33 inmates die in Brazil, latest in week of prison bloodshed

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian authorities said Friday that 33 more prisoners had died at a prison in northern Brazil just days after 60 were killed in rioting at two prisons in a neighboring state.

The federal justice secretary said the new deaths occurred overnight at the Agricultural Penitentiary of Monte Cristo in the city of Boa Vista, in the state of Roraima, but it gave no details. Calls to the secretariat were not returned.

It wasn't immediately clear whether there was a connection to the gruesome rioting earlier this week in the neighboring state of Amazonas, which officials blamed on a war between rival drug gangs over control of prisons and drug routes in northern Brazil, which borders Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and the Guianas.

A police statement said officers, including a heavily armed military-like riot squad, had been deployed to the prison.

"The federal government needs to prepare for a worst case scenario, and that means accelerating measures to keep the situation from getting worse," said Col. Jose Vicente, a former national security adviser and risk consultant.

Just as details about the latest disturbance were emerging, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes announced measures to stop the bloodshed.

Moraes said federal police would be more integrated in state capitals and that special task forces would be created to more quickly process criminal charges, a measure aimed at reducing overcrowding. Moraes offered no deadlines for the initiatives but said they would "be realistic" given the recession in Latin America's largest economy.

The rioting Sunday and Monday in Amazonas include the country's worst prison bloodshed since 1992, with half of the 56 slain at one institution beheaded and several others also dismembered. In another of the riots, four prisoners died.

A total of 184 inmates escaped from Amazonas prisons in the disturbances. As of Thursday afternoon, only 65 had been recaptured.

Authorities say that in Amazonas, the local Family of the North gang attacked members of Sao Paulo-based First Command, Brazil's biggest criminal organization.

In October, a riot at the Agricultural Penitentiary of Monte Cristo, the same where disturbances were reported on Friday, left 18 dead.