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Nights are busy for São Paulo's ambulances
Nights are busy for São Paulo's ambulances
Laura Capriglione

TABOÃO DA SERRA - It was Tuesday, 2 a.m., and D. was lying on her sofa, trying to get some sleep. Bang...Bang...Bang. “It sounded like somebody was shooting inside here,” she recalled.

D. crouched, waited for the shots to stop, and left home to check the street. She opened the front door and, three meters away, lay her friend Fernando Pereira de Melo, 23, eyes wide open: the spear-shaped spiky edge of his home’s front gate sticking through his throat.

“Fernandooooooo..." Her scream froze the late night. Her friend took a glance at her one last time, moaned and died.

The self-employed Melo was born and raised in this same neighborhood of Taboão da Serra, a town in São Paulo’s suburbs. He was known for his friendliness. "If he ran into me ten times, he would greet me ten times”, a neighbor says. His grandmother lives on the same street where he died -- all the neighbors are sure he was not involved in any kind of criminal activity.

His death is just one of several cases to hit the towns surrounding to São Paulo ever since a police officer was killed last week nearby. There are strong rumors that there is a war between the police and a criminal organization called “PCC”, the largest in São Paulo state.

The state has put an extra 15,000 officers on the streets, beyond the regular 30,000. The government denies there is a war. “We are just responding to the peaks of criminality”, says police chief Roberval França. However, other individual officers told Folha anonymously that there is a list of 48 officers on a PCC hit list.

No witnesses

The crimes show signals of revenge. Officer Hélio Miguel de Barros, 36, died after being shot 15 times at around 9:50 P.M. on Tuesday, his day off, also in Taboão da Serra. Other crimes have occurred in the coastal towns of Santos and Guarujá, about one hour from São Paulo.

Luckier than Melo were his two friends, who managed to escape from the attack. One of them was shot five times, but was able to run away and is now in the hospital, but expected to survive. The other friend hid under a car. Nobody, however, saw what happened.

When Melo tried to jump over D.’s gate, he was shot on the back, hip and elbow, falling onto the spiky edge. His mother, who lives nearby, found his body hanging on the gate. She tried to take him off, but the police officers kept her away. “Murderers! You killed my son,” she screamed until she fainted.

D. and his friends were told by the cops not to leave home after 10 p.m. Other young men got the same warning in other places where crimes have occurred. One location to be avoided was in front of a school in Jardim Clementino, in Taboão da Serra, where three men and one woman were shot — two of them died.

In a small circle, the teenage daughter of Camila Grossi Monteiro, 30, who was shot in the neck, shoulder and arm, was talking to her school friends when Folha’s car approached.

A girl ran away, in fear. Later, after calming down a bit, she came back to talk. "Now we have to stay at home, like in prison," she said. "Is this justice?”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

Putin arrives for a ceremony to accept credentials from 24 foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 20.

Sergiy Gromenko*

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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