Death toll mounts in Brazil as police face down gangs

John Lyons – The Wall Street Journal, 11/11/2012

At least 140 people have been killed in the past two weeks amid a deadly confrontation between police and a gang that controls much of São Paulo city’s trade in crack cocaine, state authorities said, prompting some schools and shops to close early in sprawling city outskirts.

Nearly 1,000 homicides have been reported in São Paulo this year, according to state officials, reversing a yearslong trend of declining rates. Some 90 of those killed were current or retired police officers, often killed in ambushes in what investigators say are hits ordered by a São Paulo gang, the First Command of the Capital, or PCC. In 2011, some 56 police were killed.

The wave of killings is likely to refocus attention on crime rates in a country preparing to host two global sporting events, soccer’s 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Despite full employment and an economic boom, Brazil’s national killing rate still remains one of Latin America’s highest, surpassing that in countries such as Mexico, which routinely makes the news for gruesome drug-related deaths.

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