Cablegate: Annual Overseas Security Advisory Council (Osac)

Published: Tue 30 Dec 2008 01:00 PM
R 301300Z DEC 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: 08 STATE 132056
(U) Annual OSAC Crime and Safety Report -- the following
responses are keyed to Reftel.
Sao Paulo
A. Crime Threats: The criminal threat for Sao Paulo is rated
critical by the Department of State. Despite reported
decreases in crime levels in the State of Sao Paulo, crime is
still oppressive and widespread. Much of Sao Paulo,s crimes
and violence can be attributed to mobile street gangs and
organized crime groups. Sao Paulo continues to be notorious
for the brazenness of certain high profile crimes and violent
crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnappings. Armed assaults
and burglaries continue to be a part of normal everyday life.
Every Sao Paulo neighborhood is susceptible to high crime
rates. Reports of armed robberies continue to occur
regularly in the generally affluent residential sections of
Jardins Morumbi and Santo Amaro, where a number of government
and business leaders and a majority of the US Consulate
employees reside.
The major crimes that tend to dominate the environment in Sao
Paulo and are still a serious concern to Consulate employees
and Americans in Brazil are express or lightning kidnapping,
carjacking, virtual kidnapping and home/complex invasion.
Express kidnappings occur when criminals force their victims
to extract their daily cash limit from an ATM machine,
virtual kidnappings are a telephone scam designed to get
potential victims to pay a ransom even though no one close to
them has been kidnapped and home invasions involve large
groups of heavily armed criminals who take over either houses
or apartment complexes and rob the owners or all the
occupants. Home/complex invasions usually are well planned
and involve the use of a person on the inside or a scam (such
as impersonating police, mail carriers, or potential
homeowners) to gain easy access. Levels of gratuitous
violence are on the increase and the majority of criminals
use lethal weapons in the course of carrying out their
B. Safety: Street crime remains a problem for visitors and
local residents alike, especially in the evenings, late at
night travel or during traffic jams. It is advised to use
caution with regards to evening travel due to reported
incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing
vehicles. Everyone is regularly cautioned about incidents of
robbery and "quicknappings" outside of banks and ATM
machines. The wealthy or those with perceived financial
affluence continue to be the most attractive targets for
professional criminals. Road conditions within Sao Paulo are
subject to extreme flooding due to poor drainage during
A. Historical Perspective:
The threat of political violence is one that continuesto be
an ever-present possibility. There have ben protests in the
past, some with significant nmbers depending on the issue.
While the majorityof these protests are peaceful, violence
can occsionally flare-up resulting in some rioting,
signficant property damage and increased police activiy.
All visitors should exercise caution when appoaching crowds
and should refrain from going outwhen there are ongoing
B & D OrganiZed Crime & Civil Unrest:
In 2006 Sao Paulo experenced some of the worst violence the
city and stte had ever seen, as violent prison gangs
revolted against State security forces and the conflict
spilled out into the streets. The violence was mainly the
work of one organization known as the First Capitol Command
(PCC), a violent prison gang which reputedly controls the
majority of illegal contraband and drugs coming in an out of
the prisons in Sao Paulo. The civil unrest resulted in the
deaths of over forty police officers and hundreds of
criminals, although civilians were not specifically targeted.
Police stations and municipal buildings were attacked and
public buses, gas stations, and
ATM machines were randomly burned throughout the state and
city, creating hysteria and paranoia among the local populace.
C. International Terrorism: The tri-border area, comprised
of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, is home to a large Arab
community. As of this date, no incidents directed against
official or non-official Americans have occurred in this
area, some anti-American sentiment has been expressed in the
region. It is recommended that American visitors to the
area, to include Foz de Iguazu, remain especially vigilant
and maintain a low profile. There are, at this time, no known
indigenous terrorist groups, other than the organized crime
elements listed above, operating in Brazil. Brazil is a
non-aligned country with no significant enemies and is not
targeted by any known radical groups. Certain border areas,
including those in the tri-border region, are considered
A. Earthquakes and Floods: Natural disasters such as
earthquakes are not a major problem in Brazil.
In November 2008 flooding in the southern state of Santa
Catarina left nearly 100,000 homeless and claimed over 100
lives. The disaster is one of the worst in the country,s
Severe rainstorms in 2006, 2007 and 2008 saw some of the
worst flooding in years for Sao Paulo, with bridges and
highways closed due to flooding and major roads and highways
submerged underwater. The most recent rainstorm in December
2008 left 20,000 residents without water, motorists stranded,
and 70 canceled flights at Congonhas International Airport.
In many cases weather conditions such as rains can cause
severe gridlock within the city, sometimes turning a 40
minute ride from the center of the city to the International
airport into a three hour marathon. Congonhas International
Airport is susceptible to heavy rainstorms and air traffic
comes to a halt during inclement weather.
B. Industrial and Transportation Accidents: Sao Paulo being
the economic and commercial center of the country, as well as
the most populated, sees its share of these types of
incidents. Some vehicle accidents carrying hazardous
chemicals have occurred within the last year causing roadways
to be closed down for significant periods of time until the
area could be cleared and sanitized. In January 2007, a
major construction site near a Subway station in Sao Paulo
suffered a sink-hole collapse killing five and destroying
many construction vehicles. In July 2007, a TAM passenger
flight from Porto Alegre to Sao Paulo, skidded off the runway
and crashed at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport killing 149
passengers. The accident drew attention Brazils increasing
problems with aviation safety. In addition, Sao Paulo
reportedly has over 400 helicopters in circulation, as most
CEO's of major corporations and the wealthy chose to avoid
the vehicle congestion and gridlock in this manner.
C. Kidnappings: The majority of kidnappings in Sao Paulo
continue to be of the "lightning or quicknapping." variety.
The criminals will abduct someone for a short time, usually a
Brazilian citizen, in order to receive a quick payoff from
the family, business, or the victim's ATM card. In some
cases they will even take the victims shopping if their ATM
cash limit has already been met. However, all foreigner's,
including Americans, are vulnerable to this crime as well.
Virtual kidnappings continue to be prevalent and remain one
of the most popular common scams perpetrated by criminals in
Sao Paulo. In these cases, a random telephone call is
generated to an unsuspecting family and a ruse is conducted
claiming that a member of the family has been abducted and a
ransom is demanded. In reality no family member has been
taken but the criminals are able to elicit important
information from the distraught family members and take
advantage of their emotional state to generate a ransom
payment. In some cases the criminals have evolved this
concept to include recordings in the background of children
or others crying for help. Consulate personnel have been
subject to these crimes in the past but none of them
successful from a criminal standpoint.
D. Drugs and Narcoterrorism: Sao Paulo, like many cities
throughout the world, experiences the effects of persons
addicted to illicit drugs. This includes criminal activity,
such as street assaults and robberies, which are used in
support of their addictions. Several Brazilian cities
continue to be viewed as likely transshipment points for
illicit drugs. Large numbers of impoverished people are
scattered throughout the city of Sao Paulo. Public officials
have expressed frustration with the difficulty in addressing
these social problems, including the challenges faced by
local law enforcement when directly dealing with these issues.
Reports of cargo theft, from both overland shipments and from
storage facilities, occur frequently, and are rising in other
cities within Sao Paulo state such as Campinas, Porto Alegre
and Santos. Airports countrywide, as well as private
companies have become actively engaged in instituting
supplemental security measures and countermeasures to combat
these crimes.
The Police support, both from the Military and Civil Police,
for the Consulate in the past year has been excellent,
especially in view of rising criminal incidents around the
Consulate area. Police authorities still cite a lack of
resources, under-staffing and payroll issues among the key
reasons why response times are delayed and a significant
amount of crimes are not solved. Military police units will
not even respond to the scene of a vehicle accident unless
there are injuries, all parties involved must go to the local
Civil Police precinct if they wish to btain a police report
for insurance purposes. Sifling and oppressive traffic
conditions continu to be an important factor with regards to
crimeprevention, as Brazilian law enforcement entities
continue to look for creative means of policing toovercome
these obstacles, e.g. community policin base stations in
Favela's ("Slums"), motorcycle, helicopters and even cavalry
units for major eents.
Visitors are asked to inform the Consulatein the event they
encounter any problems while taveling in Brazil.
Sao Paulo Emergency Phone Numbers:
Police - 190
Fire Department - 190
Ambulance - Dial 190
The following local hospital has been identified by Post as
suitable for use by visitors to Sao Paulo:
Albert Einstein Hospital
Avenida Albert Einstein, #627
Sao Paulo - SP
Telephone: (55) (11) 3747-1233
For Air Medical Evacuation Services -- Post recommends
visitors consider purchasing private air medical evacuation
insurance, before traveling to Brazil, which will provide
medical information and insurance for overseas travelers.
Post can assist visitors with further information about
obtaining these services.
Vaccinations and Immunizations -- Travelers should consult
with their own medical provider prior to traveling to Brazil,
regarding immunization and vaccination requirements.
Travelers should have a documented yellow fever card,
especially after recent reports of cases of yellow fever in
Crime continues to be the principal and real threat to
visitors to Sao Paulo. The crime threat in Sao Paulo is
critical. Armed street robberies are common in Sao Paulo.
Consulate employees and visitors have been robbed at gunpoint
while walking on the street. Taxi's and private vehicles
should be used when moving about. Even while driving
motorists are targeted by armed bandits patrolling the
streets on motorcycles who prey on potential victims waiting
at traffic lights or stuck in heavy traffic. Utilizing
tinted windows and keeping valuables out of sight are viewed
as the best defenses against this type of random criminal
Sao Paulo's International Airport continues to be an area of
concern from a security perspective. Reports of crimes
against travelers along the road to the airport frequently
occur as criminals look to identify potential targets of
wealth and affluence as they arrive and depart. Laptop
computers are still the number one choice of thieves and
criminals in Sao Paulo and travelers should seek to use
alternative and more concealable means of transporting
information, such as "thumb drives" or CD/DVD ROMs. If
laptops are brought in to Sao Paulo they should be stored
discretely in luggage and/or placed in the trunk of a vehicle.
Visitors should practice good common sense preventative
security techniques, just as they would in any large
metropolitan city in the world where crime is prevalent.
Below are some of the more important tips visitors should
follow to avoid becoming a potential crime victim:
Do not carry or wear valuable items that will attract the
attention of thieves. If you need to wear expensive jewelry
or carry a camera, conceal it until you arrive at your
destination. Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
While this is a personal decision, statistics show that
resistance can lead to severe consequences such as injury or
potentially something more fatal.
Avoid city buses and other public transportation. Many pass
through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies.
Brazilian law enforcement and security authorities have
expressed private concern that the next wave of violent
interaction with the PCC could take place in the
transportation system. In 2006 one public bus was
highjacked, near the Consulate, and all the occupants on
board were robbed with the incident ending in a shoot-out
with police. Only use legitimate taxis at taxi stands or
have your hotel call one for you directly.
Be aware of the street environment and avoid contact with
those who may be looking for potential crime targets. Seek a
safer location. Go into a store, bank or simply cross the
street and alter your route. Use well traveled,
well-illuminated streets and always plan your routes before
you leave for your final destination.
U.S. companies are encouraged to contact the RSO in Sao Paulo
for specific inquiries concerning the local security
situation. Information is also available from the active
OSAC Country Council operating in Sao Paulo.
American Consulate General Sao Paulo - is located at Rua
Thomas Deloney, 381 Chacara Santo Antonio, Sao Paulo-SP,
04710-110. The telephone switchboard number is (011-55) (11)
5186-7000. The RSO POC may be reached at (011-55) (11)
5186-7260. The Consulates fax number is (011-55) (11)
Emergencies calls after normal hours may be directed to
Post One at (011-55) (11) 5186-7373.
Post has an extremely vibrant and proactive OSAC Council with
over 100 members, to include major U.S. Companies such as
Motorola, General Electric, 3M, McDonalds and Citibank. The
council meets monthly, usually at the American Chamber of
Commerce in Sao Paulo, however additional venues for meetings
and related functions are selected on a regular basis. RSO
attends all Council meetings to engage in roundtable
discussions with members. The Council takes an active role
on all issues of crime and security in Sao Paulo and
surrounding areas to include outreach to public officials for
speaking engagements, training seminars as well as an
extensive e-mail network to promote ideas and facilitate the
exchange of information and contacts. Country council
information can be located, via password, at the OSAC website
at the following address,
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