More than 50 police officers who patrolled the same area in São Paulo, Brazil, were arrested on Tuesday, accused by state prosecutors of taking bribes from the country’s largest drug gang to allow its members to sell narcotics, the authorities said.
The São Paulo state police’s internal investigations unit, working with state prosecutors who focus on combating the powerful First Capital Command drug gang, known as the P.C.C., gathered what prosecutors said in a statement was proof of collaboration between officers and the cartel.
The P.C.C. has rapidly grown in strength in recent years, investigators say, and now largely controls cocaine and gun shipments into Brazil, as well as the flow of drugs grown in neighboring countries and shipped to Africa and Europe through Brazilian ports.
By late afternoon, 53 members of the 22nd Battalion of the São Paulo state police were under arrest — nearly 10 percent of that battalion’s entire force, according to state prosecutors. Three people suspected of being P.C.C. members were also in custody.
Battling Brazil’s rampant crime and ever-growing drug gangs is a top priority for President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a law-and-order platform and openly calls for the police to assassinate suspected drug gang members.
Tuesday’s operation in one of Brazil’s safest states, however, underscored the complexity of the country’s security situation, with poorly paid and trained police officers routinely being found to tip off drug gangs about raids, or being active members of paramilitary militias that battle the drug gangs for turf.
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