Trail of slaughter in prisons shocks Brazilians as gang war explodes
‘Brazil is getting out of control’ warns police investigator after a series of horrific massacres by rival drug gangs sweeps the country’s penitentiaries.
The men on the prison roof laughed as they raised a hand-painted flag emblazoned with the initials of two of Brazil’s most dangerous drug gangs. In the yard below, other gang-members hacked the heads off prisoners from a rival mafia faction and lined them up in a row.
The horrific scenes were filmed on a mobile phone during a jail riot on 1 January in which 56 prisoners were butchered near the Amazon city of Manaus – the first in a string of violent incidents in Brazilian prisons this year.
The next day, four more inmates were killed at another prison in Manaus. Five days later, 33 prisoners died at a prison outside Boa Vista, in Roraima state in the far north of Brazil. Then, early on Sunday morning, four more prisoners were killed in another Manaus jail which had been reopened to accommodate prisoners transferred after the 1 January massacre.
In a country long used to violent crime, the savagery has appalled Brazilians: local media reports have included footage of of dismembered corpses, and messages scrawled in human blood.
Police and prosecutors have warned that a war between rival gangs to control Brazil’s lucrative drug trade has escalated to a new level of brutality – and there are signs that the battle has already moved from the country’s overwhelmed prison system to Rio de Janeiro, where it threatens to destabilise a city already reeling from a rise in violent crime.
“If security agents don’t exercise caution, there is a great chance of a bloody conflict happening all over Brazil,” Josmar Jozino, a journalist who has written extensively about organized crime, wrote on security site Ponte…