On February 13, São Paulo state authorities decided to move against the PCC (The First Command of the Capital)—Brazil’s most powerful and arguably deadliest drug gang. Twenty-two jailed leaders of the group—including kingpin Marcos “Marcola” Camacho—were transferred to maximum security federal prisons around the country, moving them away from the notorious Presidente Venceslau penitentiary in São Paulo state. This is the boldest move against what is an ever-growing criminal organization since 2006—when a confrontation between police and the gang sparked a running battle on the streets of São Paulo.
Over the years, authorities have been reluctant to remove PCC leaders from the state, fearing violent retribution from the gang. But experts suggest the group’s rapid expansion can partly be put down to the fact many of its imprisoned leaders have been kept together in São Paulo for so long. Twenty-six years after its foundation, the PCC is now among the biggest organized crime gangs in South America, with a stake in all the major drug routes in and out of Brazil.