HomeNewsAnalysisBrazil's PCC Expanding Influence Throughout the Country

Brazil's PCC Expanding Influence Throughout the Country


Brazilian prison gang the PCC have grown into one of the country's biggest criminal groups and have been pushing their operations beyond their traditional stronghold of São Paulo in recent years, according to a new report, threatening to become a major player in regional organized crime.

The First Capital Command (PCC) was formed in 1993 by eight prisoners serving sentences in São Paulo's maximum security Taubate prison. Since these relatively small beginnings, the gang has grown to dominate organized crime in São Paulo, assuming control of drugs and arms trafficking routes running through the state.

Not only does it control São Paulo's illicit trades but has also registered a presence in neighboring Paraguay and Bolivia from where the gang ships back marijuana, coca base and cocaine back to Brazil.

While the PCC have ordinarily kept a focus on their São Paulo operations, evidence has been emerging in recent years that they are expanding their power base and moving to the far corners of Brazil as arms and narcotics suppliers. A new report by Brazilian magazine ISTOE documents recent evidence of this push beyond São Paulo, something which threatens to make the PCC the biggest gang in Brazil.

The following is InSight Crime's translation of sections from the Revista ISTOE's report.

Members of the PCC have carried out bank robberies in northeast Brazil where they have also been found to sell arms and drugs to local traffickers while shipments of marijuana marked with the gang’s initials have been seized in the southeast state of Minas Gerais.


These cases are just a few examples of how far the tentacles of Brazil’s largest criminal group now extend beyond the borders of São Paulo. More recently, a rebellion in a jail in the northeast state of Piaui serves as an indication both of the group’s strength and their reach. The rebellion was led by PCC leader Jose Ivaldo Celestino dos Santos, apparently started after Piaui’s attorney general tried to transfer him to a federal prison. The transfer was unsuccessful.

A survey conducted by São Paulo prosecutor Marcio Sergio Christino shows that there are dozens of cases going through courts in the north and south of the country that involve the PCC. “These documents demonstrate that the PCC are active in other states,” says the prosecutor, a specialist in combating organized crime.


The first signs of a PCC expansion were detected in 2006 by the Parliamentary Investigative Commission (CPI) into Arms Trafficking when it emerged that PCC leader Marcos Williams Herbas Camacho, alias “Marcola,” had chosen trafficker Sidnei Romulado, a native of Paraiba state in the northeast, to lead the PCC’s actions up there. Though Romulado was arrested in the state of Pernambuco, this did little to halt the PCC’s expansion. The transfer of six PCC members from prisons in the northeast state of Alagoas to federal institutions within the last three years supports this.


“The 2006 São Paulo attacks [when violence initiated by the PCC erupted throughout the city] bolstered the PCC’s reputation throughout the whole country, though there are still places where they lack influence, namely Rio de Janeiro,” said Guaracy Mingardi, the former National Public Security Secretary. “Their presence is more concentrated in the prisons of Parana, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, states that are essential for the control of arms and drug trafficking routes.”

As a result of controlling the drug trade in São Paulo, one of Brazil’s biggest transit hubs, the PCC is the main provider of illicit goods to gangs in the northeast. “The arrival of coca base in the eastern state of Bahia and its distribution to drug traffickers there is invariably linked to the PCC,” says Bahia organized crime prosecutor Ariovaldo Figueiredo.

PCC operatives are also involved in drug disputes in Bahia. “Local criminal groups, with the support of the PCC, are waging urban warfare,” says Figueiredo. The number of homicides in the state has increased some 450 percent from 1999-2010, according to the Sangari Institute.

There is another way the PCC links with local gangs and that is through training in criminal tactics conducted by specialists from São Paolo. In May, the leader of a gang of ATM robbers in Santa Catarina, Jose Luiz Freitas, received training from PCC operatives from São Paulo. He also received arms, munitions and explosives to blow apart the ATM machines.

“Some 40-50 percent of the earnings from this operation were sent back to the PCC,” says Diego Azevedo, the man who arrested Freitas. Santa Catarina court documents show that the criminal band linked to the PCC, known as the Primeiro Grupo Catarinense, was created seven years ago.


Police in Minas Gerais, Parana, Santa Catarina and São Paulo frequently share intelligence on the PCC. The Northeast Security Council has also discussed the gang’s presence in the region. “Collaboration has been intense so that we can avoid the PCC becoming as strong as it is in São Paulo,” says Maranhão secretary Aluisio Mendes.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

BRAZIL / 19 MAR 2021

After Brazil's Supreme Court canceled the conviction of its former president, the country must now contend with the fallout.

BRAZIL / 24 MAY 2021

Of the nearly 140 reporters killed in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Honduras during the past decade, about half covered organized…

BRAZIL / 1 SEP 2021

The increasing use of an instant money transfer app is driving express kidnappings in the Brazilian city of São Paulo…

About InSight Crime


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…


Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…


World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…


InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…


Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…