The reported leader of the PCC in Paraguay, known as “Bonitão,” has been extradited back to Brazil after a tumultuous few days that saw gang members stage a daring, yet unsuccessful, attempt to break him out of custody.
Giovanni Barbosa da Silva, alias “Bonitão,” was apprehended on January 9 by Paraguayan police in the border city of Pedro Juan Caballero. According to a statement by the Attorney General’s Office, he had been sought by authorities in Paraguay since June 2020 on charges of criminal organization, drug trafficking and weapons trafficking. Barbosa da Silva was believed to be the Paraguay commander for the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), authorities said.
His importance to the organization became apparent a few hours after his arrest. Early on January 10, about 40 armed assailants reportedly attacked the police facility where Barbosa da Silva was being held. They initially took three police officers hostage but security forces were able to fight back, rescue their colleagues and capture two of the attackers, according to an EFE report citing police sources.
Later that day, Barbosa da Silva was turned over to Brazilian authorities at the bridge separating the two countries at Foz do Iguaçu and then transferred to a federal penitentiary. The two other arrested PCC members were kept under custody in Paraguay.
On the night of January 11, Brazilian authorities tracked a number of the PCC members who had taken part in the attack to free Barbosa da Silva to a house in Ponta Porã, a town just across the border from Pedro Juan Caballero, according to media reports. A firefight broke out that eventually spilled out onto the streets and left eight gang members dead.
The violence has continued along the border with a police officer being shot and killed on January 12 in Pedro Juan Caballero. That same officer, Fredy César Diaz, had reportedly helped to fight off the rescue attempt a few days earlier.
According to Brazilian police reports, Barbosa da Silva is very close to Anderson Lacerda Pereira, alias “Gordão,” a suspected top PCC drug trafficker, money launderer and art aficionado who was once connected to the theft of works by Pablo Picasso.
Prior to setting up shop in Paraguay, Barbosa da Silva was based in São Paulo, where he allegedly directed PCC operations in the north of the city and where he was injured in a 2017 shoot-out, according to a report by UOL.
InSight Crime Analysis
The long-term investigation by Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities that led to Barbosa da Silva’s identification and arrest, as well as the attempt to rescue him, leaves little doubt he was a key operator for the PCC in Paraguay. But the PCC’s sheer depth in numbers, financial clout and organizational strength have seen it repeatedly shrug off seemingly significant blows.
A previous Paraguay boss for the PCC, Sérgio de Arruda Quintiliano Neto, alias “Minotauro,” was arrested in February 2019 but was able to continue wielding significant influence over gang operations from inside prison.
Similarly, while Paraguayan security forces have been able to arrest dozens of PCC gang members, often thanks to intelligence from their Brazilian counterparts, the PCC has a long history of extending its influence and recruiting new members inside prisons.
In January 2020, 75 PCC members were able to tunnel out of a prison in Pedro Juan Cabellero, with the country’s Justice Minister stating that the gang may have paid $80,000 to prison officials to allow the escape.
The continued inability of Paraguay to make any real ground in its fight against the PCC has allowed the gang to turn much of the country into a base of operations. With much of the gang’s supply of cocaine coming through Paraguay and with PCC members able to operate across the border with virtual impunity, the next Bonitão may not take long to emerge.