Brazilian police blamed for wave of killings in Campinas
Twelve people killed execution-style after murder of off-duty police officer
Policemen pass by a burnt bus in Campinas, Brazil, on Monday. People torched buses and attacked cars in protest against the killing of 12 people in a surge of violence that began with the murder of an off-duty policeman. Photograph: Denny Cesare/AFP/Getty Images
Residents of one of Brazil’s wealthiest cities have accused police officers of being responsible for a wave of killings that left 12 people dead in the early hours of Monday morning.
On Sunday night Aride Luis dos Santos was filling up his car at a petrol station when it was held up by criminals. Despite being off duty, he attempted to disarm them and was shot dead in front of his wife.
Within hours of his death masked men driving unmarked cars attacked residents in surrounding neighbourhoods. In one street five people were ordered into a bar and executed. Another four were killed together nearby shortly afterwards. Three more bodies were recovered in neighbouring streets.
Those killed were aged between 17 and 30. Police said half of the victims had criminal records for murder, robbery and drug trafficking.
Rogue officers in São Paulo have a long history of responding to the killing of colleagues by searching poor neighbourhoods for residents with criminal records and executing them.
On Monday furious locals set fire to three buses in protest at the killings. Relatives at the burial of several victims accused the police of being responsible for their deaths.
Police investigators have admitted that one line of inquiry into the killings is the involvement of officers acting in “revenge” for the death of a colleague.
Home to Brazil’s second-highest ranked university, Campinas is a high-tech hub 100km (62 miles) from the city of São Paulo. It will be the base for the Portuguese and Nigerian football teams during the World Cup later this year.
The events in Campinas follow the burning to death of a six-year-old girl on January 3rd in the northeastern city of São Luís after criminals set the bus in which she was travelling on fire.
The attacks against the public transport system in the city were ordered by gang leaders in protest at a proposal to move them from the state penal system to federal jails in an effort to break their control over the prison population.
The decision to move the gang leaders followed a rebellion in the Pedrinhas prison complex in São Luís during which gang members executed rivals. Gruesome video has since emerged in which the decapitated and tortured bodies of three victims are displayed by their killers.
Since the rebellion in the Pedrinhas jail the state government of Maranhão has come under severe criticism for its inability to control the prison population, which is housed in grim, heavily overcrowded conditions. The state authorities refused to allow the Brazilian senate’s human rights commission to enter the most violent unit of the Pedrinhas prison complex.
Brazil’s justice minister described the country’s prisons as “medieval” during a speech in 2012 and said he would “prefer to die” than serve a sentence in some of the country’s jails.