The brutal murder of a Brazilian drug trafficker seemingly carried out by a Paraguayan gang has shown how escalating violence is impacting the border state of Mato Grosso do Sul, long a criminal stronghold for Brazil’s PCC.
On July 16, Emanuel Dias Ecker, a member of Brazil’s largest criminal gang, the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), was shot about 50 times in the city of Paranhos, located on the Brazilian side of the border with Paraguay, reported Midiamax, a Mato Grosso do Sol news outlet.
The murder was allegedly carried out by Paraguay’s Alderete Clan, a gang based in the town of Ypejhu, right across the border from Paranhos, according to Midiamax.
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The killing comes after 30 members of the PCC reportedly attacked two properties belonging to the Alderete Clan in Ypejhu in December 2018, according to ABC Color. Local press reports viewed this as a message sent by PCC commander Sérgio de Arruda Quintiliano Netto, alias “Minotauro,” who led the gang’s efforts along the Brazil-Pargauay border before his arrest in early 2019.
The murder also coud be seen as pushback by the Alderete clan against the PCC, which has increased its dominance of cross-border drug trafficking, especially in border cities such as Pedro Juan Caballero, Ypejhu and Capitán Bado.
In May, the PCC allegedly tipped off the police about a large shipment of marijuana belonging to the Paraguayan gang, leading to its seizure, Midiamax reported.
In recent years, the PCC has made incursions into Paraguay, quickly establishing control of key criminal economies like drug trafficking and dominating Paraguay’s prisons, as it does in large parts of Brazil.
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The murder of a PCC member by a Paraguayan gang on Brazilian soil, especially in the gang’s backyard of Mato Grosso do Sul, sends a powerful message that Paraguay’s underworld will not simply roll over for the PCC, despite its far greater strength and reach.
Though the PCC began as a São Paulo-based prison gang, it has since spread to become a nationwide threat with the state of Mato Grosso do Sul being one of its three main fortresses, along with the states of São Paulo and Paraná. Its control of Mato Grosso do Sul, which shares a long border with Paraguay, has been a major advantage as the group has spread into the neighboring country.
“Historically, the PCC has focused most of its strength in Mato Grosso do Sul, establishing there since 2009 a business model which has extended to the borders with Paraguay and Bolivia,” said Bruno Paes Manso, a leading expert on the PCC and an investigator at the University of São Paulo’s Violence Studies Institute.
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“Mato Grosso do Sul is particularly strategic as it acts as a bridge for drug and weapons trafficking between its capital, Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Paraguay,” he told InSight Crime.
The Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV) — longtime rivals of the PCC and Brazil’s second-largest gang — are also vying for a slice of Paraguay’s criminal pie. Regular outbreaks of violence across Brazil have been linked to the PCC-Red Command war. The continuation of this violence in Mato Grosso do Sul is not surprising.
But a Paraguay clan’s brazen slaying of a PCC member on the gang’s own turf shows that the PCC’s takeover of Paraguay’s criminal landscape may not be as easy as once thought.