Rebellious inmates at a prison in Brazil’s remote Amazon jungle ended a four-day uprising and released more than 200 hostages on Wednesday after authorities met their principal demand by returning one of their leaders from another prison.
Armed with makeshift knives, 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 northwest of Sao Paulo.
The 190 women and 17 men held hostage were relatives of the inmates.
“It’s over,” Renato Eduardo de Souza, head of the state’s public safety department, said by telephone. “The inmates have released the hostages and no one was hurt. No one was killed.”
He said prisoners’ claims that they had killed up to 16 fellow inmates during the uprising “was nothing more than a bluff to intimidate us.”
The Urso Branco prison was the site of a 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.
Earlier rebellion was bloody
In that rebellion, sparked by a clash between rival groups, inmates 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.
Rondonia state police spokesman, Lenilson Guedes, said authorities broke the impasse in the latest uprising by agreeing to return Edinildo Paula de Souza, the prison gang leader 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 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 the prosecutor who ordered Paula de Souza’s transfer.