Thirty-one inmates were slain Friday in northern Brazil, some with their hearts and intestines ripped out, during a prison killing spree led by the country’s largest gang, authorities said.
The bloodshed comes just days after 60 inmates were killed during rioting at two prisons in a neighboring state and it increases fears that violence could spread, including to the streets of major cities, as gangs vie for influence and territory both inside prisons and in slums where trafficking operations are often based.
It’s also becoming a flashpoint for the government of President Michel Temer, whose administration is already struggling with an economic crisis and mounting corruption allegations. Authorities of the state of Roraima, on the border with Venezuela, said they requested help from Brazil’s federal government more than once to deal with its prison crisis, but no support was sent.
“This is a national crisis,” said Uziel Castro, security secretary of the state where the latest massacre happened.
Castro said the slaying spree began around 2:30 a.m. Friday at the Agricultural Penitentiary of Monte Cristo in the town of Boa Vista. He said it was led by members of Sao Paulo-based First Command, Brazil’s biggest criminal organization.
He said First Command members did not attack members of a rival gang, but rather other prisoners, for motives that were not yet clear.
“There was no confrontation, this was a killing spree,” said Castro. “It was barbaric. Some were beheaded, others had their hearts or intestines ripped out.”
Castro said firearms were not involved, and none of the 1,500 inmates in the prison built for about 700 had escaped.