Brazilian Gang Leader Who Tried to Escape Jail Dressed as Daughter Found Dead

By Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO—A Brazilian inmate, whose masked attempt to break out of jail dressed as his daughter reverberated around the world, was found dead in his cell, after apparently having hanged himself, Rio de Janeiro state authorities said on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Convicted Rio drug dealer Clauvino da Silva, 42, was serving a decades-long sentence when he was caught trying to break out of jail last Saturday, disguised as his 19-year-old daughter. He was caught wearing an eerie plastic mask, a long black wig and women’s clothes, including a bra.

A man who authorities identify as jailed Brazilian drug trafficker Clauvino da Silva, alias “Baixinho,” which means “Shorty,” wearing a mask and feminine clothing, as his hands are confined behind his back at a prison complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 3, 2019. (Rio de Janeiro Penitentiary Administration Secretariat via AP)

His plan was apparently to leave his 19-year-old daughter inside the jail. Police are looking into her possible role as an accomplice in Saturday’s failed escape attempt from Gericinó prison.

A video, released by prison authorities, in which he slowly removes his surreal disguise went viral, shining a light on Brazil’s longstanding struggle with its violent, overcrowded prison system, the world’s third largest.

On Tuesday, however, in a gruesome twist, Rio prison officials said Silva had been found dead in his cell in a high-security unit in the state’s Bangu prison complex.

“The inmate appears to have hanged himself with a bed sheet,” Rio’s prison authority said in a statement, adding that an investigation had been opened.

Authorities say da Silva was part of the leadership of the Red Command, one of the most powerful criminal groups in Brazil that controlled drug trafficking in a large part of Rio.

brazil inmate
A masked inmate, Clauvino da Silva is pictured at the Bangu jail complex, Gericino, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 3, 2019. (Rio De Janeiro State Secretary of Prison Administration via Reuters)

The death of Silva is an embarrassment for Rio’s prison authorities, which had initially cheered their actions in preventing his unusual escape plan. He is the latest prisoner to die in Brazil’s jails, which 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.

Policemen and soldiers are seen in front of a prison
Policemen and soldiers are seen in front of a prison after a riot, in the city of Altamira, Brazil, on July 29, 2019. (Bruno Santos/Reuters)

Brazil’s incarcerated population has surged eight-fold in three decades to around 750,000 inmates. Prison gangs 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.

By Gabriel Stargardter

The Associated Press contributed to this article.