Ecuador seeks to restore order after prison riot killing more than 100
GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, September 30 (Reuters) – Ecuador on Thursday sought to restore order in one of its largest prisons after a riot this week killed at least 116 inmates in the latest episode of violence that authorities have linked to gangs vying for control of drug trafficking routes.
National police said they sent 400 officers to the Penitenciaria del Litoral in Guayas province to regain control after the deadliest outbreak of prison violence in the history of the South American country, in which 80 inmates were also injured. Officers seized three explosive devices found in the detention center.
“We will continue to intervene in the penitentiary in the coming days,” police commander Tannya Varela told reporters on Thursday. “The police will continue to act to regain control.”
The violence on Tuesday in the prison on the outskirts of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, came after 79 and 22 people died in prison riots in February and July.
Authorities have linked previous clashes to rival local gangs with links to transnational criminal groups fighting for control of drug trafficking in Ecuador.
Prison overcrowding and underfunding is also a major problem in South America and has contributed to the riots in recent years in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as in Ecuador.
Asked Wednesday evening whether this week’s clashes were linked to drug trafficking, Fausto Cobo, director of the Ecuadorian Center for Strategic Intelligence, said the violence was “linked to other serious issues”.
“It’s a problem that goes beyond a problem with the penal system,” Cobo told reporters. “It is a threat against the Ecuadorian state.
Although not a large drug producer, Ecuador is a major transit hub for cocaine from neighboring Colombia and Peru to the United States and Europe, much of which is concealed in legitimate containers departing from the port of Guayaquil, according to a US State Department report in March. 2021.
Ecuador’s prosecutor’s office said Wednesday evening that it was still collecting information within the detention center. President Guillermo Lasso said on Wednesday he would release funds and send additional security forces to the country’s prison system to prevent a repeat of the riots.
On Thursday morning, family members of Penitenciaria del Litoral detainees gathered outside a police morgue in Guayaquil awaiting information on the dead, a Reuters witness said. Soldiers stood guard around the perimeter of the prison.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Wednesday condemned the acts of violence and called on Ecuador to prevent criminal groups from operating from inside its penitentiaries.
“The IACHR once again urges the State of Ecuador to investigate the facts with due diligence and to implement measures to avoid a repetition, such as the strengthening of security and surveillance in the prisons”, wrote the human rights wing of the Organization of American States based in Washington, DC. Twitter.
Report by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Written by Luc Cohen; Editing by Howard Goller and Bill Berkrot
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