What’s Killing Brazil’s Police?

December 3, 2012

Graham Denyer Willis – The New York Times, 12/01/2012

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/12/02/sunday-review/02BRAZIL-SUB2/02BRAZIL-SUB2-articleLarge.jpg

Brazilian mounted military police officers patrolled the streets in a shantytown in São Paulo, Brazil, last month.

On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 3, Marta Umbelina da Silva, a military police officer here and a single mother of three, was shot in front of her 11-year-old daughter outside their house in Brasilândia, a poor community on the north side of the city. Records show that Ms. da Silva, 44, had never arrested anyone in her 15-year career. Instead, she was one of hundreds of low-level staffers, who mostly handled internal paperwork.

São Paulo, Latin America’s largest city, continues to descend into a violent blood feud between the police and an organized crime group, the First Command of the Capital, known by its Portuguese initials P.C.C. In 2012, 94 police officers have been killed in the city — twice as many as in all of 2011. Between July and September, on-duty police officers killed 119 people in the metropolitan area. In the first three days of November, 31 people were murdered in the city. These statistics conceal a deeper story about Latin American cities, their police forces and the war on drugs.

Ms. da Silva’s only mistake was that she lived in a poor community. And as a police officer, she was not alone. Almost all killings of São Paulo police officers in 2012 happened while they were off duty. The killings have been concentrated in poorer parts of the city, often occurring on officers’ doorsteps. The dead tended to be known in their communities and lived in neighborhoods controlled by organized crime, far from the protection afforded in wealthy parts of the city.

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Brazil gang’s slaughter of police sparks fightback

November 26, 2012

Shasta Darlington – CNN, 11/25/2012

Marta Umbelina pulled up in front of her house with her 11-year-old daughter. When she stepped out of the car, she was shot 10 times in the back.

Umbelina was an office worker at Sao Paulo’s Military Police Northern Command — and she is one of nearly 100 cops murdered in Sao Paulo this year, roughly 50 percent higher than 2011.

Most were ambushed while off duty, part of a deadly battle between police and Brazil’s biggest criminal gang, the First Command of the Capital or PCC by its Portuguese acronym.

“Marta was my friend, my colleague, she knew everything about me,” said Simone Mello, a police officer who worked with Marta at a desk job.

“Why her? Why Marta? We’re just very sad,” she said.

In a bid to rein in the PCC, Sao Paulo launched Operation Saturation at the end of October.

The government sent at least 500 police troops into the city’s biggest shantytown Paraisopolis, or Paradise City.

They arrested dozens of alleged gang leaders, confiscated arms and drugs and even found a list with the names and addresses of 40 military police on it.

But police aren’t the only casualties in this escalating war.

The number of homicides in Sao Paulo has jumped to almost 1,000 so far this year, largely concentrated in favelas or slums. For January to October 2011 there were 869 homicides, according to Sao Paulo government figures.

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Brazil gang’s slaughter of police sparks fightback

November 19, 2012

Shasta Darlington – CNN, 11/19/2012

Marta Umbelina pulled up in front of her house with her 11-year-old daughter. When she stepped out of the car, she was shot 10 times in the back.

Umbelina was an office worker at Sao Paulo’s Military Police Northern Command — and she is one of nearly 100 cops murdered in Sao Paulo this year, roughly 50 percent higher than 2011.

Most were ambushed while off duty, part of a deadly battle between police and Brazil’s biggest criminal gang, the First Command of the Capital or PCC by its Portuguese acronym.

“Marta was my friend, my colleague, she knew everything about me,” said Simone Mello, a police officer who worked with Marta at a desk job.

“Why her? Why Marta? We’re just very sad,” she said.

In a bid to rein in the PCC, Sao Paulo launched Operation Saturation at the end of October.

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Mean streets, revisited

November 19, 2012

The Economist, 11/17/2012

BETWEEN 1999 and 2011 São Paulo’s murder rate fell by almost three-quarters, turning what had been one of Brazil’s most dangerous states into one of its safest. Now the violence is rising again. In the past two months more than 300 people have died in the state capital in an undeclared war between police and the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), a drugs gang, twice the tally for the same period last year. More than 90 police officers have been slain since January; the total for 2011 was 56. This year looks certain to close with the state murder rate back at over ten per 100,000 residents: epidemic level.

At first the state government claimed the rise in killings was a blip. It refused to mention the PCC, apparently for fear of glamorising it or causing panic. That made it look complacent. In October the federal justice minister said he had offered São Paulo reinforcements, but been refused. They were not needed, huffed Antonio Ferreira Pinto, the state’s prickly security secretary. His federal counterpart, Regina Miki, suggested that São Paulo should learn from Rio de Janeiro, which uses federal forces to expel gangsters from its lawless favelas (though Rio’s murder rate remains double São Paulo’s).

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12 Killed in violence in southeast Brazil

November 15, 2012

EFE/Fox News Latino, 11/15/2012

At least 12 people were killed and 15 others shot and wounded in recent hours in the southeastern Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, while the recent uptick of violence in the southern state of Santa Catarina continued with the torching of eight buses.

Seven of the homicides occurred in Greater Sao Paulo, according to police reports cited Thursday by local media.

The other five killings occurred in Araraquara, a city 270 kilometers (170 miles) from Sao Paulo, in two separate attacks Wednesday night targeting a group of people walking on the street and customers at a bar.

In metropolitan Sao Paulo, at least three police also were shot and wounded, two in attacks on off-duty officers in their respective vehicles and the third in a robbery at a bar.

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