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NEW YORK TIMES – A prison riot involving gangs vying for supremacy over the cocaine trade in the Brazilian Amazon left about 60 people dead, the authorities in the city of Manaus said on Monday.
Riots at Brazil’s prisons are common, but the episode in Manaus, which included decapitated bodies thrown over the walls of the penitentiary, ranks among the bloodiest in recent decades. Officials expressed dismay over the scenes of slaughter in the Compaj prison, which held more than 1,200 inmates, about triple its official capacity.
“I never saw anything like this in my life,” Judge Luís Carlos Valois, who helped negotiate an end to the riot, said in a Facebook post. He said that dozens of people had been killed, but that it was challenging to arrive at a precise count: “There were lots of bodies. Many of them were dismembered.”
The riot flared on Sunday and lasted about 17 hours, raising fears of even greater violence on the streets of Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon basin with a population of about 2.1 million. Manaus has emerged as a brutal battleground between two prison gangs that are contesting control of the drug trade in the region.
The authorities said that one of the gangs, Familia do Norte (Family of the North), which operates from the Manaus prisons, was responsible for the vast majority of the killings during the riot. The targets were from First Capital Command, a much larger rival gang commonly known by its Portuguese initials, P.C.C., which has its roots in the prisons of São Paulo in southeast Brazil.