The Brazilian city of Natal and twenty other towns in the State of Rio Grande do Norte have suffered two nights of coordinated attacks against courts, police stations, shops and public buses in what the authorities consider a fight launched by a criminal organization called the Crime Syndicate. . The gang, which controls some prisons, is apparently protesting against recent police operations. Everyone who has been able to remains confined at home. The government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has sent and deployed federal security forces in support of the local police. The alleged ringleader of the wave of violence was killed on Tuesday night in the neighboring state of Paraíba and some 40 people have been arrested.
At least two more people have died in the incidents. State authorities initially said the wave of violence was in response to several recent arrests and seizures of weapons and drugs. They added later that the criminal gang also wants to return to the prisons intimate visits, television sets and light bulbs inside the cells, which were eliminated six years ago after a riot with thirty deaths. Only the prison corridors have light to prevent prisoners from taking advantage of the electricity network to charge clandestine mobile phones.
The governor of Rio Grande do Norte, Fatima Bezerra, has stated that the violence has decreased but still persists. On Monday night attacks were perpetrated in 14 cities, on Tuesday night in 18 towns and this Wednesday there have been incidents in four municipalities. This reduction “is due to police operations on the roads that include arrests. We are working 24 hours, as is our duty. But we still cannot guarantee total normality, but the violence is decreasing,” the governor declared, reports the newspaper or globe. In the afternoon, Bezerra said that “the situation is still worrisome.”
Both in Natal, the state capital, and in Mossoró, some public services have been suspended such as bus lines, clinics, schools, universities or garbage collection. In Natal only school transport, tourist buses and taxis circulate.
Last night, the considered head of the Crime Syndicate and alleged mastermind of the attacks, José Wilson da Silva Filho, nicknamed Argentino and 29 years old, died in a confrontation with the police in the city of João Pessoa, where he was located, reports CNN Brazil. The authorities have also transferred a relevant prisoner from a state prison, where living and security conditions are often precarious, to a federal penitentiary.
The first hundred members of the National Force sent last night by the federal government in a military plane to Natal are already deployed. Another 120 soldiers are expected to arrive, but the Minister of Justice, the former judge and governor Flávio Dino, has already guaranteed that “if the climate of confrontation persists” there will be even more reinforcements.
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