Benjamin Lessing

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de diciembre de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

Firefighters put out flames on a burning truck and car during a wave of gang violence in Brazil’s northeastern Ceara state, in the city of Fortaleza, on Jan. 3. (Alex Gomes/O Povo/AFP)

Just one day after his inauguration, Brazil’s right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro faced his first public-security crisis. On Jan. 2, prison gangs launched a terrorism campaign throughout Ceara state, paralyzing the capital city, Fortaleza. Although he has deployed federal troops, violence continues: 264 attacks in 55 cities over 23 days (and counting), with bridges and overpasses bombed, electricity knocked out in some neighborhoods, schools and gas stations set on fire, and dozens of buses burned.

What triggered the attacks? Another New Year’s inauguration: Ceara’s newly reelected Gov. Camilo Santana installed a hard-liner as secretary of prisons, who promised to end segregation of prisons by gang, proclaiming he would not “recognize” them.…  Seguir leyendo »

A bit of craziness is normal during Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. But this 2 a.m. newsflash was still a shocker: Brazilian President Michel Temer, at a Feb. 16 late-night meeting with his Cabinet and top congressional leaders, decided the federal government would take over Rio’s police and prison system. Although constitutional, this “intervention” is unprecedented, and possibly anti-democratic.

In Brazil, state governors control public security. But Rio Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezão — facing rising street crime, resurgent anti-state violence by the Comando Vermelho drug gang and a budget crisis so severe he cannot pay police — flew to Brasília for the meeting and signed over command to an army general appointed by Temer.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since New Year’s Day, a wave of horrific prison massacres in Brazil’s north and northeast have left more than 110 inmates dead, many decapitated and disemboweled, with no end in sight. This is prison-gang warfare, pitting the São Paulo-based Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), now one of the largest criminal organizations in South America, against a local affiliate of Rio de Janeiro’s Comando Vermelho (CV). The gangs’ 23-year alliance ended in September 2016 when the PCC declared war, citing CV betrayals. A few weeks later, PCC-led prison riots in three states killed about 20 people, foreshadowing January’s bloodletting.

Brazil’s prison gangs wield immense power on the streets, and driving the violence is a dynamic of competitive expansion.…  Seguir leyendo »