Feb. 14 (UPI) — A total of 326 people were arrested this week as Brazil police carried out operations to prevent attacks related to the prison transfer of a high-profile, criminal gang leader known as Marcola.
Sao Paulo police said they set up more than 3,300 checkpoints across the Brazilian state through which 33,000 vehicles and their occupants passed during raids Wednesday and Thursday.
A total of 226 people were arrested mainly for possession of drugs or weapons after vehicle searches were carried out at multiple locations. The operations found 100 people with pending arrest warrants and 64 vehicles that had been reported stolen, R7 reported.
Crime group leader Marcos Willians Herbas Camacho, also known as Marcola, had been scheduled for a Wednesday transfer from a prison near Sao Paulo city to a federal security prison. Another 21 members were also going to be transferred.
The more distant prison would make it harder for the criminals to lead their organizations, officials said. The decision to move Marcola, leader of the First Commando of the Capital group, also came after detecting organized crime’s plans to free him, R7 reported.
Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported several of the city’s larger criminal groups are being targeted in raids involving different police units.
The fight against organized crime in Brazil has seen criminal groups react angrily to jail transfers. Last month, criminal groups in the northeastern Ceara state launched weeks of bombings, attacks against banks, vehicles, government buildings and property to protest plans to transfer prisoners.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, a retired military officer, was sworn in last month after winning election last year based on a campaign promoting zero tolerance for crime.