Beheaded Inmates, Pools of Blood in Brazil Prison Riot
Graphic images of a massacre that left 56 dead in a prison in Manaus, northern Brazil, this week have surfaced, reportedly taken by prisoners themselves, showing bodies left in pools of blood and decapitated heads lined up on the floor.
The incident occurred on January 1 at the Anisio Jobim Prison Complex of Manaus (Compaj), a 17-hour riot in which at least six people were beheaded and the prisoners instigating the fight tossed bodies over the gates of the prison. Prisoners took hostages, and many escaped, while news of the riot triggered smaller uprisings in another nearby penitentiary: the Antonio Trindade Penal Institute (Ipat).
The Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo has published a video, allegedly taken by inmates, showing some of the graphic scenes within Compaj following the massacre. At least three severed heads are feature prominently, lying in a pool of blood, as well as a pile of bodies. Folha says they confirmed with authorities that the images are legitimate. The narrator of the video identifies the severed heads as late members of the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) gang.
The Agence-France Presse also documented the aftermath of the slaughter, including workers carrying piles of bodies away on carts.
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports that at least 184 prisoners are on the loose, 112 from Compaj and 72 from Ipat.
Folha notes in a separate report that Compaj had a bad reputation long before the events of the past weekend, particularly regarding its treatment of inmates. The government had issued a “terrible” rating for the prison due to “lack of access to legal, educational, social, or medical assistance” last year.
O Globo is also reporting that Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes has denied initial reports that the riot began as part of a fight between rival gangs. Amazonas Public Safety Secretary Sergio Fontes, in charge of the prisons in the state where the riots occurred, claimed that those involved in the riot were members of the rival Familia do Norte (FDN) and PCC gangs and that they were “fighting for money.”
Fontes added that the riot occurred due to disagreements on which gang would control the drug trade within the prison and that it lasted 17 hours because security forces could not enter the complex due to the riot’s “unpredictable” nature.
Asked about Fontes’s comments, de Moraes said that his claim of gang rivalry being the cause of the massacre was “an error that we cannot comment, to claim in a simplistic way that this massacre and these uprisings are simply gang warfare.”
“Of the 56 dead here, more than half had no ties with any gang,” he asserted. “This is something that had not been divulged precisely because a simple explanation is easier.” He confirmed that the prison was “back to normal” and now “the focus is the ongoing investigation.”
Fontes and de Moraes appeared to agree that most of the investigation, including recapturing fugitives, would occur before the end of the week. Fontes said that fifty fugitives had already been captured. The federal government is also preparing a national census of prisoners to ensure they can account for all those imprisoned in the country. Folha estimates Brazil’s prison population to be around 600,000.