Brazil: crime wars rock Sao Paulo

Brazilian police this month launched "Operation Saturation" to crush the Sao Paolo criminal network known as the First Capital Command (PCC), in response to the mafia's campaign of assassinations of police officers and employees. So far this year, 95 officers have been murdered in and around the sprawling city, according to official figures—up from 47 in 2011. Most were ambushed off duty by presumed gang members. Operation Saturation was launched after Marta Umbelina, an office worker at Sao Paolo's military police, was shot dead in front of her house and in sight of her 11-year-old daughter Nov. 3. In one of the operation's raids, military police found what they say is a hit list with the names and addresses of 40 officers.

The violence exploded in May when six members of the PCC were killed in a shoot-out with an elite police unit. Local newspapers call it an "undeclared war." In October alone there were 176 murders in Sao Paulo city, and 571 in the Sao Paulo state, mostly due to gang-on-gang violence. The number of homicides in Sao Paulo has jumped to almost 1,000 so far this year, largely concentrated in the favelas. As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup—including the opening game in Sao Paulo—leaders fear a public relations disaster. Under Operation Saturation, hundreds of police have been sent to occupy the city's biggest favela or shanty-town, Paraisopolis, or Paradise City. Dozens have been arrested under the operation, with police claiming seizures of huge caches of drugs and weapons. (BBC News, Information Nigeria, Nov. 25; CNN, Nov. 19; Reuters, Nov. 7)

See our last post on Brazil's favela wars.