Police fire tear gas grenades at the inmates gathering on the roofs of the Alcacuz Penitentiary, near Natal, on January 19, 2017. Stick-wielding inmates hurled stones and lit fires Thursday in the jail where dozens were previously massacred, as authorities struggled to contain a spreading wave of gang violence. The governor of the surrounding Rio Grande do Norte state, Robinson Faria, called for the armed forces to deploy in the streets of Natal after rioting spread beyond the prison.
ANDRESSA ANHOLETE / AFP
Brazilian authorities have launched a major operation to stem the prison violence that has hit the country, seizing weapons and drugs at a facility where nearly three dozen inmates died in a riot this month.
The defense ministry said 335 soldiers were involved in the search of Monte Cristo Farm Penitentiary in northern Roraima state that began Friday morning.
It said 136 bladed weapons and a combined 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) of cocaine and marijuana were confiscated.
“Weapons, ammunition and knives in prisons are factors that do nothing but increase tragedy, adding unacceptable savagery,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told journalists.
The list of items seized also included 29 televisions, 43 antennas, 11 DVD players, 54 refrigerators and 16 mini-ovens, which the inmates had managed to bring into the prison.
The search was the first stage of a major government operation aimed at quelling the country’s rash of prison violence — which has left 140 dead already this year.
In the coming weeks authorities will likely carry out similar raids in other facilities.
Jungmann stressed that officials had “no contact” with Roraima detainees.
Deadly prison riots between criminal groups have unleashed an unprecedented wave of unrest in Brazil’s overcrowded and dilapidated prisons.
Violence has been particularly pronounced in the northern region bordering Peru and Colombia, where much of the cocaine supply flows from.