US Treasury targets Brazil’s top drug gang with sanctions

Dec 15, 2021, 3:49 PM | Updated: 4:05 pm

SAO PAULO (AP) — The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday imposed sanctions on people and businesses connected to drug trafficking gangs, including the biggest criminal organization in Brazil, known as the PCC.

The move stems from new authority designated under an executive order from President Joe Biden “to target any foreign person engaged in drug trafficking activities, regardless of whether they are linked to a specific kingpin or cartel,” the Treasury said in a statement.

The PCC is one of the 10 individuals and 15 entities targeted in four countries, including China’s Shanghai Fast-Fine Chemicals and Mexico’s Los Rojos criminal group, among others. People and companies linked to the targets could be stopped from using the U.S. financial system, said Brian Nelson, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“We will continue working closely with our partners to reduce threats from these groups and disrupt their business models,” Nelson was quoted as saying in the statement.

The PCC was founded in the prisons of wealthy Sao Paulo state and remains dominant there. It has expanded its reach into other Brazilian states, plus elsewhere in South America and abroad.

Security experts in Brazil say the PCC’s leadership sees violence as a hindrance to their business model in major cities, but are open to using when they feel it is needed.

That has been the case many times in neighboring Paraguay, a country that is key for the PCC’s routes for smuggling cocaine and marijuana. The Brazilian gang has been involved in multiple killings in border towns in recent years as it seeks to seize complete control.

The latest violent incident in the region linked to the PCC came in October, with four people killed by dozens of shots in the Paraguayan city of Pedro Juan Caballero. One of them was the daughter the local governor. Local police said at the time the Brazilian gang was involved.

The PCC is “the most powerful organized crime group in Brazil and among the most powerful in the world,” the Treasury’s statement said. It “has forged a bloody path to dominance through drug trafficking, as well as money laundering, extortion, murder-for-hire, and drug debt collection.”

Brazil’s foreign ministry did not reply to an emailed request from The Associated Press seeking comment on the U.S. action.

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US Treasury targets Brazil’s top drug gang with sanctions