I arrived in Sãu Paulo, Brazil last night and today everyone was on high alert. Just my luck to be dropped into a city under attack by gangs (or more specifically one large gang.)

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The Financial Times writes:

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with senior ministers on Monday following four days of gang attacks that had claimed the lives of at least 81 people.

The violence in São Paulo state has prompted calls for action to address the country’s increasingly organised gangsters and a wider lack of public safety from criminal activity.

The attacks, co-ordinated by an organisation called the First Command of the Capital (PCC), were initially against police stations, police patrols and other authorities but extended over Sunday night to include banks and buses, which were being emptied of passengers by gang members before being set ablaze. Members of the PCC also set off riots at about 50 prisons in the state.

The PCC is effectively a criminal trade union, whose members contribute monthly dues to a central fund that pays bribes to police officers, hires lawyers and provides for members’ families while they are in prison.

The attacks have gone on over the weekend with gangs targeting the police officers/stations. They continued today as the gangs also attacked banks, the metro transit system, and many others.

Radio Brazil reports:

People who work in public security have been attacked around the state with the result that, as of Monday morning, May 15, a total of 52 people have been reported killed, 35 of them policemen, municipal guards, employees of prisons or the state Secretariat of Public Security. Another 54 people have been injured, 24 of them policemen.

Bloomberg has an article titled Brazil Companies Send Staff Home Early Amid Attacks that states:

Banks, schools and shopping centers shut early in Sao Paulo, buses curtailed service and callers overwhelmed the mobile phone network as a third day of gang violence spread in Latin America's biggest city.

"I have never seen violence of this intensity in Sao Paulo before," said Claudio Vaz, president of Sao Paulo state's Council of Industries. Metropolitan Sao Paulo has almost 20 million residents and the surrounding state has a population of 40 million, according to census data.

Seven bus companies, accounting for a third of the city's fleet, halted service in the area after attacks destroyed 43 of their combined 4,800 buses. At least 13 banks also were targeted, some shot at and some burned, Folha de Sao Paulo reported on its online edition.

That same report included the following:

  • Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil's state-controlled oil company, canceled a meeting with investors to discuss first-quarter earnings scheduled for tomorrow in Sao Paulo.
  • Eletropaulo Metropolitana SA sent headquarters staff home early at 4 p.m. (3 p.m. New York time) and its repair crews have been ordered to avoid high-crime areas tonight and not provide service if threatened.
  • Mobile phone service in Sao Paulo, from companies such as America Movil SA and Tim Participacoes SA, was patchy as systems were overloaded by calls.
  • Brazil's stock index dropped 2.2 percent and bonds and the currency tumbled.
  • The federal government is prepared to deploy 4,000 national guardsmen to Sao Paulo, as well as army troops.
  • At the same time, riots broke out in 70 prisons in the country, most in Sao Paulo state and continue at 45 facilities, the state said.

The company that I'm working for has canceled all travel to Brazil (meaning had I planned to arrive today or later this week my trip would have been canceled.) Also, the building closed today at 5:00 PM and everyone was sent home so they could arrive safely.

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More individual reports from the BBC.

If you live in Sao Paulo you live in constant fear of being robbed or attacked. This wave of violence has just made that fear worse

People here are very worried and feel panicked because we have never seen anything like this.

I am 65 and have never seen this kind of violence in Sao Paulo.

Update: Of the 90+ who have been killed since last Friday, 50 have been gang members, many more were police officers, and only 5 were civilians (one was the girlfriend of a police officer.)  This means that in a city of 20 million people only 4 civilians were killed as part of this violence.  It's a very low number and the risk of any kind of attack is very low (as long as you stay away from the police.)

The death numbers the media is reporting are all cumulative but most killings occured over the weekend, before I arrived.  Only about 5-7 people were killed today and again most of those were gang members and police.

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