Brazil gang kills 31, many hacked to
death, as prison violence explodes
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[January 07, 2017]
By Pedro Fonseca and Brad Brooks
RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) -
Jailed members of Brazil'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 this week.
The bloodletting in the Monte Cristo prison in the Amazonian 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 spiraled out of control.
The PCC itself was targeted on Sunday in neighboring Amazonas state in
Brazil's worst prison slaughter in more than two decades.
In a cellphone video that circulated widely on social media,
self-described PCC members are seen hacking away at bodies littering an
outdoor patio inside the prison.
"You killed our brothers, didn't you? Look here, look what is going to
happen 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, bare-chested and wearing sky-blue surfer shorts, began to
move on the ground. The inmate taking 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 with a white-handled barbecue knife.
State officials said the riot in Roraima's largest prison was brought
under control by elite police forces. Earlier, authorities put the death
toll at 33 but by Friday evening lowered that figure to 31 dead.
Violence between rival drug gangs at the same jail had already led to 10
deaths in October.
Roraima's top security official Uziel de Castro blamed Friday's violence
at the state-run prison on the PCC. He later added that it was believed
most of the inmates killed Friday were not members of the group
responsible for this week's attack on the PCC in Amazonas and indeed had
no gang affiliations.
Justice Minister Alexandre Moraes insisted that the government had
control over Brazil's prison system - the fourth largest in world and
home to more than 620,000 inmates.
Security experts had predicted more violence in Brazil's gang-controlled
penitentiaries in the wake of Monday's massacre.
"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.
"We are paying the price for 50 years of total neglect of the
[to top of second column]
Riot police enter at the public jail in Manaus where some prisoners
were relocated after a deadly prison riot in Manaus, Brazil, January
6, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dantas
In Monday's 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 drug
gang, Brazil's second most powerful faction after PCC.
For more than two decades, PCC and Red Command maintained an uneasy
alliance, ensuring that 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.
Experts say PCC also has been moving to infiltrate areas in Red
Command's home base of Rio de Janeiro, further stoking a turf war
that threatens to spill onto the streets of Brazil's biggest cities.
Since the split, Red Command has allied itself with smaller regional
gangs to confront PCC, primarily in the north and northeast of
Brazil, where prison violence boiled over this week.
Alcadipani, the public security expert, said Brazil's penitentiary
system has been "self-regulated" by the gangs and that mass killings
were rare until recent months because of a truce between the
country's biggest criminal factions.
"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.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro, Brad Brooks and
Alexandre Caverni in Sao Paulo, and Alonso Soto in Brasilia; Writing
by Brad Brooks; Editing by Andrew Hay and Tom Brown)
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