Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Brazilian gangsters kidnap reporter to press jail demand


Brazil's most notorious organized crime group kidnapped a TV reporter and forced his station to broadcast a video in which the gang calls for improvements in the country's prison system.

The prison-based First Capital Command, or PCC, whose leaders have been accused of ordering recent waves of violence in Sao Paulo, said it would release the reporter only after the showing of the video on Globo, Brazil's most watched TV channel.

Globo interrupted its regular programming early on Sunday to broadcast the video in which an armed and hooded man read a PCC statement criticizing the prison system and demanding reviews of sentences.

The PCC said this was "the only way we found to transmit an announcement to society and the governing officials."

Globo showed parts of the video again on Sunday night in a news report and repeated the PCC demands. The station said it expected the reporter, 30-year-old Guilherme Portanova, to be immediately released.

The video, recorded on a DVD, was taken to Globo by a technician who also was kidnapped along with the reporter on Saturday at a restaurant near Globo's headquarters in Sao Paulo.

The Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department declined to comment.

Globo said in a statement later on Sunday that it only showed the video after consulting with the Belgium-based International News Safety Institute and the risk-assessment firm called The AKE Group, saying it was advised to make the broadcast because of the urgency of the situation.

The same tape had been anonymously delivered earlier in the week to a different TV station, which decided not to broadcast it.

The technician, 27-year-old Alexandre Coelho Calado, was freed and later said he was separated from Portanova soon after they were captured.

He was told that "your friend will die if you don't play our tape on TV," the Agencia Estado news service reported.

Police later released the sketch of three men suspected of participating in the kidnapping.

The PCC said in the video that "Brazil's penal system is actually a human deposit, in which human beings are thrown as if they were animals."

The group complained about a law that keeps some inmates from having contact with other prisoners and from having access to radio, television and people on the outside, calling it "cruel punishment."

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