Violent clashes between the Red Command and the First Capital Command prison gangs have left 18 dead in Brazil, potentially signalling cracks in the longtime alliance between two of the country's most notorious criminal outfits.
Brazil's Public Security Ministry said 10 prisoners died during an October 16 riot in the Monte Cristo Agricultural Penitentiary in the state of Roraima, reported Folha de Boa Vista. Denying previous reports which claimed 25 people had died, authorities said they were able to confirm the identities of seven victims, all of whom were members of the Red Command (Comando Vermelho - CV).
The violence broke out when members of the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) invaded a prison wing where Red Command members resided and attacked them with knives and pieces of woods.
Two of the victims were decapitated. Folha de Boa Vista identified them as the gang leaders Valdineys de Alencar Sousa, alias "Vida Loka," and Leno Rocha de Castro, alias "G3."
The incident occurred during visiting hours, and approximately one hundred visitors were held hostage before being rescued by the Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) elite unit.
Authorities reported two related prison riots sparked by PCC attacks against Red Command members in other states on October 17. According to AFP, one of the subsequent riots resulted in eight more deaths. Folha de Boa Vista also reported that Red Command members incarcerated in São Paulo, the historical stronghold of the PCC, asked authorities to be transferred to neutral prisons.
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The executions in the Boa Vista prison on Sunday could signal the end of a decades-long alliance between the Red Command and the PCC, two of Brazil's foremost gangs that grew out of the country's prison system. Lloyd Belton, a political and country risk analyst at the consulting firm S-RM, told InSight Crime via email that some Brazilian media outlets reported last week that the PCC had declared a nation-wide war on the Red Command.
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Even as the PCC-Red Command pact appears to be crumbling, a new one may be forming in its wake. According to Belton, roughly 100 PCC prisoners were recently transferred out of Red Command-dominated prisons in Rio de Janeiro, and some of them were sent to facilities controlled by the Amigos dos Amigos (ADA) gang.
Given the strong influence incarcerated gang leaders exert over criminal activities on the streets, a shift in the gang landscape could have consequences that extend far beyond the prisons.
"The potential for an alliance between the PCC and ADA against CV in Rio does not bode well for the security outlook in the city," Belton said.