HomeNewsBriefCeará Gang Truce Shows Brazil Government Could Be Common Enemy
BRIEF

Ceará Gang Truce Shows Brazil Government Could Be Common Enemy

BRAZIL / 9 JAN 2019 BY CHRIS DALBY EN

The northern state of Ceará in Brazil has become a battlefield after government plans to clamp down on gang-controlled prisons were met with an unlikely alliance of criminal groups, showing their collective muscle through dozens of acts of violence. In the very first week of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, this may set a troubling precedent for how Brazil’s gangs will respond to forceful attempts to bring them to heel.

The violence began after Ceará's new top prison official, Luis Mauro Albuquerque, promised to stop dividing prison populations based on gang allegiances and to conduct more thorough searches, especially to crack down on cellphone use. These measures, if implemented, would make it more difficult for jailed gang leaders to maintain control of outside operations.

Their response was rapid. A truce was called between Brazil’s two leading criminal groups, First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) and Red Command (Comando Vermelho), as well as their local rivals, Guardians of the State (Guardiões do Estado - GDE) and Family of the North (Família do Norte – FDN), both of which have had ties to the PCC and CV.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Prisons

Intercepted text messages sent between members of the GDE spoke of a temporary truce between the gangs, saying “we are calling this truce because we must...it is the intention of the state (that we should kill each other). We will not satisfy the will of the state. We will receive our enemies with the dignity of bandits and expect the same feedback from them,” El País reported.

The Justice and Public Security Minister, Sergio Moro, has ordered up to 400 extra police troops to Ceará to help control the violence. At least 191 people have been arrested on charges of rioting, civil disobedience and resisting authority.

So far, this has not seemed to stem the violence. By January 9, over 180 instances of violence had been reported in various municipalities.

While no deaths have been directly attributed to these acts so far, the gang members have struck at infrastructure: burning buses and police vehicles as well as attacking police stations, businesses, and banks. A bridge near the state capital, Fortaleza, was even damaged with explosives.

However, Moro’s decision seems to at least be playing well politically since two other states, Pará and Espírito Santo, have also asked for federal troops to be sent there to quell criminality.

InSight Crime Analysis

The speed and spread of the violence across Ceará shows just how much power Brazil’s gang leaders continue to wield behind bars. PCC and Red Command began as prison gangs before going on to national and international prominence.

The alliance between these gangs is a particular cause for worry. While they have regularly clashed in turf wars since 2016, PCC and Red Command had enjoyed an alliance for almost two decades. Now the gangs could once again be brought together to take on government forces.

Similar events have been seen in the region, such as in El Salvador. Gangs there progressively turned from fighting each other, uniting to face violent government repression.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

While the Ceará riots began in response to a local policy, this situation is now seen as a real test of Bolsonaro’s ability to “get tough.” His rhetoric on the campaign trail and since taking office has been heavy on bluster and slim on details, promising to give police a license to kill criminals or to make it easier for Brazilians to own a gun. He has packed his cabinet with military figures.

His justice minister, Sergio Moro, is seen as more pragmatic and enjoys a solid reputation for his anti-corruption successes in recent years.

However, such a coordinated backlash by the country’s most dangerous gangs in the first week of Bolsonaro's presidency may signify troubled times ahead for him. And for Brazil.

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 30 JUN 2016

Colombian, Italian and US authorities collaborated in a massive round-up of nearly 150 suspected members of a multicontinental drug trafficking…

EXTORTION / 30 NOV 2015

Prisoners in Mexico are paying enormous fees for essential needs and physical security, a news report says, highlighting the role…

PRISONS / 3 MAY 2017

Recent comments on television by Venezuela's head of the penitentiary system blatantly exposed the extent to which prisons have been…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…