Security U-Turn Over Mounting Violence in South Brazil

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The governor of the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina has called for reinforcements from the federal emergency police force FNS to deal with escalating violence linked to organized crime, just one week after rejecting the idea.

The outbreak of violence began at the end of January, when the authorities registered over 50 violent attacks, including assaults on police stations and a wave of arson attacks, in a six-day period.

In the wake of the violence, Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo offered the state government reinforcements from the National Security Force (FNS), a federal body designed to tackle security emergencies, made up of military and civil police. However, Governor Raimundo Colombo rejected the idea, dismissing the attacks as “technical problems,” reported Agencia Brasil.

However, the violence has continued to spread, with a total of 96 related attacks registered across 30 municipalities so far, and on February 13 the governor indicated he would accept the offer, reported EM.

Authorities have arrested 31 people, and 137 more are being investigated over the attacks, Estadao reported.

Police have said they believe leaders of prison gang First Catarinense Group (PGC) have been directing the attacks from local prisons, reported Prensa Latina.

Various media sources have reported that a likely cause of the attacks is a viral video that surfaced several days before attacks began, which showed guards abusing prisoners.

InSight Crime Analysis

The PGC is a Santa Catarina prison gang with a similar modus operandi to the better-known First Capital Command (PCC). The Santa Catarina organization is known for coordinating attacks from within prisons, often using alleged abuses against prisoners as its rationale. According to local Prosecutor Alexandre Graziotin, the group formed approximately five years ago after one of its leaders was incarcerated in a federal prison with PCC members, and currently has around 2,000 members.

The governor’s decision to go back on his decision and call in the FNS suggests the situation may be spiraling out of the control of the state authorities, demonstrating once again how powerless local security forces can be in maintaining order if Brazil’s prison gangs decide to flex their muscles.

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