Oct 16 2013
- The threat was issued by the First Capital of the Command in Sao Paulo
- Gang was behind the murder of more than a hundred of the city’s police
- Last night violent demonstrations exploded on the streets of Brazil
Brazil’s biggest drug cartel has promised a ‘World Cup of terror’ next year – in a reminder of the high level of violence that still marks the country.
The threat was issued by the First Capital Command in Sao Paulo, who last year was behind the murder of more than a hundred of the city’s police officers.
And last night violent demonstrations exploded on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo with protesters setting fire to cars and fighting pitched battles with police.
The protests were in support of a teachers’ strike and were the latest in a long line of unrest that has seen millions take to the streets in Brazil to protest against the government.
Both will be a sobering reminder amid the euphoria of England’s fans that next year they will be travelling to a country where safety and stability cannot be guaranteed.
Six matches in next year’s competition, including the opening game, will be held at the Arena de Sao Paulo while seven, including the final, will be held in Rio de Janeiro’s Estadio do Maracana.
In messages intercepted by police this week, leaders of the gang in Sao Paulo made the vague but ominous threat should the authorities move jailed members of the cartel to a tougher prison.
In Brazil, powerful gangs often linked to the drug trade are very powerful and frequently control whole prisons and favelas, or shanty towns.
Since 2002, the PCC has been led by Marcos Willians Herbas Camacho, known as Marcola, or ‘Playboy.’ He is serving a life sentence for the murder of a judge in 2003
The gang have nicknames including Wander Eduardo ‘Fat Face’ Ferrari, Isaias ‘Weird’ Moreira do Nascimento and Antonio ‘Ugly Beast’ Carlos dos Santos.
During 2012, a war broke out between the gang and Sao Paulo’s Military Police.
They felt the government had violated an informal agreement, long denied by officials, to slow the prison transfers of gang leaders and limit crackdowns on its operations on Sao Paulo’s outskirts in exchange for an end to gang violence.
The gang ordered attacks on police, 106 officers – many off-duty – were killed.
In the protests in Rio de Janeiro, a group of masked youths attacked shops, set fire to a police car and threw petrol bombs.
In Sao Paulo shops were ransacked.
Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray and sound bombs.
Efforts to transfer high-ranking imprisoned members of the gang, known by its Portuguese initials PCC, to far off prisons where they would have difficulty giving orders by cellphone to their soldiers on the outside enraged the gang in 2006.
Five days of gang-inspired attacks then left at least 175 dead, including police officers, traffickers and the innocent in between. After the violence lingered for months, an alleged informal truce between the government and the PCC slowed the transfers and the attacks tapered off.
The gang was founded in 1993 by hardened criminals inside Sao Paulo’s Taubate Penitentiary, but remained a relatively obscure group until early 2001, when uprisings in 29 prisons across the state killed 19 inmates. It was the biggest prison rebellion in Brazil’s recent history and took police 27 hours to crush.
The PCC was formed to pressure for improved prison conditions.
Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Cardozo, speaking at a security conference last year, said he would ‘prefer to die’ than serve time in his nation’s prisons.
He added: ‘We have a medieval penal system.’
While the gang’s start may have been rooted in fighting for basic human rights of the imprisoned, its members quickly began using their power inside prisons to direct drug-dealing and extortion operations on the outside.
‘The PCC is better organized, more powerful, and they have a monopoly of crimes and power which is something nobody achieved in Rio,’ said Ignacio Cano, a researcher at the Violence Analysis Center at Rio de Janeiro State University. ‘They are by far the strongest criminal group in Brazil.’
There are no official numbers on the gang’s size, but the inner core considered as members is thought to include no more than a few thousand people, Cano said.
Police documents obtained by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo last year indicated the gang’s members numbered just over 1,300, and showed they are required to pay $300 in monthly fees in exchange for legal aid if they’re arrested and support for their families if they go to jail.
What makes the PCC so powerful is that corporate approach to how it manages gang enterprises as well as its reach beyond its core membership.
‘They outsource. They contract people and allow them to carry out certain activities as long as they’re paying them (the PCC) something in return,’ Cano said. ‘For example, in 2006 many people say the killings of policemen were outsourced.’
Estimates of the number of people connected in some way to the gang go as high as 100,000.