By Theodore Shoebat
75 criminals recently broke out of a prison in Paraguay in what is now one of the biggest prison breaks in the country’s history. It turns out that the prison guards helped them escape and that prison officials knew about the planned escape but did nothing to stop it. As we read in a report from Reuters:
A small-time Brazilian drug smuggler, da Cruz saw fellow inmates dressed head-to-toe in black. “We’re breaking out,” one of them told him. “Are you coming?”
Within minutes, da Cruz was among 75 prisoners who fled the facility in the early hours of Jan. 19 in one of the most audacious jailbreaks in Paraguay’s history.
The fugitives were members of the First Capital Command, Brazil’s largest and most powerful gang, known by its Portuguese acronym PCC. The escape underscores the organization’s growing influence in Paraguay, whose weak institutions have proven no match for the PCC and other fast-growing Brazilian criminal syndicates that have set up shop here.
Authorities at the prison in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero near the Paraguay-Brazil border knew what the PCC was planning, according to Paraguay’s Justice Minister Cecilia Pérez. Some were complicit, she said, while others looked the other way out of fear of retribution. Thirty-two prison officials, including the jail’s warden, are now under arrest.
“We’re facing a security crisis whose epicenter lies in the prison system,” Pérez told Reuters.
The Pedro Juan Caballero Regional Penitentiary did not respond to a request for comment.
Forty of the escapees, including da Cruz, were Brazilians. So far, only 11 prisoners have been recaptured. Da Cruz, was nabbed within days near the Brazilian town of Dourados. Reuters obtained exclusive access to the testimony he gave to Brazilian police.
Da Cruz, 30, told them that guards at the Paraguayan lockup had helped facilitate the escape. He said he was among those who fled through a fan-ventilated tunnel that prisoners had dug with trowels and illuminated with light bulbs tacked to the earthen walls with forks. The tight, muddy passage started in a cell occupied by PCC members and exited just beyond the jail’s exterior wall.
Senior prisoners didn’t bother getting dirty, da Cruz said in his testimony; they simply walked out the front door. Other recaptured prisoners gave similar accounts, Paraguayan police say.
“This (jailbreak) demonstrates that the PCC does what it wants, when it wants,” said Juan Martens, an academic and security analyst based in the capital Asunción who has studied the PCC’s role in Paraguay. “The Paraguayan state represents no obstacle to its plans.”