May 16, 2006

Gangster attacks ease in tense Brazil city

By Angus MacSwan

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Uprisings in about 70
Brazilian prisons linked to a campaign of violence unleashed by
gangsters have ended, but Sao Paulo city remained tense on
Tuesday after four days of bloodshed in which more than 80
people have been killed.

Sao Paulo, the world's third-largest metropolis with a
population of 20 million, was eerily quiet over Monday night as
residents followed a self-imposed curfew.

Restaurants, cinemas and shopping centers were closed and
roads normally clogged by traffic were deserted after dark.

Heavily-armed police, some wearing black ski masks, manned
positions throughout the city.

The number of attacks fell, however.

"By preliminary information, last night was much calmer,"
said Enio Luciolla, a spokesman for the state security
secretariat. He said there were up to five attacks in the
metropolitan area.

The official death toll since Friday stands at 81,
including 31 policemen, eight prison guards and four civilians.
The other dead were suspected gunmen killed by police. A
further 79 people have been wounded.

Newspapers on Tuesday morning reported the toll had risen
to 96 but there was no official confirmation.

The violence broke out on Friday in retaliation for the
transfer of jailed crime bosses and other gang members to a
remote prison. Gangsters hit police posts, vehicles and
off-duty policemen across the city and elsewhere in the state.

Rebellions also broke out in about 70 prisons in Sao Paulo
state, with inmates taking around 200 hostages.

All the uprisings ended on Monday night and the hostages
were released, the state security secretariat said. Local media
reported that authorities had a struck a deal with the jailed
leader of the organized crime group orchestrating the violence,
the First Command of the Capital, or PCC in Portuguese.

The transfer of the leader, Marcos Willians Herbas Camacho,
or Marcola, to a remote prison was a catalyst for the violence.

Schools, offices and shops had closed early on Monday and
buses stopped running after gangsters set some 65 ablaze.
Police squads escorted buses that were running again on Tuesday