Brazil’s Drug Gangs Are Prepared To Go To War Over Bolsonaro’s Gun Crackdown (HBO)

Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, signed a temporary decree on Tuesday fulfilling a campaign promise to tackle the country’s epidemic of violence by making it easier for Brazilians to buy guns.

“I signed this decree, created by many upstanding people, so that at this first moment, upstanding citizens can have peace inside their homes,” Bolsonaro said at the signing ceremomy in the country’s capital, Brasília.

Bolsonaro, a conservative former Army captain, was sworn in as president on Jan. 1 after sweeping to power last year on a hard-line law-and-order platform, pledging to reduce the countrys record murder rate and booming trade in illegal drugs that fuels it.

On the main highway leading into Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Federal Highway Patrol or PRF say they’re confiscating record numbers of illegal guns and drugs. The officers patrolling the road seized 18 tons of drugs last year — a more than 300-percent increase from the year before.

“It’s a traditional route for drug traffickers – not just for drugs, but also heavy arms,” Alcino Galvao da Silva, Unit Leader of the Federal Highway Patrol, told VICE News. “Machine guns, bullets, marijuana, and cocaine… It has grown quite a bit, especially in Rio de Janeiro.”

“Johnny,” as he asked VICE News to call him, has been dealing drugs for the Third Command drug gang since he was 16 years-old. Now at 28 he manages all the drugs corners in the neighborhood and isn’t afraid to defend them by force.

“I can tell you that today I’ve got 35 homicides,” “Johnny” told VICE News. “Fear? We don’t have fear. That’s what we’re here for. To kill and die. We’ll die, but die fighting. It’s our war motto: Die fighting.”

Bolsonaros plan to “give guns to good people,” and ramp up the military’s role by giving security forces more power to shoot and kill armed criminals isn’t getting the drug gangs to drop their guns. Third Command says their stockpilling weapons of war.

“He’s going to take the world into an urban war,” “Johnny” told VICE News. “Instead of us killing the Red Command we’re going to go after the guy who is in the police who listened to one of Bolsonaro’s orders.”

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