Shortly immediately after midnight on New Year's Eve, hundreds of inmates watched from a Manaus prison yard as the sky lit up with fireworks, paid for by the gangs that dominate the jail program.
The revelry continued well into the subsequent day, and inmates celebrated with their wives and girlfriends. But then the guards noticed a thing strange: The prisoners were asking their guests to go. "That is all for now, leave now," guards heard prisoners say. The last loved ones member left at 4:09 p.m. on New Year's Day.
What happened subsequent would go beyond any worst-case situation imagined by guards or authorities, unleashing a brutality that would lay bare a failed prison system and a gruesome battle in between gangs for influence in Latin America's biggest nation. The bloodshed would be the worst at any Brazilian prison in the past 25 years.
The Related Press gained exclusive access to the Complexo Penitenciario Anisio Jobim. What follows is based on the facility check out, footage from inmates on their mobile phones, forensics reports obtained by the AP and extra than a dozen interviews with families of victims, authorities, lawyers, prison guards, judges, the warden and investigators.
"This was unprecedented," stated Carlos Procopio dos Reis, in charge of the healthcare forensics unit in Manaus. "I nevertheless dream that I am in a truck throwing heads for people to catch."
Recognized by its Portuguese acronym of Compaj, the Manaus prison compound sprawls into the Amazon jungle. Households commit at least an hour on a prison bus line to get to the isolated penitentiary. Created for 592 inmates, it held 1,224 on New Year's Day.
Manaus, a violent and gritty northern city of 2 million folks, is the jumping-off point to the Amazon and central to Northern Brazil's developing drug trade. Drugs come right here from Peru and Colombia through the Solimoes River and head to Belem, a port city by the Atlantic Ocean. Control of that waterway suggests access to the profitable European market place.
From prisons like Compaj about the nation, gang leaders oversee enormous drug businesses. For years, Brazil's two most highly effective gangs had a non-aggression pact. But that truce ruptured in October, for factors professionals say are nonetheless unclear, major to riots in many prisons. At least 130 inmates have been killed nationwide considering the fact that Jan. 1.
At the rough prison complex of Manaus, the New Year's celebrations started with a rare moment of joy, as inmates danced to funk music with their wives and girlfriends inside the concrete 20-foot-tall walls. The subsequent day, right after every person left, the tense moment came when prisoners necessary to be locked up once again.
But the lockup never happened. Rather, inmates linked to the Family members of the North gang surrounded a prison guard and took him hostage, with a blade to his neck. Then they announced their bigger intention: To get rid of all members of the rival Very first Command gang, also known as PCC.
"We will kick out of this prison each and every single PCC brain!" a prisoner from Household of the North yelled to the Compaj cameras.
That was among the final moments captured on film by the prison safety cameras. Just just after, inmates started to break the cameras, as they took more than the prison. "It is all ours," 1 of them shouted.
From then on, the only reports accessible came from witnesses and footage shot on mobile phones smuggled in to the prisoners.
The Family members of the North moved rapidly. Carrying knives, homemade shivs and even numerous pistols, prisoners led the very first hostage into the atrium. There, they took a further 14 guards and other staff hostage, including a cook and a nurse. Authorities say the inmates smuggled in their guns and blades through tunnels that enter a handful of locations of the prison and possibly holes in the wall.
Even though the main target was the rival gang, the attacking prisoners had a score to settle initial with former policeman Moacir Jorge Pessoa da Costa, who had been jailed for killing drug dealers. At four:17 p.m., the attackers told the others that Costa would be the first to be killed.
The inmates wanted to behead and dismember him, but they struggled to break the lock on his cell. So alternatively, reaching via the bars, they lit mattresses in his cell on fire and burned him alive. Rapists in the exact same wing would later meet a equivalent fate.
At four:30 p.m., Loved ones of the North prisoners started getting into an location where lots of members of Very first Command had been housed. The wing was recognized as "the protected."
"Vai morrer!," they shouted into a cell produced for eight inmates but jammed with at least 27. "You are going to die!"
The battle in between Loved ones of the North and Initial Command is basically more than drug routes in northern Brazil. The rift escalated last year when Household of the North from the Amazon teamed up with Comando Vermelho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second most significant gang. The evidence of that union is carved below the paint of some Compaj walls, exactly where the acronyms FDN and CV can be noticed.
On the other side of the war is the highly effective 1st Command, primarily based in Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest and most organized gang. First Command was born out of the largest prison massacre in Brazil's history, when military police killed at least 111 inmates through a 1992 rebellion. The gang has been expanding north, and now desires to take handle of the Solimoes River from its rivals.
Loved ones of the North neighborhood leaders — nicknamed "Maraba," ''Caroco," ''Demetrio," ''Garrote," ''Rivellino" and "Maguila" — headed the charge at Compaj. Authorities nevertheless never know no matter whether the carnage was ordered from the outside by the gang's top leaders, who are held in higher-security federal prisons far from Manaus.
Crammed into their cells, several First Command prisoners had small area to run or implies to fight back. More than the subsequent 15 minutes, several had been shot, stabbed or both. The screams of horror and pain filled the lockup.
Some Initial Command men managed to get to the roof of their cell block to hide. At least three jumped into the gutter, spending half a day drenched in feces and urine. A group of evangelical prisoners pleaded with the killers to quit, but they were locked in their cells.
Over the next 30 minutes, with police nonetheless outside, prisoners dragged dozens of bodies into the region dubbed Pavilion three. Then Family members of the North members, and other prisoners forced to take orders, began cutting. By the time they were done, 39 heads had been lined up on the floor.
They also lopped off and piled up limbs, even from bodies that had been carbonized. They cut out 13 eyes and two hearts, and employed them to terrorize others. 1 guard was forced to consume an eyeball. A transvestite prisoner was produced to take bites of a heart, throwing up as she did so.
In the meantime, prisoners made use of their cellphones to capture images and video of themselves, with a Family of the North flag in the background. At 1 point, a headless physique appears. At an additional, an inmate holds up the hand of a dead individual and waves to the camera, "He is saying bye."
But Loved ones of the North members wanted extra. They wanted the whole prison, which housed about 200 additional Initial Command members in other places. If they succeeded, the massacre would get even worse.
The 1st negotiations started at six:30 p.m., when human rights activist and lawyer Epitacio Almeida, who knew most of the prisoners by name, talked with them through a radio device. But the talks had been complicated soon after inmates shot a policeman in the right arm.
At 6:45 p.m., the initially hostage was released for medical focus. By 9 p.m., a complete battalion of riot police was firing on about 225 prisoners trying to escape, some by climbing the walls. It is unclear how lots of died. Households and prison guards think there are nonetheless bodies in the surrounding woods.
Amazonas state Public Safety Secretary Sergio Fontes known as in state Judge Luis Carlos Valois to mediate the crisis and gave him a bulletproof vest. At ten p.m., the two guys went previous dozens of desperate household members outdoors the major gates to negotiate by way of radio.
As a sign of initial goodwill, inmates freed 3 hostages. Still, the standoff was far from more than.
"You could reduce the tension in the air with a knife," mentioned prison guard and union leader Rocinaldo Silva. "We feared for our colleagues inside, but we also worried about other prisons that could face the identical dilemma just after hearing the news."
Fontes and Valois needed to meet with Family members of the North leaders face-to-face. It took three hours, but at 1 a.m. "Maraba" and "Maguila" appeared with a list of demands.
In the meantime, the sickening stench of dozens of bodies took over the complete complicated. Inmates asked for medical forensics agents to take away heads and limbs from the floor. The identical carts inmates utilised to carry meals had been prepared to take remains.
At 3 a.m., following negotiations Fontes described as "surreal," an agreement was reached. The prisoners bargained for typical visitation of loved ones and girls, time outside the cell and collection of bodies by medical forensics. In exchange, they would release the remaining 12 hostages and hand over weapons and cellphones.
When Valois told the rebellion leaders that he could not quit the entry of riot police or future transfers to other prisons, the inmates got upset. So the judge and secretary created it clear that either inmates put an quick finish to the rebellion or police would do it forcefully.
At about 7 a.m., the initially of 39 heads arrived at the coroner's workplace in downtown Manaus. In total, 57 prisoners have been killed. Fearing the worst, dozens of families lined up in front of the creating.
By 7:30 a.m., much more than 15 hours right after the rebellion began, the last hostages have been released. Survivors who were hiding gradually reappeared.
The massacre has left devastated households in its wake. Maria Angelina Muniz had two sons killed at Compaj: 20-year-old Antonio and 27-year-old Antony, who had been there just ten days. Antonio was in jail for theft and Antony for drug trafficking, but neither son had been convicted.
Muniz mentioned her loved ones is sparing her from the details of how they died. The caskets have been closed at the funeral.
"We knew they had a debt to society, they have been paying," Muniz mentioned. "But now my life is destroyed simply because of this war."
Seventeen inmates have been prosecuted and sent to tight-security federal prisons. Prison director Jose Carvalho da Silva, who is suspected of allowing weapons and mobiles into Compaj in exchange for revenue, has lost his job. Silva denies wrongdoing.
Former Amazonas Prison Secretary Pedro Florencio, a respected retired federal policeman, was also sacked mainly because the massacre occurred on his watch.
"To this day, I close my eyes and see components of bodies of inmates everywhere," Florencio said. "For me that New Year's Day will never ever finish."
Days after the riot, smaller sized uprisings erupted in other prisons. And the slaughter is likely to continue.
Speaking to the AP by way of a human rights activist, Family members of the North inmates mentioned a recent song described what they did and promised additional to come. Prisoners stated they sent the lyrics to a funk artist, who put the song on YouTube.
"The strength of Loved ones of the North is developing," goes the song. "So have no doubt that the war has just begun."
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