At least 14 cities in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte experienced acts of violence in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Public buildings, vehicles, banks, and local stores were hit by bullets and set on fire. One man was killed in an altercation with police, and two were taken into custody.
Law enforcement officials say there is evidence that the attacks were coordinated — having occurred between midnight and 2 am in several locations across the state. Police are believed to have had intelligence about the planning of the attacks, but had insufficient means to contain them.
The attacks are believed to have been a response by a local crime syndicate after police killed members of the group. The criminal organization also demanded improvements to prison living conditions.
In the state capital Natal, criminals shot at two military police stations and attempted to set them on fire. In the nearby town of Parnamirim, fire from vehicles damaged electricity poles and left several homes without power.
The state’s criminal police union believes inmates’ behavior has changed since prisons allowed “tele-visits” during the pandemic. As a result, prisoners began to communicate not only with their families, but also with friends and members of criminal organizations — allowing them to coordinate criminal enterprises from inside the prison system.