Seven violent attacks were reported in the southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina on Monday night, as a wave of violence which has seen dozens of buses torched reached its seventh day. In total, 54 violent incidents have been reported in 18 cities statewide since January 30th, military police said.
They were teenagers, mainly — bright young things studying medicine or agriculture, out to blow off steam before school started.
But before the night was through, they would die in their hundreds, choked by a toxic yellow fog and crushed by their peers as they groped blindly for an escape.
“It was worse than a scene from a horror movie,” said Murilo de Toledo Tiecher, 26, who survived the blaze that killed 236 people in a nightclub in southern Brazil in the early hours of Sunday morning. “People screaming, crying, lots of injured people without their skin and with burned bodies.”
At least 232 people have died in a nightclub fire in central Rio Grande do Sul, police have said. A band’s pyrotechnics reportedly started the blaze at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria at 2:30 AM Saturday night.
Police finished removing bodies from the scene late Sunday morning, Folha de São Paulo reported. In addition to the 232 confirmed dead by military police, 48 people are injured and receiving treatment.
President Dilma Rousseff said Monday that the government had made strides in stemming the flow of drugs, arms and other contraband through Brazil’s long and porous border. During the past year and a half, 360 tons of drugs, 2,200 guns, 280,000 rounds of ammunition and twenty tons of explosives have been seized, she said, in her weekly program “Coffee with the President”.
São Paulo police are no longer allowed to give first aid to victims who have been hurt in violent crimes or police clashes. A statement from the São Paulo State Public Safety Department says that as of Wednesday police are prohibited from moving victims from the scene and only emergency response teams and paramedics may treat victims at crime scenes.
At least fourteen São Paulo police officers have been detained since Saturday on suspicion of killing or attempting to kill civilians. The arrests are likely to raise questions over police brutality in the wake of a wave of murders in São Paulo that some experts have partially attributed to extrajudicial killings.
The numbers are almost too much to take in: 4,100 murdered this year. This figure does not refer to a war-torn country, but to São Paulo state: the biggest driver of Brazil’s economy.
As a report came out last week showing that Brazil had seen as many violent deaths—500,000—over the past 10 years as Somalia’s 20-year civil war, the death toll in São Paulo city continued to rise.
For a decade, violence in São Paulo had been steadily declining. But recent months have seen a bloody wave sweeping South America’s biggest city—driven by what experts says is a war between police and thePrimeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital—PCC), a criminal gang based out of São Paulo’s prisons.
Federal Police said Friday they had arrested six people in Brasília and São Paulo for alleged involvement in a corruption ring, in yet another case to veer uncomfortably close to former President Lula. In total, eighteen people – including Lula’s former assistant – are under investigation for influence peddling, bribery, conspiracy and forgery in connection with the scheme, which allegedly saw government approvals given to businesses in return for bribes.