Some 40 cities in the northeast of Brazil, especially in the state of Rio Grande do NorteDuring the last five days of this week, they recorded a series of simultaneous attacks orchestrated by a criminal group, with fires and shots against public offices, businesses and vehicles, according to information from the authorities.

The attacks have been registered since Tuesday despite the use ordered by the authorities to increase the presence of security forces.

Images released by the press and social networks showed scenes of buses and buildings on fire in several cities in the state of Rio Grande do Norteincluding the capital, Natal.

“Never in my life have I seen what is happening. We went out to work (…) and we found ourselves in such a situation. It’s very sad,» Reinaldo Silva, a bricklayer who lives in Natal, told AFP.

About 40 urban centers have been the targets of riots since March 14.a response from a criminal group called the «Crime Syndicate» to the tightening of control measures inside the prisons, according to the authorities.

The violence is incessant despite the arrival since Wednesday of some 500 federal police, whose number could be multiplied to 800 if necessary.
Justice and Security Minister Flávio Dino said in an interview with CNN.

«We are not going to allow territories to be handed over to criminal practices», corresponding. On the other hand, the governor of Rio Grande do Norte, Fátima Bezerra, announced the creation of a crisis cabinet made up of heads of local powers.

As of press time, the country’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the same Workers’ Party as Bezerra, had not spoken about the crisis.

The excesses have so far left five dead, several injured and almost 100 detainees.

In Natal, for example, a shed belonging to a garbage collection company, a supermarket and a gas station were set on fire, and a train station was attacked, according to the G1 news site. So far, 97 people have been arrested on suspicion of the events, according to information from AFP, sources from the State Public Security Secretariat (Sesed).

In addition, they were seized 29 firearms, 87 explosive devices, 23 gallons of gasoline, vehicles, ammunition and money, among others, detailed Sesed.

File photo of the police in Brazil.


Sandro Pereira / AFP

The authors

According to the authorities, the attacks are orchestrated from inside the prisons, where the prisoners protest their living conditions, with demands such as televisions and private visits.

Human rights organizations denounce that, in addition, the minimum conditions to which prisoners are entitled are not respected.

The Government also announced on Wednesday the dispatch to Rio Grande do Norte of a federal force of prison agents to coordinate the «monitoring and custody of prisoners.»
However, “within the units, the situation is under control. There is no riot, no escape attempt, nothing out of the ordinary,» the state Penitentiary Administration Secretariat (SEAP) told AFP.

The violence is «a reaction of the so-called organized crime to the firm and assertive measures that the Government of Rio Grande do Norte has adopted in the control of the prison system,» Governor Bezerra said in an interview on Tuesday with CNN.
Specifically, the inmates demand an improvement in the conditions inside the penitentiary centers, said the secretary of state security, Francisco Canindé de Araújo to the UOL portal.

For its part, the National Mechanism for the Prevention and Combat of Torture (MNPCT), an autonomous body that oversees prisons, declared detention conditions “inhuman and degrading” in prisons in Rio Grande do Norte.

In particular, point out cases of torture and spoiled food, according to G1. Bezerra said that the local government will conduct a «deep investigation» into these allegations.
Some drug gangs are commanded by their leaders from overcrowded prisons in Brazil. Riots and clashes between members of rival factions have left dozens dead in recent years.

Among the deadliest are the riots that occurred in 2017 in prisons in the states of Amazonas, Roraima and Rio Grande do Norte, in the northern and northeastern regions of the country, which left more than 100 prisoners dead in a period of one month. In 2019, at least 55 inmates were killed in various prisons during two days of clashes in Amazonas.

guard attack

This Saturday, during the fifth day of attacks, a prison guard was killed and three houses were set on fire.

This is guard Carlos Eduardo Nazário, 49, who was shot when he was leaving with friends in a bar in Sao Gonzalo do Amarante, a municipality in the metropolitan area of ​​Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte.

According to witnesses to the crime, the guard died of three shots to the chest, an arm, and a leg by two men who rode a motorcycle and invaded the bar with their weapons drawn.

In another attack, four hooded and armed men invaded three houses in Igapó, a humble neighborhood in the north of Natal, and, after forcing its nine residents to leave their houses, including an adult over 77 years of age, they set fire to the residences, which were completely destroyed.

The new attacks came just hours after police launched a vast operation against some of the alleged leaders of the so-called «Crime Syndicate», the faction believed to be behind the dozens of attacks.