The street gang offensive against Brazilian police that has left scores dead continued early Monday with the overnight torching of at least 65 buses and 10 bank branches in São Paulo State.
The street death toll already reached 81 and keeps increasing. It could balloon following the overall rioting situation in Sao Paulo’s jail system with hundreds of hostages, a combined action with the attacks on police precincts and places where off duty-officers hang out.
The violence was the work of the so-called First Command of the Capital, or PCC, a criminal organization that operates from inside state prisons and was retaliating for the transfers of several gang leaders to newly built top security prisons, almost 400 miles away from Sao Paulo city.
Violence unexpectedly erupted last Friday and rapidly spread Sunday to several prisons in the neighboring states of Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul. On Sunday night and early Monday street criminals set fire to buses and bank branches. No injuries were reported in the attacks.
However the situation Monday in South America’s main industrial hub was chaotic with thousands of Paulistas stranded since six of the seven public transport companies kept the buses at depots fearing further attacks.
As the buses were being torched in and around São Paulo, unidentified gunmen opened fire on and later set ablaze several bank branches, reported the city’s police forces. The entrance of two subway station in the East of São Paulo were also repeatedly gunned down in the wee hours of the morning.
Between Friday and Monday, 180 attacks were mounted against security forces, according to the Sao Paulo Public Security Secretariat. In some of the attacks heavy machine guns were used as well as Molotov bombs.
According to Sunday’s official report on the first two nights of attacks, of the 52 killed, 36 were police officers and 14 suspected assailants shot dead by security forces. Another 9 rioting inmates were also killed.
Simultaneous rioting in Sao Paulo’s prisons followed the transfer of 765 inmates, mostly PCC, to maximum security facilities. An estimated 273 people are being held hostage at different prisons.
This is not the first time PCC created in 1997 shows its muscle. In February 2001 it staged simultaneous uprisings in 30 Brazilian prisons with over 20 people killed in the ensuing rioting. Again in November 2003, the gang attacked more than 50 police stations, killing three police officers and wounding 12.
The power of the faction has been heightened in recent years by the availability of mobile phones, smuggled through prison security, enabling members to run criminal activities from the safety of their cells.
Mercopress – www.mercopress.com