Brazilian police put down prison riot after deadly weekend | News | DW | 17.01.2017
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Brazilian police put down prison riot after deadly weekend

SWAT teams have quelled a riot at a prison where an uprising left 26 inmates dead over the weekend. Brazil has been hit by a series of prison revolts that have left some 140 inmates dead since the start of the year.

Brazilian police on Monday put down another riot at a prison where 26 inmates were murdered over the weekend in a violent drug gang turf war.

Several dozen inmates climbed onto the roof at Alcacuz prison near the northern city of Natal for most of the day, wielding knives and waving gang related banners.

SWAT teams then entered the prison "to get control of the situation," said Major Eduardo Franco, a police spokesman for the state of Rio Grande do Norte.

Five people suspected of being gang leaders behind the weekend's deadly riot were questioned. They will be transferred to other prisons, authorities said.

A prison riot between two rival gangs that broke out on Saturday left 26 prisoners at Alcacuz prison dead, many beheaded or mutilated. Police were unable to quell the violence until Sunday.

The weekend violence was the latest to hit Brazil's overcrowded prisons, where some 140 inmates have died in gang violence since the start of the year.

About 60 inmates were killed in a prison in the Amazonian city of Manaus on January 1. Another uprising in Roraima state on January 6 left 33 dead.

The violence is driven by rivalry between Brazil's biggest drug gang, the First Capital Command, and the second most powerful Red Command and its smaller allies, Brazilian media reported.

The two gangs for decades have had an uneasy cooperation moving cocaine and weapons from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia through Brazil and onto international markets. But about six months ago, First Capital Command moved to control all of the country's cocaine markets and trafficking routes, starting a major drug war.

Many of Brazil's prisons are strained by overcrowding and the presence of gangs, which are able to bring in drugs, guns and other contraband. Escapes and violence are common. 

In response to the escalating violence and overcrowding, Brazilian President Michel Temer announced earlier this month nearly $250 million (235 million euros) would be spent to build new prisons.

The justice ministry has also announced a raft of reforms, including speeding up hearings for about one-third of those imprisoned awaiting trial. Authorities also plan to separate violent criminals from non-violent criminals.

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