Brazil’s government has ordered the armed forces to help secure the country’s overcrowded jails as police fought to separate rival gangs of inmates in one prison following a massacre.
Inmates climbed on the roof and set up barriers of furniture in a northeastern jail inhabited by warring rival drug gangs vowing to behead each other. Police fired rubber bullets to try to keep apart two rival factions, sending the inmates fleeing in panic and drawing screams from their relatives gathered outside the prison walls.
A total of 26 prisoners were killed in a bloodbath at the weekend in the facility, the Alcacuz jail near the northeastern city of Natal. Two days later, crowds of prisoners were still loose in the open air between the prison blocks and the outer walls of the complex. Television images showed inmates sharpening machetes. The governor of the surrounding Rio Grande do Norte state, Robinson Faria, said authorities were working to stop the prisoners escaping from Alcacuz.
After a series of violent prison riots, President Michel Temer “made the armed forces available to the states” to secure their jails, a presidential spokesman said yesterday. The defense ministry has scheduled a meeting today to present an action plan.
Experts say the violence is part of a war between drug gangs battling for control of the cocaine trade in Brazil, a key trafficking route to Europe. The Natal riot was thought to have been a clash between Brazil’s biggest drug gang, the First Capital Command (PCC), and a rival called Crime Syndicate.
“The PCC is defying not only the state but also the regional crime cartels in its efforts to control the drug trade,” Faria said.
Gathered outside the jail, prisoners’ relatives said members of Crime Syndicate were trying to break into a prison block to attack PCC members. One female relative showed AFP a video sent to her by her partner, an inmate in the jail.
“We have just one desire and that is to rip the heads off the PCC, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he shouted.
“We’re not going to let those bastards lay down the law on our turf.”