Brazil: Inmates Set Each Other on Fire, over 100 Escape in New Year’s Prison Riot

Inmates who escaped during a riot at a Brazilian prison, the Complejo de Aparecida in Goias state, are seen being returned by guards in this photo released by Brazilian newspaper O Popular
O Popular/AFP Claudio REIS

Brazilian prison authorities are warning of further violence in the country’s prisons after another deadly riot broke out on New Year’s day, the Guardian has revealed.

The New Year’s day riot, which took place in the Colonia Agroindustrial prison in the central state of Goiás state, left nine dead and a further 14 injured after inmates invaded the cell block of rival gang members sparking deadly violence.

On entering the building, the inmates set fire to mattresses before burning the corpses of those they murdered. Around 106 inmates managed to escape during the ensuing chaos, while authorities only managed to recapture 29 of them. A further 127 inmates also escaped but returned to the prison voluntarily.

Police eventually contained the riot with the help of military forces two hours after it began. As it broke out, just four guards were responsible for 800 prisoners.

“It is a war, and I believe no side wants to appear weak. That is why it is dangerous,” said detective Myrian Vidal, head of the organized crime division for Goiás state.

Meanwhile, the president of the state’s prison guards union, Maxuell das Neves, warned that tensions in another prison in Goiás state had reached a “critical situation” that “could explode at any moment” and said that he had previously warned prison authorities of the risk.

“It was a predictable tragedy,” he added.

Brazil has experienced some of the most extreme cases of prison violence in the world, mainly as a result of tensions between the São Paulo-based gang First Capital Command (locally referred to as PCC) and its rival Red Command. The country also has a very large prison population of nearly 700,000 prisoners; around 36 percent are awaiting charges.

The latest riot comes a year after three successive prison riots killed over 100 prisoners in a matter of days. Violence initially broke out in a prison in the overcrowded Anisio Jobim Prison Complex in Manaus, where 56 prisoners were killed.

Just days later, further violence occurred at the Monte Cristo prison in Roraima state, while a further 26 people were killed during an inmate rebellion at Alcacuz prison in Rio Grande do Norte. All the riots involved extreme cases of violence, which included the tearing out of people’s hearts and the consequent grilling of people’s bodies.

The cases cast doubt on the effectiveness of Brazil’s penal system. Despite being one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, crime has soared in recent years while many prisons suffer from the effects of mass overcrowding, gang warfare and an overall lack of resources.

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