Inmates armed with makeshift knives ended their four-day uprising at a prison in Brazil's remote Amazon jungle and released their 207 hostages after authorities met their main demand by returning one of their leaders from another prison. The inmates began their uprising during Sunday's visiting hours at the Urso Branco State Prison in Rondonia's state capital, Porto Velho, 2,500 kilometers (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 Wednesday 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." Rondonia state police spokesman, Lenilson Guedes, said authorities broke the impasse in negotiations by agreeing to return prison gang leader Edinildo Paula de Souza, 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 weapons 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 Amadeu Sikorski, the prosecutor who ordered Paula de Souza's transfer. Paula de Souza escaped from Urso Branco on Nov. 24 through a tunnel he had dug in the prison's vegetable garden. He was recaptured Dec. 21 and sent the next day to the Nova Mamore prison some 300 kilometers (185 miles) from Urso Branco.
The 27-year-old convict is considered a highly dangerous criminal and is serving a 30-year sentence for murder and armed robbery. Local media have reported that he orchestrated the 2004 riot at Urso Branco. Guedes said most of the approximately 1,000 inmates at Urso Branco were taking part in the rebellion. The prison was built to hold 350 inmates.
The Urso Branco prison was the site of a bloody 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, reports the AP. I.L.