PRISON

Inmates beheaded, hearts and intestines ripped out during Brazil’s latest ‘barbaric’ prison riot

Deadly prison riots have intensified since a truce broke down in July between the PCC and their major rival, the Red Command

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 8:46pm

Brazil has been rocked by its second grisly prison massacre in the space of a week, after jailed embers of the country’s most powerful drug gang killed 31 inmates at a penitentiary on Friday, decapitating and cutting out the hearts of most of them, in revenge for a separate prison massacre that left 56 dead earlier in the week.

The blood-letting in the Monte Cristo prison in the state of Roraima, carried out by members of the First Capital Command (PCC) gang, sparked fears that months of violence between criminal groups controlling Brazil’s prisons had spiralled out of control. Deadly prison riots have intensified since a truce broke down in July between the PCC and their major rival, the Red Command.

It was barbaric. Some were beheaded, others had their hearts or intestines ripped out
Uziel Castro, state security secretary

“This is a national crisis,” said Uziel Castro, security secretary of the state where the latest massacre happened. “There was no confrontation, this was a killing spree. It was barbaric. Some were beheaded, others had their hearts or intestines ripped out.”

The PCC was targeted last Sunday in neighbouring Amazonas state in Brazil’s worst prison slaughter in more than two decades. A cellphone video from the latest massacre in Monte Cristo showed self-described PCC members hacking away at bodies.

“You killed our brothers, didn’t you? This is revenge for what you did to our brothers,” a PCC member is heard saying on the video as dozens of bodies lie in thick pools of blood.

One victim began to move on the ground. The inmate recording the video calls out to fellow gang members “We’ve got a live one!” before another gang member rushes over and cuts off the victim’s head. 

“It’s getting really ugly. This situation is clearly snowballing and there is nothing the government can do to stop the violence in the short term,” said Rafael Alcadipani, a public security expert at the Getulio Vargas Foundation think tank in Sao Paulo.

In the earlier uprising, PCC members were attacked by the North Family drug faction, which controls the Anisio Jobim penitentiary in Amazonas, according to officials. North Family is believed to dominate cocaine traffic in Amazonas from Colombia and Peru, according to authorities. The group is allied with the Rio de Janeiro-based Red Command, Brazil’s second-most powerful faction after PCC.

For more than two decades, PCC and Red Command maintained an uneasy alliance, ensuring a steady flow of drugs and guns flowed across Brazil’s long jungle border. But about six months ago PCC and Red Command split, as PCC moved to take control of lucrative drug routes across the border with Paraguay and become Brazil’s dominant gang.

Alcadipani said Brazil’s prison system has been “self-regulated” by gangs and that mass killings were rare until the truce collapsed.

“But we see that as soon as we have a gang war, these killings are inevitably going to happen because the state has no control over the prisons,” said Alcadipani. “We are paying the price for 50 years of total neglect of the penitentiary system.”

Brazil’s inmate population has been swollen by efforts to crack down on a violent and lucrative drug trade.

The country’s jails hold 622,000 inmates, mostly young black men, according to a 2014 justice ministry report, which found that 50 percent more capacity was needed.

After facing criticism for his slow reaction to the Manaus riot, President Michel Temer released a statement on Friday saying he “deplores” the latest killings.

On Thursday, he announced the federal government would spend US$250 million to build at least one new prison in each of Brazil’s 26 states.

But that fails to address the root problem, said sociologist Camila Nunes of the Federal University of ABC in Sao Paulo.

Brazil needs “medium- and long-term policies to reduce the vulnerability of certain social groups, to prioritize prevention rather than repression,” she said.

“Supposedly instant solutions like the one that was announced ... will not solve the problem. They will just placate public opinion until there’s another tragedy.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse