São Paulo to Combat Violence With Prisoner Transfer

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Brazilian authorities plan to transfer jailed gang members who are believed to be directing the recent surge in violence from their cells in São Paulo state prisons to federal prisons, a move which may not be so easy to carry out thanks to strong gang control in state penitentiaries. 

The agreement between the São Paulo state and federal governments to devise a plan to stem the violence came following a November 1 phone call between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin. Among the methods set to be implemented is the transfer of gang members from state to federal prisons to prevent them directing gang members on the streets from their cells, reported Telesur.

Rousseff’s phone call came after São Paulo had seen an extraordinary rise in violence over recent weeks, with one 24-hour period in late October seeing 20 homicides. The first weekend in November, the killings continued with a further 26 people murdered, including a police officer, reported the AFP. Since the beginning of the year, some 100 police officers have been killed in the state, 41 of them executed by gunmen, according to the AAP.

Analysts have attributed the uptick in violence to warring between São Paulo’s First Capital Command (PCC) gang and the police. However, officials deny this is the case.

On October 30, 600 heavily armed police were sent into São Paulo’s biggest favela, Paraisopolis, to combat some of the city’s gang members. In the operation’s first seven days, 42 people were arrested and over 350 kilos of narcotics seized.

InSight Crime Analysis

The PCC is São Paulo’s biggest gang, having begun in the state’s penitentiary system in 1993. Given their roots as a prison gang, they still retain a strong degree of control in São Paulo’s jails, as evidenced by the move to send gang members to federal institutions to combat violence.

This move may not be so simple to carry out, however. In the northern state of Piaui last month, a jailed PCC leader started a rebellion in the prison when authorities tried to move him to a federal jail. The transfer was ultimately unsuccessful.

Governor Alckmin has reportedly not ruled out having the army sent in as another measure to combat the gangs. This could prove counterproductive, though, and lead to a temporary surge in violence as the battle between gangs and the authorities intensifies. 

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