Brazil police hit back at gang

Brazilian police have hit back at a gang rampaging through Sao Paulo, killing 33 suspected gang members in less than 24 hours and denying any deal with the criminals to end the violence.

    Forty police officers and 71 suspected gangsters have died

    At least 133 people - including 40 police officers - have been killed since Friday night, when a prison transfer of gang leaders sparked attacks on police stations, courts, city buses and other symbols of government authority.

    But while gang attacks dropped sharply on Tuesday, the toll rose dramatically. Chief among them were the 33 new deaths of suspected criminals announced by the authorities, bringing the total number of suspected gang members killed since Friday to 71.

    Officers "acted within the law, but that doesn't mean we have to let them (gangs) humiliate us", Marco Antonio Desgualdo, a top Sao Paulo state law enforcement official, said.

    Separately, prison officials said the bodies of 18 inmates were found after police retook control of dozens of lockups where prisoners rioted at the same time that gang members attacked officers across Sao Paulo.

    Details about how they died were not immediately disclosed, although inmates periodically use Brazilian prison uprisings to settle scores.


    The total toll since the violence began last Friday stood at 71 suspected criminals, 40 police officers and jail guards, the 18 prison inmates and four civilians caught in the crossfire


    Gang members attacked and
    burned city buses

    Across Sao Paulo, police were redeployed in greater numbers to halt the attacks, and the authorities said at least 115 people had been arrested since Friday night.

    Sao Paulo appeared to be returning to normal on Tuesday morning. There were only a few reported attacks on Monday night and Tuesday, compared to 181 over the previous four days.

    But many citizens said the ferocity of the First Capital Command gang, or PCC, made them doubt law enforcement will ever solve the gang problem.

    Using machine guns and grenades, gang members attacked dozens of police installations, burned scores of buses and vandalised 15 bank branches over the weekend.

    The violence was triggered on Thursday by an attempt to isolate the gang leaders - who control many of city's teeming, notoriously corrupt prisons - by transferring eight to a high-security facility.

    The gang leaders reportedly used mobile phones to order the attacks.

    Deal reported

    Inmates took over 73 prisons and held more than 200 guards hostage. The violence finally ebbed on Tuesday morning.

    "I am sure that despite official denials, authorities negotiated an end to the uprisings and attacks"

    Walter Fanganiello Maierovitch, Brazil's former drug tsar

    Sao Paulo's two leading newspapers reported on Tuesday that the authorities cut a deal with the gang to stop the attacks -- claims Desgualdo strongly denied. He said strong police action had stifled the criminal attacks.

    But crime experts said such a deal sounded plausible,

    given the growing strength of the gang, which was formed in a prison in 1993 and has expanded to between 10,000 and 30,000 members

    as Brazil became the second-largest cocaine-consuming nation after the United States.

    Walter Fanganiello Maierovitch, Brazil's former drug tsar, said: "I am sure that despite official denials, authorities negotiated an end to the uprisings and attacks."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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