The First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) was inspired by the Red Command (Comando Vermelho). Both criminal organizations were formed by prisoners as self-protection groups in Brazil’s brutal prison system. The PCC arose in São Paulo in the 1990s, and has fought a bloody ongoing feud with police in the city. The group, now the largest and best-organized criminal organization in Brazil, is believed to have members in two-thirds of the country’s states, and controls drug trafficking routes between Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
The PCC was formed in the wake of the October 1992 massacre in Carandiru prison, São Paulo, in which Brazilian security forces killed over 100 prisoners following a riot. In August the following year, a group of eight prisoners who had been transferred to Taubate prison, elsewhere in the state, formed the PCC to fight for justice for the massacre and push for better prison conditions. They used the Red Command’s slogan, “Peace, justice, freedom,” advocating for revolution and the destruction of the capitalist system, and expressing solidarity with the older group.
Members on the outside were required to pay some 500 reis a month, while those in prison paid some 25 reis — funds used to pay lawyers, buy off prison guards and police, and to purchase drugs and weapons. In 1999 the group carried out the biggest bank heist in São Paulo’s history, stealing some $32 million.
Drug transit, cocaine production, human trafficking, extortion, illegal gambling, kidnapping, prostitution rings
Principal criminal groups
Red Command (Comando Vermelho), First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), Third Command (Terceiro Comando), Amigos dos Amigos, militia groups
The PCC’s existence was first publicly reported by journalist Fatima Souza in 1997, although the São Paulo government continued to deny that there was any such group.
The government moved to split up the PCC’s leaders, transferring them to prisons across the country in the following years. This, however, allowed them to make deeper links with the Red Command, in Rio prisons, and to spread their ideas more widely.
It had become impossible to deny the group’s existence by 2001, when it coordinated the biggest prison rebellion the world had ever seen, with simultaneous shutdowns in 29 facilities across São Paulo state.
In 2006 it launched an even bigger rebellion in protest after more members were transferred to remote facilities. Imprisoned members took over more than 70 prisons across the country, holding visitors hostage, and launched coordinated attacks on the outside, focused on São Paulo.
Assaults with guns and firebombs left more than 150 dead over the next few days, including many police and prison guards. The violence came to an end after the authorities allegedly made an informal truce with the PCC.
In addition to playing a significant role in the regional drug trade, there are signs the group is looking to make the leap into trans-continental drug trafficking. A 3.7 ton cocaine shipment seized from São Paulo’s biggest port in March 2014 and allegedly destined for Europe, among other locations, was attributed in part to the PCC. Brazilian federal prosecutors later reported there was evidence members of the group had worked with Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia in coordinating the shipment.
Two founding members of the PCC, Jose Marcio Felicio, alias “Geleiao,” and Cesar Augusto Roriz da Silva, alias “Cesinha,” were expelled in 2002, and founded a rival organization, the Third Command (Terceiro Comando — TC). According to the Brazilian police, there are now four principal leaders of the PCC, with Marcos Willians Camacho, alias “Marcola,” acting as the maximum leader.
Of the four, Marcola, along with Rogerio Jeremias de Simone, alias “Gege do Mangue” and Edilson Borges Nogueira, alias “Birosca,” are imprisoned but are said to have access to a telephone exchange that allows them to hold conference calls from within prison in order to coordinate their activities. Authorities believe the remaining leader, Fabiano Alves de Souza, alias “Paca,” is based in the Paraguayan border city of Pedro Juan Caballero.
The PCC is based in São Paulo state, but has branches across the country, particularly in Parana, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, with a lesser presence in Rio de Janeiro. In a 2013 study by Folha de São Paulo, the group was found to have a presence in all but three of the country’s 26 states.
Allies and enemies
The PCC is allied with the Red Command, and enemies with Amigos dos Amigos, a Third Command spinoff called the Pure Third Command (Terceiro Comando Puro – TCP), and police militia groups.
In 2012, the PCC showed that it was still able to pose a serious threat to security in São Paulo, with a new outbreak of revenge killings after police executed suspected gang members.