Although the murder of a PCC member in São Paulo sparked rumors of a rift within the group, it is unlikely to destabilize the structure of Brazil’s largest criminal gang.

On February 25, hitmen assassinated Donizete Apolinário da Silva, alias “Prata,” an ally of First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) leader Marco Williams Herbas Camacho, alias “Marcola,” in Mauá, São Paulo. The PCC is the largest gang in the western hemisphere, and controls a number of satellite cells dedicated to drug trafficking in Brazil and several countries in the region.

SEE ALSO: Firearms, Disappearances, Prison Overcrowding: Brazil’s Problems Are Getting Worse

Prata’s murder was allegedly ordered by three high-ranking members of the PCC, reported UOL, citing sources from São Paulo’s Public Ministry. According to authorities, Roberto Soriano, alias “Tiriça,” Abel Pachecho de Andrade, alias “Vida Loka,” and Wanderson Nilton de Paula Lima, alias “Andinho,” were allegedly plotting against Marcola, who is currently being held at the Papuda Penitentiary Complex in Brasília, for speaking to a prison official. 

Audio of the conversation, in which Marcola specifically refers to Soriano, was used in the trial against Soriano for the murder of a psychologist at the Catanduvas federal prison, in Paraná, in August 2023.

“I have no aversion to officials, I am not disrespectful. None of that. But I could become a psychopath like Soriano did,” Marcola said in the recording.

Soriano was sentenced to 31 years in prison for the murder.

Rumors of fractures within the organization began the week of February 12, when São Paulo’s intelligence forces intercepted a message sent to the group’s rank and file members sentencing the three dissidents.

“We are excluding and decreeing [death sentence] to Tiriça, Abel and Andinho. Reason for exclusion: slander and treason. All those who rise up with the intention of creating divisions and discord within our organization will be excluded and decreed,” reads the message they disseminated among their affiliates.

It is likely that the organization’s leadership felt that the use of the recording during the trial was a deliberate attempt by the authorities to create an internal dispute within the group. 

“We ask everyone to be vigilant, after all, our enemies will continue to articulate and create mechanisms to try to weaken the Command. Everyone’s union and loyalty to the Command is a commitment of each one of us,” stated the same message.

InSight Crime Analysis

The PCC’s criminal model, established over the past 30 years, consists of a solid structure that is unlikely to be fragmented by personal disputes.

The group emerged in 1993 in the prison of Taubaté, São Paulo, after the October 1992 massacre at the Carandiru prison in the same state. Their original goal was to demand justice, as well as an improvement in prison conditions. Since then, the gang has grown and expanded its criminal portfolio from prison robberies and riots to include transnational drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and illegal mining.

The group developed a complex franchise system where its members, many of them recruited in the country’s prisons, form local groups that operate inside and outside prisons. They also pay fees that go towards hiring lawyers or bribing corrupt police, as well as purchasing weapons and drugs with protection from the leadership.

The PCC is characterized by a strong sense of unity and codes of conduct that take priority over any dissent or individual desires. As sociologist Camila Nunes Dias, a professor at the Federal University of ABC, explained to InSight Crime, “It’s as if individuals don’t matter. What matters are the rules, the ethics, the business.”

SEE ALSO: How PCC ‘Discipline’ Helped Gang Control the Underworld

The group currently has more than 30,000 “baptized” members operating in almost every country in South America and has extended its drug trafficking network into Africa and Europe. Through these networks and shared rules, they all benefit from and depend on the established order.

“The PCC’s longevity seems to revolve around their successful model of market management that does not destabilize … No alternative model of crime management [could compete],” Bruno Paes Manso, a professor at the University of São Paulo, explained to InSight Crime.

To preserve order, the group’s structure — described by sociologist Gabriel Feltran as “a secret fraternity where individuals have no power, but positions of power are held by brothers” — makes the decisions needed to avoid internal divisions. “There have previously been other [crises] at other times, with the deaths of very important members in 2002, 2006, 2012 and 2018,” added Feltran, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris.

In the latest case, experts consulted by InSight Crime note that the group is likely to settle this dispute by eliminating dissidents, as it has done on other occasions. The most recent similar conflict occurred in 2018, when two high-level members were killed after allegedly participating in the murder of Edilson Borges Nogueira, alias “Birosca,” a former member of the PCC leadership and ally of Marcola.

*Christopher Newton contributed reporting to this story.

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