Brazil bank heist: Armed gang mount fierce assault on city of Criciúma
Armed men have violently stormed the southern Brazilian city of Criciúma, mounting an assault on a bank.
Shooting started about midnight local time (03:00 GMT) and lasted more than an hour. Footage posted on social media showed men with guns on the streets.
At about 03:00 local time, Criciúma Mayor Clésio Salvaro said in a tweet that “a major assault” was taking place and urged people to stay at home.
A security guard and a military police officer were injured.
The target of the raid was Banco do Brasil in the centre of Criciúma. The bank has not yet commented on how much money was stolen.
How did the attack unfold?
Residents of the city of approximately 200,000 people first reported hearing gunshots at around midnight.
Military police reported that a fire had been set in a tunnel on the main road leading to the city, presumably to prevent the security forces from sending reinforcements to the town. The police headquarters also came under attack.
In other parts of the city, at least six people were used as “human shields” by the armed men, who forced them to sit on a pedestrian crossing to block the road.
Residents posted images on social media of what they described as snipers on rooftops.
Mayor Salvaro told radio station Radio Gaúcha that the “bandits” had made their getaway in a convoy of cars.
Footage posted on social media shows a convoy of black cars leaving the town centre in an orderly fashion.
“I have no idea where they’re from but they were professionals. Never in the history of this city have we experienced something like this,” Mayor Salvaro said of the gang.
It is not clear how much money the attackers made off with but some of their loot was scattered across a city street. Video posted on social media showed residents rushing to gather some of the bills.
Police said four residents were detained after they had scooped up more than 800,000 reais ($150,000; £112,000) from the streets.
So far, there are no reports of any of the bank robbers being detained.
What’s the bigger picture?
Local media have described the raid as part of a phenomenon they call “New Cangaço”, which references a term used to describe the banditry that plagued parts of Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s.
Small and medium-sized cities have been the preferred targets for this new type of banditry.
In 2019, there were 21 bank robberies in the state of São Paulo alone, according to official figures. In the first half of 2020, there had already been 14.
Security expert Guaracy Mingardi told BBC Brasil that these large-scale bank robberies started five years ago. The targets are banks and firms which store and transport valuables.
Dozens of criminals take part in a single raid and many of them are heavily armed with machine guns and sometimes even explosives.
While most of the raids have been carried out in Brazil, there has been at least one instance where a Brazilian gang carried out a spectacular robbery in neighbouring Paraguay.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55141412
Pedro I: Emperor’s embalmed heart arrives in Brazil
The embalmed heart of Brazil’s first emperor, Dom Pedro I, has arrived in the capital Brasilia to mark 200 years of independence from Portugal.
The heart, which lies preserved in a flask filled with formaldehyde, was flown on board a military plane from Portugal.
It will be received with military honours before going on public display at the foreign ministry.
The heart will be returned to Portugal after Brazil’s independence day.
Portuguese officials gave the go-ahead for the preserved organ to be moved from the city of Porto for the celebrations of Brazil’s bicentenary.
The organ arrived on a Brazilian air force plane accompanied by the mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira.
Mayor Moreira said it would return to Portugal after having basked “in the admiration of the Brazilian people”.
“The heart will be received like a head of state, it will be treated as if Dom Pedro I was still living amongst us,” Brazil foreign ministry’s chief of protocol Alan Coelho de Séllos said.
There will be a cannon salute, a guard of honour and full military honours.
“The national anthem [will be played] and the independence anthem, which by the way was composed by Dom Pedro I, who as well as an emperor was a good musician in his spare time,” Mr Séllos said.
Dom Pedro was born in 1798 into Portugal’s royal family, which at the time also ruled over Brazil. The family fled to the then-Portuguese colony to evade Napoleon’s invading army.
When Dom Pedro’s father, King John VI, returned to Portugal in 1821, he left the 22-year-old to rule Brazil as regent.
A year later, the young regent defied the Portuguese parliament, which wanted to keep Brazil as a colony, and rejected its demand that he return to his home country.
On 7 September 1822 he issued Brazil’s declaration of independence and was soon after crowned emperor.
He returned to Portugal to fight for his daughter’s right to accede to the Portuguese throne and died aged 35 of tuberculosis.
On his deathbed, the monarch asked that his heart be removed from his body and taken to the city of Porto, where it is kept in an altar in the church of Our Lady of Lapa.
His body was transferred to Brazil in 1972 to mark the 150th anniversary of independence and has been kept in a crypt in São Paulo.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-62561928
Brazil’s indigenous communities fear mining threat over war in Ukraine
Maurício Ye’kwana worries about the future. He comes from the community of Auaris, in northern Brazil, close to the border with Venezuela.
The area, part of the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, is rich in gold, diamonds and minerals – and illegal miners want a piece of it. In all, there are an estimated 20,000 illegal miners on the land.
“It’s got worse in the past few years,” Maurício says, explaining that during the pandemic, the number of planes, helicopters and boats linked to illegal mining increased.
He’s only 35, but it’s the younger generation that concerns him – boys increasingly being lured into illegal work.
“The young people are the best boat drivers,” he says. They can earn as much as 10,000 Brazilian reais ($2,140; £1,645) for a single trip.
Maurício has come to Brasilia to take part in the Free Land Camp, an annual event that brings together indigenous communities looking to defend their land rights.
On Brasilia’s main esplanade, a grand avenue that leads to Congress and the presidential palace, communities from across the country have erected hundreds of tents.
Milling around the camp are indigenous Brazilians, many of them wearing feathered headdresses, intricate beaded jewellery and painted with geometric tattoos identifying their tribe.
This year, the event has taken on an even bigger meaning.
President Jair Bolsonaro has made it his mission to push economic development in the Amazon. In his latest attempt to make inroads into indigenous territories, he has cited the war in Ukraine. Brazil relies heavily on imported fertilisers for its agribusiness industry – more than 90% of its fertilisers come from abroad, and Russia is its most important partner.
“A good opportunity arose for us,” Mr Bolsonaro said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has argued that by mining in indigenous territories, Brazil can build more of its own potassium reserves.
It’s an argument questioned by some experts.
“Only 11% of the reserves are inside indigenous lands and other states like São Paulo and Minas have reserves,” says politician Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous woman voted into Congress in 2018. “It’s a false narrative that tries to confuse the minds of the Brazilians, making them believe it’s important, that people won’t have food on their table.”
Also, it’s not a short-term fix.
“From a technological and environmental perspective, the licences needed and the infrastructure – it all takes time. Being able to offer these products to the Brazilian market would probably take seven to 10 years,” says Suzi Huff, Prof of Geology at the University of Brasilia. “We’re talking about an extremely sensitive area in which care needs to be taken. It’s false to say that it will solve Brazil’s problems.”
The bill has been in the works since 2020. But last month, the lower house voted to consider it under emergency provisions, removing the need for committee debates.
“It’s very clearly blackmail,” says Prof Huff. “Bolsonaro saw an opportunity to continue with this project of allowing mineral exploration including in indigenous lands and used the scarcity of fertilisers in Brazil to move forward with this project.”
It was expected to be voted on in the lower house this week, but that hasn’t happened – and few believe, in this election year, that it will. Not even the big players in the industry agree with it, with the Brazilian Institute of Mining last month saying it was a bill “not suitable for its intended purposes”, and calling for broader debate.
While a delay in voting is seen as a relief by indigenous leaders, it’s still a challenge on the ground.
“A fiery political discourse encourages invasions in indigenous lands,” says Joenia Wapichana. “The fact that Bolsonaro says he supports mining, that he will regulate mining in indigenous lands already exposes the indigenous people and makes them more vulnerable.”
The discourse is, of course, deeply political, especially with elections around the corner. On Tuesday, former president Lula da Silva – and the man leading in the polls to win October’s vote – made a visit to the camp.
“Today the headlines are about a government that doesn’t have scruples when it comes to offending and attacking the indigenous communities who are already on this land,” he said.
The response was huge cheers of “out with Bolsonaro” – but there are still six months until the elections. And this is Brazil – much can change in politics here, and the future of Brazil’s indigenous tribes is more uncertain than ever.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-61093258
Homes engulfed as deadly landslide hits Colombia
A landslide triggered by heavy rains has killed at least 14 people in central Colombia, officials say.
Another 35 people were now in hospital after several homes were engulfed in the Dosquebradas municipality, Risaralda province, on Tuesday.
The officials issued a photo showing a gash in the lush foliage covering a mountain overlooking the area.
Other residents living close to a swollen river nearby have been moved to safety.
Rescue teams have been searching in the mud for more survivors, Colombia’s disaster management officials said.
“A very loud noise scared us. We went out and saw a piece of the mountain on top of the houses,” taxi driver Dubernei Hernandez told the AFP news agency.
“I went to that place and it was a disaster, with people trapped.”
Mr Hernandez said he helped dig up two bodies and a survivor. At least five homes were buried by the mud, he added.
There are fears that the death toll will rise further.
Landslides are common in Colombia and houses built on steep hillsides are at particular risk during the country’s rainy season.
In 2019, at least 28 people were killed after a landslide hit the south-western Cauca province.
Two years earlier, more than 250 people were killed when a landslide hit the town of Mocoa, in the southern Putumayo province.
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