The Brazilian government on Saturday deployed 300 troops in the northern city of Fortaleza and other towns in Ceara state to stop a surge in violent attacks by criminal gangs against banks, buses and shops, BBC reported.
The justice ministry ordered the special deployment after dozens of attacks in the past week by the gangs, which are protesting against new, tougher measures in local prisons that they control. Prison authorities in Ceara have blocked mobile phone signals inside jails and ended a policy of separating inmates by gang affiliation.
The intervention is the first test of new President Jair Bolsonaro’s strict law-and-order policy since he took oath last Tuesday.
Videos aired by the Brazilian media showed service stations on fire and deserted roads. Dozens of attacks have been registered this week, forcing people to stay at home. In one attack, explosives badly damaged a pillar supporting a flyover road in the town of Caucaia, Al Jazeera reported.
Bolsonaro has vowed to crack down on rampant crime by extending immunity to soldiers and police using lethal force and simplifying gun laws so that citizens can challenge armed criminals.
The task of restoring order in the province falls to Justice Minister Sergio Moro, a former star judge who headed the investigation into the country’s biggest-ever corruption scandal. On Friday, Bolsonaro praised Moro’s decision to deploy troops as “apt, rapid and effective”.
The governor of Ceara belongs to the left-wing Workers Party, which was defeated in the elections by Bolsonaro and his ultraconservative allies.