RIO DE JANEIRO: A Brazilian drug trafficker, who had attempted to escape from prison disguised as his teenage daughter, was found dead in his cell yesterday, officials said. Clauvino da Silva, nicknamed “Shorty” or “Baixinho” in Portuguese, made headlines after he was caught Saturday trying to walk out the front door of a Rio de Janeiro jail. Da Silva, 42, wore a silicon mask, long dark wig, glasses, white flip flops and the clothes, including pink T-shirt, blue denim jeans and black bra, belonging to his 19-year-old daughter, who was visiting him. She had planned to stay behind while he made his getaway.

Da Silva, who was serving a 73-year jail sentence, was caught after guards noticed he looked “suspicious”. His daughter and seven other visitors were detained over the foiled breakout. A video released by the state prisons administration department shows da Silva stripping off his elaborate disguise in front of officials. Three days after his failed escape, da Silva, a senior member of the Red Command, one of Brazil’s main crime groups, was found dead in his cell in a maximum security prison. Officials said he appeared to have hanged himself with a bed sheet. An investigation has been launched into his death.

Experts estimate hundreds of prisoners are killed in Brazilian prisons every year, mostly in confrontations between rival gangs battling for control of one of the world’s most important cocaine markets and trafficking routes. Brazil has the world’s third-largest prison population after the United States and China, with more than 800,000 inmates.
The death of Silva is an embarrassment for Rio’s prison authorities, which had initially cheered their actions in preventing his unusual escape plan. Brazil’s jails have become a major headache for new tough-on-crime President Jair Bolsonaro. Last week, at least 57 people died after a prison riot broke out in the northern state of Para. More than 50 inmates died in similar circumstances in May during prison riots in the northern state of Amazonas.

Prison gangs, originally formed to protect inmates and advocate for better conditions, have come to wield vast power that reaches far beyond prison walls. The gangs are linked to bank heists, drug trafficking and gun-running, with jailed kingpins running their empires via smuggled cellphones. – Agencies