For the second year in a row, Brazil has witnessed a deadly prison riot on the first day of the year.
A death toll of nine has been reported from the central state of Goias. One inmate was decapitated. The violence began New Year’s Day afternoon at the rural penitentiary in the outskirts of the state capital, Goiania. Rival criminal factions clashed, broke the barriers of the compound and escaped, according to the BBC News account.
Some 30 escaped inmates have been apprehended, but nearly 80 remain at large. At least 14 prisoners have been wounded in the fighting.
Military Police riot troops have been mobilized to Goiania, including the elite Special Penitentiary Operations Group (GOPE), Globo has reported.
There is an eerie sense of deja vu to this latest grim manifestation of the unrelenting prison crisis in Latin America. Last year’s New Year’s Day prison riot in Brazil’s Amazon riverport city of Manaus left up to 60 dead.
With more than 600,000 inmates, Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world after the United States, China and Russia. As in many other Latin American countries, this is in large part due to the widespread use of pre-trial detention.
Last year, neighboring Bolivia started to issue mass amnesties for low-level offenders in a bid to relieve the prison crisis.