Ecuador declares state of emergency in prisons after 116 people killed in riots – The Denver Post

By Gabriella Molina

Quito, Ecuador (AFP) – Ecuador’s president has declared a state of emergency in the prison system after a battle between gang members at a coastal prison killed at least 116 people and injured 80 in what authorities say is the prison’s worst bloodbath ever. country.

Officials said at least five of the dead were found beheaded.

President Guillermo Lasso issued a state of emergency decree on Wednesday, which will give the government powers that include deploying police and soldiers inside prisons. The order came a day after the bloodshed at the Littoral prison in Guayaquil, in which officials blamed gangs linked to international drug cartels fighting for control of the facility.

Lasso, who was clearly affected by the massacre, said at a press conference that what happened in the prison was “bad and sad”. He also said he could not guarantee that the authorities would regain control of the place of detention.

“It is unfortunate that prisons are being turned into areas of power struggle by criminal gangs,” he said, adding that he would act “totally decisive” to regain control of Littoral prison and prevent the spread of violence to other prisons.

Pictures spread on social media showed dozens of corpses in the 9 and 10 wards of the prison and scenes resembling battlefields. Officials said the fighting was carried out with firearms, knives and bombs. Earlier, regional police chief Fausto Bonino said that bodies had been found in prison pipes.

Outside the prison mortuary, relatives of prisoners wept, and some described to reporters the cruelty with which their loved ones were beheaded and dismembered.

“In the history of the country, there has never been an incident similar or close to this one,” said Lady Zuniga, former president of Ecuador’s National Rehabilitation Council.

Zuniga, who was also the country’s justice minister in 2016, said she regrets the lack of steps to prevent another massacre following deadly prison riots last February.

Earlier, officials said that the violence erupted from a dispute between the prison gangs “Los Lobos” and “Los Choñeros”.

The bloody fighting shows that “transnational organized crime has infiltrated the structure” of Ecuador’s prisons, Col. Mario Pazmenio, former director of Ecuador’s military intelligence, said, adding that the Sinaloa and New Jalisco gangs in Mexico operate through local gangs.

“They want to sow fear,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday, urging the government to temporarily cede control of prisons to the National Police. “The more radical and violent the method of killing,” he added, the more they would achieve their goal of control.

Luis Hernandez, a political-military analyst who was a general in Ecuador’s army, said imprisoned gang members are extending their control from prisons to the streets, managing debts, extradition, and other aspects of the illegal drug trade.

Hernandez said Ecuador is a major transit point for drug trafficking organizations due to its good road infrastructure, three international seaports and two international airports.

Ecuador’s president said care points have been set up for relatives of prisoners, with food and psychological support being provided. He added that a $24 million program to tackle the country’s prisons would be accelerated, starting with investments in infrastructure and technology at Littoral Prison.

The former director of Ecuador’s Bureau of Prisons, Fausto Cobo, said that authorities inside prisons face a “threat with an authority equal to or greater than the state itself”. He said that while security forces have to enter prisons with shields and isolation, inmates meet them with heavy-caliber weapons.

In July, the president decreed another state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system after several violent incidents that killed more than 100 inmates. These deaths occurred in different prisons rather than in a single facility like Tuesday’s massacre.

Previously, the bloodiest day was in February, when 79 prisoners died in simultaneous riots in three prisons in the country. In July, 22 inmates died in Littoral prison, while in September a prison center was attacked by drones, which resulted in no deaths.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.