BRASILIA – Brazil’s government said on Wednesday it was enlisting the help of the armed forces in resolving a serious crisis in the nation’s prisons, where more than 130 inmates have been killed in gang clashes since the start of the year.
A total of 1,000 soldiers will be available as required by the nation’s 27 governors to serve at state penitentiaries, which are under fire after violent deaths and jailbreaks early this year compounded the habitual problems of overcrowding and insecurity.
The armed forces will be available to carry out inspections for prohibited items such as guns, drugs or cellphones, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said, adding that the goal was to reduce the level of criminality inside the corrections system.
But analyst Guaracy Mingardi, a member of the non-governmental Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, told EFE the measure was “foolish.”
“The use of the armed forces is foolish because it ends up contaminating the army, which is what happened in (Mexico’s drug war). And using them to control prisons is even more stupid because they’re not accustomed to that,” the expert said.
Mingardi said it was risky to involve the army because that military branch is made up of soldiers earning the minimum salary who will come into contact with professional criminals “with a lot to offer.”
The government, however, says that the soldiers will not be in contact with inmates and that cell inspections will take place when they are empty.
Authorities say the deaths of more than 130 inmates so far this year have come amid a struggle between the First Capital Command (PCC), largely based in Sao Paulo, and the Rio de Janeiro-based Red Command (CV) for control of prisons and drug-trafficking routes.
The turf war apparently began after the mid-2016 murder in Paraguay of Jorge Rafaat Toumani, who controlled drug-trafficking routes along the border and was gunned down by purported members of the PCC.
His murder brought an end to a years-long truce between the two gangs and has led to settlings of scores and deadly retaliations in the prisons, where members of those criminal organizations are supposedly separated.