engaged in corruption and politics and are used especially by the midia. As far as drugs are concerned, we have the following vocabulary:

  • "o mundo do tráfico" - the world of drugs

  • "o tráfico de drogas" - the general term for drug trafficking

  • "o comandante ou chefe do tráfico" - a drug baron, a drug lord

  • "os traficantes" ou "narcotraficantes" - drug dealers in general

  • "a mula" - someone paid to smuggle drugs into another country. Risky business.

  • "o mundo do tráfico" - the world of drug trafficking.

  • "o usuário de drogas"- someone who uses drugs, but not necessarily addicted.

  • "o viciado em drogas" - one who is addicted to one or more types of drug.

  • "o drogado" - someone who is frequently under the effects of drugs.

  • "a boca" ou "a boca de fumo" - the place where drugs are sold illegally.

    Of course one can say "máfia das drogas" and they will be understood, no problem. But the word "máfia" is more often used for corruption or sometimes for small groups involved in minor offenses such as extortion and the like. It can also be used figuratively for any closed group where one member protects the other. ("Eu bem que tentei entrar para o grupo mas aquilo ali é uma máfia: não deixam ninguém de fora entrar")

  • 1
    Mas e o conceito de "drug mafia"?
    – Jorge B.
    Oct 30, 2016 at 15:13
  • 1
    @JorgeB. One can say "máfia das drogas" and he will be understood, no problem. But the word "máfia" is more often used for corruption or sometimes for small groups involved in minor offenses such as extorsion and the like.
    – Centaurus
    Oct 30, 2016 at 15:19
  • Centaurus but if you are talking about "droga" and "traficantes" if you say "máfia" the people can understood what you are referring?
    – Jorge B.
    Nov 3, 2016 at 16:29
  • 2
    @JorgeB. Probably, but without context it could be also understood as a criminal organisation smuggling medicines, or perpetrating some kind of fraud related to them. Nov 3, 2016 at 16:31
  • Simply "os traficantes" or is probably the best "umbrella term" for what an American might call a "drug mafia". It's what I hear most often anyway. It's worth noting that it's a more general term than the English "trafficker", a drug lord is as much a "traficante" as a mule is.
    – Some_Guy
    Nov 22, 2016 at 13:58

In a general way, "o tráfico":

O tráfico obrigou as mães-de-santo a saírem da favela.

Referring to a particular organisation, "gangue":

A gangue da Pavuna expulsou os traficantes do Alemão.

If a bigger organisation, "cartel":

O cartel do Beira-mar domina o tráfico no Rio de Janeiro.

Those directly involved call it "movimento":

Ontem a polícia deu um baculejo e ganhou mais três caras do movimento.

On contrary of the US, the drug traffic in Brazil isn't rooted to Italian immigrants.

  • 1
    Luís, seria interessante expandir a frase final. Eu percebo o que queres dizer, mas sem mais contexto fica um pouco frágil, e outros podem não perceber bem o que pretendes com ela.
    – ANeves
    Nov 4, 2016 at 13:13

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