The History of Criminal Gang Attacks in Brazil – Part II
By Dialogo February 28, 2013
(Continued from Part I)
In 2009, members of the Comando Vermelho (Red Command) criminal organization invaded the slum known as Morro dos Macacos, located in Rio de Janeiro’s northern area, using urban guerrilla tactics as seen in the movies. The attack was a turf war with a rival gang over drug sale points and also as retaliation for the increased numbers of militias in the area. The actions lasted almost two days with intense combat between drug dealers and the police.
On the first day of confrontation a police helicopter was shot down using a rifle, resulting in three deaths after the aircraft caught on fire and exploded on the ground. The drug dealers from the slum, using AR 15 and HK 47 rifles, machineguns and pistols of different calibers, set up barricades with barrels and tires to prevent vehicles from driving through, specifically police cars. Electrical power was sabotaged and interrupted, and the buses stopped circulating temporarily. There were some video surveillance cameras installed by the drug dealers, a kind of counter-intelligence, observing the movement of the police and unfamiliar people to the community that would try to enter the slum. The drug dealers would arrive at the slum in pairs or in a group of at most three, most of them by foot, pretending to be residents or delivery people. The official report registered 42 deaths, eight injuries, and a school, eight buses and two cars were burned down. There were 58 arrests and 38 weapons were apprehended, including five grenades that are exclusively used by the Armed Forces.
In 2010, a new confrontation started in Rio de Janeiro and lasted until the Military and Civil police took over the slums known as Complexo do Alemão. They were supported by members of the Armed Forces and powerful weaponry. The operation resulted in the apprehension of over 500 weapons, including rifles, machine guns, two bazookas, and 150 grenades, in addition to 30 tons of drugs, and the arrest of 200 people. Over 100 vehicles were set on fire, and 39 people were killed in this incident, which was the longest running conflict led by a criminal organization ever in Brazil.
In 2012, the PCC initiated another series of attacks that lasted three months. Unlike previous attacks, when the targets were randomly chosen, these were directed exclusively at public security agents in several regions of the large city of São Paulo, causing over 200 military police officers’ deaths. These actions also resulted in a large number of civilian deaths during confrontations with the Military Police, considerably increasing the homicide statistics in that state.
In February of 2013, the state of Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil, suffered similar actions, sponsored by a gang known as Primeiro Grupo Catarinense (PGC in Portuguese). Cars and public transportation were set on fire using the same methods as the PCC gang and for the same reasons as the attacks in the three states where they were recorded: retaliation for the transfer of gang leaders to federal penitentiaries, bad conditions of the national inmate system, which is a reality, as well as the treatment rendered to the inmates.
In the meantime, these same gangs, especially the PCC and the CV, which are considered the two largest Brazilian criminal organizations, were involved in other incidents. Their main business is drug trafficking and both have connections with counterparts in Latin American countries.
*André Luís Woloszyn, Strategic Affairs Analyst
With the UPPs, this is not the reality anymore.