News | Feb. 19, 2019

The Evolution of the Most Lethal Criminal Organization in Brazil—the PCC

By Leonardo Coutinho PRISM Vol. 8, No. 1

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Brazilian journalist Mr. Leonardo Coutinho is a former editor and foreign correspondent in Washington, D.C. for Brazilian magazine VEJA (2000–18). Translated from Portuguese by Michael Rodelo.

Brazil is the country of soccer. This statement is significant as a reference to one of the elements of Brazilian national and sub-group identity formation, and as a catalyst of social cohesion.1 The national sport of Brazil is also, not surprisingly, the favorite of Brazilian prisoners. In each of Brazil’s 1,496 prisons there is a soccer field—whether designed specifically for this purpose or simply improvised in areas intended for sunbathing inmates.2 In the early 1990s, there were only eight inmates from the state capital in the Taubaté prison in São Paulo.3 Surrounded by inmates transferred from the various hinterland areas around São Paolo who considered them arrogant, the eight capital city thugs joined in a mutual protection pact within the prison. This was the origin of the “Capitals” gang.

The Capitals formed a soccer team that competed against other teams in the prison. On August 31, 1993 the Capital prisoners held a self-organized championship soccer tournament, appearing at the first game wearing standard white T-shirts; scrawled in blue ballpoint pen ink on the left breast were three letters—PCC, referring to Primeiro Comando da Capital, or First Capital Command. After the tournament the PCC assassinated the most feared criminals in Taubaté prison, earning the respect and loyalty of their fellow inmates and establishing themselves as the new prison bosses.4

In 1993 Brazil’s prisons were still reeling from what had until then been the biggest ever outbreak of prison violence. Less than a year earlier, 111 inmates were shot dead by police in an operation to stem a rebellion in the Carandiru prison in São Paulo city. The tragedy began as a banal fight between two rival gangs for possession of a few boxes of cigarettes.5 In 1993, as they assumed the dominant position within the prison gang hierarchy, the PCC adopted the discourse of unity, arguing that in the previous year’s carnage the prisoners themselves were to blame as they were fratricidal and ungoverned by an organization strong enough to keep the peace amongst them and represent them both inside and outside the prisons. An inmates’ charter was drafted and the criminals pledged to the motto, “Brother does not kill brother. Brother does not exploit brother. The ‘Founders’ are the leaders.”6


Copyrighted photo reproduced with permission by Folhapress.
Firefighters fighting a fire in one of the 90 buses destroyed in a series of attacks coordinated by the PCC in São Paulo in May 2006. (Folhapress)
Copyrighted photo reproduced with permission by Folhapress.
Firefighters fighting a fire in one of the 90 buses destroyed in a series of attacks coordinated by the PCC in São Paulo in May 2006. (FolhaPress_
Firefighters fighting a fire in one of the 90 buses destroyed in a series of attacks coordinated by the PCC in São Paulo in May 2006. (Folhapress)
Photo By: RogÈrio Cassimiro/Folhapress
VIRIN: 190207-D-KG403-0023

The PCC operational foundation was based on two pillars. Internally, PCC inmates would submit to a new rule, behaving in a more coordinated but less confrontational fashion, protecting their own, but still liquidating their rivals. Externally, the PCC would provide unified legal assistance, supported by the monthly contributions from each of the incarcerated members, who were required to make payments to the organization through their family members. Inspired by, and organizing along, the trade union model, the PCC attracted an ever-increasing number of members. And its modernizing message, which transcended the message of a conventional gang, was exported to several other prisons by transferred PCC members. By 1995, the PCC would win control within the Carandiru penitentiary, which was at the time the largest prison in Latin America.

The Second Phase

In the beginning PCC financial revenues were not exclusively the product of crime. As noted, each PCC member paid a monthly fee to the organization's funds supply, even while they engaged independently in various forms of criminal activity. While conventional prison gangs used violence to recruit and control, PCC resorted to such violence only in exceptional situations. Older criminal organizations, such as the Comando Vermelho (Red Command or CV), centered their business models on drug trafficking, while the PCC was trying to establish itself as a “self-help society.”7

In 1999, a bank robber named Marcos Williams Herbas Camacho, known by the nickname Marcola, joined the PCC leadership. Of Bolivian descent Marcola, who was considered a genius among criminals, imposed a new dimension on the organization’s business model. By that time PCC not only dominated more than two dozen prisons, it also controlled thousands of members free on the streets. The emerging PCC leader understood that at-large members were a precious asset to the organization, useful for increasing revenue, influence, and power. Under Marcola’s management, the PCC began its consolidation as what Max Manwaring called a “second generation gang,” organized as much for business as for control of the local terrain.8 Marcola not only expanded PCC activity in drug trafficking and bank robbery (the latter his specialty), he also led the organization to adopt a market view of crime and to conquer market share by way of violence, sweeping away competitors.

The PCC grew in obscurity thanks to the Brazilian government’s denial of its existence. Within the public security structure PCC was not considered a serious threat. It was only in 1996 that a deputy from the State of São Paulo became the first Brazilian authority to publicly refer to the organization. PCC was first mentioned in the Brazilian press only a year later, but still no one took them seriously. The PCC, according to the governor of São Paulo, was “a fiction.” The government’s strategy to dismantle PCC was to deny its existence and separate its leaders by transferring them to prisons in other cities and states.

That policy of separation failed. By sending “graduate” members of the PCC to other parts of the country, the government unwittingly helped the PCC to expand its domain throughout Brazil. These transferred inmates served as “ambassadors” of the organization wherever they went. Many were from the largest and richest of the Brazilian states and came with experience in organizational innovation which greatly exceeded the local gangs. They represented an organization that was able to provide protection beyond the prison walls and São Paulo state borders. To reinforce this dynamic, PCC itself started riots, thereby provoking the state to react by sending members to other prisons throughout Brazil.9

In February 2001, the PCC seized the Brazilian public’s attention when 28,000 inmates took control of 29 prisons in nineteen cities in the state of São Paulo.10 The mega-riot took place on a Sunday, during visiting time. No less than 10,000 people were taken hostage. Sheets painted with the PCC insignia were hung on the windows. In Carandiru—the very prison where 111 people had been killed in a conflict with police a decade before—the PCC held 5,000 hostages. Twenty-seven hours later, the hostages would be freed and the riot controlled, but the PCC’s relationship with the state would never be the same.

Insurgency as a Political Instrument

Having demonstrated its capacity for mobilization and upon realizing the impact caused by what would be considered the biggest riot in Brazil’s history, PCC leaders were convinced of their ability to confront, embarrass, and blackmail the state. The organization’s debut proved so successful that the PCC began to call itself the “Party of Crime.” Soon after this first collective action, and less than a decade after its establishment, the PCC adopted an action plan that would define it as a “third-generation gang” with a political agenda and transnational connections.

Another critical milestone in the evolution of the PCC was the 2002 arrest and incarceration in Brazil of Chilean terrorist Mauricio Hernández Norambuena. Norambuena was a member of the Patriotic Front Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR) and had master-minded the kidnapping of a Brazilian businessman.11 A fugitive from Chilean justice since 1996, Norambuena, known as “Commander Ramiro,” was the operational leader of FPMR. In his own country, he had twice been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a senator and kidnapping of a businessman. Considered the second in the FPMR hierarchy, Norambuena coordinated numerous bombings and kidnappings. Investigations in Brazil revealed that Norambuena received training and the rank of Colonel from the Cuban Army.12 This militant from the armed left, highly proficient in insurgency actions, was imprisoned in a cell with Marcola.

According to Attorney Marcio Sérgio Christino—one of the first authorities to act in the fight against the PCC—the Marcola-Norambuena partnership marked a new phase for the organization. The cerebral Marcola became a student of Norambuena. He learned the concepts of asymmetric warfare and urban guerrilla warfare, and he further developed the political program of the PCC, as a way of guaranteeing the perpetuation of the criminal enterprise which, at that moment, was undergoing full expansion in Brazil.

On March 7, 2002, just one month after the union of Marcola and Norambuena, the PCC attempted its first terrorist attack in São Paulo. An automobile loaded with 40 kilograms of powergel (emulsion) explosives was parked in front of the Barra Funda Forum, where 5,000 people worked and another 7,000 transited each day. Due to a device flaw, the attack failed.

Police monitoring of telephone conversations between PCC members, by means of bugged cell phones surreptitiously provided to prisoners, revealed the PCC mission orders to disrupt the upcoming São Paulo gubernatorial election. The content of the audios would only become public four years later.13 From their prison cells, the PCC leaders planned a series of incidents to discredit the incumbent governor seeking re-election. According to the audios, PCC had chosen the leftist opposition Workers Party (PT) candidate and would work towards his election. On the eve of the first round of elections, the PCC leadership issued an order that all family members of the prisoners vote for their candidate. To ensure greater participation in the polls, the organization determined that there would be no family visits on election day in order to maximize turnout.


Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Police forces prepare for the invasion of a detention unit of juvenile offenders under the command of the PCC, in São Paulo. The teenagers rebelled under the coordination of the faction that recruits its members from youth. (Folhapress/ Fernando Donasci/)
Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Police forces prepare for the invasion of a detention unit of juvenile offenders under the command of the PCC, in São Paulo. The teenagers rebelled under the coordination of the faction that recruits its members from youth. (Folhapress/ Fernando Donasci/)
Police forces prepare for the invasion of a detention unit of juvenile offenders under the command of the PCC, in São Paulo. The teenagers rebelled under the coordination of the faction that recruits its members from youth. (Folhapress/ Fernando Donasci/)
Photo By: Fernando Donasci/Folhapress
VIRIN: 190207-D-KG403-0024

The PCC’s electoral effort appears to have succeeded. The faction’s preferred candidate managed to reach the second round of the 2002 election for the São Paulo governorship. As the campaign progressed to the next stage, Marcola and the PCC top leadership made the drastic decision to attack Brazil’s economy by blowing up the São Paulo stock exchange. The impact of this they believed would favor the leftist candidate, and could also change the course of the presidential election later that year. According to experts who followed the evolution of the PCC, it was the guerrilla mind of Norambuena that brought PCC to the terrorism toolbox. Fortunately the attack was disrupted when police wiretapping led to discovery of a car loaded with 66 pounds of explosives just six days before the second round of elections. For more than a year and a half, Marcola and Norambuena continued to share ideas inside Taubaté prison. Treated as a brother by faction members, Norambuena gained leadership status.14

In 2006—a year in which it was believed that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) would not be reelected due to an investigation of his government’s involvement in what was known as the Mensalão scandal—the PCC attacked again.15 The single “grand attack” strategy that had failed twice was replaced by a series of actions comprising a massive wave of PCC violence. During a nine-day period, the PPC conducted 293 attacks on police stations and public buildings. Dozens of buses were set on fire and São Paulo—the largest city in Latin America—was paralyzed by the wave of terror.

The PCC eventually signed a truce when the São Paulo government agreed to secret negotiations.16 The complete terms of the agreement were never disclosed, but after Marcola received a high-level government delegation in the prison, he ordered his followers to abort the operation. Marcola got what he wanted—the state entered into a direct dialogue with the PCC. To “reward” the government for this dialogue, the PCC established a truce that, according to some experts on violence in Brazil, had direct implications on the profile of violence in São Paulo state and later in other regions of the country. The main Brazilian cities were experiencing a homicide boom; São Paolo being one of the most violent in the world had homicide rates that reached 66 per 100,000 inhabitants.17 After the truce between PCC and the government, the number of deaths in the state of São Paulo began declining to the extent that by 2016, the homicide rate was 46 percent lower.18 One of the pioneering studies of the PCC’s impact on the homicide rate concluded that the faction had become a “monopolist” of death.19 Crimes previously uncontrolled came under the management of the PCC leaders.20 The PCC began to determine who dies, how many die, and when they die. Marcola successfully exported this system to other parts of Brazil on the grounds that the broader society should be spared from the violence meant exclusively for PCC’s enemies.21

The ability to influence or even credibly threaten the government and intervene in the daily life of Brazilian society defines PCC as what U.S. Army War College Professor Max Manwaring called a “third generation gang.”22 The evolution of the PCC suggested that the organization not only began to implement actions advancing a political and economic agenda, it also began to act as a transnational criminal organization. Nonetheless, while the PCC arguably meets the requirements of Manwaring’s concept of third generation gangs, there is still debate among scholars and experts as to whether the organization has reached this level.23

By 2016 the Minister of Justice and the President of the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil believed they had found the first evidence of politics mimicking organized crime.24 Their investigation indicated that, of a total of 730,000 donations registered to the candidates and parties that contested that year’s elections for mayors and city councilors, at least 300,000 were from people without sufficient financial means to make such contributions. Early indications were that organizations such as the PCC were behind this financial scheme. Their assessment revealed that the campaign of overt PCC attacks during previous presidential election years had been replaced by a strategy of political interference behind the scenes. The PCC had started to invest in and elect candidates within the established political process. Evidence has subsequently emerged in several parts of the country that politicians linked to organized crime actually won their elections.25 In 2018, eight of Brazil’s 27 states requested federal troop reinforcements fearing armed interference by criminal factions, the most powerful of which is the PCC.26 But by that time the political action of organized crime in Brazil was no longer based in explicit violence. Criminal organizations instead have begun to play a leading role in formal political activities and disputes.27 They finance not only candidates who serve their interests, but also those who promote the political campaigns of their own members.28 In the State of Ceará, one of the main PCC bases outside of São Paulo, the local government intelligence agencies investigated ten mayors and fifty councilmen who received election support from the PCC.29

PCC pressure and influence on the decisions of the political system eventually increased to such alarming levels that it provoked a reaction from the authorities. In April 2016 the government of the State of Ceará planned to install systems for blocking telephone communication in prisons, pending the approval of a law by the State deputies. After several riots and retaliatory protests, the PCC left a car with 29 pounds of explosives parked in front of the legislature building in the city of Fortaleza. The criminals themselves warned the police of the device, but that threat alone was sufficient to gain a postponement of the legislation for several months; and even after the law was eventually passed, the blockers were never installed in prisons.

Territorial Domain and Finance

At least 27 gangs are active in Brazil according to security and intelligence agencies.30 The PCC is the largest, with an estimated 30,000 members who exercise control over 90 percent of the prison population,or 550,000 prisoners.31 The first South American countries in which the PCC extended its dominions were Paraguay, Bolivia (where it operates almost monopolistically), Peru, and Colombia; all countries in which suppliers compete with rivals CV, the second largest gang in Brazil.32

Following the demobilization of the FARC in Colombia, PCC began to recruit the trained labor of ex-guerrillas.33 Growing suspicions of this development within the Brazilian Ministry of Defense were confirmed in the field. Interviews with policemen revealed frequent occurrences of fighting with Colombian traffickers who were increasingly well-armed and proficient in combat, especially in the jungle areas. There is a historical link and strategic logic to the PCC’s interest in former FARC guerillas. In the 1990s, one of the most powerful Brazilian traffickers, Fernando da Costa, established a partnership with the FARC.34 Known by the nickname of Fernadinho Beira Mar, he was a member of CV. Beira Mar’s involvement with the FARC became evident in 2001, when he was arrested by Colombian security forces in an operation with FARC leaders. An investigation by the Brazilian Congress found that the Colombian guerrilla group had established a joint venture with CV to obtain arms trafficked from Suriname, and to sell drugs in Brazil and in Europe.35 The collaboration with the FARC led to CV’s and Beira Mar’s domination of Amazonian traffic routes, whose origins were in Colombia. Despite the imprisonment of Beira Mar, the ties were maintained and the CV and its allied gangs, including the gang Família do Norte (The Northern Family or FDN), have expanded their influence and power in the Amazon region, especially in the State of Amazonas, bordering Colombia.36

To conquer the Amazon route, which was formerly dominated by rivals, the PCC resorted to “skilled labor.” The Amazonas police authorities began to observe an increase in the brutality of the fighting between rival traffickers in the Amazon river region. Called “pirates,” the PCC soldiers attacked drug shipments carried on FDN and CV vessels, in several cases using the AKM and FAL rifles typical of FARC guerrillas. In other cases Brazilian police officers were identified carrying military material diverted from the Colombian army. Reports by Brazilian police into this new pattern of violence appear to confirm the presence of FARC ex-combatants in the assault groups used by the PCC in the war for control of the routes from Colombia.

Also in northern Brazil, the PCC has taken advantage of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela to recruit among the refugees who arrive through the State of Roraima.37 Venezuelans have added value to Brazilian criminals as a bridge to Bolivarian militias and arsenals provided by the Chávez-Maduro government. To the PCC the economic crisis in Venezuela makes this a cheap source of weapons which are sold for food by desperate Venezuelans.38 In addition, PCC “ambassadors” operate in Paraguay, where they participate directly in the production and shipping of marijuana, counterfeit cigarettes, weapons, and ammunition going to Brazil. In Bolivia, Brazilian criminals have become the principle clients of local cocaine producers and are nearly the exclusive distributors of Bolivian drugs within Brazil. The latest survey measuring the number of drug users in Brazil concludes that as of 2012 there were two million cocaine addicts and another one million crack addicts; figures that make Brazil one of the largest consumer markets for cocaine, behind only the United States.39 Projections by Brazilian authorities indicate that the drug market is valued at as much as $8 billion per year; with 60 percent of sales, PCC is owner of the largest market share.40

The financial power of the PCC is accompanied by its ability to control significant portions of the cities in which it operates. Territorial control is achieved by force and consolidated with money. In the states of Acre, Rondônia , Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul in western Brazil, the PCC controls the border stretch that extends from Bolivia to Paraguay. In the state capitals the organization controls entire portions of the city. In Porto Velho, capital of Rondônia State, the PCC took over management of a condominium complex built by the Federal Government to serve 2,000 low-income families.41

The PCC has an efficient, almost military organizational structure, with leadership below Marcola distributed in layers, whose functions include management of collection, control of drug “stock,” import, export, and human resources. The sector responsible for the management of affiliates has a ledger with the complete registration of each member, including both those in prison and on the streets. The upper orders follow a pyramidal path. The retail traffickers, who work on the street are subordinate to the managers, who in turn report to the heads of the “kitchens,” or places where cocaine is mixed with other products before being sold on the streets. Although they report to the same boss, the kitchen managers do not interact with each other. In this manner they seek to compartmentalize activities in order to avoid a chain reaction if one of these structures is uncovered by the police.

As noted, the main source of PCC revenue is from drug trafficking. However, drugs are not its only criminal modality. Bank robbery remains another major source of revenue for the PCC. Brazilian criminals have developed a distinctive technique for robbery; the explosion of ATM terminals. In 2015, no fewer than 3,000 ATMs were destroyed.42 Though it is not possible to ascertain with certainty the percentage of those attributable to PCC, a conservative estimate suggests PCC is responsible for around 50 percent. Assuming each ATM requires one to two sticks of dynamite for such attacks, the 3,000 attacks in 2015 (a rate of 8.2 per day) would have required some 3,000 to 6,000 sticks of dynamite. The source for these explosives can be traced to the illegal trade in explosives which originates in Paraguay and Bolivia, where the materials are widely used by the mining industry.


Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Women show “flag” of the PCC in rebellion against transferring our leaders to maximum security prisons. The gang is also identified by the number 1533, referring to the order of the letters P (15) and C (3) in the alphabet. Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Women show “flag” of the PCC in rebellion against transferring our leaders to maximum security prisons. The gang is also identified by the number 1533, referring to the order of the letters P (15) and C (3) in the alphabet. Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Women show “flag” of the PCC in rebellion against transferring our leaders to maximum security prisons. The gang is also identified by the number 1533, referring to the order of the letters P (15) and C (3) in the alphabet. Copyrighted photograph reproduced with permission by Folhapress. Photo unaltered.
Photo By: Ayrton Vignola/Folhapress
VIRIN: 190207-D-KG403-0026

The PCC War

By 2017 Brazil had well established itself as the country with the highest number of homicides in the world. That year, 63,880 people were murdered.43 The victims were typically ordinary citizens who directly suffer the impact of the high crime rates. Advocates of drug decriminalization attribute the death toll to the “war on trafficking.” However, security officials from a dozen states testify that the profile of crimes reported to the authorities follows a different predominant pattern.44 They say that most of the violent deaths recorded in Brazil are not the result of the war against drugs—that is the state against the bad guys. Most lives lost are the result of another type of war. Who else kills the criminals? It is the criminals themselves.45 Regrettably there are no official statistics informing a precise analysis of the impact of organized crime on the total record of homicides. Some of these numbers are police estimates, which in some localities reach a projected correlation of 80 percent of drug trade and consumption to the occurrence of homicides.46

The PCC emerged and grew in the dark, ignored by the authorities. Now that it is the leading criminal organization in Brazil and indeed in South America, it still benefits both from the silence of the authorities and from the lack of an approach that acknowledges PCC as a transnational criminal organization which commits crimes from north to south across the length of South America. PCC uses the banking systems of dozens of countries, including the United States, for money laundering.47 Investigations conducted by the Brazilian Federal Police have detected links between the PCC and Hezbollah in drug trafficking operations. Brazilian criminals offer protection to Lebanese agents and act as logistic operators for the Shiite militias sending drugs through Brazilian ports to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.48 In return, the Lebanese offer money laundering and logistics networks enabling the PCC to reach drug markets already familiar to or dominated by Hezbollah, including many in Africa and the Middle East. The PCC has shown itself capable of adapting, of blackmailing the state, of functioning as a transnational crime organization (even if not formally recognized by the authorities as such), and of becoming one of the greatest threats to political stability and public security in Brazil and its neighbors.

Brazilian officials believe that ties between the PCC and Hezbollah have been strengthened by the arrest of some of the Lebanese organization’s financial operators, particularly Farouk Abdul Hay Omairi, a Lebanese citizen who was designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for his links to terrorist groups.49 Omairi lives in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu and was arrested in 2006 for being the kingpin of a gang of cocaine traffickers, along with his son, Ahmad Farouk Omairi. The two were accused of leading a drug delivery network trafficking to Europe and the Middle East. Brazilian authorities had been monitoring the Omairi family and other extremists operating in the Tri-Border Area for years, but the lack of anti‐terrorism legislation in Brazil prevented their arrest. Nevertheless, terrorism financing transactions are generally associated with other illegal activities, such as money laundering, smuggling, and drug trafficking, leading Federal Police to focus on these crimes.

The arrest of Omairi and his son was the genesis of a criminal‐terrorist association between PCC and Hezbollah. The Omairi family was offered protection by members of the PCC while in prison—an agreement negotiated directly with Hezbollah according to an investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police. The partnership has since deepened, and now PCC and Hezbollah work jointly in drugs and arms trafficking. According to Brazil’s Federal Police investigations, Hezbollah sells weapons to Brazilian criminal organizations, and has also used the PCC’s criminal services inside Brazil. Hezbollah also brokered the sale of C4 explosives stolen in Paraguay and sold on the black market at very low prices.50

Follow the Money

After more than a decade of denying its existence, Brazilian authorities have finally recognized the PCC as a criminal organization that is a significant threat to public security, whose capacity to threaten democracy and the state can no longer be ignored. In 2018 Brazilians identified public security as one of their most important concerns, rivaling even the resumption of economic growth in a country experiencing its worst economic crisis in more than a century.51 The violence generated by Brazilian gangs became the main subject of the presidential campaign of 2018, and Jair Bolsonaro—the winning candidate—was elected on the promise of a relentless and hard fight against organized crime.

In October, just days before the end of the presidential race, the Brazilian government inaugurated what can be considered the first effective step to combat the PCC and other organized crime groups operating in Brazil. An executive order authorized the establishment of the first Brazilian intelligence task force with the sole purpose of monitoring and combating criminal organizations. The current challenge for the authorities is how to identify and dismantle the PCC's influence networks within the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches.

Recent investigations revealed that PCC criminals launder money using the same network discovered by Operation Lava Jato, which is celebrated as the largest anti-corruption investigation in Brazilian history. The investigations of the Brazilian Federal Police showed that the financial apparatus of the PCC has reached levels of professionalism that placed them among the most sophisticated laundering networks discovered in Brazil to date. An unprecedented joint effort by police, military, and state intelligence agencies will have as its basic objective to break the organization’s laundering and financing networks.

Born in prison, the PCC is an organization immune to prisons. Its top leaders are already behind bars, yet they do not stop operating. The conclusion is that in addition to sending PCC to prison the financial power of the organization must be targeted. This effort will require Brazil to recognize the transnational character of the PCC, and to seek international support and cooperation. PRISM


1 Jocimar Daolio, Football, Culture and Society (Campinas:Autores Associados, 2005).

2 Conselho Nacional do Ministério Público, “Capacidade e Ocupação das Unidades Prisionais Brasileiras,”April 30, 2018, available at <>.

3 Fátima de Souza, PCC: A Facção, (Editora Record, 2007).

4 Marcio Sergio Christino and Claudio Tognolli, Laços de Sangue, a história secreta do PCC, (Matrix, 2017).

5 Leonardo Coutinho, “A Origem,” VEJA, October 05, 2016, available at <>.

6 Christino and Tognoll, 2017.

7 Comando Vermelho (CV) is a Brazilian criminal group created in 1969, during the military regime in Brazil (1964¬85). The CV is the result of an alliance between leftist militants and common criminals. Originally, this group’s purpose was for self-protection of prisoners. But in the 1980s,CV started narcotraffic activities. CV is a most powerful enemy of PCC and command the narcos’s web in Rio de Janeiro city and more other places, include de Colombian route to Brazil.

8 Max G. Manwaring, “Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency,” Strategic Studies Institute, 2005, 1–47.

9 Christino and Tognoll, 2017.

10 Kristhian Kaminski and Larissa Squeff, “Eles tomaram o poder,” VEJA, February 22, 2001.

11 “Chilean Leftist Is Held in Brazil Kidnapping,” The New York Times, February 2, 2002, available at <>.

12Sequestrador de Olivetto concede entrevista exclusiva ao ‘Estado’,” Estado de S.Paulo, November 11, 2002, available at <,sequestrador-de-olivetto-concede-entrevista-exclusiva-ao-estado,20020511p17200>.

13 Juliana Linhares e Camila Pereira. “O PCC ataca. Mas também leva,” VEJA. August 16, 2006.

14 Hernández Norambuena enseñó ‘tácticas’ a grupo que convulsiona a Sao Paulo,” El Mercurio, July 14, 2006, available at <>. Of mention, in 2016 police discovered that 12 years after first contact, the PCC still sponsored the Chilean terrorist’s defense, showing how important he had become to the PCC.

15 The “Mensalão” scandal, discovered in Brazil in 2005, gave rise to a commission of investigation in the Brazilian Congress to investigate the purchase of parliamentary support for the approval of projects of government interest in the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from the Workers’ Party (PT). Forty politicians and leaders of the PT were condemned by the Federal Supreme Court.

16 James Louis Cavallaro and Raquel Ferreira Dodge, “Understanding the São Paulo Attacks,” ReVista Harvard Review of Latin America Online, Spring 2007, available at <>.

17 Jacob Waiselfisz, “Mapa da violência” (Brasília: UNESCO, 2013), 43.

18SP tem a menor taxa de homicídios do Brasil e redução de 46% nos assassinatos de 2006 a 2016, diz Atlas da Violência,” G1, May 05, 2018, available at <>.

19 Graham Denyer Willis, The Killing Consensus: Police, Organized Crime, and the Regulation of Life and Death in Urban Brazil (Oakland, California: University of California Press, March, 2015).

20 Ibid.

21 Gil Alessi, “Acordo pela paz entre PCC e Comando Vermelho derruba homicídios em Fortaleza,” El Pais, August 26, 2016, available at <>.

22 Max G. Manwaring, “Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency,”Strategic Studies Institute Monograph, 3/1/2005 (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2005) 1–47, available at K <>.

23 Alfredo Carrijo, “Countering the PCC: A New Federal Government Approach,” Masters Thesis, National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs, 2018.

24TSE alerta para necessidade de monitorar atuação do crime organizado nas eleições,” Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE) October 10, 2017, available at <>.

25 Fausto Macedo and Mateus Coutinho, “Prefeito de Embu acusado de lavar dinheiro do PCC toma posse,” O Estado de S. Paulo: São Paulo, September 2, 2017, available at <>; see also José Maria Tomazela, “PCC financiou campanha de vereador eleito, diz Ministério Público,” available at <,pcc-financiou-campanha-de-vereador-eleito-diz-gaeco,10000083373>.

26 Aline Ribeiro, “Estados temem facções criminosas e pedem ajuda nas eleições,” O Globo, August 09, 2018, available at <>.

27 Charles Parkinson, “Brazil’s PCC Attempting to Enter Politics,” October 14, 2013, available at <>.

28 Eleonora Gosman, “Con candidatos propios, los narcos controlan las elecciones en favelas de Río y San Pablo,” Clarin, September 16, 2018, available at <>.

29 “A ação política do PCC,” Isto É, July 2016, available at <>.

30 Alexandre Hisayasu, “27 facções disputam controle do crime organizado em todos os Estados do País” Estadão, January 07, 2017, available at <,27-faccoes-disputam-controle-docrime-organizado-em-todos-os-estados-do-pais,10000098770>.

31 Leonardo Coutinho, “O Cartel,” VEJA, October 05, 2016, available at <>.

32 Tristan Clavel, “‘Most Wanted’ Peru Drug Trafficker Captured in Brazil,” InSight Crime. Org, September 26, 2017, available at <>.

33 Rogerio Jelmayer, Kejal Vyas and Samantha Pearson, “Brazilian Gang Enlists FARC Rebels for Drug Trade,”The Wall Street Journal. January 31, 2017, available at <>.

34Revista diz que Beira-Mar confirmou elo com as Farc,” BBC Brasil, May 06, 2012, available at <>.

35Relatorio da Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito Destinada a Investigar as organizações criminosas do tráfico de armas,” Câmara dos Deputados, Brasília (DF), 2006.

36 Interviews with the author March, 2018.

37 Evan Ellis. “Brazil—Between Cooperation and Deterrence,” Global Americas Smart News & research for Latin America’s Changemakers, December 18, 2017.

38Derrame de fuzis fortalece tráfico e desafia a segurança”, O Dia, March 09, 2015, available at <>.

39Levantamento Nacional de Álcool e Drogas”, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, 2012, available at <>.

40 Leonardo Coutinho, “O Cartel,” VEJA, October 05, 2016, available at <>.

41 Leonardo Coutinho. “A Amazônia é o novo Rio,” VEJA, São Paulo, April 24, 2018.

42 The official numbers are not known. The data were obtained independently, according to the authors investigation, from the companies responsible for receiving the damaged equipment and its replacement.

43Anuário Brasileiro de Segurança Pública 2018,” Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública, Rio de Janeiro, August, 2018, available at <áfico_2018.pdf>.

44 Interviews conducted by the author with public security managers in the states of Amazonas, Acre, Bahia, Ceará, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rio de Janeiro, Rondônia, Roraima and São Paulo.

45 Leonardo Coutinho, “Hugo Chávez, o espectro. Como o presidente venezuelano alimentou o narcotráfico, financiou o terrorismo e promoveu a desordem global,” Vestígio, São Paulo, March, 2018.

46 Luís Flávio Sapori e Gláucio Ary Dillon Soares, “Por que Cresce a Violência no Brasil?” Autêntica Editora e Editora Puc Minas, 2014.

47 Afonso Benites, “PCC movimenta mais de 100 milhões de reais nos EUA e na China,” El País, January 18, 2015, available at <>.

48 Francisco Leali, “Polícia Federal aponta elo entre facção brasileira e Hezbollah” O Globo, November 9, 2014, available at <>.

49 U.S. Department of Treasury, “List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons,” Office of Foreign Assets Control, available at <>.

50 Leali (2014).

51 Graziele Oliveira e Marcos Coronato, “Como o Brasil entrou, sozinho, na pior crise da história,” Época,São Paulo, April 04, 2016, available at <>.


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