Things That Matter

This Massive Prison Riot In Brazil Is Making Headlines Around The World For How Gruesome It Was

At least 57 inmates died, 16 of whom were decapitated, in a prison riot that broke out on Monday morning in the northern Brazilian state of Para – the latest in a series of deadly clashes.

Authorities said the riot involved rival criminal gangs who took at least two penitentiary officers hostage as they battled one another.

Nearly 60 people have been killed after a prison riot in Brazil.

Officials said a local drug gang had invaded the wing controlled by its rivals in the city of Altamira in the state of Pará, decapitated 16 prisoners and set mattresses on fire, with dozens more thought to have been asphyxiated in the smoke.

Security specialists blamed a war across the Amazon region for control of the lucrative drug trade, which is also believed to have been the reason for the killing of 56 prisoners in a prison in the Amazon city of Manaus in 2017 and a series of bloody revenge killings that ensued.

Sixteen of the inmates who died were killed by decapitation.

Videos circulating online showed inmates at the prison celebrating as they kicked decapitated heads across the floor.

Authorities also say that inmates set fire to the prison killing dozens more.

Prisoners belonging to the Comando Classe A gang set fire to a cell containing inmates from the rival Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, gang, Para’s state government said in a statement.

Most of the dead died in the fire, they said, while two guards were taken hostage, but later released.

The state government says that the riot started after a brawl broke out between rival gangs.

As Brazil’s incarcerated population has surged eight-fold in three decades to around 750,000 inmates – the world’s third-highest – its prison gangs have come to wield vast power that reaches far beyond prison walls.

Prison gangs originally formed to protect inmates and advocate for better conditions, but have come to wield vast power that reaches far beyond prison walls. The gangs have been linked to bank heists, drug trafficking and gun-running, with jailed kingpins presiding over criminal empires via smuggled cellphones.

In the country’s violent northeast, prison gangs have grown powerful by moving cocaine from Colombia and Peru along the Amazon’s waterways to the Atlantic coast, where it heads to Africa and Europe. Murderous disputes often arise as they clash over territorial control.

The Red Command hails from Rio de Janeiro, but has expanded deep into northernBrazilas it seeks to diversify its income. That expansion has often led to confrontations with Brazil’s largest and most powerful gang, the First Capital Command, headquartered in Sao Paulo.

The Comando Classe A gang is seen as a relatively small gang, and is little known outside Para. Its high-profile attack against the Red Command could give it a nationwide reputation.

And this riot is just one of many in a recent outbreak of intense prison violence.

Elected on a tough-on-crime message, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has benefited from a sharp drop in homicides so far this year. Nonetheless, endemic prison violence has been a stubborn public security challenge in one of the world’s most violent countries.

In May, at least 55 inmates died during prison attacks in the northern state of Amazonas. Weeks of violence in Amazonas in 2017 resulted in 150 prison deaths as local gangs backed by Brazil’s two largest drug factions went to war.

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