Gang warfare in Brazil's southern state of Rio Grande do Sul has sparked a major security crisis across its border with Uruguay.
A series of attacks and killings among Brazilian gangs has rocked Uruguay's northeastern border city of Rivera. In late August, a police investigation blamed a shootout at the Siñeriz shopping center on a confrontation between Os Manos and Os Tauras, two Brazilian gangs.
SEE ALSO: Bala na Cara Profile
According to local media, at least 16 homicides in Rivera have been attributed to turf wars among Os Manos, Os Tauras and another Brazilian gang, Bala na Cara (Bullet to the Face - BNC). Between March 2020 and May 2021, over 130 people have been arrested in Rivera and other parts of Uruguay on suspicion of belonging to these gangs.
The violent clashes led Uruguay's interior minister, along with the country's chief of police, to visit Rivera to speak to the local police about stopping three Brazilian gangs.
The Os Manos group has been fighting Bala na Cara to control drug sales along the border, an extension of their bloody rivalry in their home state of Rio Grande do Sul.
InSight Crime Analysis
Uruguay has traditionally had some of the lowest crime rates in the region, but it may have been caught off-guard by the migration of criminal groups from Brazil.
Os Manos, Os Tauras and Bala na Cara emerged as local players in Rio Grande do Sul's drug trade. But the proximity of Uruguay, and that country's growing demand for drugs, have made it too tempting to resist.
The Bala na Cara started as an armed wing of Os Manos, committing contract killings for the group. But the groups split and clashed as they expanded from the state capital, Porto Alegre, into the interior of Rio Grande do Sul.
The BNC gained territory and control over drug trafficking along the Brazil-Uruguay border until Os Manos challenged this in 2018. Bloodshed from the feud between Rio Grande do Sul's two most powerful criminal groups has worsened in Rivera this year.
The BNC also counts the Os Tauras gang as one of its rivals in Uruguay.
Meanwhile, the Os Tauras gang has attempted to displace Os Manos and establish its own control along the border.
The Os Manos group - which allegedly receives its supplies of drugs and weapons from Brazil's First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) - has used its firepower to push back against the Os Tauras via targeted ambushes. This comes alongside findings from an InSight Crime investigation that revealed that state and federal authorities are concerned about the possible expansion of Os Manos and the PCC further into Uruguay and the port of Montevideo.