Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Yesterday’s news, perhaps still today’s, is that a rebellion/revolt/riot in a state prison in Cascavel, Paraná, resulted in at least four dead prisoners, two of whom were beheaded. Two guards were held hostages, and (as of this writing) there may be more victims. One story is that most of the prisoners who were butchered were sexual offenders.

The Curmudgeon, Brazil, Opinion
The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

The Curmudgeon continues to be stunned by the depravity of human beings. He shouldn’t be, he’s been alive on this planet for over six decades, he’s lived in places where violence and killings were/are/will be commonplace, he’s heard purposeful gunshots outside his home, and … he continues to be stunned.

Cascavel is, as many readers know, the Portuguese word for “rattlesnake”. Many readers also know that Cascavel is the name of a populous (>300,000 inhabitants) regional center in western Paraná, not all that far from Foz do Iguaçu, the waterfalls that dwarf Niagara.

But we digress. This is not about water, although one of these days the Curmudgeon promises to let readers know that the biggest growth industry in Brazil will, sooner than you think, be “water rights” law.
This is about death.

Rattlesnakes cause death, they bite and poison. For this “sin” they are pinned down by forked sticks, and then beheaded. Last on Sunday, some 1,000 prisoners, mostly violent offenders considered lower than rattlesnakes by society, were crammed together in 24 prison buildings—buildings designed to hold 500 people (fortunately for official statistical purposes, prisoners are not really “people”).

As this is written, Tuesday morning, four fewer prisoners remain alive, and, in obverse mathematical symmetry, only four out of the 24 buildings are left.

There are 500,000 Brazilians in prison today, ranking Brazil 4th in the world after China, the U.S. and who gives a tinker’s dam about 3rd place? There are official prison “spaces” for 300,000 “rattlesnakes” and other allegedly “less than human” offenders; but unless you’re a prominent Mensalão politician you are sealed inside places where most scorpions would fear for their lives.

Which brings us back to the revolt. All prisons in Brazil today are controlled by criminal factions. All. No exceptions. There are two national factions and several locally powerful factions, but the fact is, if you’re in jail and you aren’t a member of, or a true believer in, whatever these factions claim to believe (“greed is good”?), your life is potentially forfeit.

If you are a convicted sex offender, the odds worsen. The average life expectancy in Brazilian prisons of your lot is … what? The Curmudgeon admits he doesn’t know, but Thomas Hobbes knew: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

Brazilians don’t need to look Middle-Eastwards to be appalled by beheadings and similar savagery; let them look inward—towards Cascavel.

There you will find true evil.

What you will NOT find is anyone who really, seriously, wants to change this: as people have said for centuries: “the only good bandido is a dead bandido”.

Rattlesnakes kill bandidos, and are killed by bandidos.

RIP Cascavel.

Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)


  1. I am puzzled over what part of all this is different from the US of A. There, outsourcing of the forcible restraint of men–mainly over victimless “crimes”–had become a major industry with its own lobby on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, most of the prohibition laws here were imported from the US beginning with Herb Hoover’s “Good Neighbor” tour in 1928–when Carandiru was inaugurated. By the summer of 1929 prison riots were an American tradition, whose use of Red Republican taxes to enforce Christianity’s Prohibition amendment completely destroyed the economy and ushered in The Great Depression.
    There was a time when the US set a good example, but that was over a century ago.


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