Once more the authorities in São Paulo set the fox to guard the henhouse. Seven officers, including the head of the Department for the Suppression of Drug Trafficking (Departamento Estadual de Repressão ao Narcotráfico, DENARC) of the province of São Paulo, Clemente Castilhone Junior, have been accused of accepting large bribes from drug dealers in exchange for thwarting official investigations.
The officers, and five other suspects who are not yet in police custody, received 150,000 dollars a year from the traffickers and a monthly payment in exchange for protection. The dealers also received confidential information from the undercover agents who were supposed to be spying on them in return for favors.
An internal war, however, erupted between the two parties. When the dealers forgot or were late with payments, the undercover agents kidnapped their family members and blackmailed them into paying higher rates. Authorities apprehended the ring leader of this operation thanks to wire taps from the São Paulo Public Ministry. The phone conversations had been recorded as part of an investigation into another drug ring in Campinas, a city in the interior of the province.
The leader of the accused undercover agents, Castillone Junior, was the supervisor of the Intelligence Unit of DENARC where his duties included working hand in hand with other intelligence officers at the provincial and federal levels to combat the outbreaks of violence that periodically erupt across the region. Now authorities say that the structure of the DENARC has become antiquated and that it lags behind modern intelligence systems -- a defect which led to abuses like this one.
The charges against the seven undercover DENARC agents and the other five suspects who remain at large include kidnapping, theft, gang formation, torture and abetting the illegal traffic of drugs.
The case is of particular importance because for years São Paulo has been fighting off street violence, some of which aimed to discredit the authorities and spread fear and intimidation among residents. Today we have discovered one of the sources of that violence, where drug operations were protected by intelligence agents who were meant to suppress them.
The endemic corruption of this country is not only found among politicians. It's deeply rooted in the police forces which have not kept pace with the growing Brazilian economy. The underpaid police officers are ill prepared to face all the temptations the drug world puts before them.
The officers admit that even in maximum security prisons drug lords can still manage their businesses and instigate street violence with complete impunity. They do it to deflect attention away from more important operations that happen at the national or international level.
Translation: Dyane Jean François