Brazil’s largest drug gang, the PCC, is strengthening its links to Lebanese group Hezbollah. The two groups are working together to jointly strengthen their financial power through goods trafficking. The PCC reportedly smuggles drugs and arms to the Lebanese paramilitary group, plus electronic products, cigarettes, clothing and fuel.
This information comes from a new report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD). A non-governmental organization based in the US, the FDD works to combat terrorist groups. Its report adds to evidence from unpublished reports and interviews with members of national and foreign security forces.
The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime has noted in recent years that Brazilian gangs dominate South America’s drug trafficking. But evidence of the alliance between the PCC and Hezbollah strengthens both finances and power of both groups.
Growing PCC power
Some want the PCC to be considered as an international criminal gang, rather than a domestic Brazilian problem. Authorities believe the PCC, based in Sao Paulo, now has approximately 20,000 members. Its annual budget is an estimated 20m BRL.
The PCC has expanded rapidly over the last decade, with factions now in Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. And it hasn’t just taken advantage of Brazil’s 15,700 kilometers of land borders. The country’s 7,300 kilometer-long coastline has facilitated the PCC’s smuggling routes to Europe and the Middle East.
It costs 10,000 BRL to purchase 1kg of cocaine in Bolivia, but the PCC can sell that for 20,000 BRL in Brazil. If mixed with other products, the gang can make 180,000 BRL from the same amount. Researchers say that Hezbollah can buy cocaine for the price it is sold for in Brazil, favorable for both parties.
Other sources of profit
The PCC also profits off goods and trades that are entirely legal under Brazilian law. Arms trafficking is one such lucrative area that the gang is able to take advantage of, due to lax legislation.
A lack of monitoring and restriction around Brazilian-made arms mean weapons often wind up in unauthorized hands. An investigation by Brazilian prosecutors last year found weapons from manufacturer Taurus being used in Yemen’s civil war. While legislators are working with a proposed bill to restrict this type of activity, it has been circulating for more than a year with no progress.
Meanwhile, other smuggled goods such as cigarettes are also denting Brazil’s economy. The National Forum Against Piracy and Illegality (FNCP) said that cigarette smuggling alone can siphon 8.8bn BRL off Brazil’s economy. The FNCP’s 2016 study showed that piracy and tax evasion from the entry of illegal products into Brazil generated a loss of 130bn BRL.