A five-day wave of violence and attacks with organized gang style executions, arson, and prison riots in São Paulo state, Brazil, finally subsided Thursday with a death toll of 152 – 41 members of the police forces and 107 criminals – according to the latest official report.
The violence was triggered by the transfer of several incarcerated gang leaders to maximum security prisons at the end of last week. Although the move was intended to impede communications between the leaders and their gangs, it actually produced a rebellion of unprecedented violence.
According to the latest release from the São Paulo state authorities 112 persons suspected of belonging to the First Command of the Capital, PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital), gang which led the attacks have been arrested in the last 24 hours.
With smuggled cell phones and radios supplied by corrupt policemen, gang leaders ordered supporters outside the prison to attack police stations.
Gang members later attacked other targets, including banks, a subway station and about 80 buses, which were emptied of passengers and burned causing chaos and fear in Brazil’s main metropolitan area with 18 million people.
During almost 48 hours public transport, mainly buses, was absent from the streets of São Paulo.
"This was a total lack of responsiveness" said Oscar Vilhena, a lawyer and political scientist who co-directs Conectas Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization in São Paulo.
"The offensive was bigger than anything the police had planned for and beyond the scope of what the government thought was possible."
The City of São Paulo reported that 82 buses were set on fire and attacks were perpetrated against 54 homes of policemen, 17 bank branches and automatic cashiers plus looting in some stores and shops.
But even when streets’ violence might have subsided São Paulo authorities face a strong political controversy, not only was the city on its knees for several days but apparently a deal was struck with the leader of the PCC gang, "Marcola" to end the violence.
According to São Paulo press the agreement was reached Sunday night when state government officials visited Marcola in prison. Since then street attacks and prisons uprisings cooled and television sets were installed in jails so inmates can watch the coming World Cup matches in Germany, a long standing demand from inmates. São Paulo authorities deny any wrongdoing.
Marcola, 38, is a legend among inmates who adore him. From his cell he runs a security ring which costs the equivalent of US$ 250 per month for shops and other businesses in the city and US$ 25 per month for inmates. The money is deposited in legal bank accounts from where PCC operates other racketeering such as drugs, prostitution and shark loaning.
But in spite of Marcola, one of the leaders of the São Paulo Police Officers Association warned that from now on the rules of the game with criminals is "eye for eye"
"I can assure you 10 to 15 criminals per day are going to die in the city", said Major Sergio Olimpo Gomes in an interview with the daily O Globo.
Mercopress – www.mercopress.com
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