Authorities knew about Brazil prison breakout: Minister

Brasilia, Jan 5 (IANS) Brazilian Justice Minister said that local authorities were aware of the planned prison breakout in the state of Amazonas but did not inform the federal government, the media reported.

On Wednesday, Alexandre de Moraes was speaking about the riot at the state’s Anisio Jobim penitentiary complex which killed 56 prisoners on Sunday, making it the second deadliest prison riot in Brazilian history since the Carandiru massacre in 1992 killed 111 people, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The information was received through intelligence reports. It is not mandatory to pass an intelligence report on to the federal government. The state government (of Amazonas) said it took all measures to prevent the breakout,” the minister said.

de Moraes confirmed that the federal government had no prior knowledge about the riot, which lasted around 17 hours.

In the riot, 184 inmates also escaped on Sunday, although 56 had been recaptured by Tuesday night.

Many of those killed belonged to the Primer Comando de la Capital (First Command of the Capital), which is the largest Brazilian criminal organisation. Their killers belonged to rival Familia del Norte gang.

“The reasons (for the riot) are being investigated by police. We can say a number of errors took place. If not, what happened would never have happened,” said de Moraes.

He also said high-calibre weapons, machetes and mobile phones were found within the prison complex, due to faults committed by the company responsible for controlling access to the prison.

The Justice Minister said investigators would seek to discover if the riot and killings were ordered in order to allow the heads of criminal gangs to escape.