Since late Friday night, May 12, the state of São Paulo, Brazil’s richest and most industrialized area, has been under attack by a criminal organization known as the PCC.
On one hand, there have been simultaneous rebellions in almost every detention center and prison in the state (there are 106 of them). On the other hand, people who work in public security have been attacked around the state with the result that, as of Monday morning, May 15, a total of 77 people have been reported killed.
Among those killed at least 35 of them were policemen, municipal guards, employees of prisons or the state Secretariat of Public Security. Another 54 people have been injured, 24 of them policemen.
Since Sunday night, May 14, the gang has burned down 61 buses and attacked 10 banks. Courthouses also have been attacked. Fearing the worst several bus companies have stopped service.
The PCC, which stands for First Capital Command, was originally an activist group working for prisoner rights. But it has become a powerful criminal group.
This weekend’s rebellions and attacks throughout the state of São Paulo are seen as a show of force by the group, which did not like it when many of its leaders in prison were transferred to maximum security penitentiaries which are distant from the city of São Paulo.
On Friday, May 12, following the transfer of 765 inmates, many of them important members of the PCC from cells in prisons in the city of São Paulo to a maximum security penitentiary in the city of Presidente Venceslau, 600 kilometers away, the state erupted in a series of simultaneous attacks on the police and rebellions in prisons.
According to the president of the national Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil) (OAB), Roberto Busato, there are two important things to keep in mind.
First, the uprising shows the "scandalous degree of fragility and disorder" in the security system. Second, the authorities must not back down.
"The state cannot, under any circumstances, retreat in its decision to isolate the leaders of the PCC in maximum security cells. And not only that. The state has to be strong and firm; no timidity or weakness. It must accept the challenge.
"It has to mobilize its intelligence sector, the courts for a quick victory in this dark tragedy that civil society is being forced to watch."
An activist group, the National Movement for Human Rights (Movimento Nacional dos Direitos Humanos) (MNDH) says that the wave of violence that hit the state of São Paulo this weekend is the result of neglect in the areas of social assistance, public security and the courts, along with noncompliance with the country’s constitution and penal code.
"The causes are complex and will not be resolved with magic. What is needed is serious, continuous, consistent work in all sectors and the government," says a note from the MNDH.
"The present problem in São Paulo must be dealt with by using prudence, responsibility, professionalism, intelligence and, above all, respect for the rights that Brazilian legislation and international rules give to the citizen. Otherwise we will condone barbarism."
The MNDH goes on to say that the prison situation in Brazil will not be improved with harsher rules.
"If the laws and rules we have really worked we would not have this problem. If the plans to train the police and improve our prisons were really implanted we would not have this problem.
"But what we have is impunity and corruption. And that is why the situation is so grave. Impunity and corruption feed organized crime."
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