The number of inmates killed in prison riots in Ecuador this week rose to 79 Wednesday, government officials confirmed.
Ecuador’s national prison agency (SNAI) reported 37 inmates were killed in two prison riots in the city of Guayaquil, 34 were killed in a prison riot in Cuenca, and 8 were killed in a prison riot in Latacunga. All four prison riots were connected to an intra-prison power struggle between rival gangs, according to Ecuadorian government officials.
Ecuador’s federal government deployed hundreds of police officers and military personnel to four prisons on February 23 after riots sparked within the facilities’ maximum security wings on the night of February 22. The maximum-security wings of Ecuadorian prisons primarily house inmates linked to serious crimes such as killings, drug trafficking, and extortion.
“Thanks to the actions carried out between this institution and the National Police, the situation … is under control,” SNAI said in a statement on February 24.
Inmates in two prisons in Guayaquil threatened to continue rioting Wednesday, forcing authorities to deploy about 400 police and army personnel to the facilities to reinforce security.
The Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio reported:
Elite units of the National Police and … Special Forces Brigade erected a fence around the entire perimeter of the Cotopaxi Rehabilitation Center [in Latacunga]. The objective was to prevent a possible escape of the inmates this Thursday, February 25, 2021, after the new violent incidents inside the jail.
“What happened yesterday was no coincidence. It was organized from outside the prison, orchestrated by those who are in dispute over leadership and drug trafficking across our national territory,” Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno said Wednesday.
Moreno also pointed to overpopulation within Ecuador’s prison system and insufficient personnel and resources as factors that enabled Tuesday’s deadly riots, which took place across four facilities that account for 70 percent of Ecuador’s prison population.
President Moreno declared a state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system in 2019 after at least 24 people were killed during a wave of violent incidents at detention facilities that year. At least 103 inmates were killed in prison violence in 2020, according to the office of Ecuador’s human rights ombudsman.
The Ecuadorian federal government commuted the sentences of prison inmates convicted of minor offenses last year to reduce overcrowding in the country’s prison system during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. The action brought prison overcrowding down from 42 percent to 30 percent. Despite the efforts to reduce its inmate population, Ecuador’s prison system still houses about 38,000 people, over 10,000 more than it was designed to hold.
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