Brazil: Prison inmates end four-day uprising

Inmates armed with makeshift knives have ended their four-day uprising at a prison in Brazil’s remote Amazon jungle and released 207 hostages.

Authorities met their main demand by returning one of their leaders from another prison.

The inmates began their uprising during Sunday’s visiting hours at the Urso Branco State Prison in Rondonia’s state capital, Porto Velho, 1,500 miles north-west of Sao Paulo.

The 190 women and 17 men held hostage were relatives of the inmates.

“It’s over,” said Renato Eduardo de Souza, head of the state’s public safety department. “The inmates have released the hostages and no one was hurt. No one was killed.”

He said prisoners’ claims they had killed up to 16 fellow inmates during the uprising “was nothing more than a bluff to intimidate us.”

Rondonia state police spokesman, Lenilson Guedes, said authorities broke the impasse in negotiations by agreeing to return prison gang leader Edinildo Paula de Souza, who had been transferred to another facility last week, before the hostages were released.

The inmates first gathered in the prison yard with the hostages while police searched the grounds for the bodies of those the inmates said they had killed. Then they searched the cells for weapons, Guedes said. He did not say if any weapons were found.

Afterward, the inmates returned to their cells and released their hostages, he said.

Another inmate demand, which prison officials said would not be met, was the dismissal of Amadeu Sikorski, the prosecutor who ordered Paula de Souza’s transfer.

Paula de Souza escaped from Urso Branco on November 24 through a tunnel he had dug in the prison’s vegetable garden. He was recaptured on December 21 and sent the next day to the Nova Mamore prison some 185 miles from Urso Branco.

The 27-year-old convict is considered a highly dangerous criminal and is serving a 30-year sentence for murder and armed robbery. Local media have reported that he orchestrated the 2004 riot at Urso Branco.

Guedes said most of the approximately 1,000 inmates at Urso Branco were taking part in the rebellion. The prison was built to hold 350 inmates.

Urso Branco prison was the site of a bloody five-day uprising in April 2004 that left 14 inmates dead, many of them hacked to death and tossed from the prison’s roof. Prisoners held hostage about 170 relatives then, most of them women.

That rebellion was sparked by a clash between rival groups.

Inmates quickly assumed control of the prison and carried out revenge killings in which at least one victim’s head was cut off and tossed to the ground from the prison roof. Another was hacked to death and body parts were thrown out of the prison.

The uprising only ended after authorities agreed to replace the prison director, give prisoners the right to visits from their children, provide more recreation space and give inmates more frequent dental care.

In 2002, police killed 26 inmates to crush a rebellion at the same prison.

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