Jail gang 'ordering murders of police' in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Notorious drug-trafficking syndicate led from behind bars is reportedly behind slaughter of 100 officers so far this year in Sao Paulo area

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 4:10am

A prison drug-trafficking gang is believed to be orchestrating a wave of murderous attacks against military police in the Sao Paulo area of Brazil.

About 100 officers, including 90 military police, have been killed in the region so far this year.

Forty-one of the officers were executed by gunmen.

Over the weekend, a 44-year-old female military officer died after being shot in the back 10 times in front of her 11-year-old daughter as she stepped out of her car, the state public security secretariat said.

The killing of an officer is often followed by a spate of shootings of suspected drug traffickers or robbers, which families of the victims claim are retaliation by the state military police.

The prison gang organising the attacks is said to be the First Command of the Capital, known as the PCC.

Camila Dias, a crime expert at the University of Sao Paulo, said: "I believe the PCC is responsible for the attacks against the military police. But some groups in the police are also involved in retaliatory attacks."

The PCC was formed in 1993 by eight prisoners serving time in a maximum security prison in Taubate, northeast of Sao Paulo.

Dias said the gang dominates organised crime in Sao Paulo, controlling drug and arms trafficking as well as bank robberies.

Gang leaders appear to be masterminding their operations from their jail cells, she said.

But Dias criticised the heavy-handed tactics of the military police, saying killing suspected criminals sparked reprisals.

Instead, she said police should try to cripple the PCC's finances and try to regain the trust of residents in shanty towns where gang members operate. "The residents do not see the police as protectors but as oppressors, which is precisely the PCC's contention," Dias said.

At least 26 people were killed in and around Sao Paulo over the past three days, including a prison guard and a girl aged 10.

In September, the number of homicides in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area - home to 20 million people - rose to 144, more than 27 per cent higher than the August figure. The tally for September last year was 71.

But security officials have played down the importance of the PCC, saying other criminal groups may be involved in the cycle of violence.

Last month, Sao Paulo state's public security secretary Antonio Ferreira Pinto dismissed reports the PCC has 1,343 members spread out in 123 of Sao Paulo state's 645 cities.

"The faction is much smaller," he said. "There aren't even 30 or 40 individuals who are imprisoned for a long time and engage in trafficking. We have choked off this traffic with big arrests."

On Saturday, a suspected drug trafficker was shot by police after refusing an order to stop his vehicle on a Sao Paulo highway.

Press reports identified him as a drug baron from the Sao Paulo slum Paraisopolis, which was occupied by 600 heavily-armed military police a week ago after a tip-off that a crime boss there had ordered the killing of police.

Pinto said the order to kill police came from local gang leader Francisco Antonio Cesario da Silva, alias Piaui, who was arrested in August.

Reports claim that among documents seized by officers during their Paraisopolis raid was a list with names, addresses and physical descriptions of more than 40 military police.

Also found was a letter with orders to kill two officers for every "cowardly execution" of a PCC member.