SAO PAULO, AFP
A simultaneous rebellion in 29 prisons across Brazil’s largest state that left 16 inmates dead also soiled Brazil’s international image, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said Monday.
“We are more indignant than anyone,” Cardoso said after authorities put down a rebellion of some 13,000 inmates at 29 prisons in Sao Paulo state rioted and freed more than 5,000 hostages.
It was the biggest uprising in Brazilian prison history.
Sixteen inmates were killed, and 50 people were wounded in simultaneous mutinies orchestrated from Carandiru, Latin America’s largest prison, which holds 9,700 inmates.
“The uprising is over at Carandiru prison,” Daniela Cecilia Silva, a coordinator of jail religious services, told AFP by phone earlier Monday.
The entire system was brought under control later Monday, as rebels at the Pirajui and Ribeirao Preto penitentiaries in central Sao Paulo state finally capitulated.
However, searches for weapons and any hostages who may still be inside the prisons will resume Tuesday, with human rights organizations to play a key role on the committees responsible for those searches.
Police said the coordinated uprising, to coincide with the weekly Sunday visits by inmates’ families, was orchestrated by members of the drug-trafficking First Capital Commando, known by its Portuguese acronym PCC.
The state’s Security Secretary Marco Vinicio Petreluzzi insisted that though negotiations had been held with the rioting prisoners, they were geared only to establishing how troops would enter and exit the jails.
“Negotiations were not carried out to attend to the unacceptable demands” of the PCC, Petreluzzi insisted.
He said most of the prisoners who died were killed by their fellow inmates.
The PCC, which has been operating for about eight years, controls drug trafficking in state prisons, coercing inmates who do not join to pay fines, and killing those who betray it.
Inmates entering the organization reportedly have to pledge allegiance by cutting off a finger.
An estimated 8,000 rebels took 6,000 hostages, mostly women and children, at Carandiru according to police, where the PCC motto “Peace, Justice, Liberty” was written in large white letters across the football pitch.
Seven of the fatalities occurred in the Carandiru complex.
Sao Paulo’s public security chief, Marco Vinicio Petreluzzi, blamed poor search procedures and mass corruption for the inmates’ ability to get hold of various weapons, including grenades, and cell phones enabling them to coordinate the massive revolt.
Prison officials said the rioting, which started around noon (1500 GMT) Sunday, was orchestrated by PCC, which demanded that 10 of its leaders be moved back to Carandiru from prisons in Rio de Janeiro state, where they had been taken Friday.
Their removal from Carandiru came following five inmate assassinations last week, said to have been ordered by the gang, police said.
A commission to oversee the treatment of inmates at Carandiru was among the conditions agreed to Monday to end the uprising.
Led by leftist Senator Eduardo Suplicy, the commission will also be made up of police deputies and representatives from nongovernmental organizations.