Visit to Carandiru, photo by Flickr user silmaraelis, published under a Creative Commons license. The caption says “the souls had longer been forgotten there”.
The Carandiru Massacre, considered a major human rights violation in the history of Brazil, happened sixteen years ago (October 2, 1992) after a riot broke out in the 9th Pavilion of Carandiru Prison Complex in São Paulo. The riot went out of control, which led to the elite force of the Military Police being called in and a confrontation which resulted in the reported death of 111 prisoners. No police were killed.
Human rights groups claim most prisoners were unarmed and offered no resistance, and that the police also fired at inmates who had already surrendered or had tried to hide. Regardless of this, no one has ever been punished, and the only person to be tried was the commanding officer of the operation, colonel Ubiratan Guimarães (assassinated in September 2006 in a possible crime of passion). He was initially sentenced to 620 years in prison but the conviction was later revoked after mistrial claims.
Many Brazilian bloggers republished the same pieces of news from the media, but only a very few dedicated an original post to the day. Dinha [pt] was one of them, remembering it as the “biggest act of cowardice committed by the Brazilian State against the imprisioned population in the country's history”:
Ontem, 02/10/2008, fez 16 anos que o Estado divulgou oficialmente que massacrou 111 cidadão brasileiros. Todos os que foram massacrados, assassinados, não estavam em guerra franca com o Estado, mas sim, no momento do massacre, eram prisioneiros, estavam sob cutódia desse mesmo Estado. Por isso estavam desarmados e mais, muitos estavam trancados em celas.
In a blog post called “Impunity”, Tarso Araújo [pt] reminds us that nobody has been made responsible for this crime, and that there is no estimate of when the accused will be tried:
O fato de o processo envolver muitos réus, além das dificuldades estruturais do Judiciário para responder ao acúmulo de ações pendentes, faz a tramitação ficar lenta.
O processo está em grau de recurso no Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo (TJ-SP). Por haver indícios de autoria de crime doloso contra a vida, o juiz determinou que os réus fossem julgados por júri popular, situação com a qual os denunciados não concordam.
Depois que o TJ-SP decidir a questão, será necessário definir os procedimentos para o julgamento de um número elevado de réus. Não há previsão de prazo para que os réus sejam julgados.
The process is in appeal on the Court of São Paulo (TJ-SP). Because of the signs of a willful crime committed against life, the judge ruled that the defendants go to jury, a situation with which the accused do not agree.
Answering a question posted on Yahoo! Answers about how the rebellion started, Pucca [pt] shares a piece of story she learnt through an acquaintance, one of the few inmates from the 9th Pavilion who survived the massacre:
Um conhecido de família viveu aquele inferno. Ele nos disse que na verdade ninguem sabe afirmar exatamente como tudo começou. Ele disse que ajudou a jogar mais de 200 corpos dentro do fosso de supostos elevadores existentes no presídio e que tiveram suas portas lacradas com concreto. Seu amigo de cela (barraco) foi morto por policiais, ele só sobreviveu porque se escondeu atras da porta, quando as celas foram desocupadas pelos presos a pedido dos pms ele disse que correu juntamente com tantos outros presos pelas escadarias da prisão que estavam lavadas de sangue e cachorros pastor alemão iam ao encalço deles. Um dos cachorros mordeu sua mão direita. Disse que ficou no pátio com outros presos mais de 12 horas pelados e todos de cócoras. O crime dele???? Participou de um assalto a uma casa lotérica, réu primário cumpria pena no pavilhão 9, onde tudo começou.
The Hub brought an interview with P.P., who was serving next door on the 8th Pavilion and watched the horror unfold from his window. He says that the official number of deaths, 111, reflects only the re-claimed bodies – he believes there were more than 300 deaths. Together with a group of about 30 other inmates, he was summoned to help to carry the bodies, 50 of which he carried on his own. P.P. laments that, 16 years on, the case is marked by impunity and forgetfulness:
“It was ugly. But what hurts me most – how absurd it is that it has now been forgotten – no one talks about the Carandiru Massacre here in Brazil anymore” (P.P. in interview with Raquel Quintino – a human rights activist from the Universidade de Comunicação Livre).
The Carandiru Prison Complex used to be South America's largest prison and once housed nearly 8,000 inmates. The prison was demolished on December 9, 2002 to make way for a public park. YouTube user mtrombelli has a video documentary shot by students of journalism showing its last moments, empty cells and the demolition. Flickr user ispic has a gallery of pictures taken just before the demolition.
Those who would like to dive deep in the history of the prision and the massacre should start by watching the highly regarded film Carandiru, directed by Hector Babenco, and inspired by the best-selling book Estação Carandiru (Carandiru Station, as yet un-translated) by Brazilian physician Drauzio Varella, who worked in Carandiru as a volunteer addressing its AIDS epidemic from 1989 to 2001.