Brazilian prison out of control: Governor

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 20 (IANS) The situation inside the Alcaçuz prison, the largest in the Brazilian city of Natal, is “out of control” after the latest clash between rival groups of inmates, the Governor of Rio Grande do Norte state, Robinson Faria, admitted on Thursday.

EFE news quoted the Governor as saying that he had asked the federal government to send the armed forces on Thursday to try and halt the “war” being waged inside Alcaçuz, which was “taken over” by inmates on Saturday.

“They’re setting fire to buses in reprisal for the separation of the factions in the prisons. The two bands are taking reprisals against the government. The situation is much more serious than yesterday. We need immediate help,” Faria said on Thursday in remarks to local CBN radio.

The incidents at the prison began on Saturday, when 26 inmates, most of them members of the Rio Grande do Norte Crime Syndicate (SDC), were killed on the orders of the First Commando of the Capital (PCC), the two criminal organisations that are facing off.

Police on Wednesday night gained access to the prison and authorities ordered the transfer of 200 inmates in a move to end the violence, but the clashes continued on Thursday and officials admit that more prisoners were killed, although no concrete figures have been provided.

According to aerial images taken by local television stations, the prisoners are separated by a barricade fashioned of mattresses and wood in the prison yard, but a group of inmates tore part of it down and a pitched battle between the factions broke out.

Police tried to contain the violence by firing rubber bullets and tear gas from watchtowers.

Several inmates were injured and had to be removed in carts by other prisoners.

The fighting between the criminal groups spilled over into the streets of several cities in Rio Grande do Norte on Thursday morning in a wave of attacks on buses and police stations.

Faria said this week that if police entered the prison there could be a repeat of the Carandiru episode, referring to the 1992 deaths of 111 prisoners at that prison, most of them killed by police gunfire.

Now, however, the Governor has expressed confidence that the armed forces can guarantee security in the streets and the police can end the violence within Alcaçuz.