Prison Massacre Charges Highlight Source of Brazil Security Crisis

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Prosecutors in Brazil have charged more than 200 inmates in connection to one of the country’s bloodiest prison massacres in recent years, as the security situation on the ground continues to deteriorate and macabre details of the uprising come to light.

On November 24, the Attorney General’s Office for Brazil’s northwest Amazonas state (Ministério Público do Estado do Amazonas – MP-AM) issued a press release detailing charges against 213 inmates for their involvement in the January 2017 Anísio Jobim prison massacre that left 56 inmates dead.

The violence was part of a feud between two prison gangs, the Family of the North (Família do Norte – FDN) and the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC). The two groups are reportedly battling for control over the drug trade in Brazil’s Amazon region.

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Prosecutors charged the defendants with murder, torture, desecration of a corpse and illicit association, according to the press release.

Following the unveiling of the charges, prosecutors also revealed some gruesome details of the massacre. According to the criminal complaint, captured FDN and PCC members who unsuccessfully tried to escape the carnage were allegedly forced to eat the eyeballs of inmates who had been killed that day, Estadão reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

Many of the discussions regarding Brazil’s deteriorating security situation – which President Michel Temer recently dubbed a “national emergency” – have focused on the recent battle between rival criminal groups that has left one of the country’s largest favelas in a “state of siege.” But the latest criminal charges are a stark reminder of the country’s ongoing crisis in the jails, which is arguably the main source of insecurity.

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To be sure, 2016 ended with a series of deadly clashes within Brazil’s prisons sparked by the end of a fragile alliance between the PCC and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV), both of which were born in the prison system. The first week of 2017 followed with nearly 100 inmates killed as part of the unfolding gang war.

While Brazil’s prison system has notoriously been overcrowded and underfunded, the PCC-Red Command alliance had long established order within them. The breakdown of this alliance will most likely continue to spill onto the streets and further jeopardize security.

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