A wave of killings and attacks which is pounding the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo became even more violent over the weekend with at least twenty homicides reported in the metropolitan area according to the Military Police and Civilian Police releases.
Between Saturday night and Sunday dawn at least twelve people were shot to death and another twelve injured, to which must be added another seven killed during Saturday. Three of them were killed in a shootout with the police and two other while trying to steal a vehicle. A couple was shot to death at their home but nothing was stolen so police believe it was a settling of scores.
Most incidents took place in the periphery neighbourhoods and in the manufacturing belt of South America’s largest city.
But the city’s Public Safety Department attributes most killings to the narcotics gang First Capital Command, PCC, in reprisal for police crackdown on drugs in the slum areas (favelas), besides the normal level of violence in Brazilian cities.
The federal government and Sao Paulo authorities announced last week a plan to stop the criminal activities from PCC and cutting their financing. Most PCC leaders are in jail but they continue to command their business from behind bars. Since the attacks and killings started in October almost 240 people have lost their lives in metropolitan Sao Paulo with a population of 20 million.
The increase of violence has seen many shopkeepers in suburban neighbourhoods close earlier, since most killings are at night.
The Catholic Church has also cancelled late evening and night masses and meetings because of the shootouts between the police and the drug lords which forces people in the poorest areas to remain locked in their homes.
Auxiliary bishop Milton Kenan Junior from the Sao Paulo dioceses said that in some of the poorest areas of the city insecurity, threats and curfew have become the common rule. The curfew is announced both by the PCC and the police to let neighbours and other people run for safety before an imminent clash.
During the first nine months of the year, 982 people were killed in Sao Paulo and approximately 140 in September but since the beginning of October the number has ballooned to 240.
So far this year over 90 law enforcement officers have been killed in Sao Paulo, half of them gunned down while off duty.
The First Capital Command is one of Brazil's most notorious organized crime groups. Based in Sao Paulo state prisons, the group allegedly was behind several waves of attacks on police, government buildings, banks and public buses in 2006. Those assaults and counterattacks by police in the slums killed more than 200 people.