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A wave of gang violence in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is putting pressure on the government and police force to bring the number of killings down.
In October alone, there were 176 murders—double the number of killings in the same period last year. In addition, 95 police officers were killed so far this year—double the total of 2011, in which 47 officers died in the line of duty.
Additionally, in the state of Sao Paulo, 571 people were murdered—an increase of almost 50 percent over October last year.
The wave of violence has led to the removal of Sao Paulo’s chiefs of police.
After one state security chief resigned, Fernando Grella was appointed. He quickly replaced the heads of the civil and military branches of the police, stating, “We’re going to work intensely to reverse the homicide rate in the state to what it was months ago…We are not discarding any measures” (The Associated Press).
Mr. Grella promised to hold daily meetings with the chiefs of all the police departments and investigate every murder. Yet the weekend after he took charge, 15 civilians and police officers were killed—some execution-style—by hooded men on motorcycles.
The rising violence started earlier in the year when a police unit called “the Rota” killed six men. This unleashed a surge in revenge killings from the Primeiro Comando da Capital gang, with many attacks being planned by gang members inside prison. Officials also believe the gang has grown more violent since the police began more heavily cracking down on the sale of illegal drugs.