January 1st, 2008
Brazil: Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC)

Firefighters throw water on a bus burned by suspected gang members in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday, Aug 8, 2006.

Credit: AP Photo/Agencia Estado, Tiago Brandao

Brazil: Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC)

The Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), which means the First Capital Command, is a Brazilian gang that operates from within the São Paulo state penitentiary system by means of cell phones and a network of loyal inmate wives and fiancées, lawyers, and corrupt officials.

Between May 12 and May 19, 2006, the PCC was responsible for a wave of violence that swept across São Paulo: a series of prison riots left more than 150 guards, police, and prisoners dead; 82 city buses were torched, and 17 banks vandalized. Transportation was halted, and schools, shopping centers and office buildings were shutdown. This wasn’t the first spate of violence attributable to the PCC. In 2001, the gang enacted a multi-prison rebellion and in 2003, it murdered an unpopular judge. The PCC is also involved in drug and arms trafficking.

The gang was founded in 1993 with the purported goal of fighting oppression inside the São Paulo penitentiary system and avenging the murder of prisoners during the so-called Carandiru Massacre of October 2, 1992, when São Paulo State Military Police forcibly quelled an uprising at the Carandiru Penitentiary and 111 prisoners were killed.

Brazil’s prison system is noted for its severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, riots, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and systematic use of torture and ill treatment. These conditions, says gang members, make membership in a gang virtually necessary for survival.

The PCC’s current boss, Marcola, began his career as a pickpocket at the age of nine and has been in jail since 1999. He is known as Playboy due to his affection for designer clothing. On June 8, 2006, Marcola testified before a congressional committee, admitting that he was the leader of the PCC, which he said is organized “like a web made up of a comprehensible organized hierarchy.” His own life, he said, is “worthless” since his successor has already been chosen.

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