Throughout the Americas, prison gangs have learned to establish governance over street-level actors. The leading example is Brazil’s Primerio Comando da Capital (PCC), which since 2001 imposes a peaceful social order throughout the São Paulo urban periphery. Its recent expansion into every state in Brazil has triggered the rise of local prison gangs that emulate and often confront the PCC. The ensuing "scramble for Brazil" is reshaping criminal markets across the country. The PCC's superior organization and bureaucratic structure give it technological advantages over local rivals and Rio's older and cruder Comando Vermelho, making it the largest criminal group in the country. However, It has also faced setbacks and resistance, seriously impeding its imperial ambition. Lessing explores a series of explanatory hypotheses, including the role of state policy, concluding that the Comando Vermelho's more charismatic style of rule has proven resilient despite its inefficiency, because is ultimately better suited to the criminal enterprise.



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