Matéria do jornal mais lido nos Estados Unidos critica declarações de governantes e desrespeito aos direitos humanos
A series of violent episodes at an overcrowded prison, and video showing inmates gloating over three decapitation victims during a riot there in December, are focusing scrutiny on the deteriorating security situation in Maranhão State, the bastion of one of Brazil’s most powerful political families.
Nearly 60 inmates were killed in 2013 at the Pedrinhas prison in Maranhão, an impoverished state governed by Roseana Sarney, the daughter of former President José Sarney. A judge investigating conditions at Pedrinhas said in December that the leaders of criminal gangs operating in the prison were raping inmates’ wives during conjugal visits.
Security forces tried to assert control at the end of December, prompting a brutal response by some inmates, who apparently ordered retaliatory attacks on Friday outside the prison walls. Gunfire was sprayed at a police station and at least four buses were burned in the state capital, São Luís. A 6-year-old girl who was aboard one of the buses died from burn injuries.
The graphic video of the decapitation victims, who were killed during a riot at Pedrinhas on Dec. 17, was apparently recorded by an inmate with a cellphone. The union representing prison workers in Maranhão obtained the images and provided them to a leading Brazilian newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, which made the video available on its website.
“You need to adjust the focus,” one prisoner is heard telling another in the video, before the camera shows three beheaded corpses on a blood-splattered floor.
Facing an outburst of criticism from human rights groups over the conditions at the prison and an overall surge in violent crime in Maranhão, Ms. Sarney’s administration issued a statement lashing out at the newspaper for circulating the video, calling the move “sensationalist.”
In an interview published on Sunday by O Estado do Maranhão, a newspaper controlled by the Sarney family, Ms. Sarney attributed the prison crisis to delays in the country’s legal system that lengthen the time inmates spend in prison, and to prison guards’ resistance to plans to change how Maranhão’s prisons are managed.
Officially, Pedrinhas has space for 1,700 inmates, but it currently has more than 2,200. In October, a battle between rival gangs at the prison left 13 inmates dead. Brazil’s Justice Ministry said on Wednesday that Maranhão had transferred 22 Pedrinhas inmates who were deemed especially dangerous to federal prisons, in an attempt to regain control of the facility.
Beyond the violence at Pedrinhas and rights activists’ claims that the authorities have been slow to build new prisons, Maranhão is struggling with a surge in homicides: Murders in São Luís more than quintupled over the last decade. The ratio of police officers to residents in Maranhão is among the lowest of any Brazilian state.
On Wednesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an investigation into the prison violence there.
Brazilian human rights groups say the violence at Pedrinhas could spread to other prisons. Brazil’s prison population is among the world’s largest, with about 550,000 inmates after a surge in incarcerations over the last two decades. The number of inmates has more than quadrupled since the early 1990s, while the population has risen about 30 percent.
“The tragedy in Pedrinhas was foretold and could be repeated at any time in other complexes facing the same problems,” said Lucia Nader, executive director of Conectas, a Brazilian rights group.