Over the last two days one of Brazil's biggest gangs, the First Capital Command (or First Command of the Capital -- PCC), took the fight to Sao Paulo's government. The heavily armed gang staged 70 attacks on police that killed 70 people (including at least 35 policemen) and 24 prison uprisings with hundreds being held hostage. So far, the government has only been able to contain six of the prison uprisings, but that more are occurring as fast as they put them down (UPDATE: this number has climbed to 40). The latest attacks have moved into include attacks on buses (UPDATE: over 60 have been held up and torched) and banks.
For its second exercise of military power, this is pretty impressive. The scale, intensity, duration, and the coordination demonstrated by these attacks shows that this gang has made the transition from evading the police to treating the police (the nation-state) as a competitive threat. It also has set what could be construed as a plausible promise that could be used to recruit allies: that Sao Paulo's government can be attacked successfully.The open question is whether the other gangs that inhabit Sao Paulo's massive favela (10 million people live there without basic services) will join as participants in open source warfare. There are indications that they are both plentiful and powerful -- there are at least a dozen gangs in Sao Paulo that qualify as virtual states with economies fueled by transnational crime (Sao Paulo is the international hub for transshipments of cocaine to Europe and Africa).
IF this does move to open source warfare (it may be that the PCC is large enough, and decentralized enough to create its own ecosystem for OSW), we can expect to see an increasing emphasis on attacks to coerce the city's business class. The intent of this coercion will be to force the business class to relinquish the limited power they exercise over the favela. I suspect that this coercion will offer only limited success until emergent innovation leads the gangs to exercise control over the basic services that enable the city's functioning core (the attacks on the bus system was a good start in this direction). At that point, the effort will be successful.UPDATE: The violence continued into Monday. 21 new killings have increased the total 38 police and guards killed (and 38 suspected gang members). 184 attacks in total, mostly aimed at police. Attacks on buses (mentioned earlier) have caused the bus drivers to stay away from work. 2.9 m people that use buses are stranded (classic systems attack) and the city is stalled. The Brazilian stock market and the Real are down 2% due to the violence (this may become the real leverage over time).