Deadly Riot Shows Paraguay Prisons Unprepared for PCC Onslaught

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Ten inmates in a Paraguay prison were killed by PCC gang members, in a brutal assault that makes clear that the small country’s penitentiary system cannot contain the powerful Brazil prison gang.

When the June 16 riot at San Pedro prison finally ended, authorities found a grisly scene left by the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), with six bodies decapitated and three others burned, EFE reported.

The PCC attack was aimed at a local rival gang called Clan Rotela, whose 13 remaining members were later transferred out of the prison, located in the central city of San Pedro de Ycuamandiyú. The bloody battle between the two gangs was over the sale and movement of drugs within the prison, officials said.

SEE ALSO: PCC News and Profiles

The PCC has wreaked havoc inside Paraguay’s prisons recently. In March, some 20 gang members rioted at a prison in Concepción, in the country’s north. A day later, officials deployed military forces to secure the perimeters of all the nation’s prisons, fearing more violence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Paraguay’s prisons lack the manpower and controls to hold PCC gang members, and prison officials are powerless to stop the group’s expansion within the country’s jails.

The powerful Brazilian drug gang has gained a foothold in neighboring Paraguay, moving drugs and weapons throughout the small Southern Cone country. As a result, the number of these gang members in Paraguay’s prisons has also surged.

They are now recruiting Paraguayan prisoners into their ranks. PCC inmates have begun to “baptize” new members inside the jails, according to a recent InSight Crime interview with Blas Martinez, the former national director of prisons in Paraguay. Martinez was dismissed in the wake of the PCC bloodletting.

Martinez said that 12 out of Paraguay’s 18 prisons currently have PCC presence, and some 250 gang members are currently jailed there. The number, however, could be as high as 400, Arnaldo Giuzzio, the head of Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas — SENAD), told InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay News and Profiles

Paraguay’s prisons are also overcrowded, holding about 15,600 inmates in facilities built for just 9,000. The prisons could hold up to 18,000 by year’s end, officials said. What’s more, the prisons lack basic maximum-security features, such as isolated cell blocks.

The PCC has used extreme violence in the past to gain control of Brazil’s prisons, a tactic Paraguay’s guards and penitentiary system are clearly not ready to handle. In 2017, for example, PCC gang members in a Brazil prison killed some two dozen inmates, decapitating and burning most of them, and even cutting out their hearts.

The assault in Paraguay also points to the group wanting to take over prison drug distribution, a key source of cash for the gang. In São Paulo’s prisons, the PCC may be raking in as much as 1.5 million reais (about $44,000) daily from drug sales, sources told InSight Crime.

Paraguay’s smaller prisons won’t offer the same revenue, but the gang may still see an opportunity to make some extra cash.

Just as the PCC met little resistance when it began making inroads into Paraguay, little stands in the way of the bloody gang’s expansion within the country’s prisons.

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