Gang shootout in Ecuador’s largest prison kills at least 68, injures 25

A protracted shootout between rival gangs inside Ecuador’s largest prison killed at least 68 inmates and injured 25 on Saturday, while authorities said it took most of the day to regain control of the Litoral penitentiary, which recently suffered the worst prison bloodshed in the country.

The murder erupted before dawn at the prison in the coastal city of Guayaquil in what officials said was the latest outbreak of fighting between prison gangs linked to international drug cartels. Videos circulating on social networks showed bodies, some burned, lying on the floor inside the prison.

The shooting lasted around eight hours, officials said, and then further clashes were reported in part of the prison in the afternoon.

Presidential spokesman Carlos Jijon finally announced after dark that “the situation is under control throughout the penitentiary”. He said around 900 police officers had taken control of the situation.

During the first fights, the inmates “tried to dynamite a wall to enter Pavilion 2 to commit a massacre. They also burned mattresses in an attempt to drown (their rivals) in smoke,” said the governor of the province of Guayas, Pablo Arosemena.

Police officers were seen on the roof of the Guayaquil penitentiary on Saturday. (Jose Sanchez / The Associated Press)

“We are fighting against drug trafficking,” Arosemena said. “It’s very hard.”

The bloodshed came less than two months after gang fighting killed 119 people in the prison, which houses more than 8,000 inmates.

Police Commander General Tanya Varela said earlier in the day that drones flying over the chaos revealed that detainees at three lodges were armed with guns and explosives. Authorities have said weapons and ammunition are smuggled into prisoners through vehicles delivering supplies and sometimes by drones.

The violence in prisons comes amid a national state of emergency declared by President Guillermo Lasso in October that allows security forces to tackle drug trafficking and other crimes.

On Saturday, Lasso tweeted that “the first right we should guarantee should be the right to life and liberty, which is not possible if the security forces cannot act to protect”. He was referring to the recent refusal of the Constitutional Court to allow military personnel to enter prisons despite the state of emergency. The soldiers are currently outside the Litoral.

“When will they stop the murder?” “

Ecuadorian penitentiaries are experiencing a wave of brutal violence.

The bloody fighting inside Litoral prison, which killed 119 inmates at the end of September, has been described by authorities as the worst prison massacre the South American country has ever committed. Authorities said at least five of the dead were beheaded. Last February, 79 inmates were killed in simultaneous riots in various prisons. So far this year, more than 300 prisoners have died in clashes in penitentiaries across Ecuador.

Outside the prison, relatives of the detainees gathered to hear from their relatives.

People kiss as they gather outside Guayaquil Penitentiary on Saturday. (Santiago Arcos / Reuters)

“Enough of that. When will they stop the killings? It is a prison, not a slaughterhouse; they are human beings, ”said Francisca Chancay, whose brother has been in prison for eight months.

Some have called on the Ecuadorian army to take control of the prisons.

“What is Lasso waiting for? That there are more deaths ?? Said Maritza Vera, whose son is being held. “Have mercy, where are the rights of man. We thought that was going to change, but it’s worse. “

Security forces arrive at Litoral penitentiary on Saturday. (Jose Sanchez / The Associated Press)

Ecuador has approximately 40,000 inmates in its prison system, which is well above the capacity of 30,000. Of this total, 15,000 have not been sentenced.

Arosemena said Ecuadorian authorities would deal with prison overcrowding by granting pardons, moving detainees and transferring some foreign detainees to their home countries.

“There will be over 1,000 pardons, but it’s part of a process,” he said.

An ambulance leaves the penitentiary on Saturday. (Fernando Mendez / AFP / Getty Images)

Governor de Guayas also said Ecuador will receive international assistance from countries like Colombia, the United States, Israel and Spain to deal with the crisis in its prisons. Help will be in terms of resources and logistics.

“For example, installing a cargo scanner in the Guayaquil Penitentiary to prevent the entry of weapons costs $ 4 million,” Arosemena said.

Vera said the situation made the families of the detainees desperate.

“I feel sad and anxious because there are too many deaths,” Vera said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.