In the previous article, I mentioned the massacre of Carandiru as the apex of a police strategy that is still followed by many states in Brazil (first kill, them ask for a name). Actually, I don’t know to say whether it was a strategy or not, as a strategy, among other things, can serve to minimize the mistakes of the police, something that did not occur in the 90’s. The errors were so many and even today are the citizens who pay by that series of brutal and stupid mistakes.
If the massacre occurred in 1992, in 1993 a peculiar action would create the most powerful criminal group in Brazil, the PCC (Capital’s First Command). Well, at first was criminal, but for awhile was considered as terrorist by many people here.
The PCC was idealized at the prison of Taubaté (maximum security prison), during a football match that were participating some of the most dangerous criminals in Brazil. Again, you can see the error of state government that, at the time, had only one maximum security prison. Add as many prisoners as dangerous in only one place is to provide an opportunity for them to overcome their differences and to begin to work together.
Unfortunately, that kind of mentality still exists in the country. In several Brazilian states, there is no state prison capable of harbouring prisoners extremely dangerous, as major traffickers, kidnappers and banks robbers. The most famous case of this type of mistake is the Comando Vermelho (Red Command) in Rio de Janeiro, a group of criminals who controlled the trafficking in large part of Brazil until a few years ago that only existed because terrorists show to bandits how to “do things”. Therefore, “common” bandits have learned how to sequester, how to use explosives and machine guns, and soon they started to dominate whole regions through guerrilla tactics. The result can be seen until today in Rio slums controlled by traffickers. Well, that was the case before the rise of another group, the Blue Command (militia that “hunting” Red Command).
And history repeats itself with the PCC. First, the leaders of the PCC get closer with Red Command, helping the Rio’s organized crime in some actions, such as an information exchange system between them. Then the PCC began to spread within the Sao Paulo prisons. One of the first demonstrations of force was in 2001 in a rebellion in 29 prisons around the same time in Sao Paulo state. The images that were transmitted by broadcasters for TV were impressive, especially the “public” executions.
PCC “cleaning” a prison
If before 2001 the PCC wasn’t famous, after the rebellions was clear that a new and powerful group had arrived. One by one the prisons were taken by these groups and all actions in those places were coordinated by a PCC statute, a document that dictates the rules of actions of the group. The level of organization of this group was a fright for all civil society. From the prisons, the most varied actions on national territory began to be implemented in impeccable form, as an assault on the Central Bank agency in Fortaleza in which was stolen more than 50 million reais (at the time US$ 40 million). The assault occurred at 2000 km from Sao Paulo.
A series of measures was taken to contain the advance of PCC, but it was already too late. Among them, the creation of the President Bernardes prison. If there is something that scares the leaders of organized crime in Brazil, that is the Presidente Bernardes prison in Sao Paulo. It is the place that Justice send the more violent or dangerous criminals in Sao Paulo (and, occasionally, even the federal government ask for the state government to transfer some prisoners there). It is one of the few areas where the phones of any kind can work and the isolation is total: prisioners cannot watch TV, read newspapers, not to communicate with each other. Even the jailers are monitored within and outside the prisons.
Presidente Bernardes Prison
And that was one of the reasons that triggered the unprecedented wave of violence in Sao Paulo in 2006. The leaders of the PCC, when discovered they would be transferred to it, gave an order to all members of the faction that would literally shake Sao Paulo. That year, the number of attacks has come to 1000, causing hundreds of victims in Sao Paulo and in other regions of the country. Dozens of police, prosecutors and firefighters were killed. Fear took account of society and people avoided passing near specific departments, prisons and forums, because at any time these places could be attacked attack with bombs. The feeling of fear was visible on the face of people, let me give an example. In the day it happened the worst attacks, I went to a school to work and half the students didn’t show up, suddenly, mothers began to pick up the children at that school, because the broadcasters were telling that the attacks were happening even in cities with 20 thousand inhabitants. My students were crying and staying away from windows. To be honest, at first I thought it was exaggeration of hysterical women and children, but when I saw the news, I understood why they were so scared. The attacks were happening hour by hour, and even schools have been attacked.
Policeman hat and blood
In July 2006 a civil war was happening in Sao Paulo State
Surrender was not an option and the state government started a reaction and in one week almost 300 bandits were killed by the police. Of course, these are the official data and we all know what that means. After that first reaction, there was a wave of arrests throughout the state and so far things are not “normal”. A policy more conservative and more oppressive was the answer to organized crime. Later, some details about what had happen came up: corrupt cops was giving the information to PCC leaders and something even worse was revealed later, some cops were threatening the families of the criminal leaders. Hundreds of lifes were lost because a bunch of dirty cops.
Those cops are being prosecuted and, for now, things are calm in Sao Paulo state, most because the civil society and the state government are trying to listen to each other, this in an exception in Brazil and things are getting worse in other states, because the PCC is getting bigger because started to act in places that belonged to the Comando Vermelho and it is entering in another South America countries.
Finally, if you read the previous articles, on migration and on corruption, perhaps you can understand what the years 80 and 90 represent for Brazil, especially for those living in Sao Paulo. Years that have made most of Brazilians want back the military dictatorship, unfortunately. The process of re democratization here could have been something really good, but what we saw was the worsening of the problems that existed previously. However, while the economy is growing and while the number of poor people continue decreasing, the dangers to democracy Brazilian continue controlled.