The fugitives are part of Bonde dos 13, a criminal faction linked to the First Command of the Capital. The previous day, 76 PCC detainees had escaped from the Pedro Juan Caballero penitentiary, Paraguay, bordering Brazil – some through a tunnel, others through the front door, assisted by the prison officials themselves corrupted by the São Paulo faction.
The two massive escapes inaugurated yet another tumultuous January in Brazilian prisons, a sign of the seasonality of prison incidents amid the chronic overcrowding of prisons. A simple search on the Google Trends tool shows that, from 2016 to 2020, interest in the expression “rebellion” is above average in the months of January, August and October, and that they coincide with temporary detainees’ exits. The Criminal Executions Law provides that prisoners under semi-open conditions are entitled to five temporary exits each year – each exit lasts up to seven calendar days. The dates are different in each state, but in general they coincide with commemorative dates and holidays related to religiosity or family, such as Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, Children’s Day or All Souls Day and Christmas.
Renato Sérgio de Lima, president-director of the Brazilian Public Security Forum, says that prisoners take advantage of these opportunities to communicate with members of their group who are on the streets. Then, they return to prison with new information, the so-called “salves”, such as debts of other detainees, orders to be fulfilled or changes in leadership positions within the prison. “The environment is tense and, depending on the reactions of the prison management before or after exits, the jail turns, as they say.”
In January, there is an aggravating factor: the month is traditionally a holiday for civil servants, including those linked to public security and prison administration, as was the case in Acre this month. Not by chance, the bloodiest rebellions in Brazilian prisons in recent years occurred in the first month of the year, in the case of the riot in January 2017 at the Anísio Jobim Penitentiary Complex, Compaj, in Manaus, when 56 prisoners, the majority linked to the PCC were murdered by members of the rival Northern Family, FDN. Consultation of Piauí the Fonte Segura bulletin, from the Brazilian Public Security Forum, counted 62 rebellions in Brazilian and Paraguayan prisons and prisons in the months of January 2016 to 2020, with a balance of 472 fugitives, 143 dead, 71 wounded and 27 hostages. Paraná leads in number of rebellions in January: there were 12 in the period from 2015 to 2019, followed by Goiás, with seven 7.
Sociologist Eduardo Matos de Alencar, author of the book “Who’s Command ?: the Challenge of Governing a Prison in Brazil”, Points out that, at the beginning of each year, changes in the tense relationship between the prison mass and the direction of prisons are common. “The assumption of a more rigorous director in the magazines, changes of an administrative nature that diminish surveillance or simply the increase in heat in overcrowded cells in January are factors that can contribute to increase the risk of problems of this nature.” Prison agents from Acre heard by the report confirm the diagnosis of the specialists. “That’s when the prison directors take a vacation,” said one.
In August there were 82 rebellions in prisons in the country from 2015 to 2019 and, in October, 63 revolts. The two months coincide with dates when there are usually temporary departures: Father’s Day and Children’s Day, respectively. “This prevalence of prison rebellions in January, August and October calls attention to the fact that, in criminal policies, there is a systemic crisis that has gone beyond the dimension of overcrowding and prison conditions. We have legal issues, psychosocial aspects, prison management, the dynamics of the daily functioning of prisons, the relationship between the State and criminal organizations and, above all, misalignment of expectations. Prisons offer no prospect of the future and, at the beginning of each year, this gains strength, is dramatized ”, says Lima.
In Pedro Juan Caballero, everything indicates that the mass flight of the last 19 days – forty Brazilians and 36 Paraguayans – was caused by another factor: the corruption of public authorities in the neighboring country. At the request of the Public Ministry, the Justice ordered the arrest of the director of the penitentiary and thirty employees, accused of facilitating the escape in exchange for bribes in the sum of US $ 80 thousand (R $ 330 thousand). Worn out, Paraguay’s Deputy Minister of Criminal Policy, Hugo Volpe, resigned from office on the 20th.
The flight reinforced the army that the PCC has in Paraguay: there are about five hundred members of the São Paulo faction in the neighboring country, according to an estimate by the Public Ministry of São Paulo. The PCC began to control drug trafficking along the Pedro Juan Caballero-Ponta Porã axis after sponsoring the attack that killed the region’s greatest criminal leader, Jorge Rafaat Toumani, known as the “border king”, in 2016. Of those who fled of Pedro Juan penitentiary, most are linked to two well-known members of the PCC based in the region: Sérgio de Arruda Quintiliano, Minotauro, arrested in Santa Catarina in February 2018, and Levi Adriano Felício, detained last October by the Paraguayan police in Assumption. Felício is Rodrigo Felício’s brother, Tico, the PCC’s greatest leadership in the interior of São Paulo. The Federal Police and the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) investigate whether there is a relationship between the escapes of Pedro Juan Caballero and Rio Branco.
THE The loss of the Paraguay-São Paulo route to the PCC led the Comando Vermelho to migrate to the North of the country, in search of alternative ways to transport cocaine from Peru and Bolivia to its profitable points of sale on the hills of Rio de Janeiro. As it borders precisely these two countries, Acre, the scene of the flight of the 20th, became the new mecca of the CV. “This race to the North has become a survival strategy for the faction to guarantee access to cocaine”, says prosecutor Bernardo Albano, from the Acre Special Action Group to Combat Organized Crime (Gaeco).
When advancing on acriano soil, however, the faction found the Bonde dos 13, or B13, gang linked to the PCC. Violence exploded in the state: dand according to the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in 2017, Acre had the second highest homicide rate in the country last year, with 63.9 violent deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants, just behind Rio Grande do Norte (67.2 deaths per 100 thousand people). Across the country, that rate was 30.9. Two days before the flight of the 26 detainees, seven people linked to the Comando Vermelho were victims of a slaughter on the outskirts of Rio Branco.
The mass flight of B13 prisoners and the serial killings was accompanied by the dissemination, through the WhatsApp application, of a supposed “save” attributed to the CV, directing residents of the capital not to leave their homes. “We are going to warn you[r] to all the inhabitants of rio branco do not leave their homes today the war has started we are not killing innocent people who come by bus very careful rio Branco will be small today so we are giving curfew to all so that the innocent will die in this war. After 19:00 the war begins against the Germans ”, informed the“ general warning ”.
Result: it was a little after 9 pm on Monday, January 20, and Rio Branco, with 407 thousand inhabitants, looked like a ghost town. From the Center to the noblest areas, all the buildings had their doors and windows locked. The Public Security Secretariat did not release a note asking the population to disregard the curfew, stating that policing had been reinforced in the capital. Nor the disclosure of a second “save”, whose authorship was assumed by the CV, denying that he was the author of the previous message.
Police officers heard by the report say that the Rio faction already has the domain of almost 90% of the Acrian territory. The peak of this achievement occurred at the end of last year, when the CV announced the takeover of Cruzeiro do Sul, the second largest city in Acre. The municipality is on the border with Peru, where the rivers that cross the region are born. It is in the Peruvian Amazon jungle where the largest laboratories for the production of cocaine are found. In the middle of the forest are also the CV camps that receive and distribute the Peruvian drug. Riverside and indigenous communities started to live with these new forest dwellers. Governor Cameli is enthusiastic about building a highway connecting Cruzeiro do Sul to the Peruvian city of Pucallpa. If it leaves the paper, the road will certainly facilitate the flow of cocaine by Comando Vermelho.
In December, the Piauí showed the domain of CV under the city of Tarauacá, halfway between Rio Branco and Cruzeiro do Sul, which led hundreds of young members of the B13 (PCC) to “accept Jesus as the Lord of their lives” in an evangelical church in the city or move to the CV. It was the only way to get out of the impending conflict alive – which, in the face of the surrender of the minority faction, ended up not happening.
As of Tuesday (28), at least nine prisoners had been recaptured and seventeen were still on the run. In 2018, Cameli and Rocha had as one of the main campaign flags to end the security crisis, promising to “return peace to society”. In one of the electoral programs – now resurrected – Major Rocha said that it would give a “security shock”. “In the first months, the population will feel the difference”, said the candidate for vice.
A week after the mass flight from the Rio Branco penitentiary, the 1 912 prisoners who remained on the scene serving time in the closed regime started a hunger strike in protest against the reduction in visiting hours and the removal of TV sets, fans and cell refrigerators. In the negotiations, the government decided to comply only with the claim to improve the medical care service for prisoners. The hunger strike has ended.