The prison riot in Manaus on New Year’s day launched Brazil into 2017 with a jolt. The conflict between rival gangs left approximately 60 prisoners dead. Brazil’s government responded by immediately separating gang leadership across federal prisons. President Temer then established the Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI) to accelerate the approval of a National Security Plan.
Temer’s Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes announced a provisory plan in October which would steer investments towards “war and intelligence equipment.” Moraes criticized the past government’s investments in security research as well as the bureaucracy behind the purchase of firearms. The Justice Minister, who took office in May, prioritized police equipment and a crackdown on illegal drug and arms trafficking across borders.
Sunday’s rebellion also underscores the need for immediate reform of Brazil’s overcrowded and underfunded prisons. The victims of the prison conflict in Manaus lived in separate quarters and were supposedly secure from attacks. Temer’s Security Plan also calls for a “rationalization of the prison system,” although details are still forthcoming. To start, Moraes announced that 30 percent of prisons would be equipped with cellphone blocks to prevent communication between cartel leaders.
Reason for fear
After months of escalating violence, Sunday’s riot turned into the second-largest prison massacre in national history following Carandiru in 1992. Authorities believe the victims belong to São Paulo-based drug cartel Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC).
The government has reason to fear for public security with the PCC’s history of violent retaliation. Last year marked the 10-year anniversary of the PCC’s declaration of war on São Paulo. The conflict between the gang and the police resulted in the death of 564 people in plain sight over a span of only 10 ten days. While the cartel targeted establishments of public authority, police officers only accounted for a fraction of the victims.