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Civil Police reveal how the new death squads of São Paulo work and denounce the persecutions the agents suffer that refuse to kill and torture
Since the debut of this blog back in late November of 2011, we have published several articles with the objective of exposing the alarming numbers of black men being murdered on the streets of Brazil. These articles have shown that in states like Espírito Santo, Alagoas, Bahia, Paraíba, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, being a black man, particularly between the ages of 18 and 29, can make one 25-40 times more likely to be assassinated than being a white male in that same state (depending on the state). One facet of these murders is the practice of off duty military police officers killing in revenge, to send a message, eliminate that sector of society that Brazil deems “worthless” or as a form of “ethnic cleansing”.One of our reports featured an interview with one of these assassins in the northeastern state of 75% black Bahia who spoke under the condition of anonymity. Now, the Civil Police of São Paulo have also stepped forward to confirm that “each battalion of the Military Police has a death squad.” Are these death squads part of the reason why homicide among white males dropped 24.8% in the past decade while it rose 5.6% for black males? (1) It’s certainly not a simple question to answer but this could be a piece to the puzzle.
“In each battalion of the Military Police there’s a death squad”
By Tatiana Merlino
First, they identified the “bilões” of each battalion, which, in the slang of the Polícia Militar (PM or Military Police), are the most violent police. Then they are called to become a part of the “caixas-dois (two box)”, as the death squads or extermination groups are known in each battalion. For the “job”, vehicles generally used are Rota (Rondas Ostensivas Tobias de Aguiar or Ronda Ostensible Tobias de Aguiar) and Força Tática (Tactical Force) – or Forjas Trágicas (Tragic Forges) as they are nicknamed. The “caixa dois” consists of three members, one of them being escorted to a safe place, where you get the uniform, puts on civilian clothes and rides a motorcycle or drives a car to lead or perform assassinations. Generally, they work in their patrol district.
Read below what the PM says about the complaints.
When the service ends, a car comes, collects the shells and asks people who work in the establishment to clean up the site (2). The important thing is to tamper with the crime scene. Then putting the victim in the car, and even if he is dead, he is taken to the hospital. When necessary, they use a “candle kit” or “flagrant kit”: a portion of a narcotic and a gun placed in the hand of the corpse to justify the murder. Sometimes they also leave a cell phone next to the victim.
“The two-box works when you can’t justify the murder as a result of alleged confrontation with PM,” explains a police officer who investigated death squads formed by police officers. “Most of them participate in the business, even those who don’t kill. It’s really a question of hierarchical subordination to command.”
In most cases, extermination, whether it’s in the capital city (São Paulo), on the coast or inland, the modus operandi of the actions are virtually the same. Gunmen in dark color cars, wearing ninja hoods and black clothes, and handling, in most cases, 9mm, .40 or .380 caliber guns.
The rule of thee battalion is: did the PM refuse to torture or to kill? Then they go to the PAO: Pelotão de Apoio Operacional (Operational Support Platoon), a kind of punishment given by the command of some battalions of São PauloMilitary Police who refuse to participate in illegalities and abuses, including torture, killings and death squads. The punishment is to do side beat outside of the battalion, get 12 hours on foot, with no communication with the other members of the troop and being unable to eat, urinate or defecate. Those who dare to stand in solidarity with those punished are punished in the same manner.
The major of the battalions where PAO is applied intimidates his troops beating his chest and yelling, “I am Highlander, you respect me.” Highlander is a death squad that has this name because it cuts the heads and hands of the victims. The major encourages the killing of “thieves” and exempts from work those who kill the most. Those not wishing to join the “caixa-dois” are sent to the PAO.
These serious charges are made by the Civil Police, quoted above, and a sergeant in the Military Police – neither colludes in the illegalities committed by members of their corporations. The first spoke with Caros Amigos on the condition of the confidentiality of his identity, alleging that he was being persecuted and had suffered threats and two murder attempts after presenting research reports on death squads.
The denouncement of the PAO was also taken to the Conselho de Defesa da Pessoa Humana (Condepe or Council for the Defense of Human Person), which has been sought by Civil and Military police who do not agree with torture, killings and disappearances that have been happening in São Paulo. “First came Civil Police investigators and then from the MP – soldier, sergeant, lieutenant and even captain – and police chiefs. All have a framework that, for us, is very serious. These are people who are in the following situation: ‘Either I get into or banditry or I am punished,’” says Ivan Seixas, president of the institution. According to him, such officials are receiving death threats, punishment and disciplinary and administrative proceedings. Denouncements that the police would pass on for the report in Caro Amigos were also sent to public enforcing organs of the law.
According to the civil police, death squads operate “in an aegis of social sanitation and control, to honor the command and the government, in order to lower crime rates,” he explains. “So the vagabonds know that if they steal in that particular vicinity, they’re going to the bag, they die. This causes an exodus, the guy migrates.” According to the Civil Police, helping to lower the statistics of violence in their areas of work, the police receive protection from the command, being favored for top work shifts, extra work, weapons, vehicles and other tactical equipment.
One of the death squads that operate in this manner, the Highlanders, was formed by officers of the 37th Battalion Tactical Force in the South Zone of São Paulo. They worked in the neighborhood of Jardim Ângela, killing victims and dumping the decapitated bodies in Itapecerica da Serra, in São Paulo. Taking advantage of the situation, ‘police of the death squads also commit crimes to kill their adversaries. Parallel to this, they also kill on demand, a “mode” of murders called “firma”. “It’s when part of the functional ideal goes to the capitalist ideal.” Such method would be, thus, directly related to corruption cases. “Corruption and mortality are institutionalized.” The Civil Police reports, still, that there is an agreement between police and criminals over the division of ATMs. In the “firma”, they also enter into disputes for slots machines, lotteries and clandestine bingo.
Responses of the Military Police to the accusations
Caros Amigos (CA): According to a denouncement of two police officers, one from the Civil and one from the Military Police, there are battalions of Military Police where there is a punishment to the police who refuse to condone illegalities and abuses, such as participating in torture, killings and joining death squads. The name of punishment would be PAO (Pelotão de Apoio Operacional- Operational Support Platoon), that would be an external battalion beat/patrol, on foot 12 hours without eating or going to the bathroom. Internal Affairs is aware of this type practice?
Military Police of São Paulo (PMESP): The PMESP and the Magistrate are unaware of this PAO punishment, and today no police would subject himself to working without being able to eat and go to the bathroom, and would denounce directly to the Internal Affairs Division, any such abuses.
CA: In the denouncement made by the police, how explained how the modus operandi of the death squads would be: they identified to so-called “bilões”, which would be the most violent police to join the groups, which would be called upon to be a part of the ‘caixa-dois’ that would be the battalion’s death squad. Is Internal Affairs aware of this type of denouncement?
PMESP: We also don’t know the term ‘caixa dois’ as being a death squad, this slang is unknown in the Military Police of São Paulo.
CA: Still on the modus operandi of death squads, there is the denouncement that they would act in their district, consisting of three members, one of them would be escorted to a safe place, take off his uniform, change into civilian clothes and lead or execute the assassinations. In the sequence, a car would be responsible for collecting the shells in order to tamper with the crime scene. Is Internal Affairs aware of this kind of denouncement?
PMESP: We are also unaware of such conduct and it would be strange whoever operates outside the law respecting their patrol area.
CA: There would also be the use of a ‘candle kit’, which would be a portion of narcotics and a weapon placed in the hand of the corpse to justify the murder. Is Internal Affairs aware of this type of practice?
PMESP: We don’t know of this type of procedure, but if any kind of illegal drug or unregistered weapon were found, the appropriate action will certainly be taken.
CA: The motivation of death squads would be, according to the denouncements, lower crime rates in the area of the battalions. Thus, such police would have the protection of the command, favored by top work shifts, extra hours and arms. Is Internal Affairs aware of this type of practice?
PMESP: Affirmation totally incongruous, because as you lower numbers for theft, robbery and other offenses there would be an increase in the number of homicides, which also does not match the facts, since the number of homicides dropped precipitously in the State of São Paulo, which would give such a “denouncement” no credit, because of the lack of logic.
CA: The Civil Police says that the death squads are institutionalized and regionalized in each battalion, which exist throughout the State of São Paulo. According to him, each battalion has a death squad. What does the Magistrate say in regards to this?
PMESP: It affirms such a statement to be untrue, because that would be a widespread conspiracy to commit crimes, that quickly would come to the fore with evidence and whistleblowers that would not be afraid to provide evidence of these behaviors.
CA: The police and the president of Condepe, Ivan Seixas, also reveal that officers, both Civil and Military, who try to denounce the existence of death squads are persecuted within the corporation. Has Internal Affairs received denouncements and complaints of this type?
PMESP: It’s strange such a claim, because the Magistrate gives full support to Military Police officers who make denouncements, and Military Police officers know this, and is a professional trained and selected with the virtue of courage which is not consistent with the cowardice of serious illicit denouncements made anonymously without bringing such evidence as recordings, video recordings, names of offenders and criminal actions.
1. To be sure, Brazil kills its citizens of all colors. According to a 2010 UNODC report, it ranked number one in the world in homicides in 2010, with slightly more murders than number two India, which has a population five times larger, and three times more than the United States, that has about 110 million more people. But as a recent sign put it, in Brazil, “death prefers darker skin tones”.
2. Witnesses say this happened in the early January murder of São Paulo rapper DJ Lah and six other people in what many people also believe was a police hit.
Source: Caros Amigos