Butchery behind bars kills over 100
QUITO: The death toll from bloody clashes between rival gangs in an Ecuador prison has passed 100, with another 52 wounded, the government’s prison authority said, as soldiers surrounded the jail.
At least six inmates were beheaded, the national prosecutor’s office said, adding two police officers were wounded by gunfire in the operation to retake control of the prison.
The inmates went to war armed with guns, knives and grenades at the overcrowded prison in Guayaquil in a clash linked to ultra-violent Mexican drug gangs – mainly from the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.
Ecuador’s prison system has become a battleground for thousands of prisoners with ties to Mexican drug gangs. In February, riots at four jails, including Guayaquil, left 79 inmates dead – and again several of them were beheaded.
Following the latest violence at Guayaquil, soldiers and a tank guarded the complex on Thursday as police on horseback patrolling the perimeter were confronted by worried family members of the men locked up inside.
“We want information because we don’t know anything about our families, our sons,” said one woman, who would not give her name. “I have my son in there,” she said.
The violence is the latest in a series of bloody prison clashes that have claimed the lives of about 180 inmates in Ecuador so far this year.
President Guillermo Lasso announced on Twitter that he was declaring a “state of exception”, which will allow him to suspend rights and use public
force to restore calm. He also said he would head a security committee in Guayaquil to control the emergency.
Local police chief Fausto Buenano said a charge on the prison by armed police had prevented “more deaths”.
Two weeks ago, Guayaquil’s Prison No.4 was attacked by drones as part of the “war between international cartels”, authorities said. There were no casualties in that attack.
Last week, police confiscated two pistols, a revolver, 500 rounds of ammunition, a hand grenade, several knives, two sticks of dynamite and homemade explosives.
“There has been a prison crisis since 2010, with an average of 25 homicides per year, but it has accelerated significantly from 2017 to the peak of this year,” Ecuadorean security expert Fernando Carrion said.
Ecuador’s prison system has 65 facilities designed for about 30,000 inmates – but they house an actual population of 39,000. There are also chronic staffing shortages.
Located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s leading cocaine producers, Ecuador is a transit point for drug shipments to the US and Europe.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s main port city and a key battleground for rival drug cartels.